Cheryl Dowling is the Founder of The IVF Warrior, a community for anyone on their path to parenthood, including those experiencing fertility issues and navigating pregnancy loss. Empowering and supportive, the platform was inspired by Cheryl’s own family building journey. As she shares with us, it was a difficult time that included multiple surgeries and loss, but also led to her three beautiful children. Check out our interview below to learn more about Cheryl and The IVF Warrior, how the platform is providing valuable tools and tips to help so many on their journey, as well as Cheryl’s advice on the true meaning of self-care!
1. You’ve had a long, hard journey to creating your beautiful family and becoming The IVF Warrior (as well as a counselor, advocate and writer!) that you are today. To start, can you share your infertility story?
Since I can remember I’ve always wanted to be a mom. Figures, right? Because since I can remember I’ve also had PCOS, endometriosis and doctors telling me I’d have a difficult time conceiving. It wasn’t until 2012 that my official fertility struggles began – after some time trying naturally and having no success, I went to my Gynecologist who insisted that within taking clomid for 6 months I’d fall pregnant. Well, 6 months passed, and each month resulted in a negative test, leaving me feeling a little more anxious and scared. I ended up being referred to a fertility clinic at the age of 23. They believed doing IUI would be sufficient, but testing proved otherwise – 2 completely blocked tubes and a heart shaped uterus later, I was left feeling completely shocked and in disbelief. I went from being told “here take clomid” to “IUI” to “your only option is IVF”. My journey consisted of 7 laparoscopy surgeries, a hysteroscopy to reshape my uterus, and a bilateral salpingectomy – both fallopian tubes removed, 9 IVF cycles, and 3 losses. I’m grateful that my IVF journey ended with my 3 miracles, who inspired my account.
2. @the.ivf.warrior means so much to so many – from sharing such raw and honest stories, to supporting with words of everything from hope to understanding in grief. How did you decide to start telling your own story and how has it felt to grow to reach so many (many of whom you may never meet in person but you’ve somehow helped along their own journey)?
When I launched The IVF Warrior, I was on my journey to baby #3. It was after more IVF cycles failing and 2 miscarriages. I was trying to find others to connect with. The TTC community was not at all like it is now. It was very small! There weren’t many pages for support, but people were starting to make anonymous accounts for support. It was nice to be able to connect with other people who understood what I was going through. I knew after launching my platform that I wanted to share my story, inspire and support others. This journey is so hard, and there can never be enough support. It can feel scary sharing such deep, honest thoughts and experiences, but I know that they’re helping others.
It’s been a mix of emotions growing and reaching so many. Sadness because I’ve realized how many people are affected by infertility, and happiness that we’ve all been able to connect. My passion is to help others, and my platform has grown so much and has allowed me to connect others with experts and other warriors.
3. You often discuss self-care, which is so important for our overall health, while trying to conceive and as mothers – yet is something we so often neglect. What are your tips for (at least every so often) putting oneself first?
Self-care is so important! It’s something many of us struggle with because we feel guilty for taking me-time or feel like it’s not at the top of our priority list. My advice is self-care isn’t a reward that you earn after working harder or draining yourself, it’s something that our mind and body needs so that we feel our best. It helps our overall well-being. Practicing regular self-care encourages happiness and allows us to manage stress better. For anyone looking to start practicing self-care, know that it doesn’t have to look a specific way e.g., getting nails done or reading a book. It can be ANYTHING that brings you happiness including watching a show, calling a friend, journaling, going for a walk, or unplugging. Take those 5 minutes (or an hour), as often as you can. Your mind and body will thank you!
4. What advice would you give to intended parents on GoStork – who are just beginning their own family building journey?
Ask questions, find a community, advocate for yourself, and seek support! Building a family can take a village – there is no shame in that. You do not need to navigate this journey alone. There are other warriors, experts, and advocates out there who can help and make this journey less lonely. You are not alone!
Thank you, Cheryl, for sharing your story with us and for all that you do to empower, educate and support those navigating infertility. Check out the ivfwarrior.ca and @the.ivf.warrior on Instagram for plenty of helpful insight on IVF, wellbeing, mental health and so much more!