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Allison Kasirer and her husband, Jonathan, were in their late 20s when they decided to try for a baby. They were both young and healthy, so they assumed they would be pregnant within two or three months. But after seven months of disappointments, Allison knew: it was time to get some answers.

The doctor told them that, by now, 80 percent of couples their age would have conceived a child. “My naïve and sunny outlook had been dwindling over those seven months, but in one sentence—it was almost completely wiped away,” Allison said. She and her husband were diagnosed with “unexplained infertility,” a diagnosis that was ever-difficult to cope with. How could they fix a problem that they didn’t understand? And so, the treatments began.

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Allison started with intrauterine insemination (IUI) -- three rounds of it. All were unsuccessful. She also was put on Clomid, a drug that made her produce and drop more than just one egg per cycle. Then came IVF, which took a toll on her body. As her health deteriorated, she learned her first egg transfer didn’t take. The second ended in an early miscarriage. The third, however, worked, and Allison welcomed a set of healthy twin boys this week!

These unanticipated challenges led Allison to create an online community -- starting with an Instagram feed -- for other women who, like her, battle infertility. To her, FertileGirl exists because infertility is way more common than society tends to let on. “The mission is to change the conversation from isolating, confusing and stressful to one that is hopeful, rewarding and empowering,” she said.

This week, FertileGirl launched a website to complement its Instagram feed and debuted a variety of nutrition bars for pre-pregnancy women. Allison hopes that she can help women support each other through the pre-pregnancy period and create a consumer brand that speaks to this community in a way that hasn’t been done before.

We asked Allison to answer a few questions about fertility and to give us tips on how to normalize the (in)fertility conversation.

What kind of a stigma did your infertility have in your own mind? How did you feel about admitting or talking about it?

For many months, I did not share. It was a really lonely and isolating place. My initial excitement of starting a family had morphed into anxiety and depression. Of course, Jonathan was extremely supportive, but what’s difficult is that women themselves typically bear the physical and social burden of infertility (even in cases of male factor infertility). I felt like something was wrong with me—something was broken.

In almost every other arena of my life, I was able to work hard, surmount obstacles, and reach my goals. This “type A” methodology was all I knew; so I decided to use it to my advantage, reading and researching everything I could get my hands on. While this eventually went on to spur some real lifestyle changes (diet, acupuncture, exercise), it also led me to stop treating fertility like a big secret. I started talking to friends, specialists and anyone that would listen. I became empowered by this support and felt my typical optimistic outlook beginning to return.

Why is having a community of women going through the same process so helpful?

Here’s the reality: one in eight couples struggle to get pregnant or to sustain a pregnancy. There are couples that fall outside of this statistic that also experience anxiety, confusion and isolation when trying to conceive. With those numbers, we know there are many people out there with similar experiences. However, it takes a community to bring people together. That’s why FertileGirl is here—because through community, we can empower and inspire. We can also give back, which is why we’ve made a philanthropic partnership with Baby Quest Foundation, which provides financial assistance to those who cannot afford the high costs of fertility treatments.

So how do you normalize the conversation about fertility struggles?

1. With your partner. Fertility issues can greatly increase the amount of stress and anxiety in a relationship. It’s really important to acknowledge the truth in that, so you can learn to best cope and support each other. While there’s never a one-fits-all solution, there are a few common themes. Open communication is crucial. You may not be ready to open up to everyone in your life, but you and your partner need to be there to lend a shoulder and an ear to each other at all times. However, allowing fertility to dominate 100% of your precious time together isn’t healthy either. So schedule a date night, a weekend away, a long walk—something that will help you both live in the present moment. Additionally, placing “blame” is never helpful—you are in this together, regardless of the diagnosis you or your partner got.

2. With your friends. This one can be tricky. Friends, even close ones, who can’t relate to your situation may not know what to say or say the “wrong” thing. But I still felt it was important to share with these people. So what did I do? I kept it brief, mentioned how they could help (“stop asking me if I’m pregnant!”), and tried to tune out inappropriate advice (“just relax and it’ll happen!”). Some people choose not to share with their friends at all, and that’s fine too. But keep in mind that you may end up surprised by how many friends can relate to your experience. For me, the talks I had with my friends who went through similar challenges (I call them my Fertility Sisters) tended to be free flowing and were the most helpful. Plus, you never know when you may need another vent session or pep talk. So try to keep the dialogue open if you can.

3. With people at work. For many people, a fertility conversation with a manager, HR partner, or colleague becomes necessary. Most of the time because the physical or psychological ramifications make their way into the workplace. For these conversations, I revert back to what I do with the friends who can’t relate -- keeping it brief and making my needs known. Scheduling separate time with HR becomes even more important if your company offers fertility benefits or support services.

4. With fertility specialists and other professionals. I found it beneficial to speak with a reproductive psychiatrist regularly (if you live in NYC, Dr. Carly Snyder is AMAZING). Understandably, this may not be for everyone; however, a professional can also help walk you through all of the above situations in a more personalized way. All too often, we focus on the physical side of fertility (egg quality, uterine lining, testing, procedures, etc.) and ignore the psychological side. It wasn’t until I learned to mother myself, both physically and emotionally, that I felt empowered in my journey—and therapy was a critical part of getting there.

Photography by Lauren Elle.

Let the games begin! Thanks to improved hand-eye coordination and growing curiosity, your baby is probably starting to show an affinity for certain toys and activities. Embrace that love of play, mama—if you use the right items (more on that below!) playtime isn't just fun, it's also great for development.

Speaking of development, you probably know by now that every baby is unique and progresses at a different rate—so don't stress about when those milestones are hit.

What matters is that you feel confident in empowering yourself with knowledge and advocating for your child. And don't forget to have fun! Exploring new concepts alongside that sweet baby is downright magical.

There are so many changes on the horizon, but you've got this, mama. Here are a few of our favorite items to help you tackle this exciting stage:

For jumpstarting that vocabulary: Readerlink First 100 Words

first 100 words

Although babies build their spoken vocabularies gradually, research shows infants aged 6 to 9 months already understand a good number of words. This book is a great tool for encouraging language development, as it allows them to learn the names of things they regularly use.

$4.99

For soothing tender gums: Itzy Ritzy teething mitt

Ritzy teething mit

Fact: A mama can never have too many tools to help her babe ward off teething pains. This mitt helps relieve soreness… and it doubles as a fun little toy, too.

$7.19

For a fun way to learn: Infantino balls, blocks and buddies

Infantino balls and blocks

As basic as it may seem to us, the act of stacking and sorting toys helps babies build the fine-motor and problem-solving skills they'll use throughout their lives. The benefits are immediate as well: These activities build concentration skills that'll serve them well today.

$16.99

For the bottle-to-cup transition: MAM trainer cup

MAM trainer cup

Drinking from a cup may seem like second nature to you, but there's definitely a learning curve involved for an infant. Help smooth out that transition from bottle/breast to cup by offering small amounts of water in this trainer cup. It mimics the feel of a bottle while introducing babies to the concept of sipping.

$4.99

For brushing those bitty teeth: FridaBaby smilefrida toothbrush

Fridababy

Did you know dentists recommend brushing your child's teeth from the time that very first one emerges? This brush was designed especially for those teeny mouths and boasts a brilliant BPA-free design. You simply slip the brush onto your finger and go to work on those pearly whites.

$7.99

For making chores more fun: More Than Magic bluetooth speaker

More than magic speaker

By necessity, mamas are masters at multitasking. But who says there can't be something in it for you? We recommend streaming your favorite podcast or book on tape while taking care of chores around the house

$19.99

For your new nightly routine: Target book club subscription

Target book club

If you've officially stashed the bassinet and moved your little one into the nursery, your nights might be feeling very different these days. Embrace it by implementing a nightly reading routine (because you can finally turn on your bedside lamp without fear of waking that sweet baby!). This subscription program makes it easy and affordable to tackle new books.

$13.90

For those frame-worthy photos: Fujifilm instax mini 9

Fuji Instax

Only a tiny fraction of the pictures on our phones ever get printed because, well, mom life is busy. This camera, which makes printing mini Polaroid pictures a total cinch, may change that.

$69.99

For easy cleanup: Dyson cord-free vacuum

Dyson

Now that you have a baby playing on your floors, you're probably ultra aware of every little crumb. Welcome to motherhood—when it's totally acceptable to get really excited about a great vacuum.

$299.99

For easy cooking: Rubbermaid food storage container set

Rubbermaid storage

Simplify meals by prepping all your ingredients before you start cooking (if you want to get fancy, you can call this process "mise en place" a la a professional chef). When everything is chopped and stored in these handy containers, getting dinner on the table becomes easier than ever.

$9.99

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

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