Creating Your Own Fertility “Board of Directors”

How my unofficial team of fertility experts and trusted confidantes has helped me make tough decisions and guide me through this long-ass infertility journey.

Donut or croissant?

Polka dot dress or striped dress?

A few rounds of IUIs or go right to IVF?

I’m a pretty indecisive person. Sure I have good gut instincts, but most of the time I require affirmation from a 3rd party source before making any choice, no matter its weight. If it’s choosing between a donut or a croissant at a cute new bakery, I’ll trust Yelp. If it’s trying to decide between 2 sundresses in an Anthropologie dressing room, I’ll text a style-savvy friend. But when it comes to important medical and financial decisions surrounding my fertility journey? I need a lot more support.

After (almost) three years of trying to conceive, I’ve built myself a strong, trustworthy “Board of Directors.” Now, don’t get confused, this isn’t an official or formal organization or anything. We don’t have meetings or vote on bi-laws. In fact, my board doesn’t even know they’re on my board! It’s just a diverse roster of fertility experts, mental health experts and Elyse-experts. Together, these trusted sources have helped me navigate this world, forge my path and make important decisions around my journey—everything from should we have our embryos genetically tested to should I be cutting out caffeine before a frozen embryo transfer?

There are an infinite number of options and decisions to make throughout this journey and there’s no “right” answer for everyone. Usually it depends on a myriad of factors including medical diagnoses, finances, emotional stability, time constraints, risk tolerance, partner preferences, religious views, opinions on nutrition and SO much more. So to make sure I’m making insightful, educated decisions for myself, I’ve come to rely on an arsenal of experts to help me along. I usually ask questions one-on-one to these people when I feel stuck…sometimes I’ll ask all of them and other times I’ll pick and choose based on the subject of the particular question. But like Captain Planet’s Planeteers, with their powers combined, I know I’m at least approaching these important decisions thoroughly.

Here’s a list of some of the people who sit on my unofficial Fertility Board of Directors:

  • My husband – Brad is my co-Chair on this board. His opinion is of equal weight to mine. We must both whole-heartedly agree on each step before moving forward.
  • My RE – My reproductive endocrinologist has earned my esteem after we’ve been working together for over a year. I trust her experience, expertise and opinions deeply.
  • My therapist – Are you in therapy? It’s the best. My therapist has become a great resource for me. While she isn’t an expert in fertility issues, she understands the emotions beneath it – fear, grief, frustration, shame, and jealousy. She has been invaluable in helping me sort through the emotional mud that gets kicked up…
  • My acupuncturist – I’ve been seeing my acupuncturist for almost two years now and she’s fantastic. She knows so much about the female body, Chinese medicine and holistic approaches to fertility.
  • My best friend – I have chosen ONE friend to sit on this “board.” She has been strong and supportive and understanding throughout this journey, even as she navigated her own pregnancy and I was a bit of a lunatic. I’ve deemed her as “safe” and she’s someone who knows and supports me. I don’t have 20 friends I trust with this stuff. There’s one. And she’s awesome.
  • Some chosen members of the fertility community – I have a few fertility mentors who have been through this shit show firsthand and know the ropes. Their opinions and perspective are incredibly valuable to me. If you’d like a fertility mentor, you can sign up here to join the Fruitful community.

A few other people you could add to your “Fertility Board of Directors” include spiritual or religious leaders, nutritionists, holistic experts, an additional RE, your parents, your financial advisor, etc.

So why has this “Board” saved my sanity? Because (as ANYONE who has shared their fertility struggles with a well-meaning-yet-ignorant bystander) everyone has a goddamn opinion about your fertility journey. Your grandma. Your hair stylist. Your Uber driver. So it’s important to differentiate between flippant, uneducated decisions that random people project onto you versus educated, specific advice that professionals and trusted confidantes who know you can provide.

I’ve found that my team can help steer me towards the decisions that are right for me and Brad and our specific situation. And while the Internet is great for light research, it’s a black hole if you’re looking for advice on a specific issue. For example, if you wanted to research the benefits/drawbacks of performing genetic testing on any embryos that result from a frozen IVF cycle, you could spend hours scouring the internet for tips and insights and leave feeling even more confused.

A quick tip: don’t be scared to fire people from your Board, too. If your acupuncturist does something to betray your trust, then maybe don’t listen to their opinion anymore. Or if your friend ends up getting too busy to help support you, then give them the boot. Your Board of Directors can be a fluid, ever-changing roster.

Do you have something similar? A group of trusted advisors or experts you listen to and respect whole heartedly?

Elyse Ash is the founder and CEO of Fruitful Fertility. It took her and her husband Brad three years, two rounds of IVF and one frozen embryo transfer to see their first positive pregnancy test which brought them their daughter, born in March 2018. Elyse lives in Minneapolis and loves poetry, hockey, social justice, Beyonce and pretending she’s into yoga.

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