IVF Support

From Bumps to Baby with Liz Shaw

Liz Shaw and her baby girl. Photo provided by Liz.

Liz Shaw and her baby girl. Photo provided by Liz.

Although you wouldn’t know it, I only recently met Liz Shaw. Liz has quickly become a friend, confidante and source of nutritional expertise for me. I met Liz as she was launching her Stress-Free IVF Nutrition Guide and am so grateful that I had the opportunity to recently review it during my recent (fourth) IVF cycle. (You can read more about the Guide here.)

Liz is a Registered Dietician, Certified Personal Trainer and owns a nutrition consulting business. Based on her own experience with infertility she has bridged the gap between diet/nutrition and the process. Liz lets us in on all of her secrets with her recently published Stress-Free IVF Nutrition Guide and also her Fertility Foods Cookbook.

Liz is someone that you need to know. Not only because she may be the world’s kindest and gentlest soul but because her understanding of nutrition as it relates to fertility and overall health is an absolute game changer. I caught up with Liz the other day and am excited to share our discussion with you!

What does fertility warrior mean to you?

LS: That’s a great question! I have a whole series devoted to the women (and men!) who’ve gone down a path that’s not so easy to expand their families. A warrior in the sense that they continue to persevere despite the challenges of their “battle” with infertility.  I have a colleague who’s trying to open up and change the negative connotation around warrior and instead focus on the strength and power of the women (and men!) and I love that vision too! 

Since you are a RD, were you surprised when you struggled with your own fertility?

LS: Yes! But then again, even doctors get cancer and dentists get cavities, so we are all human!  As we know, infertility doesn’t have a type. It affects all of us, health professionals and athletes and people of faith, there’s no discrimination. What’s important for people on the outside to remember is that infertility is not something someone can control. It’s often caused by so many factors in which there is no one size fits all approach to treatment.

I like to try and remind people that finding the right treatment plan for them, the right professionals to guide them on THEIR path is what will make this entire process that much more bearable in the long run. And let’s be real, sometimes this is a VERY LONG RUN! 

Please share your story

LS: My husband and I started our journey to expand our family about a year after we got married in 2012. Realistically, we didn’t intend to get pregnant right away, but I had been on birth control since I was 13 years old and we knew it would take some time for my body to regulate.  Lo and behold, we waited, and waited some more. 

I was finally diagnosed with unexplained infertility related to my hypogonadotropic hypogonadism  (HH), which is a lack of hormonal regulation in which little to no sex hormones are produced. You can read more about that experience here, but essentially it was the beginning of a long road for my husband and I which also coincided with entry into the assisted reproductive technology route to expand our family. 

I truly believe any period of waiting is challenging for a want-to-be-mama. Be it a two-week-wait or a trial time for your body to “figure itself out”, neither is a desirable scenario. Thus, we did a mix of both. We started with an IUI, entering full force with the notion that this was our ticket to baby. After our first failed attempt, I was crushed. I never fathomed the emotional pain of that particular experience and surely wasn’t ready to jump into another emotionally, financially, and physically exhausting experience. Side note, because of my HH, I was placed on the IVF medication regimen for my IUI round.

Our doctor at the time assured us that the highest rate of success would be to start IVF. In February of 2016, we decided that was our next step. We took some time off since we had been on this rollercoaster since 2013 and knew we needed to find the joy in our marriage again. We signed up for a Spartan Race in Hawaii, dominated that race and came home to start our first round of IVF…

It was during this time of waiting, I began to feel lost, alone and so confused. I knew I needed to seek help, and through that formed the community known as Bumps to Baby. This community has been my rock, my outlet to share the innermost thoughts I’ve felt on this journey to baby and most importantly, a safe place for others to find security and friends through. While it began as an Instagram account, it quickly morphed into a private Facebook Community and a full website with a special feature for others to share their stories, too, known as Warrior Women Wednesday. 

After our IVF retrieval, my body responded very poorly and we were unable to do a fresh transfer. Of the 15 eggs retrieved, only two embryos were viable for cryopreservation. As bad as that day was getting the news that our 15 had turned into two, the worst was yet to come. The two days in which we received the news that both embryos didn’t take (during the transfer) was by far the lowest of the low in our 4.5 year journey to baby. Honestly, it was during our final failure in August of 2017 that I knew I needed to take a step back from ART treatments. I needed to regroup, find a new sense of peace with my body and begin to remember, baby or not, I (needed to know that I) was enough as a person, a wife, a woman.

Fortunately, my husband was also traveling back and forth between Switzerland and the US for work during this time. I was blessed with the opportunity to join him for the remaining part of 2017 and so we packed up our belongings and moved to Locarno from the end of October through mid-December of 2017.

During this time, I was able to find that sense of peace. I was able to mourn our losses, the trials and tribulations that infertility had taught me and began to refocus on the community of Bumps to Baby and the messages that I wanted to help communicate. It was also during this time the passion project I had worked on with a close colleague and friend was released, The Fertility Foods Cookbook. The cookbook helped merge my love of nutrition and heart for the fertility community into one.

This experience, this break, this opportunity to learn to trust my body again is ultimately what led to the greatest twist and joy in our journey to baby. I’m happy to report our miracle baby made her way into our arms August 4, 2018. A true testament to the powerful role stress can play in your health and most importantly, the importance of finding trust and healing your relationship with your body, remembering you too are enough! 

What pieces of advice would you share with someone on their (in)fertility journey?

LS: I think I would sum up my advice in the hashtag #NeverLoseHope. Infertility can feel like such an isolating journey when you’re in the thick of it. I was there for years before I decided to break the silence and find comfort from my #ttcfamily. And believe me when I say, we are not alone! We know the statistics show that 1 out of 8 couples struggle and lets be real, likely someone close to you is going through the thick of this disease too.

When you feel comfortable enough to share your story, to seek help, know we are here for you. Join the Bumps to Baby Private Support group and begin feeling a new sense of peace and warm welcome into the family you never wanted to have, but are blessed to be a part of!

How do you feel about the word “journey”? Love, hate or both and why?

LS: Love the word journey! It shows that it’s not a start and stop point but a continuous path, especially once the individual does see their rainbow and begins the new journey of motherhood.

You recently wrote the Stress-Free IVF Nutrition Guide, what was the inspiration? 

LS: It was a way I could give back to the community that has been such a rock for me time and time again over our five-year journey. As an RDN, it was everything I wish I could help tell patients who are lost, confused and consulting Dr. Google before beginning their cycle. Truthfully, it’s the guide I wish I had when I was going through our cycle, too. You can pick up your guide here. Use the code fertilust for a 10% discount.

Favorite fertility foods ranked

LS: Tough call! I love variety so really a plethora of fruits and veggies in nourishing bowl or pile high on thick, seedy whole grain bread!

This  Amaranth Buddha Bowl and these Beet Burgers recipes are some of my favorites!  

Pineapple core pre-transfer. Myth or reality?

LS: Myth, to some degree! Little to no scientific evidence exists on this. Every Friday a group of RDNs and I debunk myths and share fertility nutrition information! We actually covered this one here, and you can follow the weekly series here!

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

LS: My sweet little pineapple, aka my rainbow baby! Even before her arrival, I was driven in my career and lucky enough that my passion is able to be pursued each day by helping women and men understand the important role nutrition can play in their bodies. 

What keeps you up at night? 

LS: The endless tabs I have open in my brain! Whether it’s work, parenting, family, the Bumps to Baby community, or what I want for breakfast, I have a hard time unwinding and closing down at night! 

 

About Liz Shaw: Liz is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Personal Trainer in San Diego, California. She owns a nutrition consulting business in which she works with brands to help disseminate key health messaging to practitioners and consumers at large via national speaking, TV segments, and through her strong social media presence. Liz also runs a maternal health private practice in which she specializes in fertility nutrition. She is an author of the Fertility Foods Cookbook published last fall and a blogger at both Shaw’s Simple Swaps and Bumps to Baby.

Liz is also a freelance writer and serves as a nutrition expert for many national publications, such as Shape, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Muscle and Performance, Fit Pregnancy, Parentsand others. Her current position has led her to what she loves most, educating the public at large about the importance of nutrition and health in daily life while connecting individually with those struggling to build their families. Helping to empower others through nutrition is truly what brings Liz joy!

 

 

NIAW Feature: Finding Community

Rebekah Rosler, photographed by  Alexis Mera . Shirt Design by  Ko Im .

Rebekah Rosler, photographed by Alexis Mera. Shirt Design by Ko Im.

Rebekah Rosler is a professional licensed master social worker (LMSW) and therapist, who has always had a passion to lift others. That passion became a mission after Rebekah’s own fertility experience. Rebekah has used her strength and voice to create (the Warriors) community for other women on their (in)fertility journeys by creating a safe, online community of support and empowerment.

Read on to learn more!

Rebekah’s story

Interestingly enough, I never thought that I wanted children. I spent my life making sure that I could not and would not get pregnant… Only to find out that when I met my husband and my life changed, I wanted children. I also discovered that I wouldn’t be able to (without assistance). In retrospect, it makes sense to me because there had been fertility challenges for both my mother and grandmother. I didn’t think that children would be on my life path so I hadn’t really thought about it much before (that point).

I met my husband at 33, we got married at 35, then tried to get pregnant for a few months. When we didn’t have success, we wanted to proactively find out if everything was alright. Per the recommendation of my doctor, I got a HSG (hysterosalpingogram), and found out that one of my Fallopian tubes was blocked. That meant that every other month my chances of a pregnancy were at zero. As a result, we decided to seek (medical) help right away.

I had heard about good outcomes from New Hope so decided to go there. The reality is that although I got the desired results I was looking for, I saw my doctor once in the three years that I was there. All communications were through the nurses and through email correspondence. Initially, my protocol was as follows, month one: timed intercourse, month two: medicated intercourse, and month three: IUI. When that didn’t result in a pregnancy, we took the doctor’s counsel of doing Mini IVF. (The focus of Mini-IVF is quality over quantity.)

In my first round of Mini-IVFI got six eggs, five made it to the blastocyst stage. I transferred two freshly at day three, and froze three. One of those two embryos transferred stuck and became my now three year old daughter. A year later, I transferred two embryos that were day 5 and 6, getting pregnant with twins.

I realized that my experience gave me the ability to start create a community and start a group (called Warriors) to support others on their journeys. Having run Warriors (closed Facebook group) for over three years and seeing the years of struggle, sadness, heartache, and financial distress, I am aware that every (in)fertility journey is unique. I was lucky to have conceived quickly after treatment with the outcome of having healthy babies. Although my journey wasn’t filled with heartache, I had to go through it myself to understand the importance of talking about (in)fertility, and how to support others going through it.

What did you learn from your journey?

I never wanted kids, decided I wanted kids, took action immediately and got lucky. I never had the true struggles that so many people go through with (in)fertility. What I had was a life changing experience that allowed me to support and help other women (during pre-conception). It introduced me to a different version to help and support women during their experiences which were more often overwhelming, challenging, disheartening and at times tragic. It also allowed me to create a career to continues that platform of support through Mom MeetUps.

After starting Warriors, I started Mom MeetUps to help women on their journey of motherhood. My fertility experience was my initial earth shattering, aha moment that showed me that what I was called to do, was to help people through their fertility journeys. That lent itself to supporting the motherhood journey later on.

Your high?

I feel so lucky that I got pregnant and have a three year old daughter, that I am mildly obsessed with. My next high after a terrible pregnancy, was carrying two incredible babies to term and having a healthy labor. After all three of them were born, my third high was leaving my paying career to create a company to help other women along their journey. Through the means that I had, I was able to offer support groups to the Warriors group, and also create tailored Mom meet-ups to those who had fertility challenges prior to conceiving and then had a baby, twins, or multiples. We have since created meet-ups for single, first-time, second-time, stay at home, and working moms, as well.

My educational background is in social work and I always knew that I wanted to be a therapist or help in some way. My own fertility journey brought me to this; health and women on the path towards creating their family. I had always been on the “this is what I am supposed to do” track; from high school, college, to graduate school, without intention or true personal passion. I put one foot in front of the other until this happened to me. This gave me the ability to do something for others and hold their hand through their journey. Being able to add any light to this dark place has been incredibly rewarding.

Do you have a silver lining?

Perhaps the silver lining was the group created for women who are hoping to be, or are already moms, to have a safe space to share personal experiences. I have heard that the Warriors community has been helpful because even women who are desperately trying to become moms are still able to support each other when they are going through some of the most trying times in their own lives. Warriors (group) has proven to be a place that people come for kindness, to share, seek resources and support. There is something that needed to exist in this (fertility) space that didn’t before.

Your truth?

Even when our stories go exactly the way that we envisioned or hoped, having a group of other women that are there to support, empower and show kindness, has made all of the difference. I have learned that it is not only about us, it’s just as much about participating in a greater community.

Rebekah is a 30-something infertility warrior, mom to three babies (a 3-year-old and a set of twins), Licensed Master Social Worker, doula, and co-Founder of Mom MeetUps. Rebekah leverages her blog bexhasbabies.com, social channels and Warriors group to share her experiences and help normalize the message of infertility, breastfeeding and postpartum challenge.

If you are looking for a community to support your or a friend’s (in)fertility journey, please reach out to hi@fertilust.com to be connected with Rebekah’s safe Facebook group called Warriors.

NIAW Feature: Options are Valuable

Anthea King-Pascual captured by    Alexis Mera.    Shirt designed by    Kayla Kleinman   .

Anthea King-Pascual captured by Alexis Mera. Shirt designed by Kayla Kleinman.

I had the opportunity to sit down with fertility warrior, Anthea King-Pascual to discuss her journey of secondary (in)fertility, IVF and the relief she found in the egg donor option. Read on to find out how Anthea is redefining the conversation around (in)fertility through her story of loss, heartache and love.

Anthea’s story:

I got pregnant with my daughter when I was 35 after three months of trying. When I was 37 and my daughter was one, we tried again for a second. We got pregnant after trying for a while and discovered at five months that the fetus had trisomy which meant it wouldn’t be a viable pregnancy. We then turned to IVF and after four times, had an ectopic pregnancy that resulted in a miscarriage, DNC, and chemotherapy to flush out my fallopian tubes. After the ectopic, we took the mandatory break from treatment for six months.

We decided to try (IVF) again by bundling embryos over three more rounds (of retrievals) and banked a total of 11. Our embryos were sent for genetic testing and every single one came back abnormal.

I was now 42 years old. Our insurance had been covering up to 80% up until that point and we were about to go entirely out of pocket. We consulted with our Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) and he shared that the chances of a viable pregnancy was about 1% based on my age and our history. As a result, our RE recommended that we consider the egg donor route which I hadn’t really thought about up until that point.

We decided to move forward and initially had two failed attempts with possible egg donor candidates. As a result, we decided to go the frozen rather than fresh egg donation route and purchased multiple eggs from one donor. The first egg that we transferred resulted in my son, Simon!

The media gives a false sense of expectation and hope by covering celebrities who get pregnant at 45 or 50. It is very likely that these pregnancies could be the result of donor eggs. It’s so important to voice the option about leveraging donor eggs. In fact, our clinic, RMA NJ does approximately 2,000 egg donor transfers a year!

What was your high?

My high was making the decision and the plan to go the egg donor route. It was the hope in knowing that there was an option (to have a baby), and that it wasn’t the end of the road for us. It wasn’t the original way we thought that we were going to (have a baby), but it was the way that it happened for us.

What was your low?

The low over my entire journey was after banking multiple eggs over three cycles. After all the emotions, medications and money, and then finding out that none of them were viable. My husband and I felt completely defeated.

Do have a silver lining?

My husband. He was so supportive of everything that I was doing, wanted to do, and the decisions that I made. I felt like I really wanted to have another child and give my daughter a sibling.

I knew that I married the right man because we hit rock bottom and were able to get through it together by supporting each other. I know my husband very well but we had never been in this situation before. There is no way of knowing how a partner may be or react during an extremely trying experience, and he was beyond supportive.

Do you have any words of wisdom?

I think that it is important to remember that there are options. I remember someone sharing with me that “only you are going to know when/if you need to change your path”. Be honest with yourself and don’t give up hope. Consider going about the process a different way such as donor egg or adoption. It could save you a lot of heartache, time and money.

People also question whether they could love their (donor egg) child as much as their biological child. Speaking from experience, the answer is YES, you most definitely love that child just as much!

Anthea, her husband and her two children live in New Jersey. Anthea’s love for her children’s care and safety inspired her to launch Homepaired, the first online marketplace connecting families with motivated and talented American students, with the goal of making live-in childcare affordable, accessible and ethical.