I was 27 years old when I went through two rounds of in vitro fertilization (IVF). Still young and single, I'd been diagnosed with stage IV endometriosis, a complication that developed after donating my eggs to two different infertile couples just a year before. After my diagnosis, I'd been told IVF was really my only hope of ever carrying a child and that I would need to start quickly if I truly wanted that chance.
I did want that chance, more than just about anything else in the world. So I found a sperm donor and I took a risk. Neither round worked and I was left with $30,000 in medical debt that I had nothing to show for. At least, nothing beyond the emotional and physical trauma IVF left me with.
At the time, I knew no one who had experienced anything similar. All my friends were getting married and having babies with ease. In fact, my three best friends all had babies within a year of my second cycle failing. And yeah, it was incredibly hard. If it hadn't been for the internet, I would have felt very, very alone.
On my blog (that eventually became a book) I shared what I was going through, and I was able to connect with thousands of women who could relate. It was a whole little club no one ever would have chosen to be a part of, but one filled with support and understanding I never could have found anywhere else.
Amy Schumer's Openness is Needed
Amy Schumer recently joined that club, posting a photo of her bruised belly to Instagram alongside a caption that read: "I'm a week into IVF and feeling really run down and emotional. If anyone went through it and if you have any advice or wouldn't mind sharing your experience with me please do. My number is in my bio. We are freezing my eggs and figuring out what to do to give Gene a sibling."
Yes, her phone number really is there. But to be fair, it looks as though she originally posted it in November as a way to better connect with her fans. Still, this is a celebrity not only being open about her fertility journey, but also asking her fans to help her through it.
That just goes to show no amount of money or fame can stop feelings of isolation during such a difficult process.
I would have recognized the bruising on Schumer's belly anywhere. I had similar bruising myself, not only from my own IVF cycles, but also from my egg donation cycles. And so I reached out and thanked her. I also shared what I learned along the way (ginger chews help with the nausea from the meds, silk sheets help with the night sweats, and icing your belly before your shots can sometimes reduce the bruising). And I sent her a link to a video I made several years ago of positive outcomes after fertility treatments. It still makes me tear up a little to watch it today.
You Are Not Alone
A third of American adults say they’ve done a fertility treatment or know someone who has, according to the Pew Research Center. But because of the stigma and shame that often accompanies infertility, a lot of people stay quiet about it—especially celebrities. And when we see stories of women getting pregnant in their 40s with no mention of fertility treatments even when they were used, it can often make those of us who have struggled feel even more alone. Or even more like our bodies have betrayed us while everyone else is getting along just fine.
No person should ever feel obligated to share their personal health details. But the fact that Schumer was willing to do so may very well mean others will feel less alone in their own journeys. And that means more than most people could ever know.
After Schumer's post, I thought about the people who are struggling silently with infertility. The ones who feel alone, and like they can't talk about what they are going through. The ones who, unlike Schumer, don't have a vast network to reach out to.
I ended up posting to my own Facebook page, asking my followers what advice they would have given to their former selves at the start of their fertility journey. And the responses poured in, some happy, some still striving and grieving. Comment after comment offered support and a willingness to be a friend to anyone currently walking this path, though. And that, again, filled my eyes with tears.
If you are dealing with infertility, currently jabbing your own stomach with needles every night, you need to know that you are not alone. There is a whole tribe of women who have been through this and are willing to lift you up. We may not have all the answers, but we are here any time you need us.