Stephanie Fry: professional colleague, devoted author, a dear friend. A mom after infertility who gets it, who understands exactly how painful the infertility journey can be. There are lots of awesome ways to describe Stephanie Fry and I’m so lucky that I’ve gotten to know her personally over the years.
Her true labor of love, The IVF Journal, has finally been published into a beautifully bound edition, now available at Amazon and Random House. Updated with even more advice, charts, checklists and more, The IVF Journal is a must-read (and do, because it’s more than just reading!) for anyone getting started with IVF or about to embark on their umpteenth cycle.
I had the distinct pleasure to sit down and chat with Stephanie recently about her journey to parenthood, a published book and what’s on the horizon. Stay tuned later this week when I share my official review of The IVF Journal.
And be sure to check out my giveaway at the end of this post for a chance to win a signed copy of The IVF Journal!
» KZ: Tell us a little bit about your family building journey.
SF: My family building journey began in 2005 and is still underway. In what way exactly? …The jury is still out on that.
After having ovarian surgery and realizing it was not likely I would conceive naturally, my journey through fertility treatment was what I consider to be fairly typical. I started on the oft-traveled Clomid to IUI to medicated IUI to IVF track. I took me quite a few years to get through nine embryo transfers (five IUI, four IVF) and finally I found success on my first frozen transfer in 2009.
Those are my stats. I start there because it’s easy to rattle off the numbers. The realities: living with infertility before, during and after IVF treatment – are much more complicated and much harder to explain.
» KZ: Why IVF? What was most attractive about this family building option to you? How was your partner involved in the decision-making to pursue IVF?
SF: For my husband and myself, IVF wasn’t an attractive choice – it was the only choice. By the time we got there, the most attractive thing about it was that it might actually work. As it is for many couples, my IVF treatment was the result of the above-mentioned progression of infertility treatments. So while my husband and I were equally involved and invested, we didn’t have much choice. We did what we could, when we could. The decision-making process was largely dictated by finances, insurance, available treatments and the medical and physical realities of our situation.
» KZ: IVF can be a very complicated process between timing, drugs, ultrasounds… How did you stay sane?
SF: The truth? I didn’t. Stay sane, that is.
I was handling things fairly well until my first IVF cycle resulted in an early pregnancy loss. At that point, I fell apart. It took years of hard work and help from numerous sources to become whole again. The process of falling apart and putting myself back together was nothing short of gut-wrenching. In the end it was also enlightening and positively life-changing.
Initially, I coped with the complicated treatment process by creating a system of record-keeping and organization that made the logistical aspects of my IVF treatment much easier to navigate but that was just one piece of the puzzle. It wasn’t until I had begun to heal that I was able to understand and accept that the physical, emotional and logistical aspects of IVF treatment are totally intertwined and that in order to stay sane I had to become a very active participant in my medical care – on multiple levels.
» KZ: Tell us a little bit about why you decided to write The IVF Journal and what folks can get out of it.
SF: As I say in the book:
“I created The IVF Journal for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I wanted to keep my head above water during my own IVF experience. For years I existed within the constant storm of information and emotions that makes up the world of infertility and IVF. Eventually, one thing became clear: in order to survive the situation, I would need to take hold of the things that I could control, such as knowledge about my specific situation, my body, my cycles, and my feelings.”
So, yes, at first I created The IVF Journal just for myself. I desperately needed a way to understand what was happening and to keep everything straight. I also needed a place where I could vent and figure things out in my own way. I read loads of books regarding infertility and IVF treatment but no matter how good they were, at some point they all felt like they belonged to someone else: some detail about my treatment or the way my clinic operated would be a bit off; a medication I was taking was not covered or the emotions that the author experienced veered a bit (or wildly) off course from my own.
I knew I needed something that was uniquely mine and as I interacted more and more with other women going through the process, it became clear to me that I was not the only one feeling this way.
The result was The IVF Journal: a book that helps patients to manage the complex physical, logistical and emotional process of IVF in their own way. Not a memoir or a how-to. Not a book about me or my story. Instead, The IVF Journal is designed to be about the person reading it and therefore helps women going through IVF in loads of different ways. It can be an emotional companion, a coping tool, a treatment manual, a day planner, a financial record and an organizational solution. How readers use it is up to them. My hope is that each women who reads it will take from it what she (or he!) needs and ends up with something that is entirely her own. That in the end, is why I decided to share it with the world.
» KZ: Now that you’ve successfully gone through IVF, what advice do you have for infertility patients still on their family building journeys? What advice do you have for folks considering IVF as an option for them?
SF: Get educated, get involved and get support. This may seem like basic stuff but the reality is that for the majority of patients, IVF is uncharted territory. We don’t learn about it in health class or from our mothers. It is usually unexpected and unplanned. It is really important to recognize and honor that.
» KZ: Can you give us a sneak peak at some of what we can expect from The IVF Journal?
SF: Below are a few the pieces of advice from the book that I think are important for patients going through any kind of infertility treatment. The book also includes more IVF-specific advice on everything from prepping for a cycle, to scheduling issues, preparing for results, dealing with the Two Week Wait and coping with multiple cycles or long term IVF treatment.
Here’s some advice to whet your whistle:
- Understand Your Treatment. The unknown is scary. The feeling that you are in the dark about your treatment can add greatly to the stress of an IVF cycle. Instead of fixating on “what-ifs” and “maybes” in a worrisome, stressful way, you can choose to focus on your cycle in a positive, productive manner, by making an effort to understand your diagnosis, treatment, and all possible outcomes before you begin your cycle. Understanding the phases of your treatment demystifies the cycle process and boosts your confidence as you move through your cycle. Being prepared for all possible outcomes means that you will be ready to handle anything that comes your way—good or bad.
- Do What Feels Right. As you go through IVF treatment you are likely to come across loads of different types of tips, advice, and complementary therapy options. As you encounter and consider these things, always remember that while there are plenty of experts out there, there is only one expert on you. Make sure you listen to your heart and your body throughout the entire process. Whether it is a new diet, a new mind- body technique, advice on how much you should exercise, or what vitamins to take, if something you are doing doesn’t feel right, honor that feeling. Know that while it may have worked great for someone else, that doesn’t mean it is right for you.
- Don’t Plan – Prepare. Because there are so many variables in IVF, you simply will not be able to plan the exact timing, outcome, or experience of an IVF cycle—but you should always be prepared for one. The old adage of “hope for the best, plan for the worst, and expect the unexpected” will come in handy here. Your journey will be easier if you get comfortable with the fact that you can’t control what is going to happen during the cycle, as it is impossible to have everything figured out ahead of time. What you can control is how you prepare for a cycle. Arming yourself with facts, information, systems, options, and ideas before you get started allows you to better cope with any and all eventualities.
- Anticipate Tough Moments. Before you start your cycle, have a discussion with your doctor, partner, or other important people in your life about the possible reactions to the process, medications, procedures, and stress. Not everyone will be adversely affected by these things, but it never hurts to recognize and anticipate your physical and emotional responses. The fact is that you may be a little (or a lot) exhausted, short-tempered, cranky, or on edge. If you discuss this possibility, as well as potential causes and solutions beforehand, a tense moment can be more easily diffused with a gentle reminder that you knew tough moments might occur and are just a reaction to stress, medications, and exhaustion—or a combination of all three!
» KZ: Stephanie, it’s always a pleasure. You’ve been an inspiration to me personally and I know The IVF Journal will help many, many couples going through IVF. It’s a gift you’ve given us all – thank you!
SF: Of course! If you or your readers are interested in learning more about The IVF Journal, please connect with me!
Enter the Giveaway!
Enter for your chance to win a signed copy of The IVF Journal! You can earn up to 20 entries, with extra chances each day. But hurry – the giveaway ends Friday, July 25th at 11:59pm EST!