Having been through it all on her fertility journey, Heidi Brooks, PhD, decided to become a light for others going through the journey. A fertility doula and yoga instructor, she shares her ups and downs of fertility treatment-and of parenting. A mom of 2, one via IVF and one naturally, this incredible woman is equally compassionate as she is fierce and raw. Find her here and at @eatsleepdream.love.
When did you decide you wanted to start a family and what did the process look like for you?
When I was 29 we started trying on our own. After a year of nothing, we went to the Reproductive Endocrinologist and got tested for everything! Nothing stood out as an issue so, we moved on to IUI. 5 of those later, and no baby, we moved on to IVF. Three ish years, 6 cycles later and one baby later, I had my diagnosis changed from unexplained infertility to Endometriosis. And the only reason we even knew about the Endo was because of an ectopic pregnancy that wouldn’t resolve, so during my lap the re found it! We wouldn’t have otherwise!
Can you describe your emotional rollercoaster of infertility?
For me, it’s literally like being in a Vegas casino. You don’t lose your sense of time BUT you can’t stop betting. Or at least that’s how it was for me. The stakes for higher and higher with every cycle. Add clomid. Add femara. Up the Gonal F to 300. Add baby aspirin. Each addition or increase of a medication brought so much hope. Like drawing a card at a poker table. Like this might be what makes your hand better. What gives you the royal flush, what you need to win the pot. And sometimes, you win. Sometimes, you fold.
I couldn’t stop sitting down at that table, though. Pushing my chips (or eggs) to the center, ready to play another hand.
What did you wish you would’ve known prior to going through the fertility process?
I wish people were more open about it. It’s still so taboo and whispered about. It’s why I am so over the top open about it. Because I had no one to reach out to, to ask about their experiences. So, I wish I knew more about it. The emotional hammering that you take, as well as the physical.
How did you cope during that time? What support systems did you use?
This was 7 years ago so, there were things like RESOLVE meetings I remember hearing about but could never make. But my ultimate coping mechanism was Instagram. Searching for the hashtag #ttc or #ttcsisters. It opened up a world of women who were documenting their infertility journey and I have become super close friends with so many women I found on Instagram. Internet friends became real life friends.
Take us back to the day you got a positive pregnancy test – what did that feel like?
I am queen of LINE EYES. I think people in the TTC (trying to conceive) community know what I’m talking about haha! I can see the FAINTEST line which is good and bad. I always take a test earlier than I should, and I can always see the line when no one else can.
So the first time I was pregnant, I took a test at like 4 am I really just couldn’t wait it was 9 days past a 5 day transfer. It was there. FAINT. BUT THERE. I woke my husband and showed him the test in the dark, haha! I lost that pregnancy at 8 weeks but that feeling. Just pure joy.
How did you decide to become a fertility doula and what did your preparation and training look like?
5 iuis, 6 Ivf’s, one FET baby and one surprise baby (yep it’s real and happens), I was like “I really want be someone who helps people through this process”, so I began looking around. I first got certified in fertility yoga because I LOVED that through my journey. For the calm but also for the science behind it. I loved knowing about how certain poses helped increased blood flow to the reproductive organs or relaxed the pelvic floor. Once that was done, I started my fertility support practitioner program, I learned so much about cycles, tracking, the female body in general, and really about how to hold space for my clients. I loved it.
What is the biggest misconception regarding infertility treatment?
That it’s one and done. That you do the cycle, it works, and you have a baby. That may be how it shakes out for some-but not all of us.
What kind of support do your clients need the most of when they are going through infertility treatment?
They need to talk it out. I love being their sounding board. While I do love the “I’m pregnant!” Call or text, I really love that first call, where my client goes through it all. Because for so many, they haven’t done that yet. The emotional road map we stop at each exit, take a look at the good and bad memories. And I point out specific moments and ask them to tell me more about THAT.
What makes fertility coaching with you unique?
I have experienced so much in my journey. I feel like with every client I talk to, I’m nodding and saying me too! Have you had an ectopic pregnancy? Yes. A failed cycle? Yes. A chemical pregnancy? Yes? A laparoscopic surgery? Yes. Early miscarriage? Yes. Second trimester miscarriage? Yes. And my road was hard. And sad. And I’ve had my heart broken countless times. But working with my clients helps me process those experiences again from a learning perspective. Yoga really compliments my work so in my certification in fertility yoga, I focused on Assisted Reproductive Technologies and yoga support for THAT journey to conception.
Do you think your struggles with fertility have impacted your philosophy and approach on pregnancy and/or parenting?
When parenting gets really hard, and it gets hard for all of us, I used to get this massive cloud of guilt that would hang over me for days. I felt I wasn’t allowed to think parenting was hard. I had to smile and keep the struggle to myself because of my infertility journey. And that did not make me a better parent. Understanding that yes, pregnancy is hard and parenting is hard. The difficulty isn’t diminished by a journey of infertility. And you are always allowed to say “this is so hard”, I’ll sit right next to you and say “oh my gosh, IT IS!”
How do you nourish yourself daily now?
Coffee. Yoga. A well-crafted margarita. Sitting in the sun while my kids play. What makes me happy isn’t going to make everyone happy. You have to find YOUR thing that makes you happy. Mind you, I would have laughed in your face if you said yoga would be my thing 10 years ago. So, know that your thing can always change.
Anything else you want to add?
Talk about your struggles. Talk about your losses. I am very lucky to have a built in support system of 5 siblings and mother who let me talk their ears off for years. YEARS. and they still do. Find your people.