Elyse Ash and her husband, Brad, always knew they wanted to have kids ‘some day’, but weren’t in a rush. According to Elyse, ‘We worked hard. Traveled. Saved money. Went to concerts. Got a cat. Bought a house. Finally, after three years of marriage and eight years of being together as a couple, we decided we were ready to start trying.’
After 15 months of trying, they went to an OBGYN who suggested everything looked normal, and recommended that they try Clomid and keep trying.
With ‘renewed hope’, they tried again for almost a year and a half before booking an appointment to see a reproductive endocrinologist. Almost immediately, they learned that Elyse had cysts on her ovaries, due to endometriosis, and they would most likely need to undergo IVF to have a baby(s).
This experience was isolating for Elyse, who yearned for connection with other people navigating infertility. She started her blog near the beginning of her infertility journey.
Today, through Fruitful, she’s helping countless others share, process and navigate their infertility experience.
We caught up with Elyse, to learn more about her journey to motherhood, and why she’s passionate about supporting others who are trying to get there.
Did IVF work for you and your husband?
Our first round of IVF was a big fat failure. After the retrieval, fertilization report and PGS testing, we ended up with ZERO chromosomally normal embryos. So we tried a second round with a modified protocol, which gave us three chromosomally normal blastocyst embryos. We did our first frozen transfer in June 2017 and to our shock, it stuck! I was pregnant and gave birth to our daughter in March 2018. A true miracle!
Why did you start your blog?
I started my own anonymous blog on Tumblr near the beginning of our infertility journey. I was feeling so incredibly isolated and needed some kind of outlet or forum to share my anxiety, fears and victories. The support I received from others who were trying to conceive was incredible; I couldn’t believe how “normal” my feelings felt after hearing from so many other infertility warriors. I always thought I was crazy, but realiz
ed through the experience of sharing in a safe space just how universal a lot of my feelings were in the scheme of infertility. This gave me the courage and inspiration I needed to launch Fruitful and Fruitful’s blog where I could share a lot more openly.
What’s a misconception you had about fertility/infertility?
I really only thought infertility affected couples who were in their 40s – I had no idea you could have low ovarian reserve at the age of 25. Of course now I see how ridiculous that sounds, and know many men and women in their early 20s who have battled infertility.
Infertility does not discriminate against age, race, religion, geography, or socioeconomic level.
Fruitful matches people going through the process with people who have experienced it. Why was this important to you?
I realized pretty early that even though I have a lot of friends I could talk to about my infertility struggles, very few of them could truly empathize with the specific shade of anxiety, fear and depression that infertility triggered. They did their best to support me and provide comfort, but I always left those conversations feeling misunderstood or pitied.
So, I joined an in-person support group, and while all the women were very nice, there was an awkward competitive undercurrent. One by one, women would get pregnant and leave the group…making the rest of us feel like even bigger failures. I later realized that the best people to turn to for support were women who had once experienced infertility but were now “on the other side.” Whether that means they eventually had children, adopted, fostered or decided to live child-free, they KNEW what I was going through and they could help support and guide me with a level of understanding and perspective I often lacked. This was the inspiration for launching Fruitful, a free fertility mentorship matching program that pairs those struggling with those who have been through it and are now on the other side.
Congrats on your baby! How has it been, so far, to parent after infertility?
It’s been incredibly surreal. I’m so overwhelmed with gratitude. That said, I just assumed as soon as I held her that all the pain and fear and frustration and anger of infertility would dissipate, but it’s still there…it’s no where near as intense, but it still sits there. It pops up when people make comments like, “There must be something in the water!” (Uh, no there’s not…) or when they ask us about having a second kid some day (We’re pretty happy with our one, thanks).
In fact, I remember being 8 months pregnant and in a birthing class with Brad, and the other women were all complaining about the dumbest, smallest things. Like, how tingly their legs felt and it left me feeling enraged. How dare they complain about tingly legs when I personally know dozens of women who would walk through fire to experience pregnancy? It’s all just so unfair…why some women get to take home their babies and so many don’t…I try to take those feelings and channel it towards gratitude.
Anything else you want to add for those still experiencing infertility?
Infertility is the 4th most traumatic life event a woman can experience, so go easy on yourself if you’re feeling depressed or anxious. It’s normal and you are NOT alone. Make sure you create a support system for yourself – whether that’s a fertility mentor, a professional therapist, a social media community, a yoga class…it’s important to have people you can talk to, beyond your partner. You need a safe place to vent…because infertility is messy, and no one should have to go through it alone.
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