Registered Dietician Elizabeth Shaw was on the birth control pill since she was 13 years old and was aware that it may take her body some time to regulate once she got off the pill and started trying to conceive, but never imagined that it would take so long to get pregnant. As she and her husband, whom she married in 2012, ‘waited and waited some more’, she found herself feeling alone and confused by the experience of infertility and created Bumps to Baby, a community to help others navigating the tough process.
Elizabeth is now 22 weeks pregnant and is still committed to supporting others on their ‘Bumps to Baby’ journey with support, healthy recipes, weekly features on ‘Women Warriors’ and more.
What’s your fertility story?
My husband and I started our journey to expand our family about a year after we got married in 2012 and had a long road, with assisted reproductive technology, after that.
I was diagnosed with unexplained infertility related to my hypogonadotropic hypogonadism (HH), which is essentially a condition in which little to no sex hormones are produced.
I truly believe any period of waiting is challenging for a wanna-be-mama, be it a two-week-wait or a trial time for your body to “figure itself out” (neither is a desirable scenario).
I needed to regroup, find a new sense of peace with my body and begin to remember, baby or not, I was enough as a person, a wife, a woman.My husband and I started with an IUI, entering full force with the belief that this was our ticket to baby. After our first failed attempt, I was crushed. I never fathomed the emotional pain of it and wasn’t ready to jump into another emotionally, financially, and physically exhausting experience. (Also, 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 for us to expand our family would be to start IVF. So, in February of 2016, we decided that would be 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. So, 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 that 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 friends and comfort. 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.
My body responded very poorly to our first IVF retrieval in 2016, and we were unable to do a fresh transfer. Of the 15 eggs retrieved, only 2 embryos were viable for cryopreservation. The worst was yet to come…
We received the news that both embryos didn’t take in my body. This was, by far, the lowest of the low in our 4.5 year journey to baby. And, 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 was enough as a person, a wife, a woman.
Infertility doesn’t have a type. It affects all of us, health professionals and athletes and people of faith – there’s no discrimination.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 finally able to find that sense of peace. I was able to mourn our losses and the trials and tribulations infertility had taught me and begin to refocus on the community of Bumps to Baby and the messages that I wanted to help communicate. It was also during this time that the passion project I had worked on with a close colleague and friend was released, The Fertility Foods Cookbook, which helped merge my love of nutrition and heart for the fertility community.
This break and 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 my husband and I are now 22 weeks pregnant and expecting our miracle baby this August! In my opinion, this is a true testament to the powerful role that stress can play in your health and most importantly, the importance of finding trust and healing your relationship with your body.
What have you learned about yourself during your infertility journey? Has anything surprised you?
Through this experience, I’ve learned that even in the darkest of days, there is a light to find, there are people to lean on, and most importantly, there is a lesson to learn. This was not always so easy to remember; but through conversations of hope, of encouragement and sometimes, of just tears, I was able to find myself. I was able to find a greater purpose in my struggle and most importantly help break a stigma around a condition (infertility) that is still considered taboo to some. I think my resilience and my passion are two of my best features and I’m so blessed to have found strength through my struggles.
Given your background as Registered Dietician and someone who leads a very healthy lifestyle, do you think your rocky road to pregnancy was even harder to comprehend? What are some misconceptions people have about infertility?
Absolutely! I kept thinking, “But I eat SO much fiber! I drink PLENTY of water! I exercise DAILY! What gives?!”
Well, 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 and 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. Let’s be real: sometimes this is a VERY LONG RUN!
Infertility can feel like such an isolating journey when you’re in the thick of it. Trust me, I was there for years before I decided to break the silence and find comfort from my #ttcfamily. And friends, believe me when I say, you are not alone! We know the statistics show 1 out of 8 couples struggle and let’s be real, likely someone close to you is going through the thick of this disease too.
We see you’re expecting this summer. Congrats! What do you think you’ll share with your child about your journey to him/her?
It’s a miracle. Every day I still wake up wondering if this is my real life and thank the higher powers for the opportunity to experience this side of the rainbow.
And, yes, I will absolutely share this journey with her. The community of Bumps to Baby and my entire #ttcfamily has become such an important role in my life and business that I know it will only continue to grow stronger as she grows. She is a sign of hope, that through body trust, faith and resilience, all things are possible, in even the darkest of skies.
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