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I met one of my most cherished friends in our reproductive
endocrinologist's waiting room. We were two strangers brought together by
emotionally crushing circumstances. Christine and I clicked immediately; we
called ourselves "IVF BFFs." We popped our meds together. We called each other
before our eggs were retrieved. I cheered her on when she conceived during her
first round of IVF. She sent me flowers when our first BFP (big fat positive) disappeared just a
few days later.
Four years and four children later, we've both had our happy
endings. And we've each had the chance to pass our knowledge down by informally
counseling other women riding the infertility merry-go-round. Whether it's a
friend, a friend of a friend, or a stranger I overhear in Starbucks, I've never
been one to shy away from sharing my story. It can feel so reassuring
to hear about fertility success, especially when you're down in the dumps,
shooting yourself up with hormones in a Chipotle parking lot, progesterone cream
oozing from where the sun don't shine.
There's so much support when you're pregnant and when you're a new mom, but there's this black hole of support when you're going through infertility.
Now there's a way for women in the throes of fertility woes to
find their own IVF BFF: Fertility mentor programs have been popping up here and
there, partnering patients with infertility victors who have fought on the
front lines and lived to tell the tale. At Shine: A Light on
Fertility, women are paired up with a "Fertility Friend," someone who has
walked in their exact shoes and is willing and eager to share her experiences.
So if you're about to try IUI (intra uterine insemination), you'll be matched
with someone who did IUI, too. About to hire a surrogate? Your fertility
mentor's been there, my friend.
founder Katie O'Connor said the program is modeled after Imerman Angels, another Chicago-based
non-profit where cancer patients are matched with survivors who were diagnosed
with the same type of cancer and are also the same age and gender. O'Connor created
Shine while she was pregnant with her daughter after nearly two years of fertility
"There's so much support when you're pregnant and when
you're a new mom, but there's this black hole of support when you're going
through infertility," she told me. "You so desperately want to be in the
pregnant or new mom group. And when you're stressed out, nothing feels better
than knowing you're not alone." (Besides the mentor program, Shine also hosts
monthly support group sessions, where women "share success stories, cry it out
when they're disappointed, brainstorm new approaches and learn to become more
proactive," O'Connor describes.)
At Uprooted: A Jewish
Response to Infertility, a similar mentoring program will soon match
fertility patients with former infertiles. As their website explains, "Uprooted's mentors have a range of
experiences including miscarriage, pregnancy loss, stillborn,
IVF, surrogacy, adoption, mental health challenges, physical health
challenges, childbearing after cancer and procreation for gay and lesbian
Shine is free and
the mentorships can take place in person or via phone/email if you don't live
in Chicago. If you're trying to get pregnant and don't have your own IVF BFF,
why not give it a shot?