Jennifer “Jay” Palumbo is a freelance writer, former stand-up comic and infertility activist.
She was named one of the “10 Standout Stand-ups Worth Watching” by BACKSTAGE Magazine, she performed in Covergirl’s “Stand Up for Beauty” and her blog, The 2 Week Wait, shares her sense of humor, honesty and personal struggle of her own journey to get pregnant.
Jay has brought her wit, compassion and eagerness to help those who are going through fertility treatment to her current role as a Patient Care Manager with Fertility Authority.
Please give us some background about yourself
At present, I’m 39 years old.
I started trying to get pregnant (or should I say, “working towards getting pregnant” as it sounds more positive!) when I was 36 years old.
I am a freelance writer, a former stand-up comic (which was helpful when going through hormone shots) and I’m the Patient Care Manager at Fertility Authority, where I help match people with Reproductive Endocrinologists in their area.
I also have my own blog, The 2 Week Wait, that I’ve been writing since 2010. There, I have tried to bring some humor in my own personal struggle to get pregnant as well as what it’s like now being a new mom.
When did you realize you were having trouble conceiving? How did you feel?
We had been trying for 6 months, and my doctor suggested we start with Clomid and timed cycles.
After doing 5 of those, we moved on to three inseminations. I really felt that we would not need IVF, but around the third IUI, that’s when it started to hit me that we may have a real problem on our hands.
I had never been pregnant, nothing seemed to be getting me pregnant and there was no clear issue as to why I wasn’t getting pregnant.
This all coincided with almost everyone I knew getting pregnant around me (well, at least it felt that way!), and I was very hesitant to share with anyone our struggles. I didn’t want them not to be able to share their joy of motherhood or pregnancy, and I felt embarrassed that I couldn’t accomplish something that seemed like it should be so easy.
At the time, I was working at a job where so many of my co-workers were pregnant. Someone joked that “there must be something in the water” and I felt like I somehow was stuck drinking at the infertile vending machine.
Did you share your struggle with friends and family? How did they react?
Before my first IVF was when I confided in a few friends and my parents as to what we were going through. We were very selective in who we told as we did not want tons of people to update on every failed cycle.
I also felt strongly about NOT telling those who were either new parents or also trying to conceive, as I didn’t want them to feel awkward around me. In addition, even though we knew everyone would be well-intentioned, we also wanted to limit the amount of insensitive questions or advice.
We knew people didn’t mean to be hurtful, telling us things like, “Have you tried leaving your socks on?”, “Just relax and it will happen!”, “Cut out soda and you’ll get pregnant!” or “Why don’t you just adopt?” (To be clear – nothing is wrong with adoption but that’s a personal decision and at that point, we hadn’t even tried in vitro yet).
But even when they meant well, these comments were not helpful. For these reasons, we kept it a tight group that knew, that were told what to say and what not to say and that were all incredibly supportive.
I am certain some were disappointed that we didn’t confide in them earlier, but I have no regrets about who we told and who we didn’t. It sincerely was a small group of people who knew what was going on, and that was exactly what we needed at the time.
What did you do to increase the chance of getting pregnant? Did you follow a particular treatment?
For each of my IVF’s, we did a slightly different protocol. What’s important to know about in vitro is that it is also diagnostic. You don’t know how your body will react, how many eggs you’ll produce or what the fertility report will look like until you’re actually in the process of doing it.
For my third IVF, which was the one I got pregnant on, we changed a few things around in my medication – we added something called “estrogen priming”, and I still ended up getting the same exact embryos I had the last two cycles.
So honestly, I can’t say what worked and what didn’t as much as I think the odds were in our favor that the third one would be the one that would stick.
What we learned from all three IVF’s was that even though my blood work was always fine (a good FSH and AMH), I would only produce one embryo no matter how many eggs were retrieved in the IVF process.
This indicates that there is some egg quality issue. My best chances to get pregnant, as it turned out, was in fact IVF.
They do say cut down on caffeine, maintain a good weight, etc. and there are tons of anecdotal advice ranging from taking cough syrup to eating pineapple, but for us, it was always going to be IVF. At least that’s my opinion.
How long did it take to get pregnant? Did you experience any side effects of the treatment?
After three years of trying to get pregnant and three IVF’s, I was able to have a successful pregnancy.
Other than the progesterone I took for the first 10 weeks making me EXTREMELY emotional (it’s not normal to cry about your pajamas not being clean), I didn’t have any side effects from fertility treatment that I’m aware of.
How do you feel after getting pregnant? How have people reacted?
Even though my pregnancy was not without its minor complications, I enjoyed every single moment.
Even when I was throwing up quite often, I was so grateful that there was no complaining. I often teased that I paid good money for morning sickness so I might as well enjoy it!
I have been very open after the fact about what we went through as I’m proud of my husband and I. It was NOT easy, and put a huge strain on us physically, emotionally and financially.
That we stuck with it, never gave up and were fortunate enough to have a baby is something I want to share with others – especially those who might have given up on their own struggles to conceive.
Some friends and family seem a little uncomfortable when I share our story. I guess it’s either because they don’t know what to say or it could simply be that they really don’t feel comfortable using words like “uterus” or “sperm” at a dinner party. I can appreciate that.
However, most have been fascinated with what the process entailed or impressed that we went through all that we did.
All in all, I think everyone knows what our son means to us and how lucky we feel to have him, and that’s the most important thing.
What would be your advice for other couples working towards getting pregnant?
The number one piece of advice I give to EVERYONE going through infertility treatment is every day, ask yourself, “What do I need to do to stay sane today?”
If you need to talk about it, talk about it. If you need to keep it to yourself, then do so. If you need a manicure, a box of chocolates and to watch some crappy infomercials – so be it.
Whatever you feel is legal and can get you through the process, then I say do it. It doesn’t make you a bad person, it is just doing what you need to do to cope.
Do you have any do’s and don’ts for us?
Don’t go to baby showers (you don’t need that). Send a nice gift and make your excuses. If you MUST go, stand near the bar or bottle of wine as much as possible. (Of course, I’m joking… slightly).
Again, being good to yourself, asking what will help you get through all of this, checking in on your marriage to make sure you’re talking about other things than your reproductive parts and not beating yourself up are the best pieces of advice I can give.
I also personally found the online infertility community extremely helpful. There is FertileThoughts.com which is extremely supportive and almost addictive.
But there is my personal favorite which was and still is the women I’ve connected with on Twitter. If anyone reading this article would like to connect with my friends, you can find me at @the2weekwait and I’ll make the introduction!
Anything else that you would like to share with us?
I know it’s not easy to hope. Trust me – I so know this but I think given your options, it’s the best one to go with.
Ultimately, there may be an ending to your story that exceeds your expectations… even if it’s not the one you intended on.
I firmly believe that the question isn’t “if” you’ll be a mom, it’s more like “how”. It could be through donor eggs, surrogacy or adoption.
If you want to be a mom, you WILL find a way to be a mom.