Guest blog by Elyse Ash, founder and CEO of Fruitful Fertility.
As someone who worked in an office for 15 years, I used to have a very specific association with the word “mentor.” I pictured a woman in a tan Banana Republic suit, randomly assigned to you by HR. Maybe you got a glass of Chardonnay one time after work together. But that was it. She wasn’t particularly warm or helpful.
Then I went through infertility and learned the real meaning of mentorship.
Mentorship is about trust and connection. Learning from someone who is a few steps ahead of you. A true mentor is someone who knows the ropes, has seen some stuff and is happy to either sit down and help you work through a problem or just give you a hug.
In 2014, I was knee-deep in my infertility journey; pre-diagnosis but post-heartbreak after heartbreak. I serendipitous stumbled upon a few “fertility mentors” in my own life, women I knew who had gone through IVF but were no longer actively trying to conceive. They knew the acronyms and the test names. So I grabbed onto them and asked them everything from if their HSG test hurt to how many eggs they had retrieved after their first IVF cycle.
I found myself heavily leaning on their knowledge but also their support. I was IN the muck…and what I longed for was someone who understood the muck, but was free of it now. Who could sit with me and see me, but could also show me that there was a world beyond this season.
This was very different from my experiences with in-person support groups and TTC-specific Facebook groups. In those spaces, I felt like I was being bombarded with other people’s trauma when I was really just trying to process my own. I felt over-sensitive. Confused. Even competitive.
After this experience, I decided to formalize the idea of fertility mentorship by creating my own company. Fruitful Fertility is a private platform that matches people struggling emotionally to conceive with mentors who have been through similar experiences but are now on the other side. Matches are made based on shared histories, interests, diagnoses, and values (think of it like Bumble but for infertility). So far, it’s helped almost 5,000 people!
So how is a fertility mentor different than having a cycle buddy or a best friend blissfully unfamiliar with the TTC world? Below are some reasons why we’ve heard having a fertility mentor can really help get you through the emotional maze of infertility.
1. They get it. Mentors speak infertility. They know the “inside baseball” language of the experience. They know how it feels to have “line eyes,” and they know all the acronyms (BFP! DPO! WTF?) It’s great to talk to someone who knows what the heck you’re talking about with HSGs, beta tests, luteal phases, and the like.
2. They have perspective. Mentors are not cycle buddies! They’re not sharing the results of their own recent follicle scan or egg retrieval in real-time. Fertility mentors are in a different stage of their lives entirely, and with that time comes perspective and wisdom that so many of us struggle to find in the middle of injections and blood draws. They can remind us what it is all for and what might be at the end of the road.
3. They’re outside your social circle. It can feel OH SO FREEING to not have to sugarcoat your conversations with someone because you’re worried they’ll blab to your sister-in-law. It’s crazy how things change when we feel like we can just speak our truths without fear of judgment. When you talk to someone who doesn’t really know you or know anyone you know, you can speak freely about how things are truly making you feel.
4. They share your outlook + values.My favorite part about Fruitful is that we match mentors and mentees on a wide variety of data points, not just diagnosis or age. So not only are you paired with a mentor who has been through a similar situation (whether that be egg donation, adoption, or anything in-between), but they also might share your values, love of yoga, faith, or obsession with dogs, which is pretty dang cool.
Fertility mentors can be a great way to get emotional support from someone who gets it, who is not in your immediate social circle, and who WANTS to help you. So many of our amazing mentors tell us how they wish this service had been around when they were trying to conceive, which tells us that this service is very badly needed in the TTC community. To learn more about either finding or becoming a fertility mentor, please visit www.fruitfulfertility.org.
Elyse Ash is the founder and CEO of Fruitful Fertility. She and her husband Brad have been trying to conceive since September 2014 and live in Minneapolis with their cat Puck. Elyse loves poetry, hockey, social justice, Beyonce and pretending she’s into yoga.