Jessi Shuraleff–Mother of Two, Shares her Fertility Journey
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September Burton: Hello everyone. This is September from the Colorado fertility conference podcast. Today I have with me, Jessi Shuraleff, and Jesse is a survivor of, fertility struggles. Good morning, Jessi, how are you?
[00:00:13] Jessi Shuraleff: Hi, September. I’m so excited to be here. Thank you for having me.
[00:00:16]September Burton: Thank you so much for coming on. It’s really, this is such a gift for you to come on and talk to other people who are struggling and share your story and give some inspiration. Can we start off, will you tell me what your family looks like today?
[00:00:30] Jessi Shuraleff: Yes. So I am the mama of two amazing little humans. I have a four year old and a two and a half year old.
[00:00:40] September Burton: So what did your journey to get your two amazing little humans, I love the way you say that. What did your journey to get them look like for you?
[00:00:48] Jessi Shuraleff: Yeah, I think a journey is a good way of phrasing it because it was a journey. So for us, when my husband and I got married, we waited some time to even start talking about a family. We knew we wanted to explore and travel and just settle into, we’ve been together for a while, but we just, it wasn’t really on our radar. And then it was on our radar. And for us, I am someone who I say that I’m a recovering perfectionist. I’ve always been really good at anything I put my mind to. And I don’t mean to sound like braggy about that, but I say that because it never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t be able to easily get pregnant. Because of just that mentality, but also no one around me had struggled with infertility, had been on that path. And so it just wasn’t really on my radar. And my husband and I tried, we kept trying, and eventually, our doctor recommended we go the route of IUI’s. And we did several rounds of IUI’s, of Clomid. That was also not working. And, again, because of the way my personality is and the way that I was raised, I would latch on to these IUI cycles and be like, okay, like this is the day that I’m going to have the procedure done. This is the day that I will have the test taken. And for me, we went through, I believe four or five rounds of IUI’s with Clomid and I never even got to the point where they would take a pregnancy test. I would always get my period, before then. And I can viscerally remember the first time we had a failed IUI and I got my period and I literally curled up on the floor of our bathroom in a fetal position, like sobbing, like uncontrollably shaking. My husband had already left for work. My dog was like whining. He was like, what is going on? And it was just this again, I didn’t know how to process what I was experiencing and I didn’t have a support system. I didn’t know people that had gone through this. And candidly, I felt like a failure. And so eventually our doctor had recommended that we go to the fertility clinic of Illinois. I live in Chicago, and they have several locations throughout the state, but there’s one in the city. And I went, or we went down that path and our, our doctor dr. Caplin recommended, that it’s like you can have two paths, we can go down the path of IUI this time with, this, the shots and like the full IUI with needles or you can just go down the path of IVF. And candidly, at that time I traveled a lot for work and my only concern was, how am I going to make this work with my travel schedule? And we were able to make it work. And I gave myself injections and shots on planes, trains, and automobiles. that is not a joke. Anywhere I would have to excuse myself from client meetings, and give myself shots. I would travel with a cooler, for some of the shots that had to remain refrigerated. And it was just, if this is my life, this is, I just put one foot in front of the other. And again, I latched on to that date, that would be the transfer date. And we went through several canceled cycles. For some reason, I was never producing a lot of eggs. and I also was never getting like the three lines that you need from a uterine lining. And We eventually got to the point where we were able to, get, some have our extraction. and we had decided that we’re going to do a frozen embryo transfer, just because the uterine wasn’t or the doctor wanted it to be the uterine lining. And okay. Went through that setback, like fine, and then we eventually did our frozen embryo transfer. And we found out that we were pregnant with twins. And, we knew that was a possibility. and I can tell you exactly where we were when we found out–we were driving, to go see my family on the East coast, we were on the Indiana toll road and I received the voicemail and I was balling. And I happen to look over and there was two, there was a double rainbow, out the window. And I remember turning to my husband and said, that’s my mom. I’m sorry. That’s my grandmother. And your mom. They’re their blessing this like that we have, this is where we’re finally here. And I wish I could say that was the end of my journey, but it wasn’t. So for me, I had mentally prepared myself to get pregnant. that was like the end goal. I never prepared myself for what the pregnancy itself could potentially be because it was such a struggle to even get to that point of a positive pregnancy test. And we found out while I was in my second trimester that our son Clark, so my daughter Lucy is her twin brother, was really sick. And I’ll spare everyone sort of all of the details, but we ultimately had to make a decision. And we decided that in order to save Lucy’s life, to save my life, we would go forward with, the term was a medical reduction since we were having twins. And it broke me inside, but the way that I dealt with things back then was I didn’t let myself break down. I didn’t let myself really grieve the loss of Clark. I just put one foot in front of another. In fact, I was on a plane 72 hours later for work. And that was the way that it continued. I gave birth to Lucy in March of 2016 and by March of 2018, my second daughter was born also through IVF and that was my life. And it was, hard and amazing, and I was so grateful and there was so many emotions in terms of a rollercoaster and the ups and downs of all of it. And it took one morning at 6:03 in the morning, again, I’ll never forget this where my husband just looked at me and said, are you happy? And for some reason that morning, I just blurted out the truth. And I said, no. And that was what cracked me open. That was that moment where I realized that I had to deal with my journey to becoming a mom. I had to emotionally deal with it. I had to physically deal with it. I had to actually recognize and acknowledge and deal with it. And that was really hard. But here I am. So that was a very long-winded story.
[00:07:56] September Burton: No, that was beautiful and inspirational and amazing. So your crack open moment that you talked about, that happened after the birth of your second daughter?
[00:08:07] Jessi Shuraleff: Yeah.
[00:08:07] September Burton: Okay. So what would you recommend or what sort of advice would you give to women? You said a lot of things about being a perfectionist and how you would latch onto certain things, procedures and things like that. What would you say to other women who were in a similar situation?
[00:08:25]Jessi Shuraleff: I would say that, or I wish what someone had said to me, if I could stare at myself as I was going through this, you can only control what you can control. And so for me, that would have been my the way that I thought about things like my mindset, my ability to roll with the punches. My therapist, at the time recommended I think about things in like micro chunks versus like the end goal, which was also really helpful for me. So instead of focusing on like the transfer date or the extraction date, she would say, just get to your next appointment, like focus on that. And that was really helpful for me to break things down into smaller chunks versus thinking about like the end goal. Because it still allowed my like, control perfectionist tendencies to like latch onto something, but it wasn’t such a big deal if it didn’t happen, it was less of a fall for me.
[00:09:27]September Burton: You also talked about, the medical reduction, that choice that you were forced to make. Can you talk about the emotions behind that and what would you say to another woman who might have to be facing a similar situation?
[00:09:39] Jessi Shuraleff: First of all, I would say to anyone in that situation, I’m sending you a virtual hug. No one should ever be put in that situation. And I think more people are put into it then care to admit. And so I just want them to know that I see them and I am them and that they have support. For me, it was such a hard time in my life. And if I’m really honest, I did not let my, I did not like appropriately handle my emotions in the moment. Of course I cried. Of course it was gut-wrenching. But, where now five years, it was actually five years ago in October, past that decision, that point, that moment. And it wasn’t until that week in October this year that I realized that I never actually felt worthy of grieving the loss of our son. And like just, that sentence, I didn’t feel worthy of grief is crazy. No mom should ever have to say that, no woman should have, should feel like they have to say that. Because grief is your own experience and it’s going to look different for everybody. And I, I was recently rewatching that Nora McInerny Ted Talk on grief and you know what struck me again as a rewatched it was this notion of like grief isn’t there’s no end point. Like it is okay to always be, to grieve him. And I needed to hear that. And so I think for so long, I was I was so quiet about my experience. I would, some, the people that knew that I was carrying twins and then obviously I only had one child, I would just say we lost our son and I would leave it at that. And as I became more comfortable as I grieved my experiences, I went through the journey and worked through the healing that came with that. I realized that I wanted to say Clark’s name. I wanted to tell his story. I wanted him to not be forgotten. And I had to become really comfortable with the potential judgments, the potential comments, the potential, I dunno, like backlash or the perceived backlash that I thought I was going to get in talking about it. Which was hard, that’s not easy. And I don’t want to like undermine anyone’s like fears when it comes to that, because, I kept quiet for five years, four years, before I started talking about it. And so I think that every person’s journey is their own journey. I just want people to know, if you find yourself in that situation, that it is okay to feel whatever you are feeling. And if you need support, if you need community, there are people out there that are willing to just hold space for you and listen, and be your shoulder. And all you need to do is ask. and sometimes even in just that asking, it’s really hard and I want to acknowledge that, but if you’re ready to take that leap of faith and ask for that support there’ll be a drove of people there waiting for you.
[00:12:57] September Burton: Yeah. I think that what you’re talking about with this support is so important. I think it’s makes the journey so much more difficult if you think that you’re going through it alone. And So I know that you have your own podcast called This is My Truth, and it’s a platform where you allow women to come on and just share their story about whatever they, whatever their story may be. A lot of infertility stories on there. One of the things that you just said that I, that really stuck out to me is that you felt like you were not worthy of grieving him. And I can completely relate to that, my story was recurrent miscarriages after I already had three kids. And so to me, it was like, I’m just being entitled, I’m being ungrateful, like I already have three kids. I should just be grateful that I have three kids. And at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. You’re losing a baby. And that grief is your grief, like you’re saying. So one last question that I have for you is–after you went through this whole journey and you became a mother, do you feel like you’re a different mother now than you would have been had you not gone through this journey?
[00:13:57]Jessi Shuraleff: That’s a really good question. I, I think that I, yes, I do. And I think that, I don’t know if I’m parenting any differently than I would have. But I am so conscious of the fact that you never know what is going on in someone’s life. And so I talk about this moment that I had when I was on the L, which is the subway here in Chicago, and it was a few weeks after we had gone through everything was Lucy and Clark. And, I was staring at my reflection and I was commuting into work and, on the outside I looked like I had every other day. My hair was done, like makeup on, and I’m staring at myself, and I just remember thinking and looking around at everyone around me saying–no one would know the ridiculousness that we had just gone through that, the ridiculous, the ridiculousness of the last two years, ridiculous the last like few weeks I didn’t ever let anyone see that. And we all were masks, We all put armor on every day and there’s a reason for that. There’s a reason why we don’t all just walk around with like our heart on it sleeve, but there’s also the flip side, which is when you take off your mask, even for a second, it allows someone else to take off their mask. And that to me is like true connection. That’s authentic connection. And that’s the world that I want to live in. And For me, I do think my experience, my journey has taught me that you never know what, we all see the tip of the iceberg, to use that analogy. And so when someone is reacting to me in a certain way, or I’m triggered or offended by like an action, instead of reacting, I try, and this is what I’m trying to teach my girls, is we don’t know where that’s coming from. And so I try to always assume positive intent. I try to, try to get at the root cause versus just solving for the symptom. And I believe that has made me a more empathetic person, a more empathetic leader at work. And just someone who tries to ensure that I’m seeing all the different perspectives. And that’s what I want to pass down to my kids because yeah, to me, we all come with baggage and very few of us like lead with our baggage. And we all have moments where we felt alone or isolated. My journey to becoming a mom was just one of those moments for me. I’ve had so many others and I believe that there’s true connection that can be formed when you’re able to share stories. That’s where there’s magic and being able to weave together the connections and the community that come with that. And yeah, I do actually think it’s made me a different sort of mom, but not even just a different sort of mom, like just a different human. Yeah, my experience.
[00:17:13] September Burton: Yeah. That makes so much sense to me. I like how you said when we take off our masks, what I wrote down is it gives people space for empathy. I think when you take off your mask, when you’re wearing your mask and people think that you’re perfect and whatever, there’s not a lot of space for empathy there, but I truly believe that there’s so much power in sharing your story. And one of the things that I’ve learned over the years is that the more I open up and the more authentic I am, the more I share my story with other people, the more other people feel safe to tell me their stories. And I think it’s such a beautiful, it’s a healing process that we’re going through. I think as women and as humanity, we are going through this healing process right now, and such a huge piece of that healing process and sharing your story.
[00:18:00]Jessi Shuraleff: I love that. I couldn’t agree with you more. Like I often think that our super powers as humans is our ability to connect and to have empathy. And I think for lots of reasons, we forget that. And like I work for a technology company, and I have a love, dislike relationship with social media. And I get why people put on the shiny facade and only show the amazing things in their life. Like I totally get that. but I also think we’re doing ourselves, all of us, a disservice, if we’re, if we’re only allowing if only filtering like the shiny happy pieces, because that’s not life. And that’s not, it’s not the reality I want to set for my children. I want them to understand that there’s ups and downs and it’s okay to have emotions. That was a big thing for me when I became a mom was I wanted my kids to have their emotions. I’m that parent, who like, lets my kid temper tantrum in the middle of a park. I make sure that that they’re not going to be trampled by somebody, but I let them work through it because I didn’t have that luxury growing up. And it’s not that I don’t think my parents let me. And at some point I must’ve just learned that, it was easier for me to shove down my emotions compartmentalize and not deal with them, but that’s not what I want for my kids. And that was, that’s been hard because I have to model that for them, which is not easy for me. But I often say my kids are my mirrors. And I think my fertility journey was my mirror too. Like it shed a lot of stuff that I didn’t want to deal with, in my face. And it took me awhile to deal with it. Like I didn’t deal with it immediately. Let’s be really honest. But, as I have been dealing with it as I have been going through it, it has opened these doors to these amazing humans like yourself, like just this amazing community. And I wish I had been aware of that sooner because like I said, when I started my own journey, I didn’t have a community. I didn’t have friends that had gone through IVF. I was I’m my husband’s older than me. So most of his friends already had kids and my friends were either not yet married or were not having children. And so like I was in this like Island almost, and I wish I had had that community that I now know about. And so my platform is my way to pay it forward for people because as I started to share my story, I never knew I craved community until I had it. And I was like, Oh my gosh, like there’s magic in this.
[00:20:53] September Burton: I completely agree. And honestly, I think that’s one of the gifts of Corona virus is that we are learning how important community really is how important human connection really is on a day-to-day basis. So thank you, Jessi, so much for being vulnerable, for sharing your story, for opening up yourself to be a part of our community. It’s such a gift and a blessing. So thank you so much for coming on today.
[00:21:17]Jessi Shuraleff: September, thank you for having me. And I would say for anyone, who’s going through this journey, I, even though I went through it myself, I often don’t have the words for people going through it. So I just want you to know that you have an army of people behind you and as soon as you’re ready for that support, they will be there for you. You just have to take a little leap of faith and ask.
[00:21:43] September Burton: I love that you just said that–as soon as you’re ready. You’re actually the second person that I’ve interviewed in the last week, who has said the term, “as soon as you’re ready”, reach out, as soon as you’re ready, we’re here for you. So thank you.
[00:21:53] Jessi Shuraleff: Thank you.