Two College Students Connect Over IVF

by Kristen Mahan and Alaina Schepp

Kristen:

When I asked my roommate and friend since freshman year, Alaina, to come to Reproductive Writes – an ART of Infertility event – I had no idea how our friendship would change. Sitting at the workshop with other participants talking about their personal experiences with infertility, I suddenly found Alaina opening up. She shared with the group that she — herself — was created from IVF. Not only that, all of her siblings were also created using IVF.

Kristen, left, and Alaina, right

Sitting there, hearing her story, I was surprised that this had never come up before! Alaina had always been close to her family, she would frequently go home to help out or even just hang out with her siblings and parents. I never really understood why, until she talked about how hard it was for her parents to get pregnant.

Walking back from Reproductive Writes that evening, Alaina shared with me how her parents  decided to undergo IVF after her dad found out he was not able to have kids. Alaina was the first child to be born from their IVF cycle. Shortly after they had Alaina, and desiring a big family, they decided to go through another two rounds of IVF.

As Alaina opened up to me that night about her parents IVF story, our relationship changed for the better. We stayed up for 3+ hours chatting and crying from some of her most prominent childhood memories. Hearing her story explains it all. I cannot even imagine how hard Alaina’s childhood was and what her family went through, and is still going through. Hearing her story made me realize how strong Alaina is and I am so thankful to have such a loving, kind, and genuine friend like her.

Alaina:

Seeing the exhibit, Reflections of Reproductive Loss and Access to Care, during the Reproductive Writes event was an experience that touched very close to home. I have always been very thankful for IVF for basically giving me my entire life I have today. When my parents explained IVF to me throughout the years I never thought of it as not working, until I saw the exhibit. My understanding was that if you were infertile, most of the time IVF would work. However, seeing the artwork and the stories of others, I realize that is not the case. The process of IVF always amazed me – how it can work and how it did work for my family. However, after the exhibit I realized how thankful I am and how fortunate we were for this to work, not once but three times.

I knew going into the exhibit that I would be able to relate more to the artwork than some of the other people there.  I also felt like I could relate to the pain by seeing IVF put a financial, medical, and stressful toll on my own parents. Being as close as I am with my family, it is a dream of mine to have a big family. With my family having fertility issues and being told they would not have children, it’s a fear of mine that I could be told the exact same thing.

Baby Alaina

I thought I could turn to IVF in a worst-case scenario, but going to the exhibit and hearing everyone’s complications and deeply sad stories, makes my worries much greater.  Seeing others’ heartbreaking stories makes the fear that much more real. However, I believe everything happens for a reason and that I need to trust in the plan that is in store for me. I believe that my family is closer because of IVF. It made my parents value my life, and each of my siblings’ lives, so much more because they truly thought they would never have children of their own, and now they have three. I have IVF to thank for giving me my family and my own life. Without IVF, I wouldn’t have the people who matter most to me.

I thought the exhibit was a perfect time to open up to Kristen about being an IVF baby. IVF is not something that is talked about enough, and that was clearly verbalized throughout the conversation at the exhibit. I have always thought of Kristen as a great friend and someone I could really trust, but it just wasn’t a topic of conversation I knew how to bring up. Sharing at the exhibit that I was an IVF baby brought about more conversations afterward that really shared my feelings, my thoughts, and my journey into what made me. Kristen was the first friend I was able to deeply share that with. With Kristen interning for The ART of Infertility, I knew she was able to understand where I was coming from and could comprehend it more than any of my other friends.

Kristen, left, and Alaina, right, on the first day of their junior year at University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

Kristen and I have had many memories together. Being together the past two years, we have been there for each other during the highs and the lows. We are able to go through school together and spend late nights studying and cramming for exams. Kristen and I love having a good time and being able to spend basically everyday together.

Kristen:

I think my favorite memories of Alaina and I are just staying up late and talking about anything and everything. Alaina is extremely outgoing and talkative so our conversations are endless. She is all around the most bubbly person I know. Like with any college girl, there is usually “boy drama” which Lain and I have been each other’s rock for. We are always up front with each other and try to give our most honest input on certain situations.

New Social Media Member: Danielle Bucco

I’m very excited to start my work as the new social media and communications intern. I am a senior in my last semester at Michigan State University, studying Professional Writing. I first heard about the ART of Infertility from an email that an advisor sent. When I read more about what exactly it was and did further research, I knew that I wanted to be a part of the unique experience in some way. I immediately thought it was interesting how people going through infertility issues could not only have an outlet to vent their frustrations and pain, but to also have a support group of people who are going through similar situations. As a Professional Writing major, I am also very interested in learning about people’s struggles and how they deal with and overcome those struggles.

IMG_4797I grew up in a small town in New Jersey, about 45 minutes from New York City; so many different types of people always surrounded me. I love getting to know their individual stories and learning more about them. This is one of the reasons that I enjoy reading so much. You are able to learn all about someone’s life, either fictional or non-fictional, which couldn’t be more exciting for me. This is one of the reasons that I hope to be a part of the book-publishing world in some way in the future. Whether it is editing books or working as a marketer for a publishing company, I would love to be able to help people get joy from reading.

Version 2 Traveling is also something that I am quite passionate about. Whether it is just to a new town I have never been to before or a new country, I find that not knowing exactly what to expect can be exciting. My best college experience was my study abroad trip to London. I knew when I first came to Michigan State that I wanted to study abroad, but it was so much better then I had ever expected. Instead of being stuck in a classroom all day, my professor wanted us to go out and experience what London has to offer. We also each had internships during the 5 weeks that we were there, giving us some real world experience instead of class work.

As the social media intern, my job will be to not only help manage all the many different forms of social media that ART of Infertility uses such as Twitter and Facebook, but to also further develop some other channels that are not already in use. Throughout my internship, I hope to work on creating a Tumblr, along with creating a larger presence on our Instagram and Pinterest pages. I am looking forward to working on this and hopefully see these pages grow.

When I graduate from Michigan State, I hope to use the skills that I have learned, both in the classroom and from internships such as this one, to help people share their incredible stories with the rest of the world. I believe that art and writing are some of the best ways for people to express themselves, no matter what they are going through, and I hope that I can take that belief with me as I enter my post-college life. Being the newest member of the team, there is a lot to learn but I am excited use my love of communications and help out the rest of the team, hopefully making their lives a little bit easier.