How Artist & Author Kate Schelter Emotionally Made It Through IVF
Bump into Kate Schelter, and it’s easy to assume she’s been living that dream NYC life in every way. For the most part, that’s true. With a glittering career as an artist, author, creative director, and stylist, not to mention she’s a tall drink of water, happily married with a six-year-old daughter, and has one on the way. However, that’s where the story shifts, conceiving her second, was an incredible effort amplified by enormous loss, heartache, grief, and self-doubt, things perhaps unnoticed at first. Here, Kate, at 28-weeks pregnant, shares her long road through IVF, the solidarity and support she felt from her community, how she emotionally made it to the other side, and why her life and perspective, will forever be altered. @kateschelter
It was a life-changing experience.
Many people feel the birth of a child is the most life-changing moment, but for me, one of the hardest, soul-wrenching things I’ve ever gone through is the process of IVF and trying to get pregnant.
From the onset, this pregnancy was different from the first; it set in motion what was to become the most transformational experience of my life. For five years we tried to get pregnant and spent a year and a half of that actively pursuing IVF. When we finally got pregnant after so much heartache and disappointment, I was elated and in utter disbelief. I screamed at the top of my lungs when my Dr called with my results. Every day since has been a gift.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN…
I’m very much an open book about my experience, which for a person who’s always been private, is significant. It was traumatic, but if I can help at least one other woman feel better at a time when she likely feels lost, then sharing my story is worth every word.
We didn’t do IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) with our first daughter and assumed getting pregnant with our second would be the same. In the first year of becoming parents, we were open to having another and seeing what would happen sans birth control! When our daughter turned two, our casual attitude towards a second turned into me “casually” tracking my cycles. And nothing. Then, I started to become meticulous about monitoring my fertility and talking to doctors — still nothing. This is when the real soul-searching journey began. I hid my experience from friends and family. I was ashamed. I was in denial.
On the brink of being discouraged, but with a glimmer of hope, we engaged a doctor on two rounds of IUI (Intrauterine Insemination). When that didn’t work, emotionally derailed, I began battling what would become years of confusion and loneliness. Someone once said to me that IVF is like botox, everyone’s doing it and no one is talking about it. And to this point, I felt utterly alone in my infertility.
Saddled with multiple attempts and feelings of inadequacy, coupled with deep grief and sadness, I took some time off (out of self-preservation) to look for another doctor that could help guide and support us.
THEN WE DECIDED TO DO IVF…
After taking a year and half, and breaking down in sobs on the phone with my mom, my hope was restored and we decided to go the IVF route. Naturally, I gathered recommendations, rave reviews, and stories of success from friends and landed on the fanciest doctor in NYC. With him, we did two rounds of IVF. When those didn’t work, I was devastated. I was furious. I was wounded. I was lost. At that point, I was living on high alert, putting my full faith in the doctor, and obsessing about the ramifications of every little thing I was doing in my life.
DEALING WITH FEELINGS OF FAILURE…
It was overwhelming. Along with the disappointment of continuously not getting pregnant, I had to learn to cope with deep feelings of failure that started seeping into my marriage, relationships, and work.
I’d always been a goal-oriented person, wherein if you put the work in, you get results. But this didn’t work like that. l felt as though all the lights were turned off, and I was fumbling around in the dark.
At which point, I had a spiritual epiphany and decided the only way to gain control was to change my entire life. I slowed down, became much pickier about the work I took on, and I said no to a ton jobs. I realized I had to put this first. It wasn’t as if I could say I was going to put it first and then still do a million other things. I had to find peace, be quiet, and prioritize myself over clients and work. My true north had always been my profession, and now I made the baby and my family my true north.
THE SISTERHOOD CIRCLE OF SUPPORT…
As I slowly took back control of my life, I built a support system. I found my incredible acupuncturist, Angela Le (http://www.fifthavenuefertilitywellness.com) She is the IVF baby whisperer. The focus of her practice is women’s health and fertility and she is my angel.
I started seeing Angela in March of 2018, we did one cycle of IVF in April, and one in June, and they both didn’t work. Gutted, I was desperate to keep the faith and continued to see Angela at least once, if not twice a week. Every time I walked into her office, I felt at peace. As part of my work with Angela, a portion of each session focused on talking, breath work, meditation, and exploring spiritual topics. Plus, I had a regular therapist too. Over the summer, I read a slew of books she suggested — unrelated to babies — about unconditional self-love and self-care. I learned to live my life through intention vs. goal and felt like a warrior on a crusade.
Plus, I formed this beautiful community of women that I leaned on for support. There was something specific about women that made me feel loved and nurtured. My husband was incredible, but it’s different because he’s going through it too. I called them my Sisterhood Circle of Support.
WHERE SCIENCE BECOMES AN ART…
After two rounds of unsuccessful IVF with the fancy doctor, I decided we needed a radical switch—try a different approach for different results. In an unprecedented gut decision—reclaiming ownership of my personal health—we left the expensive-no-insurance practice, and found the team of Dr. Janelle Luk and Edward J. Nejat of Generation Next Fertility (https://www.generationnextfertility.com/aboutus/dr-janelle-luk ) Dr. Luk is a rockstar. Fearless, flexible and focused. She approaches fertility from a more individual and less invasive perspective. I wanted to do everything completely different than I had with my previous Drs. I ended up doing a practice called Gentle IVF, which mimics the body’s natural rhythm and cycle. This also meant far less drugs—about a 10th of what the other doctors’ prescribed.
With Dr. Luk we did four rounds (months) stimulated egg retrieval to bank my eggs. Which meant I took a lower dosage of drugs while we monitored and watched my eggs grow. I accumulated eggs for four months. With this process, I went from getting no viable eggs with the first doctor to, in one cycle, ten eggs(!!) with Dr. Luk.
Finally, in January, we had five stellar eggs to choose from, selected the best two, put them in, and it worked! One egg is our baby!
In total, we ended up doing two rounds of IUI plus two rounds of IVF, followed by four rounds of IVF egg retrievals and one transfer over three years.
I brought my new perspective with me into this pregnancy. For example, rather than fight the fatigue of the first trimester, I would sleep. I listen to my body and surrender. I permit myself to take care of myself. I say “no” and I allow myself to cancel plans when I need to. Which sounds simple, but there’s a ton of guilt tied up in that. I’ve always had this feeling that I need to be in constant motion. While there’s much joy in that, there’s a time and a place for it, and this is not it.
I still eat super clean, aside from ice cream! What you put into your body matters, both physically with food and mentally with stress and work— it’s essential to be thoughtful about everything that goes in and whom you let into your house.
I do gentle pre-natal yoga sporadically, but even that I don’t stress about it. If I can do it great, if not that’s OK too.
I try to take as much space and rest for myself that I need, and that ranges. I’ve become the opposite of the jet-set, I’m the slow-set, which for me is such a luxury.
My focus and intention right now is to birth a beautiful, healthy baby with ease. That’s all that matters. I wake up every morning feeling that way. After years of negative and scary thoughts, I’m approaching this time with absolute gratitude. It’s been the most beautiful and bizarre journey.
TIPS TO CARING FOR MYSELF…
I saw Angela, my acupuncturist, on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
I cleared my schedule of anything that was not necessary and made pregnancy my priority.
I stopped overloading myself the way I’ve spent my entire life doing.
I formed my Sisterhood Circle of Support — some of the women had gone through IVF, and some had not, but they were my cheerleaders.
I started meditating every day for 5-10 min.
Mainly, I SLOWED down because I knew that everything I did with my time, I paid for—every action takes energy, so I became very selective about how I spent my time.
I was hyper particular about what I put into my body and I cooked and ate clean food. I cut out meat & dairy and was mostly plant and veggie-based. I also eliminated alcohol, caffeine, and ice cream! I felt as though I was fueling myself akin to a marathon runner. I am a tiger. I am not going to give up. “Stay in the game”, my mantra.
I created very healthy boundaries and learned to live with intention through daily rituals.