1) What is your personal experience with infertility/miscarriage?
After a year of marriage, my husband (30) and I (35) began to try to have kids. We gave it a year of trying on our own, with the hopeful and horrible ups and downs of “maybe, maybe, maybe” and then ”no” each month. At the year mark, we began testing, and the doctors found some scar tissue and a polyp on my uterus that they believed was the issue. After a hysteroscopy to hopefully help my husband and I get pregnant by getting rid of the polyp and scar tissue, we instead found out that I had endometrial cancer. We tried 6 months of a hormone treatment to try and get rid of the cancer but keep my fertility. It did not work, so on August 31, 2018, I had a hysterectomy to get rid of the cancer. It got rid of the cancer, praise the Lord, but I woke up from that surgery not just walking through infertility, but being completely infertile.
2) How has it made your life worse? How has it made your life better?
The hardest thing about infertility was the unknown. The continual hoping and disappointment. I would not say it made my life worse, but it was incredibly hard. Infertility can also make you feel very alone. All of a sudden, excitement for friends’ new babies was an emotion I had to sometimes choose to have. I had to learn how it was okay to not be okay, but at the same time, learn humility in trying to celebrate with friends when they had something I did not. Infertility has also made my life better in so many ways. It brought my husband and I closer as he so sweetly walked with me each step of the way. Throughout my cancer I said something along the lines of “I’m sorry this is my fault that you won’t have biological children” and he actually became a little angry asking me to never say anything like that again. He reminded me that this was our journey together, so it was not my fault or his fault. It was just reality for us. Infertility gave me the privilege to be able to relate to so many other women. It allows me to be able to use my story to help others not feel alone. Infertility gave me our daughter through adoption a little less than a year after my hysterectomy, and I would not trade that for anything.
3) When and how did you realize that you were going to be able to carry on after infertility?
Throughout my year of cancer, my husband had the genius idea of planning a cruise for the time that we would be done with my treatments. Whether they worked and we got to try to have kids or they didn’t and I had to have the surgery, we would go on a cruise. It gave us something to look forward to. So even though we ended up with the result we didn’t want, five months after my surgery, we went on that cruise! It was such a magical time of healing emotionally and physically from the years of infertility and cancer. It was a fun bench mark of getting to move on.
4) What have you learned through this experience?
Oh goodness, so much!
The importance of letting people in and sharing with them what you need, to help them know what to say, to tell them what is actually not helpful to say and when you just want to laugh or just want to cry, helping them know you are more than just walking through infertility but living it each day. The reality that you can be so happy and so sad at the same time and that’s okay. When I did get positive results for something, I needed people to acknowledge the hard still in the midst of the positive. It helped me feel like it was okay to be hopeful and still frustrated at the same time. I am more than just someone who can’t have biological kids. WAY MORE! I have passions, relationships, hopes and dreams that do not have anything to do with kids. I needed to remember that because in walking through infertility it sometimes feels like your whole world revolves around that.
5) What do you hold on to for hope/courage/strength on your bad days?
I am a Christian, so for me, I hold onto my belief that there is more to our stories. Our identity is way more than if we have children or not. I believed that God was still good, in control and always with me. I believed He had a plan for my life much bigger than I could even imagine. I look back now a little over a year later, and it is insane to see the details that I could never have imagined. For example, August 8th 2017 I was told my treatments did not work and I would have to have the hysterectomy. On August 8th 2018, our daughter, Rosie was born. I never imagined I would be an artist painting custom embryos, of all things considering I can’t carry children, but here I am getting to bless women who have walked the infertility road, but now have their precious babies.
6) How do you feel about your experience with infertility on your good days?
This question is different for me since I am infertile. I have the “known” in the unknown of infertility. So finally to me, I do not have “good” days or “bad” days. Just days again.
7) In what ways has your experience with infertility changed you as a person?
It has helped me to see people in a different light, knowing that you really do not know what might be happening behind the smiles. Whether it is infertility or any other difficult thing. I hope it has helped me be a more compassionate person. It has helped me see life on a much longer term scale that just what I want right now. It helped me to know that even if other big hard things happen, that we really will make it through it.
8) How have others responded to your infertility situations? Has it impacted your relationships? What are some things you’ve been told that have been helpful/harmful?
I had a strong community of people around me that for the most part just supported us. My situation was different than most journeys of infertility since I had endometrial cancer. There were much clearer lines and treatment plans and it seemed like people knew what to do with that more than if I had just been in the unknowns of infertility. It did make me value my strong friendships and be okay if more acquaintance-level friendships went lower on the priority list. Helpful phrases were always ones where people acknowledged the hard we were going through and then pointed us to the hopeful. Cliché phrases and platitudes were never helpful. Phrases with “At least…” were my least favorite. Although, people were usually just trying to encourage themselves, it made me feel like I had to be where they were emotionally when I couldn’t.
9) Tell us about you. What are your hobbies/passions/pursuits?
My passion is people. I love hearing their stories. Helping them. Getting to be a small slice of their journey. I began selling my watercolor paintings in order to raise money for the adoption of our daughter. They began as floral wreaths that clients would personalize with wording in the middle of it. I loved the personalized aspect the most as I got to hear the stories behind why people chose the words they chose. As my business continued, I had the chance to create a custom piece for a client. She had two children through embryo adoption and wanted me to paint the picture from the doctor of the embryos. As I cannot carry children and had not been in a science class in a long time, I didn’t even really know what I was looking at. I loved it though! I loved how special it was to her and that they would be paintings she would cherish forever. It was such a gift to be able to create something so special for someone else. Fast forward six months, and my paintings are now almost exclusively embryos for families. I launched my company Cherished Embryos. Beginning 2019, I am excited to see where this journey with Cherished Embryos will go. My favorite passion/hobby is spending quality time with my husband and our 5-month-old daughter. My husband, although a civil engineer, also loves to paint. We love to go on walks and be outside. We are coffee people! I think we have at least six ways of making coffee in our kitchen and use all of them weekly. We both lived in countries that centered their days around coffee (he in Ethiopia, me Italy), so we make frequent coffee shops often. We live in Austin, Texas that has so many local ones that we rarely go to the same one twice.
10) What is your favourite quote?
”God is good. God is in control. God is always with us.”
This was my personal mantra I said over and over again when I had cancer, and it has continued to
be a phrase that encourages me and spurs me forward.