Reactions from an Intern

By Danielle Bucco

Version 2As a 21-year-old college student, I can say that all the different aspects of infertility had never occurred to me. It is not something that many people my age even hear about unless a friend or family member is going or has gone through it. If it hadn’t been for my communications internship with ART of Infertility, I would not have realized that it occurs to so many people and in so many different ways. Since I am not looking to start a family any time soon, I never really considered all the many different struggles that men and women sometimes have to go through to create a baby. It is even more shocking when people still cannot have their own children even with all the developments to science and technology, which only goes to show that there is so much more to discover.

As I mentioned earlier, one of the biggest surprises was the amount of people who go through infertility issues. Besides learning all about E-News spokesperson, Giuliana Rancic as a teenager (I loved her show), I never thought that it was something that so many people, both men and women, had to deal with. However, that is one of the reasons that I am so thankful to have an internship with this organization. Since it is such a personal issue many people find solace and comfort in other people who have gone through similar situations. It is like having a large support group where people will always be there to listen to any anger, frustrations, or just to share stories to show that no one is alone. This type of support is inspiring, especially when it comes to certain organizations dedicated to helping people who are dealing with infertility. It is like having another layer of support and during such a time of pain and frustration, there can never be too many people cheering you on, or picking up the pieces if it doesn’t work out.

One of my favorite parts about being an intern is hearing all the amazing stories from members of the infertility community. There are so many people who take the pain that they are feeling and use it to inspire others and to show that it is possible to survive such an emotional and physical journey after such immense disappointment. Two stories that stand out to me particularly were the stories of Katie and Angela. Both women took their pain and used it towards helping others. It is hard for someone, like myself, who has not gone through this to truly understand what it is like but hearing people’s testimonies is incredibly helpful to get an idea of how stressful it must be to try to conceive but continue to come across complications. By hearing stories about this, people who have not dealt with this can begin to understand how sensitive of a topic it can be to bring up and how everyone handles their grief in different ways. One of the most important things I learned from listening to these stories was to let people grieve in their own way. Not everyone is going to grieve the exact same way and that’s okay. It is only important to let them know that they have support and to be whatever that person needs them to be.EHW_4856ART-of-Infertility_Angela_3667

One of the toughest things about being an intern for an infertility organization is the learning curve. As I write blog posts or social media posts, I am still looking up what certain words mean or what the correct way of phrasing a certain condition is. Even coming across other posts, I find myself looking up certain words because I am confused by what they mean. It can be overwhelming at first but eventually it does start to get easier and of course with the occasional slip-up at times, I am expanding my knowledge of all different aspects of infertility.

Overall this has been such an incredible experience for a young intern such as myself. It has given me so much knowledge on a whole subject that students never learn about but is something that so many people deal with. One of the many things that I hope to take away from this experience is to talk about this issue more openly with others who may not understand. Although no one who has never gone through it will ever truly understand, hopefully by talking about it with others more, it will create a better understanding of the issue and bring further awareness to more generations.


Getting Swept Up in the Fertility Tornado

Today’s artwork is from Kristin Phasavath. We originally met Kristin at RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association’s, Southern California Walk of Hope in Long Beach in September of 2014 where we set up an appointment for her to be interviewed and photographed for the project. Kristin has a unique perspective because she was first a nurse at a fertility clinic and then, while working there, experienced secondary infertility and was a patient herself. Here, she shares her experience creating the oil painting, “Fertility Tornado”, which debuted at our pop-up exhibit in Calabasas during National Infertility Awareness Week in 2015 and has been traveling with us since. We’re preparing to send the painting back to Kristin and are grateful we’ve had so much time with it to share it with others. Below is a guest post that Kristin wrote for us and we originally shared in May of last year. Thanks for sharing your story with us, Kristin!


Fertility Tornado

My inspiration for the fertility tornado came from my time as a fertility nurse and a fertility patient. When you are in the throws of anything fertility it feels like you are in a tornado, whether you are a patient or a nurse. As a fertility nurse there is so much to organize for each patient all day everyday. Appointments, procedures, schedules, medications, labs, forms, insurance, etc, etc, etc…the list goes on and on and on. As a patient you deal with a very similar list that encompasses every breath you take. It effects your health, marriage, intimacy, mental status, finances, schedule, family life, and this list goes on and on. There is not one corner of your life this fertility thing does not infiltrate. Keeping everything straight as a nurse or a patient is like a tornado.

Fertility Tornado by Kristin Phasavath. Oil on canvas.

I wanted to create a visual concept of what this fertility tornado looked like to me. Once I sat down to paint, it really just painted itself. I think that I had lived with this statement and vision for so long it just poured out in an instant once I put brush to canvas. The process was amazingly fast. I think that the initial painting took less than an hour. It had wanted to come out for so long. It was very cathartic to me and I felt lighter when I was done. Like I had ironically enough given birth. Once I made up my mind to actually start the painting it flowed very easily, like it was what I was meant to do. No challenges in my way. It just felt good to finally let all my feelings out. There was a moment that I did get a little choked up because it felt a little like the end of an era. A little finality involved.

Kristin with her oil painting, “Fertility Tornado,” and her project portrait at the ART of Infertility pop-up exhibit in Calabasas, CA on April 25, 2015.

I was so proud to be able to share my painting at The ART of IF exhibit. I’m certain that I am not alone in feeling the way I do about this world of fertility. I hope to connect with many of my fellow fertility comrades thru this work of art. I thank Elizabeth for giving me an opportunity to be interviewed & photographed. She really inspired me to share my story and create this painting. The work she is doing is very important and I hope it has a long life. I’m not sure if I will create any more paintings but you never know. There is so much inspiration in connecting with others that share a similar story that it might spark my creative fertility juice again.
~Kristin Phasavath
*Fertility Nurse
*Fertility Patient
*Fertility Artist

Reflections from Advocate Katie Lelito on Managing your Infertility Identity

By Danielle Bucco

DSC_9969Those who are dealing with infertility understand how difficult it can be to decide who they are going to tell. Many want to maintain a level of privacy and only let certain friends and family members in on the news. Others, however, are more vocal about who they tell and explain it to coworkers, distant relatives, or neighbors. It is up to the individuals and couples themselves about what feels right for them and what would be the best decision for their family. Some also choose a third option like Katie Lelito. Katie is able to maintain two different identities, an online identity and a professional identity.

Katie is someone who is really passionate about advocating for infertility and did some great work at the University of Michigan (U-M) when she was a student there. She is very vocal online and in support groups about her story with infertility, however, none of her coworkers knew anything about her struggle to conceive at the time. She specifically wanted to maintain these two different identities because she found it can be much easier to be open online with a stranger as opposed to face to face. Katie only recently decided to break her anonymity by using her name for a few advocacy projects that she has been working on.

One of the ways Katie is active on the issue of infertility is to try and get employers to cover fertility treatments. She petitioned the University of Michigan to change their coverage policies and she was successful. University of Michigan gave all staff and students with grad care $20,000 max lifetime coverage for in vitro fertilization plus $10,000 drug coverage. This was an extremely important step in getting more employers to cover fertility treatments. She was also fortunate enough to bring this issue up with her own employer and was again, rewarded for her effort and passion with another success.

EHW_4856            Katie’s success at U-M was a big turning point for this issue. Many people in the university setting are passionate about many issues, one of them being infertility and how it is viewed in the workplace. Universities are also important because it is a good way to start change. Many people look to them to take the first steps towards certain issues and fertility coverage is no different.

Moving forward, Katie hopes to continue to be an advocate for infertility. She encourages people who want to ask their employers for coverage to talk to her or to read a list of 13 ways to help approach the topic with employers. Approaching an employer about such an important and personal topic can be terrifying but if employers start to accept these coverage ideas, it could help change people’s lives forever. This is only one of the areas that Katie is interested in but she has helped to make a difference in workplaces and is an inspiration to others looking to do the same. You can also learn more from an interview Katie did with Beat Infertility by listening to it here.

Male Factor Infertility – Cindy, Paul, and Max’s Story

Today we’re sharing just a tiny bit of Cindy, Paul, and Max Flynn’s story. After three years of infertility, repeat semen analyses and a testicular biopsy, Cindy and Paul received a definitive answer that Paul had Azoospermia, or no sperm count. They made a decision to try using donor sperm to conceive and Max was born. Paul reflects on the experience below. The post does include images of a child and parenting. Thanks, Cindy, Paul, and Max, for sharing your story!

“I was thinking about donor sperm, adopting. I would have loved for the child we had to be biologically mine and Cindy’s together. I don’t have any feeling that the Flynn line should be extended. There’s no pressure there. We don’t need anymore generations of biological Flynns.”

“My biggest fear, honestly, and I felt this with Max, is that I want to be this child’s daddy. In my mind, I would never be the daddy unless it was biologically my child. I realize now that that’s not (the case). I wake up every morning and Max says, ‘Hey, Daddy’. I come home from work or on lunch and he exclaims, ‘Daddy!’ and it warms my heart.”

infertility oral history_8529

“I thought somehow that I wouldn’t have that connection and that even scares me now. I’ve become a lot more comfortable. I’m so happy to have him and I just feel so blessed, but it’s the feeling that somehow he’s not going to consider me his dad. There are no words to describe that. This is kind of an irrational fear I have but that’s that. It’s not on my mind as much these days but it still is on my mind.”

infertility oral history_8551

Friday News Roundup – March 25

A few of this weeks stories that we would like to share. 

Girl with a choice near the forked roadOn Infertility, Closure, and Letting Go: The Lessons of Perimenopause

 The Huffington Post

An inspiring story of a woman who is moving on after realizing her dream of having kids is not going to be a reality.

Childhood Cancer Poses Greater Infertility Risk for Male Survivorsmale-child-at-hospital

 Tech Times

Recent studies have discovered that between male and females who had undergone the same cancer treatments, the males have less of a chance of being fertile.

Reproductive Freedom Isn’t Just Birth Control and Abortion


 The ability to access fertility treatments is another way for women to take control over their reproductive system.

2823cbe0-c943-0133-8259-0ed2e059c4cf9 Signs You Might Be Infertile


Even if you are not planning on having children anytime soon, this article can help to detect some of the earlier signs of infertility.

Purpose through Infertility: A Search to Reclaim My Womanhood

By:  Lauren Tarr

“I’m pregnant!” 

The shouts of joy, celebration, hugs, and joyous tears ensue.   I observe the hurrah, breathe deeply, smile, and give my heartfelt congratulations.  But the guilt consumes me, because while I genuinely don’t want to squash the deserved joy of others, my heart is shattered into millions of teeny tiny pieces.  I want to hide my face so nobody sees how hard it is for me join the celebratory party.  I excuse myself, and find the nearest bathroom where I can safely collapse to the floor and cry alone.  I am happy for my family and friends.  Truly, I am.  But, for a long time, I’ve wanted to join the club of motherhood, and I’m not sure if I will ever get the honor.  A part of me feels like I’ve let my husband down, that our families will be disappointed that I’m not able to add to the otherwise growing family.

Mothers and soon-to-be-mothers surround me:  family, friends, social media acquaintances.  I see the changes in these women – the joy, the love, and the transformation with each trimester and milestone that passes, their precious babies growing inside of them.  With each pregnancy I witness, I am in awe of the miracle that brings new life into this world.  And I wish it was me.

“You’re next, Lauren.” 

“Are you guys trying yet?”

“When are you going to start having kids?”

“Being a mom is the best thing I’ve ever done.  You’re missing out.”

“I never knew what love was until I became a mother.”

Comments like these have left me deeply wounded.  I bite my tongue so hard I make it bleed.  They know not what they say, I keep telling myself.  And with time and each passing remark, I begin to feel myself losing value as a woman.  After all, if I can’t have a child, what kind of woman am I?  The grief led me on a journey to reclaim my lost identity, in hopes of gluing back together my broken womanhood.


I have a genetic mutation called Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase (MTHFR).  I’ll save the complex science lesson behind it all for a different day, but for me, it has led to several autoimmune challenges and hormonal issues that have led to fertility obstacles.  Currently, my body is not able to sustain a pregnancy.  And unfortunately, even if I was blessed with a pregnancy, it could pose a health risk to both me and the baby.

So, here I am.  Trying to figure it all out.  Forging on.  And trying to find the why behind it all.

Through the grief, tears, questions, fears, and longing…the one thing that I’ve personally clung to is my faith.  I’ve found myself on my knees pouring myself out to God more times than I can count.  And then, one night, He jolted me from my sleep.

I listened.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:13-16)

The poetic words brought me comfort, lyrics that hummed me back to sleep.  God’s love filled every empty space within me.  And I felt peace.

It was a moment that shifted everything for me.  It brought me a perspective that I so desperately craved, an understanding that my life was not a mistake.  To the contrary, my life is rich with purpose.   God delights in me as His creation.  And as my Artist, He has been in control the entire time, confident in the end product, that is me. Each joy and heartbreak, every friend and stranger whose life intersected mine, and each experience I have endured—it was perfectly woven to equip me and put me on the path toward my purpose.

Being childless hurts me.  Deeply.  But, I trust my Father’s plan.  And I know He wants me to do something great with this pain; to create beauty from these ashes.  I’ve learned that every woman is maternal by nature.  That our womb is not just an organ that grows children, but to grow life in all its forms.  We have the power to conceive many ideas and birth many creations, for as long as we are blessed with breath in our lungs.  Our womb is home to our divine feminine essence, our source of love and strength, and a place of beauty and miracles.  It has led to my life mission of helping other women deal with their pain – to break free from their bondage, to find peace in mind, body, and spirit, and to experience an abundance of joy and purpose through it all.  And, it has led to my desire of helping orphaned children desperately praying for a family to call home.

And so, today as I look upward towards the Heavens above, I place my hands over these broken ovaries, and I flood them with the glue of love and gratitude.  For I am a woman of God – strong, worthy, and blessed.


About Lauren Tarr

PortraitLauren Tarr, M.S.Ed., INHC is a health and lifestyle coach, blogger, and co-author of the upcoming book release, From Pain to Purpose.  Lauren received her master’s degree in Counselor Education, specializing in Marriage and Family Therapy, and then obtained her certification as an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition.  Lauren uses a “wholistic” approach to health and well-being:  mind, body, and spirit.  She encourages healthy living through nutrition and exercise, but strongly believes in soul nourishment.  Throughout her personal journey, Lauren found the answer to her unshakable joy is her faith.  Lauren believes that everyone has a profound, perfectly woven story that is meant to be shared with the world.  She partners with her clients to break through patterns of fear and perfection so they can give rise to their voices.  She has experience working with disordered eating, digestive health issues, food allergies/intolerances, chronic illnesses, anxiety and mood disorders, and stagnation.  She has been married to her husband for four-and-a-half years and calls herself mom to their beloved dog, Josie.  They reside in the Pittsburgh, PA area.

Andrea Diamond’s Work of Art: “My Time’s Running Out”

my time's running out.2jpg

By Danielle Bucco

Growing up, little girls are always told that their Barbie dolls are the true example of ideal feminine beauty. Barbie represents this idea of ageless, timeless beauty that sets a certain type of standard for women to try to fit. Society starts to believe that women should look like a Barbie doll to be considered beautiful and anything less is not good enough. This week’s artist, Andrea Diamond, wanted to create something that touches on how society views Barbie and tie in her own experiences as well. As someone who is dealing with infertility in her own way she found this Barbie Doll work of art extremely therapeutic.

Andrea started struggling with secondary infertility after the birth of her first child. She believes that she started to notice time having an effect on her appearance as well as the decline of her internal organs. As she realized her chances of having another child were becoming more challenging, she felt the need to take her anger and aggression out on the timeless perfection that Barbie represents. By mutilating Barbie, she is demonstrating how she feels inside and how she is, ”no longer preparing my body as a sacred vessel that will create life.”

This work of art was a way for Andrea to express the many emotions that come with infertility. She felt as if nature betrayed her so she was going to do the same to Barbie and demonstrate just how much pain and anger she is in. Since nature had taken away her ability to create a child she felt as if nature was going to take away her outer beauty as well. This is one of the many examples of people who have found solace through art and use it as a type of therapy and to express their story. Learn more about the artwork through Andrea’s own words here: Diamond_Andrea

Myth – If you get pregnant once, you’re fertile and will never have trouble getting pregnant again.

This Monday we focus on busting myths around secondary infertility. Secondary infertility is defined as the inability to become pregnant, or to carry a pregnancy to term, following the birth of one or more biological children. The birth of the first child does not involve any assisted reproductive technologies or fertility medications. (see RESOLVE, Secondary Infertility). Today, about 12 percent of women in the United States have secondary infertility, and it accounts for more than half of all infertility cases. (see RESOLVE).


Cortney, who we interviewed for the project, had no trouble conceiving her four year old daughter but was diagnosed with secondary infertility after she attempted conceiving a second child.

We have collected numerous stories of secondary infertility throughout the duration of this project. But today, we highlight the story from popular infertility blog, Our Misconception. Here they share the story of Sarah who recounts the experience of already being a mother while struggling to conceive her second child. I do have my moments where I begin to grieve the loss of what might have been…a sibling for my son, the family that we have been dreaming about, and just the fact that my body has felt like a failure.

We hope you read her story and are encouraged to share your own experiences and struggles to conceive, even when you already may have a child.


Friday News Round Up – March 18

If you haven’t caught on yet, we’ve decided to dedicate Fridays to recent news around the topic of infertility. We all have busy lives and can’t always stay on top of the recent developments. We hope this may help keep everyone a bit more informed. And, please, let us know in the comments section if we missed something that struck your eye! 

On Infertility, Closure, and Letting Go: The Lessons of Perimenopause

Huffington Post

Reflections on her experience with infertility from Psychology Professor, Mary Pritchard.

I was diagnosed with endometriosis at 18, and told at 21 that I would never be able to have children. My infertility had been a huge issue in my 18-year marriage, but despite all the evidence against it, I hadn’t ever really given up the dream.

Girl with a choice near the forked road

Girl with a choice near the forked road

You know the seven cardinal sins? I have my own version for infertility.

The Washington Post

Erica Jackson Curran shares the emotional rollercoaster of feelings when going through infertility.

But this story isn’t about the blood tests or semen analyses or egg reserves. It’s about the feelings that many couples experience when their attempts to conceive take longer than expected. These feelings may not make us proud, but they make us human. I call it the seven cardinal sins of infertility.


Infographic: The Fertility Diet

The U.S. News & World Report

The U.S. News & World Report complied a bunch of fertility diet studies to create this infographic of suggested foods to eat to enhance fertility.

fertility diet

Infertility Reminders in the Mailbox – Reframing through Art and Writing

Elizabeth Walker

The mailbox can be a dangerous place for those dealing with infertility. Receiving a baby shower invitation or a baby announcement can feel like a knife in the heart, or a punch in the gut. At least you usually have some idea they are headed your way. It’s the other random pieces of baby, child, and mom mail that give me the most trouble. One in particular.

mailbox_webI don’t have a problem with catalogs from Justice and American Girl or coupons from Babies R Us. I have 6 nieces an 2 nephews so those are places I shop. Every now and then I get an offer for life insurance from Gerber or an invitation to enroll my daughter in National American Miss pageants. I’m guessing that I just fit the demographic for Gerber and I imagine some of the stores I frequent with my nieces are responsible for the pageant requests. However, my blood pressure rises each time I open the mailbox to find an issue of Working Mother magazine.

If it weren’t for infertility, I would be a working mother now. When I pictured parenthood, I always saw myself balancing my children and my career. Sure, it would be a challenge but I was up for it. I get great pleasure from my work and envisioned my dedication to my career aspirations as a great model for my children and their future success, just as I feel my parents’ dedication to and love for their work influenced me. Working Mother magazine would be right up my alley. I’d likely read it cover to cover and check out any bonus content online.

I’m not sure how I got on their list. Again, maybe I’m just the right demographic, or maybe they are affiliated with one of the retail outlets I spend my money at. Maybe I even inadvertently signed up for it at some point when I neglected to read the fine print when I signed up to receive email notices. I tried for awhile to get off their list. An email to the publishing company, a comment on their Facebook Page. When that didn’t work I just started giving them to my working mother friends.


Recently, I decided to reframe my relationship with the magazine by using it to make black out poetry. If you’re not familiar with the technique, you take a page of text and do a quick scan of it, circling any words or phrases that jump out at you. Then, you go back through and can narrow those down, and use them to create a poem, blacking out the rest of the text around those words. It felt great to cut a page out of the magazine and circle words with my pencil, later using black paint to isolate the words that would form my poetry. I decided to cut the page out in the form of a woman holding a baby and then decoupaged it onto canvas. Here’s the final result.


Committed, worthy, successful, non-mother.

Shouldn’t have to win acceptance.

My own positive impact.

Maria and I will be leading a workshop on black out poetry hosted by the Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition (CWSHRC) at the 2016 Conference on College Composition and Communication (4C) in Houston, TX on April 6. If you’ll be attending, please consider coming to our session.

If you live in the Houston area and are interested in sharing your story with ART of Infertility via an interview while we are in town, email us at We would love to hear from you.