Jamie Webber is the editorial director at Healthline Media. For our “Real Talk” series, we interviewed Jamie about infertility, pregnancy, and motherhood during a pandemic.
We get so many reader questions and stories around infertility. Would you mind sharing a bit about your family’s experience?
Infertility is tough. It’s one of the hardest experiences I hope to ever have to face, but now that I’m fortunate enough to be on the other side, and looking back on what I learned during that trying time, the journey was worth every heartache, every bad news-filled doctor appointment, and every hour of lost sleep staying up late wondering if I’d ever be a mom.
After my husband and I had been married a year (but together for 9), we started trying to build our family. When I tell you I thought I was pregnant after our first baby-making attempt, I am not kidding. We were so healthy, my cycles were regular, we had really only heard of people who got pregnant easily, and just knew we’d fall into that same camp.
Well, months started to go by and every single one consisted of an unwanted welcome party to my period. We were not pregnant and by month eight, I was at my wit’s end. I knew something wasn’t right. They say it can take a year, and for some it can, but for us, I knew something was wrong.
We went to the doctor, and test after test, bad news after bad news, we learned we were part of the one in eight couples that were facing infertility. This was going to be a fight. It was a fight that took us nearly 3 years to win. Now that we have a 2-year-old boy at home and his baby brother on the way, both thanks to IVF, there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t thank my lucky stars for giving us this journey. It wasn’t an easy one, but it was ours and it’s made us a strong couple and parents after going through it.
Going through infertility can feel like a really lonely process, largely because society has done women the enormous disservice of making it a taboo topic for so long. How did you find support and community while you and your husband were going through it?
The reality is that this journey is lonely. As soon as you’re told you’re facing infertility, it’s like everyone around you is either pregnant or pushing their kids (that you’re yearning so desperately for!) in strollers as you walk alone down the street.
But there are ways to make you feel less alone.
Our support system started with each other. Infertility isn’t a him issue, it’s not a her issue, it’s a ‘we’ issue. Once you realize that, you realize you have this built-in best friend who’s going through the same thing you are—you can lean on each other through every hard day. We also took that extra time as “just us” to travel more and enjoy just being a couple. Even though we wanted this baby more than anything in the world, looking back there was something special about the unexpected extra time with just my husband.
Our support was amplified by our family and a tight group of friends. It was key to open up to them, because we just needed others to listen. You can’t really expect them to have the right things to say, but the extra hugs and shoulders to lean on are key to getting by.
I ended up opening up to a handful of coworkers because I was having a hard time trying to put on my happy face at work every day when I was going through something that was crushing my soul.
While many people want to keep this a private journey, and I get that, I decided to share part of our story openly on social media once we finally got pregnant. In hindsight, I wish I had shared it during our infertility struggles. My post allowed so many people who I haven’t spoken to in years to reach out to me and tell me their similar stories. I couldn’t help but think to myself, if I had just shared my truth earlier, I would have found a stronger support group outside of my bubble.
If you have to do IVF, try to connect to someone who’s been through it. I connected with friends of friends who gave me helpful tips on administering the shots, and overall what to expect out of my hormones—oh, do they have a mind of their own.
Ultimately, you were able to conceive and are now pregnant with baby #2 (congratulations!)—how have your pregnancies differed? Both first versus second and now experiencing pregnancy during a pandemic?
I’ve been pretty lucky in both of my pregnancies, and never really had morning sickness. Just slight nausea here and there and random cravings—with one I craved salty chips, and with this one it was Swedish Fish. The biggest surprise in my second pregnancy is how much faster my bump is growing. I was warned about that, but now I’m living the reality and can definitely say this belly is much larger now at 25 weeks than it was with my first. But hey, I welcome it.
There’s also the major difference of being pregnant while chasing a toddler around. Add life with a toddler to a pandemic world where we no longer have a nanny, we are both working full-time jobs, and we can’t go out and about, and the exhaustion hits me hard. What I would do for a glass of wine at the end of the day.
I found out I was pregnant the day we left Brooklyn, NY to go into quarantine mode and move to my childhood home in Maryland on March 14, so I can confidently say I’ve spent every day of this pandemic pregnant—and there are pluses and minuses.
Some of the upsides are that I get to be in the comfort of my own home to wear what I want, take a 20-minute nap if I have to while my toddler naps in between meetings, and make a peanut butter sandwich and jelly when the craving hits.
Working from home with a toddler is tough, but it’s also been one of the best parts of the past 5 months. Spending extra time with my husband and son, especially before the next one gets here, is irreplaceable. The days are long, there are no breaks, but I’ll be forever grateful for this extra family time.
What’s been the most difficult part of being pregnant during a pandemic?
There are so many unknowns. That’s the case for all parents right now, but being pregnant is especially tough because there’s constant worry thinking about what this world will look like in November when it’s time to have this baby — will we be on lockdown again? Can my husband be in the hospital with me? Will I be able to labor with my doula? What about postpartum care? Will I be able to find childcare for my toddler that’s safe so I can get some help while I care for myself and our newborn? The questions continue to flood my mind, but I just need to take it day by day.
There is also the added stress of just making sure I stay safe. Studies have shown that pregnant women can have worse symptoms so I’m trying to take every precaution to avoid getting the virus. I just have to remind myself that it’s worth it to keep me, the baby, and my family as safe as possible, because at the end of the day, none of my nagging questions really matter as long as my family and I are healthy.
Do you have any advice for anyone just getting started on their trying to conceive/motherhood journey?
It’s never too early to speak to your doctor now about your fertility health. There are tests they can run to check in on your fertility hormones. Get your partner’s sperms tested, too. In my opinion, it’s best to know what you’re faced with from the very beginning instead of letting the stress of not getting pregnant month after month wear you down.
You also know your body more than anyone, so trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, speak up and advocate for yourself. People thought I was a little crazy for going to a fertility doctor only after 8 months of trying, but I am so glad I did.
And last but not least, no matter what your journey to parenthood looks like, your life is going to get better and better when you have a child. Yes, it’s exhausting, but it’s all worth it.