She has graciously agreed to be our spotlight feature of the month. Victoria. shares her IVF journey and how she learned about the importance of clean products leading her to Suki Skincare. Thank you, Victoria.
There are so many moments that life does not prepare you for… being a newlywed undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) to conceive a baby is absolutely one of those moments.
In my life thus far, I’ve only been certain of a few things: feeling a sense of vocation for helping others improve their mental health & quality of life, marrying my husband who will continue to challenge & help me grow throughout our life together, and for as long as I can remember - I’ve wanted to become a Mom.
Lucky for me, as overwhelming as this infertility process has been, I’m an IVF baby myself - so my own Mom knows a thing or two after enduring eleven years of treatment… yes - you read that right - 11 years - which makes her an amazing superhuman. In that same thought, modern medicine has adapted and changed so much over the last twenty years. with all of the research being done on infertility. 1 in 8 women will experience some form of infertility complication in their lifetime, so the protocol has definitely improved and changed for the better.
Knowing some causes for infertility can be genetic, my Mom was always a very proactive advocate for my medical treatment. She made sure I had a physician who was going to actively listen to our concerns and utilize a progressive approach to preserve my chance of potentially becoming pregnant to the best of their ability. In my case, I was diagnosed with stage IV endometriosis including cysts and endometriomas as a young teenager which required surgeries followed by a lifetime of medication and monitoring through bloodwork and ultrasounds. My Gynecologist, Dr. Jessica Bender, is the one who connected my husband Bobby and I with our Reproductive Endocrinologist, Dr. Elena Trukhacheva, who specializes in & runs her own endometriosis research institute along with her fertility clinics- two more amazing women changing the world as we know it. One of the most unfortunate challenges of an endometriosis diagnosis is the infertility factor that sometimes comes along with it which usually requires the most invasive form of fertility treatment - IVF. So, there we were - one month of marriage under our belt about to embark on a huge, terrifying, incredibly expensive, and stressful journey where almost everything was out of our control.
After sharing the news of our journey with our parents, families, and closest friends, it was time to regroup and do our own research. How could we make any of this better? Was there a way to improve our chances? Should I stand on my head for two hours while drinking celery juice? … Thankfully, no headstands or celery juice were required - but it was surprising to read all of the different advice available on the internet. After chatting with a coworker who successfully just completed her own IVF journey which resulted in a beautiful baby boy, the one resource I found the most helpful was a social media group full of other women who were also on this journey, some new members and some who has been members for years - all with the common goal of becoming Moms someday.
There were posts on what to look for in vitamins, comfortable clothing for after egg retrieval or embryo transfer procedures, the necessities for staying comfortable while on STIM medications, different brands of skincare, and the dos and don'ts of cleaning products. At first, it was so overwhelming but as I started reading the book ‘It All Starts With An Egg’ by Rebecca Fett which does an awesome job of mapping things out - yes, I had my highlighters and post-it notes all ready to go - (highly recommend reading at the beginning of the fertility journey) and combining it with the information presented by the real women currently navigating IVF, I finally took a deep breath and thought, “Ok, we can do this”. I took some of the knowledge I gained to our fertility nurses who have been true godsends - Stacey and Caitlyn are so incredibly knowledgeable and I knew I could trust them to guide us in the right direction. We talked about nutrition, skincare, vitamins, cleaning products, etc. you name it and I’ve probably asked them about it. There is so much about this journey that is out of our control - I simply cannot stress that enough. So when I found ways I could hopefully contribute to our journey resulting in a successful pregnancy, I was more than willing to try. My husband did his own journal article research on medical-based interventions, and Together my husband and I came up with three things that we did have control over:
nutrition & vitamin intake, stress levels, and personal care;skincare. regimen.
- Nutrition & Vitamin Intake
Everyone’s situation is different, but for me personally a plant-based diet was my ticket to help me feel my best and to reduce internal inflammation caused by endometriosis flare ups. I turned to Splendid Spoon, a weekly plant-based delivery food service, to help me gain the nutrients I needed while being ‘on the go’ - still seeing my own patients via telehealth services and in the ER during this worldwide pandemic. I have valued the home-cooked taste of the meal options while still dabbling in the kitchen myself and adding in lots of raw veggies & hummus (one of my all-time favorite snacks). Vitamins are a HUGE component of this journey - which vitamins were important? How many milligrams were needed to make a difference? So. Many. Questions. Thankfully, my doctor provided me with a list of vitamins and dosing that was appropriate for my needs based on my lab results. it included a prenatal vitamin, iron, vitamin d, complex b vitamins, CoQ10, folic acid, and DHA. All the good stuff to prepare my body for what's to come! Cue in care of to make a custom vitamin pack - this world has thought of everything!!
- Stress Levels
This has been the hardest piece to control because between the state of our world, job-related stressors, life stressors, and this IVF journey - there have been MANY feelings. BUT as a therapist myself, it has always been my motto to practice what I preach. I started seeing my own therapist to begin verbally processing my stressors or IVF related fears with hopes of creating a clear mind and heart and adopted a yoga practice safely created by our yoga instructor, Nicole, that we will be able to maintain practicing throughout the entirety of our IVF journey and hopefully one day, pregnancy. The last piece to this has been finding the courage to be honest & transparent with family and friends - this journey can feel so isolating and be so emotional at times. but I’ve found when I reach out to my best girlfriends in our group chat, call a family member, or Facetime with our parents - they are all reaching back with unconditional love and support - nothing is more calming than knowing the ones you love are willing to help hold you up in times of uncertainty.
- Personal Care & Skincare products
This piece of the puzzle for me was one of the most unexpected parts of this journey. As humans, we sometimes forget that -as my esthetician, Megna reminds me at every appointment- ‘the skin is the body’s largest organ, whatever we put on our skin is absorbed directly into our body’... this accounts for our facial cleanser, toner, eye cream, face cream - and also the reason why I chose Suki - strong safe solutions.
Before our wedding, I was receiving more invasive skin treatments such as peels or chemical facials as we were treating my skin to prepare for the big day. During that time, it was safe for me to utilize skincare products containing salicylic acid or retinol but now that we are on the road of IVF, I have to be very careful about what goes on my skin. I needed a skincare line that was clean, non-toxic, synthetic-free, paraben-free, fragrance-free, sulfate-free …. on and on and on. It seemed completely IMPOSSIBLE to find one brand of skincare that could do all those things. As I was instructed to throw all of my other products in the trash, I had some more research to do. With a quick spotlight search, the wise women on the IVF platform pointed out - Suki Skincare does it ALL. With the Suki promise of honesty, transparency, and the commitment to integrity, I truly felt like I could trust them with my skin. After consulting with my care team, I went on the website and placed an order for the CARE collection including the: purifying foaming cleanser, concentrated clarifying toner, balancing day lotion, and balancing facial oil. To my surprise, after being nervous about the smell since Suki is fragrance-free & being incredibly nauseous from the hormones all the time, the cleanser smells like a freshly cut lemon which I absolutely enjoy! The day lotion is super light and airy so it never feels sticky or heavy even when I combine it with the balancing facial oil. Since using the products, my skin is so much calmer and even with wearing a mask for long periods of time and the additional hormones from the medication, my skin has retained moisture and remained break out free - we can all cheers to that!
Overall, I’ve learned that the IVF journey is one of those things that is so difficult to describe unless you’ve lived or are living it. It’s messy, and emotional, and stressful and overwhelming - but if anything, it has made me so grateful to have a Mom who has walked this path before me and always reminds me that I was worth every shot and penny spent, a partner who goes the extra mile to ensure I feel loved and supported emotionally, mentally and physically, a medical team who listens to our concerns and calms my anxieties, and - a circle of loved ones who never let us forget that they are just as invested in this journey as us through prayers and unconditional love.
With all great things in life, it’s important to focus our time, love, and attention on what we can control and leave the rest up to God (& science)!
Photo credit: Sabrina Ahrendt Photography