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Do You Need a Fertility Mentor?

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.

RELATED: Everything You Wanted to Know About IVF (But Were Afraid to Ask)

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.

Shine's 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 challenges.

"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.)

RELATED: Trying to Conceive at Starbucks

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 couples."

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?

Image via Twenty20/evicolson

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