Katie is the founder of Shine Fertility, a non-profit organization that helps women with infertility issues by providing support, education and advocacy. She founded this organization because of the pain she's been through before. Via the mentoring and regular meetings, Shine provides a great support system that its members can feel free to share their experiences, talk about their struggles and even just release their pressure. Let take a look at Katie's story and see how Shine Fertility help TTC couples.
Can you briefly introduce yourself and tell us your TTC experience?
My name is Katie O'Connor and here is the Cliffsnotes version of my TTC story!
My story started way back in late 2008…My road to PG (short for pregnant) was a bumpy one…I went through high points and low points…
It started with my husband (Bill) and I deciding we wanted to start our family, getting off the pill, and ringing in 2009 with a normal annual exam at my OBGYN, learning I have a non-existent period, going through preliminary testing, trying several rounds of hormonal meds to help “jump start” my period, nothing working…, getting referred to an infertility specialist, going through WAY more testing, getting diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), to even more rounds of hormonal meds, more than I can count blood works and ultrasounds, and again nothing working…, finally getting my period started, turning the corner to 2010, to several failed IUI (the glamorous acronym for Intrauterine Insemination, previously known as Artificial Insemination) attempts, to our first IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization) attempt, including more meds (you name it I was probably on it), shots (in my stomach and my behind), tons of monitoring appointments (blood work and ultrasound), periods of stress, sadness, pain, and general “why me”, to finally in June 2010 the feeling of overwhelming joy, hearing the words “you are pregnant”. And our happy ending was welcoming our baby girl into the world February 5th, 2011. The journey will forever be with me and has made me a stronger woman.
As September is the PCOS awareness month, can you tell us your own PCOS experience?
I wasn't even aware that I had PCOS until I met with my reproductive endocrinologist for our consultation. I went through all the pre-testing before you could even begin treatment, and that is when I learned I had PCOS. I didn't have any of the tell tale symptoms except for amenorrhea (or no period), and I did always feel that my hormones were a little out of whack while I was on the pill. My PCOS didn't seem to affect my pregnancy and now post-partum I don't seem to have any health effects of PCOS, I eat healthy (80% of the time) and exercise every day!
When and why did you found Shine Fertility, and what is your vision and mission of this organization.
Shine was born from my personal journey through infertility. When I was going through my own struggle, I realized what an island I was on. I wasn’t a part of the pregnancy groups and I also wasn’t a part of the new mom clubs, I was stuck in the middle, alone. I thought there needs to be a group for the “secret sorority” of women struggling through infertility.
The waiting room at my fertility clinic was packed, yet no one talked, no one shared stories of struggle or success. It was depressing. I was lucky to reconnect with an old high school friend who was also going through infertility and we were each other’s support system (along with our husbands).
I thought when going through a difficult time, it helps to talk through it with others experiencing the same thing. I developed Shine as one part support and one part education on overall women’s health and fertility. Since growing into a non-profit we’ve added in the advocacy part! Our first event was in June of 2012, we hosted a panel of women (my friends) sharing their personal stories of overcoming infertility, their advice, their successes and their hard times. It was amazing, from that the group grew, and the rest is in the past!
How does Shine Fertility help TTC couples?
We provide one-one-mentoring, support groups, educational speakers and seminars, and also advocate for a proactive approach to fertility health and family building. We want to EMPOWER couples with support and knowledge, as going through infertility first hand, we all know what an overwhelming process it can be. We are here to be the support system for you. It can be hard to relate to family and friends who haven't been through infertility, and that is where we step in!
Can you tell us a case that Shine Fertility helped with?
Here is a Shine testimonial that hits me at the heart strings every time I read it!
“I was at an all-time low...But when I went to my first meeting, I met other women that were at different stages of their journey. This was a place where I found myself finding it easy to finally release and cry, in front of women I didn't know, about my struggles. And, they understood. And cried with me. It was a venue where I could mourn for my past losses and cry for my helplessness in going forward. I wanted to give up, but leaving these meetings, I knew I couldn't. The meetings are casual and welcoming, and they bring in fabulous guest speakers. In fact, I met my fertility doctor who I found success with through Shine. I am thankful I was introduced to Shine, it was exactly what I needed. It made me realize I wasn't alone, and gave me the strength to keep going.” ~ Shine "graduate"
This particular member had endured several failed IVF rounds, you could feel it was wearing her down. But I still remember when she called me to meet for coffee. We sat down, and before we could even say hi, she pulled out TWO ultrasound pictures and showed me her twin baby girls. We both cried, and hugged, and cried some more (in joy). I was one of the FIRST people she told and I was so honored to have been a part of her journey and be trusted with this special news.
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
We are constantly looking for volunteers!!! Also success stories for our "featured family" portion of our website. Also our Fertility Friends mentoring program - if you have been through infertility and would like to mentor someone just starting out their journey, please fill out this survey and it will help us match you with a mentoree, giving back is a great way to heal from your own journey!!!