We were so honored to host the amazing Jay Palumbo in an Instagram Live conversation on preparing for and navigating the fertility journey. Jay’s list of achievements is a long one: she’s not only a tireless advocate and avid voice in the fertility industry, but also an award-winning blogger and writer, CEO of Wonder Woman Writer, stand-up comic, and IVF mom of two!
During our conversation, Jay shared her family building story, how it changed her – both personally, and career-wise, as well as offered invaluable advice (as always, with a touch of well-placed humor) for those still on their journey. Check out some of the main takeaways below:
What to consider when choosing a fertility clinic
Jay explains how clinic success rates are only a piece of the puzzle and not everything. Most clinics have strict criteria and policies on who they can treat, and this impacts success rates. So while you’re researching clinics, don’t rely solely on general success rates. See how a clinic’s rates relate to your own situation for a more informed decision. You have the right to shop around and do your research.
One of the first questions you may consider asking a clinic is how you can communicate with your doctor – can you email them, or communication is strictly through a nurse? What are you comfortable with in terms of access to your doctor through the ups and downs of your journey? Also, how do you feel around your doctor? Trust your gut. Fertility treatment costs a lot of money. It’s also a very intimate experience so you have to feel connected to your doctor.
Jay adds that a question to ask yourself is: do you feel positive about the protocol they recommended? It helps to do your research in advance, rather than going in uninformed. As Jay notes, while it’s not advisable to go deep into the Dr. Google route, there are dependable and valuable resources online: the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics, March of Dimes (for miscarriages), RESOLVE, and ASRM are just a few examples. By doing your research in advance, you can go in as a more empowered patient when talking to your doctor. It’s otherwise difficult to find what resonates to you without this background knowledge.
You can read more about this in two of Jay’s GoStork articles:
What to do When You’ve Been Diagnosed with an Infertility Issue
Questions to Ask at Your First IVF Consult
Preparing for your first appointment
Jay recommends bringing in your partner for the appointment – not only for support along the way to but to help remember and cross-check what the doctor said. She also suggests preparing a list of questions to ask so you don’t forget anything. It’s ok to be perceived as an annoying patient who has a long list of written questions. If they get annoyed, then maybe it’s not the right doctor for you. You have to decide what matters to you, and what you feel good about in terms of your relationship with the clinic.
The Two Week Wait
For Jay, it was SNL with Will Ferrell that got her through. She recommends doing whatever you find that you enjoy and can distract you and sticking to it as long as it works. Humor also helped get her through. In her own words, you just have to do what you feel will help you stay happy and sane. Anything that lightens the mood helps. She refers to an Israeli study which found that if you laugh right after an embryo transfer, it can help you get pregnant. (You can read more about this study, here.)
Setting up your support network
For Jay, as for many others, infertility came as a shock. She emphasizes, “infertility is a medical disorder and it’s not a personal commentary on who you are as a person”. You cannot internalize the diagnosis, because it’s not fair on yourself. Being honest about infertility also helps remove the stigma surrounding it. She does recommend being selective about who to tell – although if you feel comfortable sharing your journey more widely, such as on social media, do so.
If you choose to tell only a select few, Jay suggests sending out an email sharing what you’re comfortable with and explaining what is helpful at this time and what isn’t. As an example, you can request those around you to not ask you about your journey, unless you mention it yourself, or if someone is pregnant, to email you so you can process it your own way rather than tell you in person, which could catch you by surprise. This gives you time to come to terms with the news. Jay explains there’s nothing wrong with having rules – people want to know how they can support you, so it’s totally acceptable to say what’s okay for you and what isn’t.
“Infertility is a medical disorder and it’s not a personal commentary on who you are as a person”.
Advocating for yourself
Advocate for patient care and for your rights. As an example, if you’ve had more than two losses, you should ask questions around testing options. Pregnancy loss does happen – and to many of us – but if it has happened multiple times, then it needs attention. There could be uterine abnormalities or chromosomal abnormalities, among other factors. Ask what can be done and what kind of testing you can do. You have options but you have to advocate for yourself to get the best care.
As for the financial aspect of fertility treatment. Many companies now offer fertility benefits. If your employer doesn’t, advocate for them. Jay suggests going to your HR department – you are more likely to get company fertility benefits when employees advocate for them. You can also call your insurance company and ask for a benefits list. Finally, lobby for your rights. Nineteen states now mandate fertility coverage, but that still leaves a considerable number of states without coverage for fertility treatment. Even if you don’t tell anyone about what you’re going through, you can still write to your lawmaker. This means you have three avenues through which to advocate for coverage: your insurance company, your employer, and your state.
Parenting after infertility
Jay explains how going through infertility treatment leaves you more susceptible to postpartum depression (PPD). Ask for help, and don’t judge yourself too harshly.
If someone close to you is going through PPD, and are not the person you’re used to — remember that you’re talking to a version of themselves, not who they really are. Understand that it’s not them, it’s what they are going through.
Lending your voice to the cause
Once you’re ready, Jay recommends thinking about what you’d be comfortable with in terms of advocacy work. Choose your own adventure. Even simply educating a family member or a friend helps.
“The financial aspect… it breaks my heart and I feel very connected to it because of my experience, so that’s why I am a big [fertility] advocate.”
Jay Palumbo, speaking about her advocacy work.
Bringing humor into a difficult situation
And finally, a sense of humor helps, both in healthcare and emotionally. For Jay, a sense of humor was imperative in keeping her going. Whenever she felt uncomfortable, she resorted to jokes and it worked for her. She encourages those trying to conceive to find what works for them, and to employ those mechanisms when they need them.
“While you don’t know what the outcome will be, you know yourself, you know who you are, and you will figure it out”
Thank you Jay for joining us, for sharing your time and perspective, and for supporting so many patients and intended parents through your advocacy work.
Follow Jay’s Instagram account @jennjaypal for advice, insight, and reliable humor!