Caryn Rich and Monica Bivas are two strong and supportive women with a common passion: helping women and couples who are struggling with infertility. They had so much insight to share during our Instagram live conversation – all of which you can catch up on here!
Caryn spent eight long years going through double-digit ART cycles and five miscarriages to build her family. The journey inspired her to become a coach and she now helps others navigate through infertility, providing encouragement, and a sprinkle of humor along the way.
Monica is a Holistic Fertility & IVF Coach who underwent 5 rounds of IVF, leading to emotional turmoil in her relationship. Today she specializes in guiding and supporting other women on their IVF journey and giving others what she wished she had during hers.
During our conversation, they shared with us their stories and explained what fertility coaches do, including how they empower clients to advocate for themselves, the behavioural and mindset adjustments they recommend, how to find balance on your journey, and other ways to break out of repetitive cycles. Check out some of the main takeaways below:
What is a fertility coach?
As Caryn explains, fertility coaching is a multidisciplinary approach to figuring out what each person needs to bring them closer to success. There are different approaches to fertility coaching – Caryn is more focused on the practical, tactical side, and Monica focuses on mindset. Caryn helps women who have been stuck in their journey for quite some time – she helps them problem solve and figure out what is missing and what needs to be retested. As Caryn notes, you cannot move forward without moving backwards first as every aspect of the cycle needs to be looked into. Her approach is strategic, built on the way she navigated her own journey, with practical steps and checkmarks, but also what she missed on her own journey: someone to tell her that it was going to be ok.
“There was no one out there to tell me that it was going to be ok, to tell me that they went through the same thing, and to help me figure out what I had to do next to get success.”
Caryn Rich, Fertility Coach
On the other hand, Monica’s approach is more emotional and focused on mindset. She explains that emotions can create a blockage, so she helps clients look into their emotions, helping them identify what’s blocking them and finding ways to let emotions out, including through journaling and art therapy.
How fertility coaching empowers patients.
Caryn encourages her clients to advocate for themselves and to look into testing, specifically thyroid levels. Thyroid levels fluctuate with repetitive IVF cycles, but for a successful pregnancy, they need to be in a specific range, and only an immunologist can identify this range for you. She recommends that if you’ve experienced miscarriages, you should ask for immunological tests. She helps her clients build up the confidence to ask these questions and request these tests, especially in an environment where fertility clinics are very busy and don’t always have enough individual time for all their patients.
Monica emphasized the importance of having a voice, both with your doctor and your clinic. If you’ve had repetitive failed cycles, she helps clients move towards seeking a second opinion, and even a third if they feel it’s the right time and to ask questions, and check positive outcome numbers. You should only move forward with a reproductive endocrinologist once they’ve answered all your questions and you feel comfortable with them. You have to feel secure. Monica suggests noting down all your results, and the questions you want to ask in a planner (she has also created an IVF planner to accompany you on your journey) and to bring that planner with you to your appointments – as there is so much information, it can be hard to track from month to month.
Self-care and coping mechanisms.
Monica suggests art therapy to her clients. Activities, such as coloring, reading or knitting, helps distract the mind from negative thoughts. However, she emphasizes the importance of opening up to those negative feelings – piling them all up will only result in toxic positivity. Rant, give your feelings space, feel them and then move on. If you have someone you trust, share your feelings with them. Identifying your feelings is the only way to let go and to open a space to create. Once you do that, you can think of ways to make things easier. As Monica explains, the only thing we can control is how we act upon what’s happening, what you can do to ease the hurt.
Journaling is another form of therapy. Caryn recommends journaling to everybody, to put pen to paper, set an alarm for twenty minutes and start going through/writing everything in your mind. By the end of it, you would have emptied everything on that paper and you can then identify the thought that is bothering you. As she says, no one asked to go through infertility, but we have to get through it the best way we can and this is just one way that may help.
Is it really unexplained infertility?
Both Caryn and Monica have their reservations when clients receive an unexplained infertility diagnosis – in their opinion there’s always an explanation. They urge their clients to ask questions, seek additional opinions and to really look deeper into everything if that’s something they’re comfortable doing. At the same time, it’s totally ok if you decide it’s not for you.
Taking a breather from the journey.
As Monica notes, if you decide to pause, then that pause is part of your journey. Sometimes, a pause is what helps. When the process becomes an obsession, it blocks flow. Monica suggests during this break to look into the past, learning from previous cycles, and making changes in the present, so that the future looks different. They suggest starting the next journey on both a tactical and emotional level, one cannot go without the other. Caryn agrees – in her own words, ‘it’s not a numbers game’.
Taking care of yourself during infertility.
Monica emphasises the power of balance in life: eat healthy, choose healthier ingredients, opt for cleaning products with less chemicals, and to even create your own little garden. Take little steps that help change your physical being, but as with everything, balance is key. The gardening idea can even double as a nice mental distraction for some, similar to art therapy.
Caryn suggests reminding yourself of the things you liked doing before infertility and to do the things you enjoyed. Dinners you love, dates… it shouldn’t be all about making a baby. You need to make time for yourself, and for each other and – more importantly – you have to be on the same page. Dedicate time to connect, to talk about what you want, what your partner wants and what your end game is. Go to movies, a wine and paint night or do something else that’s creative together. At the same time, reserve time for yourself, to go out with your friends. Strike a balance. As Caryn notes, the process is hard and it will drive you crazy if you let it, so you have to identify what you enjoy doing and keep on doing it.
“Your partner can be your best advocate or your worst enemy through this whole thing. So you have to stay connected, you have to find a way to stay connected.”
Caryn Rich, Fertility Coach
Social media can be helpful and supportive – but also triggering, especially when you’re dealing with heightened emotions from IVF medications. Both Monica and Caryn recommend leaving or taking a break from social media. And this also applies to unsupportive people around you. While people generally mean well, their comments aren’t always helpful. If you need to stay away from baby showers or to keep your distance from family members who don’t understand what you’re going through, then do so. As Caryn emphasizes, ‘you matter, your feelings matter’. Sometimes they need to be prioritized over staying up to date with your newsfeed or attending every social event.
How to stay motivated when IVF fails.
Monica firmly believes that “We cannot change what is happening around us, you can only change what’s happening within.” She suggests “talking about what you’re feeling with someone that you think is close enough to you, not to give you advice, but just to listen… Having someone who listens is very important to keep you motivated”. She continues that happiness and motivation are a choice – you decide if you’re going to let everything bring you down, or to accept that the situation is terrible but that the only way is to climb up.
When the next treatment step is donor eggs.
As Caryn notes, egg donation is a personal decision that needs to be discussed as a couple. There is no right or wrong answer. You need to work through it together and decide if it’s something you’re willing to do. You also have to take the time to let it sink in. There is a period of mourning, an adjustment period where you have to come to terms with that reality. Journal about it, and get help to work through it, if you need to.
“Anyone who wants to be a mother can be a mother. You have to be open to how you get there though.”
Don’t let the process take over your life.
While your ultimate goal is a baby, do not make this the main element in your life. Remind yourself of the life you had before you started trying to build your family, and live your life along with this process you’re going through. And through it all, listen to your inner voice – you know your body better than anyone else.
“Your ultimate goal is the baby, it’s being parents, but this is not the (only) thing in your life.”
Monica Bivas, Fertility Coach
Thank you Monica and Caryn for being so open, honest and strong about your experiences, but also for supporting so many women and couples on their journey.
Check out how you too can benefit from fertility coaching at carynrich.com and monicabivas.com!