This month Jennifer “Jay” Palumbo will be awarded the RESOLVE (the National Infertility Association) Hope Award for the Best Infertility Blog. This recognition is well-deserved as Jay has been capturing her fertility journey on The 2 Week Wait with humor, insight and raw honesty for almost a decade.
Now, a ‘proud IVF Mom’, this writer, public speaker, and former stand-up comic is on the frontlines of this issue, as a vocal infertility advocate. (She’s been known to pop up on Capitol Hill and lobby for the rights and access of those pursuing treatments and assistance in building and growing their families.)
We sat down with Jay to find out what prompted her to start documenting her painful experience and why, a few years and two children later, she’s still talking about infertility.
What’s your fertility/infertility story, in a nutshell?
For me, it was all about threes. Three years of trying, three timed cycles, three IUI’s, three IVF’s and no joke – three different doctors. I didn’t plan it that way but that’s how it worked out. On the surface, I was considered “Unexplained” but when we started doing IVF, my fertility reports were telling. Meaning they would retrieve like 8 to 13 eggs but I’d only ever have one or two embryos so they felt I had an egg quality issue.
When and why did you start your blog, The 2 Week Wait?
It was 2009. I was about to do my very first IVF and was very nervous both about how I wasn’t getting pregnant and about the in vitro process. I have always been a writer and lord knows I’ve always had a sense of humor so The 2 Week Wait become not only an outlet and coping mechanism for me but it also connected me with others who could relate, support and laugh (and cry) along with me.
There’s a lot of misconceptions. That if you do IVF, it’ll definitely work. Or that adoption is easier and less expensive than IVF. Or that infertility in and of itself is not an actual medical condition.What’s a big misconception people have about infertility, in your opinion?
Holy crap. There’s a lot. That if you do IVF, it’ll definitely work. Or that adoption is easier and less expensive than IVF. Or that infertility in and of itself is not an actual medical condition, WHICH IT IS. I’m especially disappointed in insurance companies because their logic is, “We shouldn’t have to cover it because you’re not going to die from infertility.” What I want to say to them is there were days I felt like dying because of it. Does that count for anything??
Did you ever lose hope? What kept you going?
Oh god, yes. My last IVF cycle when we were out of insurance and funds and I got the call that our “Hail Mary” cycle only had one embryo to transfer. I remember that call vividly. “Ms. Palumbo? We retrieved 13 eggs and you have one embryo.” ONE. EMBRYO. And again, this was the last IVF cycle we could afford. What kept me going was that it was better to have at least one embryo than no embryo. I wasn’t terribly optimistic during that two-week wait but through luck and odds (as it was my third cycle), that one embryo will be turning six in January. I STILL can’t believe it.
Any advice for people who are feeling anxious during the 2 week wait?
I was always fine the first week but it was the second week where I’d typically go a little nuts. I’d suggest a few things:
One. Don’t make plans. That way, if you feel like you want to stay home and veg, you can. If you want to go out, you can do that too. I’d keep things flexible so you can do whatever you want.
Two. There is NO point in trying to analyze all of your symptoms. Trust me on this. PMS, pregnancy and the progesterone you’re taking literally all have the same symptoms so trying to figure out what’s what is a waste of time and a big stressor.
Three. Do whatever you can to buy even five minutes of happiness to keep yourself sane. Get your nails done, watch your favorite movie, buy a lollipop – whatever works to pass the time and make you smile.
Do you still feel ‘infertile’, even though you’ve had 2 kids? What has made you continue to advocate on behalf of people going through this experience?
People know this is a big debate in the community and all sides have valuable points. For me, I have been given an infertility diagnosis. That’s certainly the CPT code used on all of my thousands dollars of treatment. It was never “Should we have a baby?” It was always, “Can we ever have a baby?” Now that my journey has reached a resolution, I feel strongly that if you’re in a place where you can share your story, you can help advocate for the rights of those who are still in the thick of it. I don’t feel like I could have advocated as hard as I do now while going through treatment so if I can do it now on behalf of others, I’m happy to.
Listen to stories, share your own, and get feedback from the community.