Tune in to the full interview here:
And listen to our follow up Q&A here:
In this episode, I am joined by the founders of Fertility Rally: Blair Nelson of Fab Fertility and Ali Prato of Infertile AF. These two amazing women have both experienced infertility, and they’ve come together to make a difference in all of my patients’ lives because they are breaking down the stigma of infertility. By sharing their story, and creating community at Fertility Rally, Blair and Ali are creating a safe and welcoming space for fertility warriors everywhere.
I’m also delighted to announce that I’ll be speaking at the Fertility Rally virtual celebration event on October 24th. You can find out more at https://www.accelevents.com/e/FertilityRally
Dr. Aimee: Welcome Blair and Ali! I am so glad you are here.
Ali Prato: Hi, thanks for having us.
Dr. Aimee: Blair, you and Ali co-founded Fertility Rally. Can you tell us all about that?
Blair Nelson: Yes. It has been exciting. Ali and I met on Instagram, where we had both been sharing about infertility. I had been sharing about my journey for a few months on Instagram, and it had been very healing for me. I was getting some great feedback from other people, saying that when I shared my experiences, it was helping them.
Ali had just started a podcast called infertile AF, and I reached out to her to be on her show. I was interested in starting my own podcast, which I did. It is called Fab Fertility. Then, I had Ali on my show, and have remained friends.
From the beginning, we’ve both had the desire to support the community beyond what we are doing in our podcasts. We wanted to socialize with all these amazing people that we’ve met through our shows and create a space for all of us to come together.
Originally, our idea was to come together at an annual event in person. We call it Fertility Rally because the word rally is fun and exciting. It has a double meaning; in that you can rally together to support one another, and a rally is a fun event with lots of great energy. We landed on the name and never looked back.
We were planning our in-person event, which was scheduled for October 2020 in Brooklyn. With COVID, we are looking at other options.
And, when COVID hit, we found ourselves saying, “are we just trying to do this once a year? Let’s do this 24/7!”
We launched a membership site on June 1st.
Dr. Aimee: That’s awesome. Ali, will you tell us about the membership site?
Ali Prato: You can find Fertility Rally at fertilityrally.com. We have a free site which is open to everyone and has lots of great content. It is a community and a content hub.
I am on the other side of my infertility journey, and Blair is in the midst of it. We are coming at this topic from two different perspectives, and we look at it from both sides.
First, what do you need, after you have gone through infertility? What do you wish you had had?
Second, while you are going through it, what do you want?
I remember having so many questions about things, like how to give myself an injection, and I would find myself going down the Google rabbit hole for answers. To help the community, we now we have videos where Blair shows herself giving herself the injections.
For the community aspect of Fertility Rally, people can create a profile which they can share, or they can choose to remain anonymous. Within the community, profiles are searchable (if they are not anonymous) so that people can connect to each other and they can find other people who are going through something like them on their fertility journey.
In addition to that, we have many groups that people can join, or they can start their own group. We have a blog, and bonus podcasts, and a bunch of different check lists and things that you can print out and take to your doctor. These include questions to ask your doctor, and a list of all the acronyms (because as you know, there are so many in this community!)
We also started a video series called “10 Minutes With” where we interview somebody in the community. They are fun interviews. Our hope is they are the kind of thing that someone can watch while sitting in their doctor’s waiting room, and that it might bring them a little levity and even a laugh.
This is such an arduous process, and it can be so sad and so traumatic. We recognize that. Our mission is to bring some fun and some community to it so that it does not have to be as shitty.
We are trying to rally together and band together. We are creating a safe space for people to be educated and entertained.
Dr. Aimee: I try to make the experience as “less shitty” as I possibly can. Not everyone has the social support and network that I wish they could. They may not have a friend or family member who have been through it. It is amazing and awesome that you have created this platform so people can connect and not feel alone.
You brought up your own fertility journey, and now you are on the other side. Can you tell us a little bit about what you went through so that people can hear and learn from it?
Ali Prato: I had a secondary infertility on my journey. I had my daughter in 2009, when I was 35. I did not have any issues getting pregnant with her, and she was born healthy.
We started to try again a couple years after she was born. I did not know that at 35, egg quality really can plummet. I did not think we would have any issues having a second child. And I was not having problems getting pregnant, but I was having problems staying pregnant. I ended having four miscarriages after my daughter was born, and we ended up finally seeing an RE who told me that diagnosed me with an egg quality issue. He said I was a perfect candidate for IVF. We did IVF in 2015 and, I got very, very lucky. I know from speaking to people now how lucky I was, because we just did one round of IVF. I had one healthy embryo that was transferred in April 2015. And I had my son in December, so he is four and a half now.
And that is how I got involved with the community. When I was going through all of that, I felt so alone. I had tons of friends and family members that I could talk to, but nobody that was going through infertility. I craved connection with other people.
That is how Blair and I connected, and why I went on Instagram and started my podcast.
Dr. Aimee: I imagine that throughout this journey, you learn so much along the way that you want to share with other people. They can get that from Fertility Rally. What are some tips that you have for people that are just starting out right now that you want them to know?
Ali Prato: the number one thing is to find your people. You cannot go through this alone, and, you are not alone. There are millions of people going through this. Thankfully, there are more and more people being open about their stories and sharing their stories. Even since Blair and I started the Rally at the beginning of last year, it has grown in so many ways.
It is sad that there are so many people that are going through infertility. But it’s great that so many people are out and sharing and open to building a community. My number one piece of advice is find your people, find your community.
Dr. Aimee: And then you have a podcast as well. Can you share a little bit about that too? For people who want to tune in.
Ali Prato: My podcast is called Infertile AF. I started it in March 2019. It is all about building modern families in a nontraditional way. I cover all the bases in terms of same sex couples. single parents, by choice, and surrogacy adoption. It is for anybody who has a story to share about how they built their family. I do one on one interviews, and there are always twists and turns to every story. Even with them all being so different, there are a lot of commonalities as well.
I am a journalist and I come from a journalism background, so I’m always enjoy asking a million questions and I love interviewing people.
Dr. Aimee: And then Blair, you have a podcast as well?
Blair Nelson: My podcast is called Fab Fertility, which is also my Instagram handle and my blog. Mine is a mix of solo episodes, and on Fridays I do a co-hosted series called “Fertility Fuck it Friday.” My cohost started the hashtag within our community, and it’s focus is on remembering and honoring who you were before all of this It’s a little funny reminder for people in the community to just go do something that they would have done before their journey started.
The interviews that I do are professionals in the field (acupuncturists, Ayurvedic doctors, and fertility warriors). I do a mix and try to cover as many facets as I can. It has been healing and educational for me because I am in the middle of my fertility journey
In 2018 we found out that my husband has a balanced translocation. IVF is our path to parenthood. I went from peeing on OPKs to IVF in one day. I skipped all the medicated cycles.
I have done five rounds of IVF. We have had two rounds where we were able to make embryos with his balance translocation (or euploid, they cannot tell the difference at the moment). Went through all our embryos from our first round. We had three failed transfers. I had a miscarriage. The miscarriage is what prompted me to start Fab Fertility, to share my story and find support.
We have been on this crazy IVF roller coaster, and finally made some normal embryos. We are going to have a transfer here in about a month, and I am gearing up for that.
Dr. Aimee: I imagine it takes quite a bit of stamina and courage to go through the number of cycles that you have gone through. What gets you to keep going to crush it, and wake up that morning and make the decision that you are going to keep going?
Blair Nelson: We lean on the science of it all a lot. For our diagnosis, we have been with two doctors, we have consulted with several more. We have talked to the amazing embryologist and Cooper genomics. All of them have said that we should keep going, that this is a sucky diagnosis, and it is a numbers game.
They agree that it is unfortunate that we have had three rounds where we had no normal embryos, but it does not mean that it’s not going to happen. It would be one thing if they told us it was not going to happen. We would have shifted gears,
It stinks. I talk about body image all the time, about what all these drugs have done to me after five rounds of IVF. I talk about how I struggle to keep weight off and feel like myself.
At the end of the day, we are working towards the thing we want more than anything in the world. I try to view it as temporary and try to suck it up most of the time, but I have really bad days too.
Dr. Aimee: I imagine you have very good coping skills, because the negative thoughts that come in one ear, you have to somehow push them out.
What are the things that you do daily to bring joy into your life, and to decrease anxiety and depression?
Blair Nelson: Oh, gosh, I have gotten a lot better about it. It has taken time, but I go to therapy with my husband. We see an infertility therapist. We do that twice a month. It is enough to have those hard conversations. I exercise almost every day, even if it is a low impact walk. I make sure to get outside and clear my head. I do yoga. I meditate every night before I go to sleep. I go to acupuncture.
Like Ali said, it is important to find your people. There have been so many days when I have just felt crappy. Recently, my ERA test failed — they could not get results from it and I had to redo it. I was so excited because my transfer was supposed to be in two weeks, and the date got pushed out. It sucks. And I was having a really bad day and I cannot even tell you how many people reached out because I was vulnerable and shared it.
My number one piece of advice is to find a way to share your journey, whether it’s on an anonymous account or with a therapist or in another way. When you share, you get so much love and support in return, especially from this community.
Fertility Rally Website
Dr. Aimee: Some patients tell me years later that the one thing that they regret is not sharing more as they were going through treatment. When they do share, they realize how much healing it brought them. I strongly advocate for my patients to share their journey with others as well.
Blair Nelson: One thing I wanted to mention, around finding community, and sharing your story, (which really do go hand in hand) … at Fertility Rally we have weekly support groups. Every Wednesday at 8:00pm EST our community gathers to talk about a theme. We have talked about intimacy and infertility, test results and anxiety, and talking to your friends and family and coworkers about your infertility.
The support groups for our members have become one of our favorite things. Members get to know each other, they connect, have side conversations, and strike up friendships. We have also done other events, like “all things IVF,” and “building modern families when you’re LGBTQ.” We very much want to create community and to help people feel not alone.
Ali Prato: And, it is those connections and friendships that make the whole thing so special to us. We had one member who emailed us after our very first support group. She said that the group had been worth her annual membership alone.
That is what we want, and why we started Fertility Rally. We authentically want people to have a space and feel comfortable and help get healed.
Dr. Aimee: Thank you both for sharing so much of yourselves and giving so much to this community. You are providing a space that allows people to experience less pain as they are going through this process, because it is painful as f*ck.
I am telling you as a doctor. I talk with my fertility doctor friends. I do not think people realize how hard of a job this is because you have to lift people up at a time where they’re the saddest in their entire lives. You have to make them believe that the impossible can potentially be possible at a time when they are questioning if it is possible for themselves.
Ali Prato: We always say our tagline is the worst club with the best members. Everybody is wonderful, including you.
Blair Nelson: It is amazing seeing doctors like yourself have this much interaction with the community. You are one of us! There is such a small handful of doctors that are out in front of patients all the time and using social media for good. So, thank you.
Dr. Aimee: Thank you both for coming on the show. I hope to see you in person at a Fertility Rally sometime soon. I appreciate you both.
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