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That whole biological clock thing? Definitely not a joke. Law & OrderÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Elisabeth RÃƒÂ¶hm opens up about how hers nearly kept her from having the family sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d always dreamt of
Not sure when or where babies fit into your future? Elisabeth RÃƒÂ¶hm, aka Serena from Law & Order, wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t either. At 34, she thought she had time to figure it outÃ¢â‚¬”until a visit to her doctor revealed that her odds of her conceiving a baby naturally were close to zilch. RÃƒÂ¶hm's new memoir, Baby Steps: Having the Child I Always Wanted (Just Not as I Expected), comes out today. In the book, she shares how in vitro fertilization (IVF) helped make her dreams of being a mother a realityÃ¢â‚¬”despite complications along the way. RÃƒÂ¶hm dishes on the details on the book, along with why itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s important for women to take ownership of their fertility early on:
In your book, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re telling the full story of your infertility and IVF treatment for the first time. How long had you been trying to have a baby when you found out about your fertility issues? Well, my fiancÃƒÂ©, Ron, and I were open to the idea of having children but werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t actively trying at the time. Without giving too much of the book away, I was actually encouraged by a person who had missed his opportunity to have children to go to the doctor just to get a fertility status report for myself, which is when I found out things werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t looking so great.
So what was your particular roadblock, according to the doctor? My hormone levels were really high, which indicated that my eggs were in an accelerated aging process. My doctor said that it was unlikely I would ever get pregnant naturally, and that I needed to be proactive if I wanted to have a family at all. That was a shock to find out at 34.
No kidding. What was it like to hear the doctor say traditional conception was practically out of the question? I felt so many thingsÃ¢â‚¬”fear, hopelessness, shame. I was upset that I couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t give Ron the fairy tale. Infertility can feel like the greatest disappointment of all time because your ability to make a baby is so tangled up with your identity as a woman.
That must have been tough to process, especially since it came as such a surprise. How soon after getting the news did you start thinking about the possibility of assisted fertility? I actually made moves pretty quickly, despite my disappointment. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve always wanted to be a parent; even as a teenager, I would fantasize about my future baby. IVF was really my only option to make that a reality, so I just put my blinders on and said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Okay, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m making this baby.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The IVF process sounds pretty intense. WhatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s it really like to go through? There are definitely highs and lows. On one hand, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re very focused on what you have to doÃ¢â‚¬”but there are also feelings of embarrassment that youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not Ã¢â‚¬Å“enough of a womanÃ¢â‚¬Â to get pregnant naturally. It takes this beautiful act of love and turns it in to a science project. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s this guy giving you shots in your butt and youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re thinking to your partner, Ã¢â‚¬Å“IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m sorry we canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do this the traditional way.Ã¢â‚¬Â
What advice do you wish someone had given you during your treatment? To not be so private. I kept a lot of thoughts to myself, but I should have allowed myself to be more vulnerable, especially with Ron. Women need to talk about what theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going through.
Why do you think many women are hesitant to share their fertility struggles? We donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t like to talk about things that make us feel like weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be judgedÃ¢â‚¬”but we shouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t suffer in silence, either. Women love to talk about pregnancy and baby showers, so why not talk about how you got pregnant? Opening that conversation can help you fully accept and work through your situation, as well.
Your daughter Easton is now 4Ã¢â‚¬”so itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been almost five years since you went through IVF. What made you decide to tell your story now? I had complicated feelings about my situation. At first, you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to tell anyone because on some level you feel thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a part of you thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s broken. But after seeing this stigma surrounding infertility, I thought to myself, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Why am I being silent?Ã¢â‚¬Â I saw an opportunity to speak out and help other women going through what I went through.
Why do you think Ã¢â‚¬Å“fertility awarenessÃ¢â‚¬Â is so important for all womenÃ¢â‚¬”even if potential baby plans are years away? You donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to find out at 38Ã¢â‚¬”once youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve scaled all your mountains and slain all your dragonsÃ¢â‚¬”that youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve run out of options. Unfortunately, time is not on your side, but you can have a baby your way anyway. Be observant with your body, and if you want kids, consider having your hormones and fertility levels checked each year. Think of it as an insurance policy for the future.
Note: While there is no general guideline for when women who aren't actively trying to have a child should see a fertility specialist, you may want to undergo testing if you notice signs of fertility trouble, says Alice Domar, PhD, the director of mind/body services at Boston IVF. These may include irregular or absent menstrual cycles, very painful periods, or a history of a pelvic infection, a ruptured appendix, or known endometriosis. Of course, having trouble conceiving for several monthsÃ¢â‚¬”or worrying excessively about itÃ¢â‚¬”are also signs you might want to get your fertility checked out, regardless of your age.
Buy your copy of Baby Steps, on shelves April 30. Connect with Elisabeth on Twitter or Facebook.