TW: Miscarriage. Elizabeth Savetsky, an influencer, shares her story of infertility, difficult pregnancies, and miscarriages. Elizabeth’s story includes complications from hypothalamic amenorrhea, medications that made her feel like “a hormonal train wreck,” and both IUI and IVF. During her second pregnancy, she began blogging about fashion, leading her to eventually share her story to help others and start the Real Love, Real Loss movement.
“Fertility and Pregnancy Loss: Letting others know they are not alone” – with Elizabeth Savetsky
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Dr. Fox: Welcome to “High Risk Birth Stories” brought to you by the creators of the “Healthful Woman Podcast.” I’m your host, Dr. Nathan Fox. “High Risk Birth Stories” is a podcast designed to give you the listener, a window into life changing experiences in pregnancy, fertility and childbirth. All right, Elizabeth, thank you so much for coming on the podcast to tell your story. I really appreciate it.
Elizabeth: Thank you so much for having me. It’s an honor. And I love what you’re doing. And I’m glad to bring awareness.
Dr. Fox: Wonderful. So if you could just give us your story, your background, before you had your pregnancy losses, tell us where you’re from, how you got to that point in life and what was going on at that time.
Elizabeth: So I grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, and then ended up moving to New York at 18 to go to NYU and fell in love with a long island boy, Ira, we got married and got married pretty young. I was 23, he was 25. And my mom always told me my whole life that women in our family are very fertile. So just be careful. So that was always on my mind.
Dr. Fox: That’s a warning in high school. Yeah.
Elizabeth: So I just thought, we’ll have unprotected sex, and I’ll get pregnant. That’s it. But that was not really the situation for us. We waited a little while we wanted to have some time, my husband was in med school. And I was in grad school, we were in Philly, and we weren’t really ready to start a family, we kind of just wanted to enjoy our life. There wasn’t a lot of time for us other than, the weekends. We were both studying all the time, so we weren’t ready yet. And then, of course, it’s only gotten worse, but we are the generation of we want it, we want it now.
And so the day that we decided, we wanted to be pregnant, we thought it would happen. Of course, it didn’t go that way for us. And, I didn’t really know what was going on with me. But I had never had regular periods and then went to…my husband actually is super proactive, I probably would have just waited and, continue to try for a bit longer. But he sensed I guess that there was something deeper going on.
Dr. Fox: Is he like that in general, or is that because he’s in medicine?
Elizabeth: I think he’s like that, and that’s why he went into medicine.
Dr. Fox: Got it. Got it. I know the type I am the type. Okay.
Elizabeth: Exactly, exactly. He’s very into like clear cut answers. And, he thinks that there’s a reason behind everything. And, I’m much more of the artist and the emotional and the denial and all of that, I guess it’s a good balance. And so he made an appointment for me with a reproductive endocrinologist. And they did a bunch of testing. And we found out that I have hypothalamic amenorrhea, which I guess, as I’ve been told is kind of just a diagnosis of like exclusion.
Dr. Fox: Right. It just means you’re not getting your period basically.
Dr. Fox: But it sounds a lot more impressive when you say hypothalamic amenorrhea. It sounds like we’ve done something.
Elizabeth: I’m like, a what? Yeah, exactly. Amen a who? From my understanding, I guess it means that my brain doesn’t tell my body to produce estrogen.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, I mean, the basic sort of like cycle that’s rolling, it’s just not functioning properly. And, this isn’t telling this to do this to do this. It’s just something off in the loop that normally happens.
Elizabeth: Right. So they put me on Clomid did like six rounds of that. It was a very dark period of my life. My husband was in his first year of residency for general surgery at the time, so he was never home. And I was like a hormonal train wreck. It was just a really dark period. And, there’s all the feelings of there’s something wrong with me, why can’t I do this? And, every other person you see is pregnant, of course, when you’re trying to get pregnant.
Dr. Fox: Right. You never think this is happening to anybody else in the world. It’s just you. That’s how it feels.
Elizabeth: Totally. And we were super private about it. We didn’t even tell our parents I was ashamed. To be honest.
Dr. Fox: Do you regret being private about it. Looking back?
Elizabeth: If I had to do it again, I I would be open just because I’ve seen how much it helped me through my pregnancy losses, which I know we’ll get to but yes, that feeling of isolation. And like this world of sadness, and it being private just makes it even more confounded with this feeling of like desperation and loneliness.
Dr. Fox: What were your doctors telling you at the time were they like super optimistic that it’s gonna happen? Or did they give you the sense that you were really, challenging case and it was gonna be very difficult. What was their messaging to you?
Elizabeth: I felt like they were optimistic and the way that a typical, like, no offense to you New York doctor.
Dr. Fox: No, no, no, I’m from the Midwest. So you can call them whatever you want. It’s all good. Yeah.
Elizabeth: I felt like, this is their job. They’re on a mission to get it done. I didn’t feel like there was a whole lot of emotional hand holding whatsoever. I felt like they were just going through the protocols. They basically like made it seem like if this wasn’t going to work, then we would try this. And so there was always like another level of the next step. Like first it was, Clomid with timed intercourse, and then it was Clomid with the IUI.
And then multiple rounds of that. And then we talk about IVF. So I knew that we weren’t like, at the max level yet. There’s always another level. And they did make it seem like I had plenty of eggs and healthy and Iris, sperm were healthy and good. So there was no reason to think that it wasn’t going to happen. But of course, when you’re in that moment of darkness, you can’t imagine ever being pregnant, because every month you’re getting bad news.
Dr. Fox: Yeah. And like every month, it’s like a loss every time you get your period, you’re not pregnant. And it’s like, literally having a loss every single month. It’s horrible.
Elizabeth: And you’re like hormonal as hell and like fat from the hormones and bloated and just, it’s just the whole process is the least enjoyable thing. That’s if it doesn’t work, if it works, it’s totally worth it.
Dr. Fox: Right. Wow, obviously, you had your daughter. So ultimately, you got pregnant. How did that work out eventually?
Elizabeth: After six failed IUIs, we decided to do IVF. I had in my mind, I was, I guess 26 years old at the time that like, I just never thought that I’d be 26 years old, healthy. Starting IVF that just would have never crossed my mind. Because, we’re supposed to be very fertile in our family.
Dr. Fox: Absolutely. It’s because you left Texas.
Elizabeth: Exactly. So it was very overwhelming to just hear those three letters. IVF. Like, I think I had in my mind that it was gonna be this huge deal. And that it was this horrible thing. But when it came down to it, it really wasn’t, I think it was just something that had taken on a life of its own in my mind. And then when I was actually going through the process, it really wasn’t that much worse. In my mind, then. I mean, it was more physically taxing and more involved. But in terms of the mental, it was really, I felt like I was working towards something every day, I really felt like, very blessed that it worked. For us on the first time. We did a fresh cycle. So, from start to finish, it’s like, within six weeks, you go from nothing to pregnant. So it’s not as bad as it sounds from the outside, I guess.
Dr. Fox: Right. I mean, when it works.
Elizabeth: Definitely, when it works.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, exactly. And how was your pregnancy, your first pregnancy?
Elizabeth: My pregnancy was pretty smooth sailing up until the end. It was Hurricane Sandy when I was in my ninth month of pregnancy and I’m sure you remember. Were you a New York at the time?
Dr. Fox: Oh, yes, absolutely. 2012.
Elizabeth: My doctor was at NYU and NYU totally flooded. And their phone lines were down, I couldn’t get in touch with anyone. So I ended up like missing my ultrasound by a week or so. And when I went to have it, they saw that the baby was measuring a full month off smaller than it was supposed to. And so at that point, they told me that, I was gonna have the baby that day because the baby was no longer thriving inside so it was definitely a frightening experience to go through all of that to get pregnant, and then at the tail end, to hear this news is just extremely scary, especially when it’s your first go round.
Dr. Fox: Right. And obviously you didn’t know where you’re gonna deliver either.
Elizabeth: Yeah, I didn’t and they, yes. So they ended up sending me to Mount Sinai and it was not you know, I had already when you when it’s your first pregnancy, you do the hospital tour, you know your birth plan, like you have all this idealistic vision of how it’s all gonna go and then it doesn’t go like that at all. But, it was a little bit of a crazy situation I got to Mount Sinai and they immediately I wasn’t dilated at all. So they immediately put a Foley balloon.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, Foley. Correct.
Elizabeth: In my cervix with no epidural, which was probably the most painful experience of my life. I didn’t know that having an epidural before that was an option.
Dr. Fox: Oh, dear. All right. Wow, you go back in time and you listen to my induction podcast.
Elizabeth: Oh, gosh, I have to listen to it.
Dr. Fox: Oh, man, that’s something. Now was it your doctors delivering you to NYU or did they send you to different doctors because I know I was at Mount Sinai at the time and there were people who came and their doctors got sort of emergency privileges and they delivered their own patients there, and there was another group who came but they’re doctors did not get the privileges so other doctors delivered them. Which one was it for you?
Elizabeth: It was a little bit of a hectic situation. I had NYU and Sinai nurses both, and they did not see eye to eye because I guess they run the show differently. And so they were fighting over me, while I was in labor, but at the end of the day, they did let my doctor come in and deliver me, which was a relief.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, that was a crazy, crazy couple of weeks.
Elizabeth: Oh, my God. It was a crazy period.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, it was pretty wild. We’ve been going through the pandemic, which was crazy also, obviously, and Hurricane Sandy was crazy for totally different reasons. But it was just I mean, the city was it was madness. What was going on. Half the city was shut down.
Elizabeth: Ira was at NYU at the time, and he had to go evacuate in the middle of the night. He was carrying patients down the stairs. Because they were evacuating the hospital. I mean, it was insane.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, it was absolutely crazy. So you delivered and ultimately everything went okay, though?
Elizabeth: Yeah, it was great. She came out my oldest daughter, Stella, she was 4 pounds, 15 ounces. And they let me take her home the next day, actually. So she didn’t even have to go to the NICU or anything. And she was just small, but she was fine. And she gained weight right away. We still don’t really know. They did send the placenta for pathology, but we still don’t really know why she was growth restricted. Or if it was just that she was small or…
Dr. Fox: Right.
Dr. Fox: So the first birth is interesting, let’s say, but ultimately went well. And then what about for your second?
Elizabeth: Second was, it’s so funny, because after everything I went through with the first, the second, to me, was like, just total smooth sailing. For somebody who had never been through any fertility issues, they probably would have thought it was a hard situation. But basically, I had one embryo left that was frozen. So I always joke that my girls are fraternal twins, one was just on ice for a year. She’s Elsa, she’s frozen. They’ve known each other since the Petri dish, they go way back.
So we just, you know, Stella was about to be a year and I, we just kind of figured we would put the next embryo in. I hadn’t gotten my period, it look like things weren’t really changing for me on the fertility front. And we knew that it had the potential to take time, just statistically speaking, like, it’s just not going to work the first time every time. So we just wanted to kind of get the ball rolling and start. And, of course, I ended up pregnant right away. So it was just very lucky and very easy, easy pregnancy. The minor issue, I had pelvic congestion at the end, and I was just super uncomfortable. I had varicose veins, but nothing besides just that pregnancy discomfort stuff. And then the delivery was super easy. She was actually born a week late, and weighed seven pounds. The easiest delivery that I could have imagined.
Dr. Fox: Right. And at the time, were you already working in fashion? Were you already blogging? Where were you professionally at this point? Because now, we’re gonna touch on that and how it relates to your story.
Elizabeth: So I actually started my blog when I was pregnant with Juliet. My second and it was an interesting time to start a blog. I think I was like sort of in nesting mode. And I wanted to just create and do and like I was working full time and I had a one year old, but I guess I just figured I’d take on something else.
So I started it. And I think part of the reason that I was successful from the get go was because I was pregnant. And I found that people really related to that. Also, I always joked that like when you’re pregnant, you’re just like more likeable, because you’re like, creating life and you’re like a little bit heavier than usual. And it’s just everyone. Like it just, it gives hope to people. It honestly like not that I intended to use my pregnancy to help my career take off by any means, but I think that it was a driving force for the initial success. I think my brand to this day is very much family-centric and mommy-centric. And so it’s worked out well for me. It was definitely a busy time.
Dr. Fox: Right. And when you started the blog, number one, what was the, like the theme or the topic of the blog, and how did you put it out originally? Was it just online? Because 2013, was there even Instagram then? I don’t even remember what the deal was.
Elizabeth: Instagram was in its infancy and I think that people were using it almost more to like filter their photos than to use it as like a social sharing platform. At least that’s what I was doing. But granted, I’m a millennial, so maybe Gen Z knew how to use it properly. Yeah, I started it as an accessories blog. I was working full time for a fashion PR company and part of my job was to work with bloggers, fashion bloggers, and handle gifting from our clients and different events and, you know, seating them at Fashion Week and whatnot. And I saw that there was nobody really cornering the market and the accessories division. And I had always been super passionate about accessories and like my bat mitzvah theme was shoes. I always love big statement jewelry, it’s kind of just been, what people associate me with is like this big glitz and glamour, I guess. It’s like the Texas girl in me. And, I grew up competing in pageants, and I just have always loved sparkle and bling, and bright colors and all of that.
So, my blog was called “Accessories Expert.” And I just most of my platform was a website, accessoriesexpert.com. And I wrote articles about accessories, trends and up and coming designers, and then eventually I shifted over to Instagram, when I saw that my audience was becoming disillusioned with reading articles and more interested in just like that quick visual snapshot. Slowly, over time, I tried to follow what the people wanted. And so it’s been kind of like an organic progression to where I am today. Definitely, like, never saw myself sharing such personal information or pictures of my everyday life, or me without makeup all the time. And just letting people in so much it was not, if somebody would have told me that accessoriesexpert.com would turn into what my Instagram is today, I would have been shocked.
Dr. Fox: Yeah. And it’s interesting, because at the same time, this is going on, and you’re growing your own brand and your website and your blog. This is the time when you had all of the pregnancy losses. Correct?
Elizabeth: Right. Exactly.
Dr. Fox: Yeah. So tell us about that. What happened?
Elizabeth: I had always wanted to have my kids close together. But I just didn’t feel ready when I like I had made this timeline up in my mind. And then I just didn’t…something felt off and I wasn’t ready. So I pushed it off, and pushed it off. And ultimately, I ended up doing another retrieval. And at that time, they had changed the protocol. So they wanted people to genetic test the embryos. In fact, I think my practice required it at that point. They freeze the embryos, they test them, and then you have to like go back, whenever you’re ready, and you do the transfer. In between the retrieval and the transfer. I just got cold feet. I wasn’t ready, and I pushed it off. So we had these three frozen embryos that I was just kind of sitting on. And when they genetic tested them, we found out the gender so and they asked if you want to know so we had one boy and two girls, and which is also weird, because I had never…that was a new experience for me to like, because then it’s like a different level of attachment once you know that.
So and then it’s like, well do I put in? Do I choose which one and, there’s so many different questions that go through your mind from an ethical standpoint and a religious standpoint, just from your own heart. But what I learned from all of it really was that at the end of the day, it’s always in God’s hands, even if you think you’re in control. I mean, as if we needed that reminder.
Dr. Fox: Right. We do, but yeah.
Elizabeth: Yeah. So ultimately, what pushed me to do it was I was diagnosed with osteoporosis because of my super low estrogen. And they wanted to put me on like a hormone replacement therapy. But I guess you can’t be on that if you want to become pregnant. So I sort of felt like, okay, this is my sign, I need to figure out if I’m gonna do this, then I need to just go ahead and do it. So we decided to do the transfer, and we did decide to put in the male embryo. Since we had two girls, I thought I would just get pregnant like I had the past few times. And I did, the numbers were coming back great in the beginning, and then they started to get wacky. And then I got a call from the nurse telling me that it looked like I had an ectopic pregnancy. And I had heard of this before, I actually knew someone who had had one. But, you think of it as not something that’s not gonna happen to you just because it’s so rare. And when I went in to get, I guess, I went…they brought me in to give me methotrexate injection which worked.
And I think I couldn’t really process it all. And it was a very confusing time for me because it was something that I had never experienced before. And it kind of brought me back to that dark time when I felt like a failure. Like my body was not doing what it was supposed to do before I had become pregnant the first time and it was just a strange period because I felt like I was living such a public life and sharing so much. And I was like going through this crazy, all-encompassing thing that nobody had any idea about. And it felt really, like, false. And it felt like wrong in a way to not share. I’m not saying that somebody in a public position needs to share, but this is just how I personally felt. I remember I was just sitting on my couch and I was like recovering from the methotrexate, which tends to make people very nauseous. And I was just really not feeling good. And I was super emotional. And I just decided on a whim that I was going to go on my Instagram stories and talk about it and share what I was going through. And I didn’t, I probably should have let Ira know or at least, act hammered.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, I was gonna ask you one of my questions, actually, I’ve written down is, well, what did Ira think about all this?
Elizabeth: Ira is probably the most private person I know.
Dr. Fox: Not anymore.
Elizabeth: Yeah, exactly. Which is like, crazy, because I am obviously super open and have no boundaries or very few. Yeah, so she was actually in the OR. And I was like, I had this impulse came over me. And I think it happened when he was in the OR, because I know if I would have told him I was gonna do it, he would have stopped me.
Dr. Fox: Throwing your phone in the toilet or something.
Elizabeth: Yeah, exactly. He was like, in a really long surgery. And so I was like, not gonna wait for him to come out. I was like, I gotta do this, like, this is gonna help people. I was like, I feel so alone. Other people go through this, I gotta share. And I just went on and did it. And I think it kind of shocked people. Because at that time, I think even way more so than now. I mean, 2020, really, we saw a lot of vulnerability on social media. And this it was 2017, people were not doing that people were like, let me show you how gorgeous and perfect my life is. And so all of a sudden, here I am, like crying my eyes out on my couch in my pajamas. And it’s like, what? Like, is she okay?
Dr. Fox: Was it because, I mean, you mentioned that others were hurting and you wanted to share it that they weren’t… What was that the motivation that, I’m going through this, others must also be going through this, let me tell them they’re not alone? Or was it something that you needed to do for yourself? Sort of as like, as a cathartic way to, sort of get this off your chest, so to speak, what was the main motivating factor for you?
Elizabeth: Funny, because I actually have all the story saved. And I talked about this, and it was exactly both of those points. I said, “The reason I’m sharing is twofold.” I said, “The first reason is because I feel like I show you all the good of my life, and I’m not showing you the full picture right now. And I feel like it’s dishonest.” And I want people to know that, like Instagram only shows one side of things. And I’m a real person with real struggles. And, I know the statistics. So a lot of women are going through this right now. And they feel alone, because it’s stigmatized, nobody talks about it. And this is an opportunity for me to help with that.
But the second side was that I felt like sharing is who I am. And so it really helped me because it helped me feel less alone. Because when I started getting the floods of messages from people who had gone through similar things, it was, you know, the best kind of therapy for me, because I no longer felt that shame and isolation that I had felt for years, to be honest, because I’d never talked about my infertility. So it was just, you know, very healing for me. So it was really, it was really about both, and that’s kind of why I just felt like I had to do it. And I knew that if I like sat on it for even a second, I wouldn’t. And I just had to do it.
Dr. Fox: And what about your friends, your extended family? Do they feel the same way as Ira there like, “Whoa, like, why you sharing this?” Maybe in their initial thoughts, or were they like, this is awesome, keep doing it?
Elizabeth: It was a little crazy, because I hadn’t told most people that were close to me in my life that I was even pregnant, or that I was even going through IVF. So for them to then see this was like, “What? Like, we had no idea.” But it’s funny, my parents were super supportive because my mom actually had a stillborn before my brother and I were born. And she was always very open about it and always used her story to connect with other people who are going through that. And so they really got it. And my dad, called me right away. He said, “I had a feeling you were gonna go public with this and like I’m so proud of you.” I feel like knowing our experience and how many years ago it was and people talked about that last week, anything that you can do to use your story to help others is only gonna help you and and help the world.
Dr. Fox: And it’s so interesting. I was gonna ask you that because I’m not gonna ask you to tell me your mom’s age in front of everyone else. But presumably she’s older than you. And so really, people didn’t talk about pregnancy loss back then are very, very unusual to people who are more quiet about it, like it didn’t happen, and it just wasn’t spoken about. And I think number one, it’s really impressive that your mom that your parents did talk about it and use it in a way to help others. But do you think that maybe that having that story in your family was one of the reasons you felt more comfortable doing or just in general, you felt more comfortable being open with everyone like you said.
Elizabeth: I definitely think it was a big part of it. In fact, it’s kind of this is a little bit spooky, but the baby that they lost was a girl. And they were gonna give her the Hebrew name that they gave me. And in a way, I mean, I know this is like a weird mystical thing, but I feel like, there’s like some sort of soul tie there. And maybe like, this was kind of like my life’s purpose in a weird way, because it kind of came full circle for my parents. But yeah, I definitely think that what they went through, and that always kind of being an open discussion, even from the time that I was small, helped me to be open about it. And there was never any shame around the topic in my family. And I know there is in other families, especially in the Jewish world, where so much emphasis is placed upon like, fertility and growing your family and motherhood, and how many children can you have? And so I feel like there was like, a sensitivity that I had, that maybe other people weren’t necessarily as lucky to grow up with.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, I don’t think that’s weird at all. I think that some families, they’re able to include, children that they’ve lost as a part of their story. Like, this daughter was a part of our family. And she’s spoken about and she’s mentioned is one of their children that they lost, and other families just, they’re not able to do it, for whatever reason is just either it’s too painful, or they weren’t brought up that way, that it’s okay. But I think the fact that you did grow up with that openness about the full story of your family impacted you, obviously.
Elizabeth: Very much so. I mean, to this day, whenever we go to the cemetery, my mom goes and visits the baby where she’s buried. And I always remember her doing that. And I think…and I’ve done the same with my children, my girls know about all of my pregnancy losses. And that was taken from the model of how I was raised. And I’m not saying that it’s right for everyone. But for my family, that was the right decision. And I think that we don’t give children enough credit for their emotional capacity to understand and they do, and they really get it. And this is our family. And I always say to people that are struggling with pregnancy loss that don’t yet have children that they are like, if you’ve lost a baby, you’re a mother, that you were that child’s mother. Just because the child didn’t get to come to fruition as a full life doesn’t mean that you are not a mom.
Dr. Fox: 100%. And so, you’re doing this, and you’re out there, but you had more losses afterwards. And this was an ongoing story for you.
Elizabeth: Yes. So we decided after some time to heal that I was gonna do this again. And I remember we had just booked like our pass off trip to Arizona. And my mom said to me, “Lizzie, don’t do IVF before Arizona because you’re not gonna be able to travel if it’s another ectopic.” And I looked at her I was like, “What do you mean?” I was like, “Another ectopic?” I’m like, “That can’t happen. Like this doesn’t happen to people twice.”
Dr. Fox: Like, mom, what a downer.
Elizabeth: I know. My mom is always like the Debbie downer. We always joke about that. She’s super positive to the outside world, but in our own family. She’s a negative Nancy. So she’s like, “It may be another ectopic, Lizzie,” and I’m like, “That doesn’t happen to people you can have two.” And so I was like, “Maybe I’ll miscarry or maybe It won’t work but like, I’m not gonna, I was like, I just want to get on with it. Because it’s just hanging over my head. And I just want to like, move on.”
So we had these two frozen embryos still left, both female women put it in. And my numbers never really looked good from the get go. And we thought I was just it was like a blighted ovum, I guess. But then the numbers kept going up, and then going back down and it was kind of all over the place. And I remember vividly, I was at my good friend, Semi had just tragically lost her husband, young couple, and I was at the shiva for her and I was on my way back driving back into the city from Brooklyn and I got a call and they were like, we’re so sorry. And I had been like an emotional wreck. And they’re like, “We’re sorry to let you know this, but it’s ectopic. And we need to give you the methotrexate, like you need to come in later.”
Dr. Fox: It’s like a flashback.
Elizabeth: it’s like, what do you mean? Like, how can this be? I didn’t know you could have it twice. But apparently, what I wasn’t aware of is that once you have one, the chances actually increase. Right?
Dr. Fox: Yeah.
Elizabeth: You can speak to that I’m sure.
Dr. Fox: True.
Elizabeth: I was shocked. I felt very defeated. And I remember thinking like, okay, this it for me, like I’m good I got my two kids. They’re healthy, like, I don’t want to deal with this anymore. And it ended up going, like everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. I had one round of methotrexate and it didn’t work. My doctor told me he didn’t want me going away for Passover. But of course, I had to prove my mom wrong and went to Arizona anyway, and was going into quest lab to get my blood drawn, and the numbers were still going up. So we had to go get methotrexate there. So all the tests off I was like, ill beyond belief, and I wasn’t allowed to sit in the sun or drink alcohol. It was like, all the fun things were taken away from me. Because I guess you’re not allowed to do those things with the drug. I got back to New York. And it still hadn’t worked. The embryo was still growing in my Fallopian tube to give me another round of methotrexate, which my doctor said that I think it was like…or the nurse maybe said it was the first time that she had ever seen them give three rounds. And it wasn’t working. And I had been in a lot of pain.
And then I was at frozen on Broadway with my family, and my tube ruptured. I mean, talk about trauma. We went straight from Broadway, to Mount Sinai Hospital to the ER. And I had to have the surgery, it was rough. It was a dark time. And I had decided, of course, like if I had shared before I needed to now let my Instagram audience and again and tell them what was going on with me. And I just couldn’t believe it. It was extremely shocking. And then somehow, my husband convinced me to try one more time. He’s not a good loser. And he was like, we can’t…he’s like, we have this embryo, you got to do it. Come on, like, let’s just give it one more shot, I swear, I’ll never bother you again. So we did. And that one, I ended up having an early miscarriage. And that was really…I think that was probably the lowest point because my husband had held it together so well. And I think that that was really like that…he just couldn’t believe that we have had these three losses in a row. And, how can we try so hard and really put everything into this and want it so badly and then be punished like this. And it was a really, it was very hard for me to see him feel so defeated because he had been the rock for me the whole time.
Dr. Fox: Right. Was there anyone else you guys relied on for support besides each other?
Elizabeth: It was hard. We didn’t really and there wasn’t a lot of I mean, I had friends, and there was a community of people that I talked to. But I can’t say that…I even went to some support groups and stuff. But I don’t think that it really worked for me. I think it works amazing for some people. I also think that I wasn’t as informed as I am now about how many resources are out there. I did seek therapy and between the second and the third loss, and that helped me a lot. We actually even did like some…what do you call it where you practice, like going through the motions of how it’s gonna be like, lying on the table?
Dr. Fox: Is that like the behavior therapy type of thing?
Elizabeth: Yes, yes. Exactly. Because every time that I would like be at the doctor’s office, I would have a panic attack. So we were like trying to desensitize me to that.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, it’s like a PTSD.
Elizabeth: Yeah, exactly. So that was super helpful. And I mean, I think therapy is helpful, even when everything is going great. So especially when it’s not, I would definitely tell anyone going through this, that therapy is always a good idea. But you have to find the right relationship.
Dr. Fox: Right. And I’m curious when you’re going through all this, did you feel alone in the process, the two of you?
Elizabeth: I definitely felt alone. It was a…that would be the word. If you could give me one, that would be it.
Dr. Fox: And let me ask a question. So you’re going through this and you’re obviously in a very difficult place in your life, you have good things going for you. You have two kids and obviously fine, you’re healthy, but it’s really, really painful to go through all these losses at the same time. And so there are these sort of mixed emotions that people get, on the one hand, they’re in despair. But then you sort of feel guilty that you’re not thankful that you have or grateful that you have two wonderful children. How did you reconcile that in your own head?
Elizabeth: It was awful. I mean, I think, most days, I just felt horrible for how I was lacking as a mother because I was so sad. And there were days that I couldn’t get myself up off the bathroom floor because I was so broken. And then to know that my children were seeing me like this. And then, that they weren’t getting the best of me. And I was losing all this time, this precious time with my kids, that I wasn’t going to get back. It was so hard. And one of the things that I think we need to talk more about is secondary infertility and how real that is, just because you have children already that are healthy and beautiful, and make your life rich doesn’t mean that you still don’t have that drive and animal desire to have more children.
Dr. Fox: Exactly, yeah.
Elizabeth: It’s something that you just can’t control. And the guilt and the shame is…it will kill you. And it’s all encompassing. And I feel like if we could just be nicer to ourselves and let go of that. It would be this huge weight lifted off to say, like, it’s okay to want more than what I have even though what I have is so great.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, I’m curious. I mean, you mentioned, religion a couple of times, when you’re going through this, did you find your religion to be a source of comfort for you? Or was it potentially the opposite, that you’re thinking, like, why is God doing this to me, and you get like, angry, in a sense?
Elizabeth: I’ll tell you, I talked to God more during this whole process than I had ever before in my life, both out of desire and prayer, wanting and anger both. And I think that God hears our prayers, no matter what the emotion is. And so, I can’t say that just because I was mad at God, it brought me away from God, if anything, I think the anger brought me closer to God, because I felt like, how can you be doing this to me, but one of the things that I always did find comfort in was knowing that our matriarchs, Sarah Rivka, Rahul, had all struggled with infertility. And, why did God give these amazing holy women, such a heart wrenching struggle, it just doesn’t make sense. Like, if they’re so holy, shouldn’t they be bringing life into the world easily and bringing as much of it, so that we can have such a beautiful holy offspring. So there are a lot of ideas about it, nobody really knows. But people say that God likes to hear the prayers of the holy women, even if they are those angry prayers, and that helped me reconcile it a bit. I still have a lot of confusion, I don’t know that I’ll ever have the answers.
Another thing that I always that always kind of stuck with me is like, when you pray to God and you ask for an answer, it doesn’t mean that the answer is always gonna be yes. Sometimes the answer is no. And sometimes the answer is not now. And I think I saw so much from after my first struggle, I saw how many people’s lives I touched. And I really felt like I was just like, the vessel for this message. I didn’t feel like I was just like, holy, amazing person. I just felt like God gave me the struggle for a reason. And I was able to use it to help people. And I always said, like, if I never had another baby, like, maybe I was given this just to kind of, like, bring awareness to the topic and the conversation and to help people out there to realize that this happens, and that it doesn’t make you a bad person. And there’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Dr. Fox: Right. I mean, you have, I mean, a crazy amount of followers. It’s like, almost 200,000 people follow you. And was that because of this? Was it because of fashion? I mean, how did those numbers grow so much?
Elizabeth: My following definitely grew organically over time. It wasn’t like an overnight sensation thing by any means. And I think the reason that my core base stuck with me and is so engaged is because I’ve always been so transparent and open with my real life. And not just trying to show the glamorous fancy stuff, but to also be raw and real. And if anything, I think it’s grown because of that, because of the openness and the sharing.
Dr. Fox: Right. I was gonna ask what is the response been to you sharing about these losses? Is it just people, more people follow you? Are you getting a lot of people sort of messaging you or reposting? What’s it been like?
Elizabeth: I realized, for better or worse, people love you when you’re in the gutter. It’s human nature, and you can be on top of the world and seven people will congratulate you. But when you’re in the gutter, it’s like thousands of people are there for you and want to be on your team. And it’s funny I actually like heard this great… It’s kind of a good metaphor I heard somebody was something I can’t remember which famous actor it was, it may have been like Jack Nicholson, or somebody was saying, talking about, “It’s better to be the Oscar nominee who doesn’t win than the person who wins the Oscar. The day after the Oscars are over, everyone loves the loser. They’re like, oh, you should have won, you were you were better.” So I think that’s kind of our nature is to just root for the underdog, I guess. I don’t know, I saw that here in this case, and maybe it’s because people are out there hurting. And it makes them feel like they’re not the only one who is.
Dr. Fox: Right. I mean, I was wondering if your listeners you think or followers, they feel less alone because they’re with you, in a sense.
Elizabeth: Yeah. And maybe their struggle isn’t pregnancy loss, maybe it’s something else?
Dr. Fox: Sure.
Elizabeth: Maybe their husband lost his job. Or maybe there are any number of things, and it feels good to know that you don’t have the market cornered on suffering.
Dr. Fox: Right. How has it been I’m curious, using Instagram, because it’s a unique platform to discuss complex and difficult topics, what’s that been like?
Elizabeth: It’s been uncharted territory. I’ve had good and bad experiences with it to be honest. And when you share something and vulnerability, and you just put it out there for the public, there’s always the chance that it’s gonna come back to bite you and it has for me, there have been plenty of people who have, you know, there was like a scandal this summer that I won’t get into and people were talking about me, and saying, “Oh, she traumatized her pregnancy losses.” And she was in the hospital with… when I was pregnant with Ali, which we’ll get to. “She was in the hospital with hives, but it wasn’t really from that it was from this and she just wants sympathy.” And so to hear people take these, the hardest, most like excruciating moments of your life and then to just like, use them like that. I mean, it comes with the territory, I’m in the public eye. And I chose this life, I put myself out there, but you don’t think about the worst-case scenario when you share these private moments. So if there have been negative moments for me, where I’ve said, “Maybe I shouldn’t have shared that,” but I always come back to, this is my truth. And I’ll never regret sharing my truth. Even if people do use it against me, like, at the end of the day, this is who I am. And I stand behind it.
A lot of people aren’t comfortable doing that, my husband included. He actually he just had a hair transplant and I was like, “Ira, you should share this, sounds like a lot of people are going to relate to this. Like every guy out there is like self-conscious about his hairline. I’m telling you, like, just do it.” He’s like…we got into a fight about. He’s like, “I’m not like you, I don’t want to do that.” And then ultimately, in the end, he decided to and it was like the same thing. People just loved it. Because everyone can relate to it. Even if they’re not losing their hair, maybe they have something else they’re self-conscious about or whatever. And he was so happy he did it. But I think being vulnerable doesn’t come naturally to everyone. But I think that there’s so much good that comes with it. And I think it’s always…if you’re wavering about it, you should always do it.
Dr. Fox: Wow. And how do you think that doing all this has actually impacted you as a person?
Elizabeth: I think it has given me a lot of purpose. There were days before I was open about these heavy topics, or before I was like a Jewish activist where I was just sharing my outfits, and it felt pretty empty to me, like…I was like, this is my job and like, okay, your job, it doesn’t have to be like,,,your job can just be a job some days, and that’s okay. But I wanted more from it. And I sort of felt like I was getting burnout. And since I started taking on more purposeful, meaningful topics, it has totally revitalized me and made me feel like I could wake up every day and want to do this. And I’m excited about sharing. And I’m excited that I have inspiration to offer an audience. And I can share my outfits too. And that’s great.
Dr. Fox: And do you feel in terms of pregnancy loss, what kind of impact do you feel you’ve had? And what do you want to continue to do in terms of that specific topic?
Elizabeth: Well, I think one of the coolest things that we were able to do was once I shared it was like all these women came out of the woodwork telling me that they had similar experiences, and a lot of them were fellow Instagram influencers. And so I had this great idea last summer that we should all join together and start a movement. And we called it the Real Love, Real Loss movement. And it was based around the fact that I had been, very triggered by filling out doctor’s forms. Whenever I would go to a doctor’s appointment they make you fill out and share how many pregnancies you’ve had and then how many living children you have. And then so it’s this like reminder. Just very painful reminder of all the losses. So I decided we should take these numbers back. And so this amazing, brave, beautiful group of women and I went public with our numbers and shared how many pregnancies we’ve had in the week set how many living miracles we’ve had, as a way to sort of honor the souls that never got to come into this world.
And the movement actually went viral, internationally, thousands of women shared and even men shared. And they started to just kind of open the conversation. And so I’ve seen the Jewish community really start to open up the conversation. When I was at KJ in New York, before we moved to Dallas, they had a [inaudible 00:45:43] that was open to men and women talking about infertility, it’s become much less taboo to talk about. I think we can still do better, especially we’d love to see men become more open about it, and it become less stigmatized for them. That’s one goal that I have with the work that I hope to do. And there’s always more work to do. But it just kind of showed me the power of social media and how we can use it for good the flip side of it just being this animal that makes people jealous of each other’s lives, there’s just this amazing ability to connect with people who are struggling in the same way that you are, and built this beautiful family that you can lean on.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, totally agree. And that’s such an important point that everyone hates social media, right? Everyone says, “Oh, this is awful. It’s ruining us, it’s ruining our children, it’s ruining the world. It’s ruining democracy, it’s the worst thing that ever happened to us.” And, all right, maybe it’s true. But it also is this unbelievable medium, where people can share and people can feel a part of a community, even if they’re not physically near them, and that they’re connected not by space, or even by time, but sort of by purpose, or by experience. And that’s something that was really never doable in the past. I mean, you have to go to a support group, like you said, where everyone’s sitting in the same room together. And so you got 20, 30 people maybe who live in the same town. But now you could have 20, or 30,000 people in the same “room” talking about this and sharing with each other. And that is extremely powerful.
Elizabeth: It’s unbelievable, it’s amazing. And I’ve seen since the pandemic even more so, how we can use it to really cast this wide net, because there are all these causes, the nonprofits that are now having to take their platforms totally virtually. And it’s like they can reach so many more people that way, I don’t think we’ll ever really go back. Because it’s just such a wider net, you could touch so many more people.
Dr. Fox: And I think it’s also so important, you’re talking about that you’re taking back sort of this narrative of pregnancy and pregnancy loss, off of the form and the numbers and the statistics and into something that’s much more personal and real, and thoughtful. And I mean, I have to say this is why we’re talking today. I mean, I can have a podcast, about the medical aspects of pregnancy loss and what it is and how often it happens and what we do and what tests we do and what the statistics and fine that’s like interesting, maybe, and maybe helpful to somebody, but there’s nothing like hearing someone tell their own story. That’s such a different, and important part of this. And that’s what we’re trying to do to let women tell their stories.
Elizabeth: It humanizes us.
Dr. Fox: Yeah. And it’s also you really that’s how you learn about it. That’s what you learn what it is. It’s not from hearing some doctor talk about it. It’s hearing a mother talk about it, a father talk about it. And it’s just really important.
Elizabeth: Right. Exactly, yeah.
Dr. Fox: And so your story does continue, yes?
Elizabeth: It does. Yes. As if it couldn’t get longer, but it has the most beautiful endings.
Dr. Fox: Yeah. So tell our listeners how things played out afterwards.
Elizabeth: We decided to move to Dallas for a year, which has now turned into two years. We’ll see. My husband wanted to do a fellowship here. And he said to me, “Lizzie, I feel like we should try one more time.” He’s like, “You’re out of New York City. Now your life is so much less stressful. Like, let’s just give it one more shot.” I think we were like drunk at brunch. And I was like, Okay, I don’t know, like what came over me because I was so, the door was closed. But I think somewhere deep inside of me, I want it. Nobody can make you do something like that. So I obviously wanted it in some deep, dark place and wasn’t ready to give up. And so he said, “Okay, I’ll do it. But I’m only doing it on two conditions. One is that we don’t tell anyone,” because I didn’t want the external pressure from our families or I didn’t feel like I want it…for the first time, I felt like I didn’t want people to know because I thought it was going to stress me out. And the second thing was that I wanted to do a fresh cycle, which means that, you do the retrieval and the transfer all within the same period because I didn’t want to prolong the hormones. I was like I just I’m gonna try one more time, and I just wanted to be done as quick and fast as possible. And that’s it.
So we went to a doctor here and I started, like simulation process and everything was going great. Something that I will say, that I’ve never talked about before is I did actually go on a very small dose of Zoloft, which I would recommend, I think I had been so nervous to ever go on any medication. And I think you obviously, need to be with a doctor who’s going to monitor that. And, you need to be under the right medical care if you do that. But for me, after all the PTSD and everything I had been through, and it was so helpful to just like, take the edge off that process. So I was able to be on that, like throughout the beginning. And I think it really did help. Even if it was a placebo, I think it helps me a lot.
Dr. Fox: Well, it’s not placebo, I’m sure you felt better, less anxious, less traumatized, like all that it’s definitely gonna be helpful for that.
Elizabeth: Yeah. And I think it’s not something that anyone else had ever told me to do. And I think, that’s a piece of information that I would like to share to people just to know that that is an option if you can get.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, that’s important.
Elizabeth: Yeah. Because your mental health can really go through the wringer when you’re going through all of this. Because it’s internal and external, you have the hormones, making you crazy. And you also feel super anxious, because you’re going through something really hard. So it was helpful. And then so we did it and got a bunch of healthy embryos, I think we got six or seven. And I did a three day a fresh transfer. My doctor agreed to do it, which was great. I know, it’s not always recommended, but he thought considering my age and my health that it was fine to do, even though, I guess the statistics are slightly lower for success. He was willing to do it for me. And so we didn’t do genetic tests, we didn’t know the gender. We didn’t really know anything. They just pick the one that like looked the best on the Petri dish.
Dr. Fox: The best grade, the highest graded embryo. Yeah.
Elizabeth: So it was like a hatching one. And I remember like, I had a good feeling about it, and so did Ira. And so did everyone there and two week wait, pregnancy test positive and things are going well. And then I told my mom and I said, “I have to tell you something. I’m pregnant.” She was like “What, like by accident?” I was like, “No, we actually did IVF. I just didn’t want to tell anyone because I don’t want to be stressed out.” And it was the day after I told my mom I started breaking out and like a crazy case of hives all over my body. And then it was like severe beyond belief, couldn’t sleep the whole night was just popping Benadryl. Nothing was working. And the next morning I woke up and my head was swollen to twice the size with angioedema. So I went into the doctor and the doctor said, “You need to go to the emergency room. This is could be life threatening, like get out of here.”
So I got to the emergency room. And they came to the conclusion that I had autoimmune progesterone dermatitis. And discovered there that while I was in the hospital for a few days they were treating it, my HCG started dropping. So we thought it was game over, I stopped taking the progesterone because that’s what was causing the issues. So my doctor told me basically, like, if I wasn’t taking the progesterone my body wasn’t gonna be able to support the pregnancy. And at that point, I just couldn’t even focused on anything except for my own health, because I felt like I was just climbing out of my skin. So I had kind of accepted it, grieved it, posted about it. And then a few days later, went into my doctor’s office to find that the pregnancy was still there and growing and appearing to be healthy and normal. So it was it was really shocking. And then a few days later, there was a heartbeat. So we couldn’t believe it. And the doctor couldn’t believe it. He said he had never seen anything like that, like in all of his years of practice where the HCG drops and then went back up. I guess it can happen, but it’s not common. So yeah, we couldn’t believe it.
And then throughout the pregnancy, it was definitely not the easiest pregnancy. I had a subchorionic bleed at the beginning. I was spotting. They had me on pelvic rest, couldn’t do a lot. Like every day was just like another challenge. And, I just always felt like we were like barely hanging on it was very stressful. I don’t think that there was one day where I was like waking up in pregnant bliss. And then the end was just as dramatic as the beginning. My water broke three weeks early. And it was blood everywhere all over my house. And I didn’t know what to do in a state of panic, I just got in the car and drove myself to the hospital as I was like hemorrhaging, and when I got there, they told me that I had… they couldn’t diagnose it till I delivered but it seemed like it was a partial placenta abruption, just based on the amount of blood. That was the scariest thing. I just thought, gosh, I’m gonna get up to the last…in the tail end of this pregnancy and they’re not. And all I could think what I was driving to the hospital was that there wasn’t gonna be a heartbeat.
Dr. Fox: Oh, God.
Elizabeth: I just couldn’t imagine. And then when the second that they put the monitor on me and I heard the heartbeat, I didn’t… I was like, everything was… At that point, I didn’t care about anything. It was like just this sound of ecstasy to me.
Dr. Fox: And everything went okay, baby’s good?
Elizabeth: Yeah, thank God. He delivered himself. I barely pushed.
Dr. Fox: He walked out. Yeah.
Elizabeth: He was so angry. Yeah, he was mad as hell. And his heart rate was dropping. And he just popped out and yeah, yeah, I mean, and all good. Yeah, he was in the NICU for 10 days. Because he was tiny and low blood sugar. I guess they call it wimpy white boy syndrome. I don’t know if that’s something I can say on your podcast.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, you can say it and it is an actual, it is a term that is well known. And as a wimpy white boy myself, I take full responsibility. No, it’s true that that’s the group that does the worse after birth, in terms of like, going into NICU and whatnot. We’re challenged from the very beginning, right from day one we’re just climbing uphill.
Elizabeth: It was so interesting, though, because if somebody would have told me, I was gonna have a NICU baby, I would have thought that I would have lost my mind. But no, I knew the whole time that he was gonna be okay. So it really got me through it. I was like, after everything I had been through knowing that he was going to be okay. Like, I could have handled anything at that point. I was like, so like, I have to sleep up there to breastfeed or whatever, there was nothing that I couldn’t handle if he was healthy, and he was gonna be fine.
Dr. Fox: What an amazing story. I mean, it’s a whole series of stories and no, listen it is. And I’m just curious, sort of wrapping up, looking back on all of this, if you could go back to speak to yourself before you started trying to get pregnant the first time. What is it, you would like to have known? Or you would tell yourself at that point, right now?
Elizabeth: I think the number one thing that I would have liked to have heard is, you’re not alone. And you’re just in the middle of your story, that this isn’t the end of your story, you have so much further to go. And it’s going to work out when you’re going through each individual battle. It feels so final every time that you get bad news. But it’s not. It’s just one chapter.
Dr. Fox: Wow. That’s amazing. Elizabeth, thank you so much for…
Elizabeth: Thank you for having me.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, for telling your story. It is so helpful to people to hear this, obviously, you put yourself out there, on Instagram and you write about it, and you’re involved. But I think just getting to hear you talk and speak about it. And what it’s like is just really powerful. And I appreciate it. I learned a ton. And I’m sure that all of our listeners will as well. So thank you so much. And obviously you’re in the thick of it now with three kids and everything. So you got stuff going on.
Elizabeth: Oh, my gosh, yes. And I did just want to say one more thing.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, please.
Elizabeth: I think it’s hard sometimes to hear people’s stories when they’re on the other side of it, and you’re not. And I just want people to know that I’ve been in your shoes, and I know what it’s like to be in the middle of it. And I shared when I was in the middle of it. And I can relate to that. And I mean, your end may not be like my end, but I just want you to know that it’s gonna be okay, no matter what, and the sun will shine again.
Dr. Fox: Wow. If you’re interested in telling your birth story on our podcast, please go to our partner website at www.healthfulwoman.com and click the link for sharing your story. You can also email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you like today’s podcast, please be sure to check out our “Healthful Woman Podcast” as well, where I speak with leaders in the field to help you learn more about women’s health, pregnancy and wellness Have a great day.
The information discussed in “High Risk Birth Stories” is intended for information and entertainment only and does not replace medical care from your physician. The stories and experiences discussed in our podcasts are unique to each guest and are not intended to be representative of any standard of care or expected outcomes. As always, we encourage you to speak with your own doctor about specific diagnoses and treatment options for an effective treatment plan. Guests on “High Risk Birth Stories” have given their permission for us to share their personal health information.