“Creating Your Fertility “Board of Directors”: Guest post by Elyse Ash of Fruitful Fertility
How my unofficial team of fertility experts, trusted confidants and friends helped me make tough decisions and guide me through infertility.
I’m a pretty indecisive person. While I try to just read one article and listen to my gut, my fingers can’t help themselves…they’re already on page 5 of the Google results and have fired off 4 text messages to a random assortment of friends. This is pretty much the case regardless of the decision I am trying to make or its magnitude.
If it’s choosing between a donut or a croissant at a cute new bakery, I go to Yelp. If it’s trying to decide between 2 sundresses in an Anthropologie dressing room, I text pics to a style-savvy friend. So when it came to important medical and financial decisions surrounding my fertility journey, I needed a lot more support. And I needed experts.
That’s why over the course of my 3-year-long fertility journey, I worked to cobble together a strong, trustworthy, independent-minded “Board of Directors.”
Building my team
Of course, this wasn’t an official, formal organization or anything. We didn’t have meetings or vote on by-laws. In fact, my board didn’t even know they were on my board! It was just a diverse roster of fertility experts, mental health experts, and Elyse-experts. Together, these trusted sources helped me get the clarity I needed to make important decisions throughout my fertility journey—everything from deciding if we should have our embryos genetically tested to figure out if I should cut out caffeine before my frozen embryo transfer?
The reason a board of directors worked well for me was that I found the resources out there to be overwhelming and broad. Dr. Google, magazine articles, and random Reddit threads didn’t take into account my specific diagnosis or values. It didn’t know my age or AMH or what my relationship with my husband looked like.
The reality is that there is an infinite number of options and decisions to make throughout every fertility 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 was making insightful, educated decisions for me, I came to rely on an arsenal of experts to help me along. I usually asked my questions one-on-one when I felt stuck…sometimes I’d ask all of them and other times I’d pick and choose based on the subject of the particular question. But like Captain Planet’s Planeteers, with their powers combined, I knew I was at least approaching these important decisions thoroughly.
My unofficial “Fertility Board of Directors”
- My husband – My husband, Brad, was my co-chair on this board. His opinion was of equal weight to mine. We both had to whole-heartedly agree on each step before moving forward.
- My reproductive endocrinologist – My RE earned my esteem after we’d been working together for over a year. I grew to trust her experience, expertise, and opinions deeply.
- My therapist – Are you in therapy? It’s the best. My therapist became a great resource for me. While she wasn’t an expert in fertility issues, she understood the emotions beneath it – fear, grief, frustration, shame, and jealousy. She was invaluable at helping me sort through the emotional mud that got kicked up…
- My acupuncturist – I’d been seeing my acupuncturist for almost two years and was blown away by all she knew about the female body, Chinese medicine, and holistic approaches to fertility. I liked including her more eastern approach as a supplemental source of information while navigating western treatments.
- My best friend – I chose ONE friend to sit on this board. She was nothing but strong and supportive and understanding throughout my journey, even as she navigated her own pregnancy and I was a bit of a lunatic. I deemed her as “safe” and she was someone who knew and supported me unconditionally.
- Some chosen members of the fertility community – I had a few cycle buddies and fertility mentors who had been through this mess firsthand and knew the ropes. Their opinions and perspectives were incredibly valuable to me. (If you’d like a fertility mentor yourself, you can sign up here to join the Fruitful community. Use the code MMBB to get 20% off your membership).
A few other people you could add to your own “Fertility Board of Directors” include spiritual or religious leaders, nutritionists (FYI, check out the FREE nutrition and fitness fertility guide below), holistic experts, nurses, financial advisors, parents, or even an additional RE or medical specialist if you are dealing with thyroid issues, cancer or other medical complications.
So why did this approach save my sanity? Because (as ANYONE who has shared their fertility struggles with a well-meaning-yet-ignorant bystander) everyone has a freakin opinion about your fertility journey. Your grandma, hairstylist, and even your Lyft driver. So it’s important to differentiate between flippant, uneducated opinions that random people project onto you versus educated, relevant advice from professionals, and trusted confidantes.
I trusted my team to help steer me towards the decisions that were right for Brad and me 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.
They may come and go…
And one more 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. The goal is to make it a valuable tool for you to approach your medical and family-building decisions with the right fidelity of knowledge, information, and support to get you to clarity. And if it’s not doing that? Then find someone else (or something else) that will get you there instead.
Elyse Ash, CEO of Fruitful
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.