Marilyn Gomez is the Founder of the stylish and symbolic apparel company Infertile Tees and a proud mother who experienced a ten-year struggle with infertility. We loved having Marilyn on our Instagram Live – she shared her story, how she dealt with the stereotypes women of color often experience, insights about choosing your fertility doctor, and ways to advocate for yourself around fertility benefits and insurance.
Marilyn also spoke about the benefits of therapy and of having a supportive community around you, as well as the importance of setting boundaries as you navigate a highly emotional time. Check out some of the main takeaways below, including Marilyn’s three #ttc pillars:
Advocating for yourself with your doctor and insurance.
Back when Marilyn was starting her journey, there weren’t many resources available. It’s different today (and you can also find plenty of resources, including Questions to Ask at Your IVF Consultation, on GoStork itself). She urges everyone going through this to research thoroughly, especially around the questions you’d want to ask your doctor. In her case, finding a reproductive endocrinologist that answered all her questions in a way she understood, and who took the time to explain when something was unclear, made all the difference. It’s important that the RE you choose to work with is willing to dialogue. As Marilyn notes, you are ‘hiring’ your doctor after all so it’s totally acceptable to tell them what you’re looking for.
Marilyn reminds everyone that you have to be the expert on your body and your health. She urges women trying to conceive to not take what the doctor tells you at face value: you know your body best. Speak up for yourself.
With regards to insurance, Marilyn shares how during her second IVF cycle she was told by her insurance that she had reached her maximum. When she asked for a detailed breakdown, she realized the clinic was coding basic things like bloodwork and ultrasounds under the infertility umbrella. She eventually switched clinics for her third cycle and the new clinic explained how they code treatment from the very start. In her case, they also helped her navigate genetic testing coverage (making sure it was considered necessary and not optional). As she says, ‘find a clinic that will work with you and that will explain to you how their coding works’.
Managing through the stereotyping that so many women of color often encounter.
We’re all brought up differently, and in the Latino community, especially, there are some things you talk about and others you don’t. Infertility is one example. When she sought help, Marilyn shares how her concerns were brushed aside by a doctor who generalized that Latinos have big families rather than fertility issues. Many clinics have a general template and they match the patient to that template without delving much deeper. She also notes that most RE clinics are in areas that are predominantly white and that are not usually visited by women of color from other communities. The environment in most clinics isn’t entirely welcoming to other cultures, either, and this includes their marketing material/pamphlets lacking representation. As Marilyn notes, one way we can all work towards changing this is by getting involved with organizations that support women of color, such as The Cade Foundation, Fertility For Colored Girls, and Broken Brown Egg. It’s helpful to partner with these organizations for a support system while you navigate your fertility journey.
“You have to get to a point where you have to rewrite the story that you imagined you were going to have in your entire life. Now I have to rewrite this thing, and everything is going to be fine.”
Navigating the emotional aspect of the journey – and the decision to stop trying.
Marilyn shares the three pillars that helped her through and that she always recommends to others on a similar journey:
Self advocacy: Be ok with advocating for yourself. Do not be afraid to stand up for yourself – you’re not being mean or inappropriate by doing so.
Community: “Find your people and love them hard.” Join an organization, put yourself out there. You are going to need people who will root for you, and you will do that for them, too.
Healing: “Get a therapist, you owe it to yourself.” Stress can be brutal on your body. Ideally go to therapy together with your partner throughout this family building journey.
In hindsight, Marilyn wishes she and her husband had attended therapy together. Infertility is hard on relationships and Marilyn admits there was resentment. Pregnancy and postpartum were difficult, too, and it took them a while to work through everything as a couple. As she says, every person grieves and processes grief very differently: ensure that you have a safe space to talk through it with a licensed therapist.
“When you’re trying to conceive, the best gift you can give yourself is going to therapy with your spouse or your partner”
On deciding when to stop trying — Marilyn admits that it is a very hard decision to make. In her case, she was ready to close a chapter and walk away after experiencing loss following her final transfer. She suggests looking at yourself in the mirror and asking: ‘why do I want more children?’ Is it familial pressure or is it because of a narrative we build in our head, about our child missing a sibling? Marilyn leaned onto her online community, and asked her followers how they feel about being an only child. The response she got was overwhelmingly positive – with people sharing all of the reasons they loved being only children. For those struggling with this decision, she urges them to focus on the benefits of having one child. This is not to say there won’t be triggers… but you can identify those triggers and work through them. For Marilyn, that decision meant she was finally prioritizing her mental health.
“When I miscarried, I really turned to creativity and therapy to start the healing process, to get my mind off what happened to my body in the last ten years.”
Marilyn’s advice for those trying to conceive:
“I started naming products after women, because it affects so many of us, and we don’t even realize it.”
Thank you for joining us Marilyn, and for enabling so many women #TTC to feel more ownership of their experience through your amazing tee shirt and accessory designs!