Dressing for Fertility Treatment Success With Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, In Mind

Dressing-Fertility-Treatment-Success-With-Meghan-Markle-Duchess-of-Sussex-In-MindShutterstock

I’m sitting in the waiting room of the fertility clinic, staring at my shoes and thinking about Meghan the Duchess of Sussex. 

My shoes are HER shoes – black leather Birdies flats I got from my husband for Christmas, signature footwear of Her Royal Highness, aka Meghan Markle, our American- British princess now returned to us. I call them my Duchess shoes, and I wear them to the clinic for a reason.     

In my first IVF treatment rounds, back in summer 2020, I initially gave little thought to my outfit for appointments. All I focused on was the intended outcome of my visits—getting pregnant. I’d throw on store-brand athleisure wear and beat-up shoes, my hair in a careless ponytail. I was going to get probed and poked in the midst of a pandemic; it didn’t matter what I wore.

At the end of that process, on the way into my first egg retrieval, a woman breezed past me and my husband in the medical office lobby. Like everyone else in the building, she was wearing a blue surgical mask, but unlike me, she was dressed in an outfit – a cap-sleeved, floral cotton A-line dress, in eye-popping green and topaz and rose pink; a cognac leather belt bag around her waist, with coordinating gladiator sandals strapped around her toned calves.  Her hair was blown out, her ears were adorned with delicate gold jewelry, her eye makeup was subtle and flawless. 

She could have been coming from an appointment on any one of the 24 floors of the building, but I decided that she was coming from the top floor, where I was headed. I imagined that she waltzed in and out of the fertility clinic in that outfit, and I was in awe. 

If I could dress half as stylishly and confidently, I thought, I, too, would exude style and confidence, and that would make this process just a little bit more tolerable, wouldn’t it?

I thought of that woman when I dressed for my second egg retrieval, steeled with optimism but tempered by the reality that our first round had resulted in only one viable embryo. 

This time I wore a long red heathered summer dress with a tiered skirt, gold sandals, and a big gold charm necklace, even though I’d be changing into a hospital gown and grippy socks as soon as I was led into the surgical suite. I did my makeup, even though half my face would be obscured by a mask the entire time.

It didn’t matter what I wore, but then again, it’s so hard to tell what matters in infertility treatments. 

You take the hormones and do the shots and the tests and the procedures and then you just hope and pray, sorting through the internet-propagated myths and the doctor’s instructions, knowing that you can try to increase your chances, but that they will never be 100 percent. 

I trust the decades of research and the nationally renowned fertility clinic and the medication changes my doctor had made for this second round. But this is the creation of a life we’re talking about, and there’s something miraculous and unknowable about it no matter how much science you throw at it. 

It didn’t matter what I wore, but then again, it’s so hard to tell what matters in infertility treatments. 

We got four viable embryos from that egg retrieval.

After the success of the egg retrievals, we were hopeful for the next step, a successful embryo transfer. But after two failed attempts, it’s time to reset.  I dress carefully for my first trip back to the clinic in a couple months, for a saline ultrasound to check for uterine polyps, fibroids, or any other abnormality.

Last summer, I dressed for my appointments with a certain degree of hope-through-color-story, in bright dresses and bold accessories, swishing fabric and bare pale skin. There was still hope that soon I’d be pregnant, that soon the pandemic would be over. 

Now, in the dead of winter, with neither of those wishes having come true, I choose an outfit with more fortitude and protection. High-waisted dark denim with raw hems; a cozy, voluminous dark grey sweater; oversized camel wool Pendleton coat; a new quilted black tote; and most importantly, my Duchess shoes.

Like many American women, I was thrilled to see Meghan Markle marry Prince Harry and fulfill the princess fantasy of our Millennial dreams. But I was even more amazed to see her stand up to the racism of the British press coverage she received, to admit that everything wasn’t a fantasy, to expose the raw truth of a monarchy determined not to rock any boats but willing to let its own adrift into the sea, unprotected, to maintain that illusion of stability.  When it was announced that she and Harry would be retiring as senior royals and moving to California, I was sad – that we’d miss out on her royal fashion, that the modernity and diversity she tried to bring to The Firm would be swept aside – but I was also so impressed by her actions. 

Now that she’s less constrained by royal protocol, Meghan can speak more freely in public, but when she was a working senior royal, she was often relegated to sending messages the way that royal women have for generations – through her fashion choices. I learned about this deliberate dressing from Instagram analysis of style journalist Elizabeth Holmes who parses the outfits of British royals for clues about what causes they champion, what designers they support, how much and what kind of attention they want to draw to themselves. Holmes demonstrates that fashion, especially when deployed by people who are often seen and much less often heard, is a medium AND a message.

When Meghan stepped out in her Birdies flats on a royal tour of Australia and New Zealand in 2018, her footwear conveyed that she was down-to-earth,  cared about comfort, and wasn’t too prim to dress in more casual (but still chic!) attire for a walk in a redwoods forest. She has actually been wearing these shoes since her “Suits” days bringing the brand into her royal rotation sent a message that she hadn’t completely shed her old self. She was a whole person before she became a duchess, someone who appreciated a solid, stylish, relatively affordable woman-owned American brand, and she was still that person.

When I step into my own pair, I think of her every time. I wear Meghan’s shoes to the fertility clinic because I think she’s very brave, and I want to be as brave as she is. 

I was a whole person before I became a statistic of infertility, and I am still that person. When I choose my outfit on a fertility clinic day, I want to convey that I am a Woman Who Has It Together. Look at my chic duchess flats. Maybe I’m just here for tea.  Maybe I’m not here for yet another appointment to possibly find out what’s wrong with my body.    

I sit in the waiting room, staring at my shoes, telling myself that I’m no different from Meghan the Duchess of Sussex, and she has persevered, sharing the story of her own miscarriage with the world, starting a new life with her family, and now happily expecting her second baby.

The effect of stress on fertility treatment outcomes is debated, but my doctor still recommends reducing stress. I do that through exercise, healthy eating, mindfulness practices,  therapy, and Zoloft; I also do it when I slip into my shoes and channel the badass brilliance and bravery of my American sister, the Duchess of Sussex.

When I step into my own pair, I think of her every time. I wear Meghan’s shoes to the fertility clinic because I think she’s very brave, and I want to be as brave as she is. 

As I prepare to start another cycle of egg retrieval and more tests, followed, I hope, by another embryo transfer that will stick, I’m sure there will be days when I throw on sweats for my appointments, prizing comfort over fashion. But I am also planning a few intentional “positive energy” outfits that will make me feel, if not like a princess, then at least like a well-dressed, confident, brave woman going after what she wants.   


Megan Bungeroth
Contributor

Megan Bungeroth

Megan Bungeroth is a writer and editorial director specializing in magazine journalism and personal essays. She lives in Chicago with her husband and dog, Arthur. Together they run Air Hares, a graphic novel series and video game about a determined bunny pilot and her crew. Follow her on Instagram @MeganBungeroth


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