This month, ELANZA Wellness co-founder and co-author of the book, Everything Egg Freezing, Brittany Hawkins, was joined by LA fertility doctors Dr. Diana Chavkin and Dr. Alison Peck from HRC Fertility in Los Angeles to host a "Fertility Forecast" workshop for women exploring their future fertility options.
In this intimate, practical evening, women were given the opportunity to chart out their own fertility journeys with expert assistance on hand.
How does the word fertility make you feel?
We kicked off the workshop with the Allbright Club in Los Angeles by asking the women in the audience this question. These were some of their answers:
In the whole span of reactions, what was striking was that the majority were strong words.
The concept of fertility evokes a strong reaction, bound up as it is with all kinds of personal, social, cultural, religious and generational expectations that can feel pretty heavy and life-defining!
The whole goal of the Fertility Forecast workshop is to give women the practical tools and space for self reflection in order to feel empowered about their fertility, rather than feeling "triggered."
As we discovered, for many women the biological clock triggers a pang of anxiety, or a sense of fear or confusion. Facing these feelings can make them feel lighter and easier to manage, and getting to grips with the potential paths ahead can never happen too soon.
At some point in time, every childless woman who wants kids in the future becomes super conscious of the fact that the clock is ticking and it's not unusual to start to wonder: what's the "right" thing to do?
The thing is, there is no such thing as the universal "right" action for every woman of a particular age, because there's no one-size-fits-all path to parenthood. The Fertility Forecast is about considering possibilities and mapping a smart journey, to try to figure out the right steps for you.
Here we share some of the steps covered in the workshop in case they are inspiring to you at this juncture of your life, too:
Step 1: Conscious introspection (10min)
You may not have a crystal ball to help you see if, when or how you want to become a parent, but what you can do is start to chart out your ideal life as a starting point to know what you're working towards. It's surprisingly easy to skip being intentional with this huge part of life. Think of it like a mental vision board for your future family life.
What you're aiming to do here is to spend a few minutes weighing up the most important things you envision for your future.
Do your best to clear your head of any thoughts about what society, your family, your community, or your friends think you should do.
This is a chance for you to think through things like how important becoming a mother is to you versus work achievements, or perhaps travel is more important to you than having a large family. Consider how your life might change if you become a mother soon and what you would want to have in place before that happens...
Some of the questions to think deeply and honestly about:
How important is it for you to be a mother?
How important is it for you to have a biological of your own?
How important is it for you to have a partner to raise a child?
If you don't find a partner by the time you want kids, would you be open to having it on your own?
How many kids do you want?
The realities of where your fertility journey may take you could be nothing like you envision it now in the end, but as they say: she who is without a destination is always lost...
Step 2: The Fertility Forecast (10min)
Now that you have some ideas on what you'd like your future to look like, it's time to chart them out in a timeline.
This is an opportunity to understand when certain events might occur and what your options are in achieving them, especially if things don't go exactly as planned.
Link: Download your own ELANZA Wellness Fertility Forecast worksheet.
Step 3: One-on-one fertility counseling with a doctor (20min)
The next step in the workshop was to get a better understanding of what the realities of your fertility forecast might look like but also what that means for you and what your options are.
In the Allbright workshop, workshop co-hosts Dr Chavkin and Dr Peck reviewed two women's fertility forecasts and counseled them on their fertility journey, as live examples for what to expect from a consultation with them.
The doctors' insights were not only informative and pretty entertaining! For a subject matter that can get laden with worries, it's so great to find physicians who can keep things feeling light even as they address the big issues!
What everyone from the audience realized is that no doctor can answer the big life questions for you (like: do I actually want kids? Would I ever opt for solo motherhood? Should I freeze my eggs?)
But, what Dr Chavkin and Dr Peck highlighted is that having a consultation with a fertility doctor can give you are some incredibly useful insights that you can work into your plans.
Here were some of learnings from these one-on-one counseling sessions:
"I didn't really understand when and why to see a fertility doctor. Now I understand that I can easily just go in for a consultation to have them look at the biological markers of my fertility and to counsel me through my options. I wish I'd done it sooner!"
"I enjoyed hearing the perspectives of two different fertility doctors. I realized that they can have different approaches and opinions, neither of which were right or wrong, but that if I don't gel with a doctor, it would be worth getting a second opinion."
"The numbers around my fertility were a little depressing at first but I had no idea how many paths there were to motherhood. The technology is pretty incredible."
Step 5 - Charting your own fertility journey
There's no such thing as a solid plan when there are many different factors and future unknowns (and... the best laid laid plans oft go astray), but there is such a thing as exploring your options and growing comfortable with alternatives.
When you start looking calmly down the road ahead, equipping yourself to handle different possibilities, this gives you a whole new level of empowerment and less stress around the dreaded "F" word.
(A full review of the fertility forecast can be found in the book, Everything Egg Freezing: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide to Doing it Right.)
Q&A with fertility doctors:
There are so many unknowns when it comes to fertility.
If you had 20 minutes to ask a fertility expert your most pressing and potentially even embarrassing questions, what would you ask?