Dr. Aimee Baron is the founder of “I Was Supposed to Have a Baby,” an online space for everyone in the Jewish community struggling with infertility and miscarriage. In this episode, Dr. Baron shares her own story of secondary infertility, multiple second-trimester losses, and moving away from her job as a pediatrician while grieving.
“I was supposed to have a baby” – with Dr. Aimee Baron
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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 of pregnancy, fertility and childbirth. Okay, I’m here with Dr. Aimee Baron, who is the founder and executive director of “I Was Supposed To Have A Baby.” Aimee, thank you so much for coming on the podcast, I really appreciate it.
Dr. Baron: It is my biggest pleasure, I am a very big fan of you and your work. And so this is honestly an honor for me. So thank you.
Dr. Fox: Listen, you have so much to talk about, you have so much to say, you have an amazing organization. And I just thought it’d be so useful for our listeners to hear about it, to hear about what you do, to hear about how you got into it. And I know that both of us have a lot of similar passions. And so I expect to see a really, really awesome conversation. So can you just tell our listeners sort of how did you get to where you are now, sort of briefly, and then we can go into some of the details.
Dr. Baron: I’m a pediatrician by training, you know, we have that medical passion, both of us, we have that in our backgrounds. And I thought that that was going to be my life, I sort of had plotted out this long story, this long career path of this aspect of pediatrics and that aspect of pediatrics. And then what happened was, after getting married and having our first, we had trouble having our second child, we went through three and a half years of secondary infertility. And in that space, I just kept thinking like, “How can I still be in pediatrics? Like, yes, of course, I have a child at home, but how can I still be in pediatrics and take care of other people’s children, when I’m struggling to have my own?” And well, thankfully, we did end up conceiving and getting pregnant with our second. And then our third, and secondary infertility sort of faded in the background, it was never explained. We’re in the modern orthodox community. And the thought was that our family was going to look like 4, or 5, or 6 children and not 12. And we got pregnant again with our fourth. And inexplicably, I walked in to my 16 week appointment, and there was no heartbeat. And that experience happened three more times. We’re in the second trimester, where I had no warning whatsoever, no bleeding, no cramping, nothing. I was having a perfectly typical pregnancy, I walked in to that appointment, and the baby had no heartbeat.
And each of those times, we never could figure out a medical explanation for that. The babies were always perfect genetically, I had no medical problems. My husband and I traveled widely to try to get answers and we never could. And, you know, look, the end of my story is that we did end up with this miracle pregnancy that did end up carrying to term. And I have twins that are seven now. But those experiences, the secondary infertility, and the multiple second trimester losses, they stayed with me, I gave birth to my twins. And I stayed home with them for two years. But I kept thinking like, “Am I going back to pediatrics? Am I not going to pediatrics?” Like, I did quit my job in the midst of all of those losses, because I just couldn’t keep taking care of other people’s babies. And really, the spark for me that put me on this path was when I was asked to speak at my local synagogue about my experience with pregnancy loss. And after standing in that room, speaking to 150 some odd women. This was five years ago. I knew that going back to pediatrics was just not what I was doing anymore.
Dr. Fox: How did your synagogue even know to ask you to speak?
Dr. Baron: Even though we’re talking now five years ago, I’ve had second trimester losses. And so people knew I was pregnant. And then people knew I wasn’t pregnant. And so my story was public, even though it was a terrible, horrible experience, but my story was public. And so the individuals who were putting together this program, they knew. And like, while I had never said, at least out loud, and many of them are my friends, the individuals on this committee, like I had never said I wanted to speak publicly about it. I’m guessing that because as a physician and because I’m someone who’s active in the community at large, they felt that they could ask, and once they did, I said, “Yes.” Like, I felt this deep need to want to try to help as many people as possible to have them know that they were not alone. That was the impetus for my getting up. And I was shaking like a leaf and couldn’t sleep for two days beforehand. And like it was a crazy thing. But I felt that I had this responsibility that as a physician, and as someone who had personally gone through it, that I had this unique voice that people would listen to. And again, because my story was already public, it wasn’t this, like a big revelation on top of that. Everyone already knew that I had struggled.
Dr. Fox: Had you ever spoken about your story in full before? I mean, you said people knew about it in public. And obviously, with each individual situation, you’re talking to people, but have you ever sat down and told anyone, “Here is my whole story”?
Dr. Baron: Besides the one friend who kept me from going insane, no.
Dr. Fox: Not even public, but semi-public, a group of people or anything like that?
Dr. Baron: Never.
Dr. Fox: When you ultimately decided to do it, you’re talking about this sort of sense of duty to help others and you feel like a passion. When you ultimately did it, how did it make you feel about your past, about your losses?
Dr. Baron: It felt empowering. Like, I had finally done something with all of that pain. And I could finally give people the hug, the knowledge that they weren’t alone, like I could finally do something about it. There was so much that was disempowering by the entire experience. We couldn’t figure out why I kept losing these babies after having three healthy children like, my body was failing me over, and over, and over again. There was so much that was stripped away. I mean, look, at the end of the day we as medical professionals, we know a tiny fraction of what the true truth is, in regard to anything in the world, right? Like, we have a tiny inkling as to how the body works. There’s so much we don’t know, right?
Dr. Fox: Right.
Dr. Baron: But that whole experience, just really elucidated that for me, like, nobody has any clue why I keep miscarrying at the same exact point, four pregnancies in a row. It felt like there had to be an answer. Surely there was an answer. But yet, it was beyond what medical science could offer at that point. And so, me standing up like, this is actually the first time I’m really thinking about it, but it’s something that’s been like…it’s clearly the piece that’s been driving me all of these years. But for me getting up and having that conversation, doing that talk was finally a time where I was able to take all of that horribleness and do something about it.
Dr. Fox: When you were still practicing medicine, you’re seeing patients and you’re going through this, obviously, your infertility, you were still seeing patients and going through it. And then you said it obviously, in the beginning, when you’re having the losses, at some point you stopped.
Dr. Baron: Right.
Dr. Fox: Did your patients know what was going on? Or was this sort of like just your secret?
Dr. Baron: During my losses, I was working as an attending hospitalist at Roosevelt Hospital, which means shifts work. And so I didn’t have consistent patients. And so they didn’t. But the staff did, and some people acknowledged it and tried to be supportive, but at the end of the day, I was taking care of babies. I was in the newborn nursery. I was in the neonatal intensive care unit. And I was covering the labor and delivery floors for high risk deliveries. I was taking care of babies, the very thing that I couldn’t see to turn. And so like after that second loss, I turned to my husband. I was like, “I’m not going back. I cannot set foot back in that hospital. I’m finished.”
Dr. Fox: Yeah, I mean, yeah, I mean, clearly, if you were a cardiologist who would be different, just you could separate your job from your grief, but here every time you go to work, it’s like your grief staring you in the face.
Dr. Baron: I’ve had patients who were 14 year old prostitutes delivering their third child. And I’m a woman who desperately wants like…okay, I have three kids at home, like, let’s call it what it is. But I was in a stable household environment and a loving family, had the financial and emotional wherewithal to have another child. And yet I couldn’t, like there was that discrepancy, also hitting me in the face over and over again with my work. And I was just like, “I’m out of here. I’m out here.”
Dr. Fox: If you don’t mind talking about your darkest moments when you’re in the middle of that, and it’s just…it’s gruesome, obviously, it’s just horrible. What was it? Was it this idea that, “My body’s failing me, like, there’s something wrong with me”? Or was it this idea that, “There’s something I want and I’m not able to get it”? Or is it the sort of more existential like, “Why is God doing this to me? Why is the world doing this to me?” I assume it’s a combination of those, but what was it that really was the hardest just to cope with?
Dr. Baron: Look, for me, it was very much the latter, very much the, I’m a good person, I try to be a good family member, a good community member, a good friend, I didn’t understand why…like, I felt like I was being punished, over, and over, and over, and over again. Like, I was having these bad outcomes that nobody could figure out. And it felt very personal. It felt like it’s me, it’s my body. We don’t understand this. You know, I’m a deep believer in religion, I’m a deep believer in God. And I do believe that there is this concept of, like we talked about, during the high holiday times, we talk about how God determines what your year is going to look like. And you know, there’s also this like, very simplistic concept of like, when you’re little, you learn this, like in kindergarten, like, “If you’re good, and you do lots of good deeds, then you will be rewarded. And if you’re bad, and you do bad deeds, that God will punish you.” Like, these concepts sort of stay with you. And I kept thinking to myself, and one year in particular, it was upon reflection, sort of at the end of the year, and I was thinking like, “Last year, at this time, God determined that not only would I carry one baby that would die, but I would have two babies that would die. Like, what did I do to possibly deserve this? Like, why? How?” It’s just, that was the piece that for me was the hardest, definitely.
Dr. Fox: Wow. What did it do to your marriage? If I could ask.
Dr. Baron: Thankfully, and I can’t…like I know so many other people that this is not the case. But thankfully, I would say that it made us stronger. But what I will say is that, thankfully, it didn’t affect it at all, in the sense that my husband very much was supportive, in whatever I wanted, and whatever I needed, and gave me the space or the wherewithal or the allowance to sort of do whatever that was. So like, there were weeks and months sometimes where I just like, didn’t leave our bedroom, except for, like, a doctor’s appointment or when my other children were not in school. And I just was home, and he would gently try to prod me and say, like, “Come on, like, let’s go out, let’s do this.” I’m like, “No, I’m not ready. I’m not interested. Leave me alone.” Or the…like at the times when we were thinking about do we try again, how should we try again? Should we see this doctor? Should we go to that doctor? Should we try? It was a conversation and we always communicated about it. But at the end of the day, he let me be. Like he gave me the allowance to do what I needed to do, to process, to grieve, and to do whatever was necessary to get through the different pieces of this. So thankfully, like I’m, so grateful because I hear of so many different situations where that’s not the case. But for us, it really…I’m just grateful to him in 1000 ways.
Dr. Fox: Do you feel that he handled his grief differently from the way you did or it wasn’t quite the same to him because it wasn’t his body failing, so to speak? Or it is just that you guys are different people? I’m just curious how because you guys are obviously processing it differently.
Dr. Baron: He was sad. But he got off and like, went to the synagogue that morning like and would go like, that day, those days, he would get up and go to work like two days later, like he went back to his life and kept on living while I stayed in bed. And I was actually grateful for that, like for sort of two reasons. One is that somebody needed to interact with the outside world when I couldn’t and wasn’t ready to. And we did have other children, and they needed playdates in school and all these other things. And so he took care of all of the outside stuff so that I didn’t have to deal with it. He definitely…like was he sad? Certainly. But he processed it differently. Like, did I see him cry at different points? Absolutely. But he didn’t grieve, outwardly in the way that I did.
Dr. Fox: Right. Tell me about your friend Rebecca.
Dr. Baron: Rebecca. Rebecca was the person who kept me sane. Rebecca was the only person who was able to keep me sane. Yes, my husband was obviously a very big support. But in terms of, you know…look, what I always say to people is, “You have to find a person, you have to find at least one person who you can unload to, who you can cry with, who you can just let it all out. And know that they will sit there and they will hold you and they will listen. And they will just let you be without judgment. And without any of these other pieces that come along with supporting someone.” She is the reason why I stayed sane. She was going through second trimester losses around the same time I was. And so we did that for each other. She was the only one who got it. And I always say, like I’ve said it already here, like she is the reason I stayed sane, somewhat sane, I should say.
Dr. Fox: Right, and was the relationship that you had with her sort of the impetus to start “I Was Supposed To Have A Baby”?
Dr. Baron: Yes and no. More of what the impetus was, frankly, you know, look, “I Was Supposed To Have A Baby” was the second foray for me into the Jewish nonprofit world, in the Jewish fertility space. You know, first, after I gave that talk to my synagogue, I was in touch with this woman named Reva Judas, who runs this organization called the Nechamacomfort, which is based in Northern New Jersey, and specifically deals with Jewish families or individuals who are struggling through loss, pregnancy loss. And I worked there for three years. And because that was really the bulk of my story, and did lots and lots of things and counseling, and social media, and fundraising, and speaking, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But over the course of those three years, what happened was, I started fielding lots and lots of phone calls about all aspects of fertility, not just pregnancy loss. So it was, you know, a mother calling and saying her daughter needs help because she thinks she needs to go through surrogacy, and someone else dealing with fertility treatments, and not sure if she should try this or try that or see this doctor or that doctor.
And then it was someone else who had multiple losses and was desperate for emotional support and wanted to be connected to more people. And then it was someone dealing with fostering like, I was just like…I was fielding with all of these different phone calls, I think because I’m a physician, so I have a different lens. And two, because the discussion around fertility in general in the Jewish community, and the community at large, has become much more accepted over the last number of years. And what I saw was that, like Nechamacomfort, there are lots of different Jewish organizations that are doing really great work on the ground. They either focus on one specific area of fertility, like the Nechamacomfort does in terms of the loss, or they’re in one geographic area, or they only give financial health, or they help with medical placement and medical advice. So they sort of have their own niches.
And at the same time, this incredible emergence of the discussion on social media about fertility challenges. I was actually just talking about her the other day. So Dr. Jessica Zucker who is a therapist, she’s a maternal mental health professional by training. And she’s also a reporter and a writer, she started the movement, “I Had A Miscarriage,” which is also a handle on Instagram, and thousands, and thousands, and thousands of people started to talk about their fertility experiences on social media. And what I then realized was, if I could create a space where all of these different issues could be addressed from an emotional standpoint, where…because the core of all of it is pain, people want to have a child or they want their family to be a certain size, and it’s not. And the core of that is pain. So if I could take that pain, and provide emotional support for these individuals and families on social media, in a way that none of these other organizations would do, and we’re doing already, then that was what I wanted to do with “I Was Supposed To Have A Baby.” So in some sense, you’re right, that it’s Rebecca’s emotional support of me, that gave me the fortitude to move on. And that’s what I hope that “I Was Supposed To Have A Baby” does for people. But it’s a little bit circuitous sort of how I got there.
Dr. Fox: Tell us about the organization. It is one long word, “I Was Supposed To Have A Baby,” you have a website, which is www.iwassupposedtohaveababy.org. And iwassupposedtohaveababy is your Instagram handle. And when did it start? What do you do? What’s your scope? Tell us about it.
Dr. Baron: It is meant to be a space on social media for anyone and everyone in the Jewish community who is struggling to have a child. And so if that’s because you’re going through infertility, classic infertility, whatever that means, if it’s because you’ve just lost a child, early miscarriage, stillbirth, infant loss, etc. If you’re exploring donor conception, egg donation, sperm donation, embryo donation, surrogacy adoption, fostering, whatever that is. And even like niches within that, if you’re not able to have a child now because of medical reasons, or because of financial constraints, or because of 1000 other reasons why you may not have the family that you thought you were going to have, the core of all of those pieces is pain, as I was just saying. And so what we do is we group all of those individuals together. And the most powerful way to reach people and to validate their experiences is really through stories and personal accounts. And so what we do is we take different topics, like we usually do a topic of the week, but it really varies depending on what’s going on in the calendar or what’s going on otherwise, in terms of the community at large.
So we’ll hit things like, let’s talk about Passover, and how you’re gonna feel being surrounded at a table by all of your relatives, obviously, we’re talking pre-COVID, post-COVID, I’m not getting into COVID, whatever it is. But like, when you’re surrounded by 30 of your relatives who are looking at your stomach and saying, “So no? No?” Like, “Where’s the grandchild?” And then we talk about holidays like Hanukkah and Purim, where so much of the celebration is centered on children, and you don’t have one yet or you just lost the child. But then there are the specific topics in fertility or loss that have nothing to do specifically with, like being Jewish or not being Jewish, but we may hit it from an angle that’s specific to the community.
So we’ve talked about male infertility, we’ve talked about endometriosis. We’ve talked about PCOS, we’ve talked about, like so many of these other medical pieces that have specific reverberations that are general for the general public, like male infertility. What does that do to a couple? How does the woman feel? How does the man feel? How does the woman feel because she has to go through treatment, even though it’s not her? Whereas the man, does it make him feel less than a man or how does he relate to it? Or do they go for sperm donation if he doesn’t have any sperm at all? Like there are so many different pieces that we bring into it? And sometimes we have a discussion that’s Jewish law based, because some people in the Jewish community do not feel comfortable using sperm donors and some do. You know, the conversation is open for any and all of those individuals. So that’s really the main premise of what the platform does. It’s the validation and resignation of people’s experiences. And the most powerful way to do it is through a story.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, I was gonna ask you because it is a Jewish organization. And I was gonna ask you about what themes count as specifically Jewish that you mentioned, but what is your guess of in terms of your the people who are active and following and participating their range of religious observance? Is it very wide? Or is it somewhat more narrow? What is your assessment of that?
Dr. Baron: We do these surveys every few months to get a handle on who the audience is. Right now I have something north of like, 8,500 followers. And whenever we do surveys like this, it’s about a quarter, maybe, somewhere between, like, a quarter and like 1/6th of the community that will actually answer. So like, I’m not sure that I’m getting an accurate representation of who the audience is. But I’ll tell you the numbers.
Dr. Fox: Sure.
Dr. Baron: The numbers are overwhelmingly that the community, at least the people that are responding, are orthodox. So two things about that. One is, look, this space itself is as pluralistic…like, it is a pluralistic space, it is meant for everyone and anyone in the Jewish community, whether you’re single, whether you have a partner, whether you don’t have a partner, whether it’s a same sex partner, whether you’re in a marriage or not in a marriage. So it’s meant to be for everyone, and we try to be as inclusive as possible. But after many discussions about this with Jewish community leaders and different people in different spaces in the Jewish community, what we’ve sort of come to the conclusion of is that if you’re not in the Orthodox space, and you’re struggling to have a child, and you’re reaching out for support, then you’re probably turning to secular organizations to give you that support, because your life in general doesn’t necessarily have a Jewish lens. And so therefore, why would you turn to a Jewish organization to provide you the support when you could get the support from anywhere else?
Whereas in the Orthodox community, overwhelmingly, the lenses are different. There are certain Jewish law constraints about the kinds of things that one can do, even medically in the fertility space, you know, there’s a concept of not spilling your seed. So for a man to ejaculate and not have an immediate receptacle, so to speak, of an egg. And because one of the testing that is really of primary importance, when a couple comes for infertility, is that sperm analysis, but there are a number of communities and a number of different laws, you know, rabbis in those communities, who will not allow the man to be tested, until everything on the woman is tested, because this is deemed as spilling seed.
So there are many different kinds of pieces that are specifically applicable to the Orthodox community within the realm of fertility, which makes this space appropriate for them. And it’s the first time that they’ve seen that they have this like space where they can talk about it. And so for them, it’s this like a revolutionary idea, “Wow, I can talk about this, I can get support, I can hear people who also are going through my thing, like I didn’t realize.” Like people don’t talk about this in the Orthodox space in general. And so that tends to be what the audience…that’s where the audience skews. But what I would say is, from an organizational perspective, and from my own personal perspective, I am doing everything possible to change that. And to reach out to as many different pieces of this community as possible, to let them know that we exist and that we’re here to support them. So we’re trying, but I can’t make them come.
Dr. Fox: So much of what you’re going to be discussing and addressing is universal, right. These are universal problems and issues and concerns and themes that are gonna be true across all people who are trying to have children. And so I imagine anybody on earth who’s struggling with these who comes to you is gonna find a lot of meaning in what’s there. But as you said, also there are specific concerns that are unique to certain communities. And there’s obviously, hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds, of communities out there. And so if this is a place where a specific community of Orthodox Jewish women and families can turn to for support related to them, then yeah, then it’s helpful. And so great. I mean, that’s how these things go, you can’t be everything’s everyone, obviously, you can’t be too narrow, you can’t be too broad, you have to sort of find that balance. But that’s interesting.
Dr. Baron: I do get often like very interesting direct messages, what we call them on Instagram equality, like I get messages that are of like two different varieties. So one variety is from a more closed sects within Judaism that say, like, and messages go something like, “Oh, my God, this is the first time I’ve ever spoken about this. I’ve never spoken about this in my life. Thank you so much like, this has been so enlightening. Oh, my God, oh, my God, oh, my God.” And then, all the way on the other side, I get the non-Jewish woman from Wisconsin, who says, “Wow, I never knew that all of these issues existed within the Jewish community. Thank you so much. Like so much of this, as someone who is a deep believer in my own religion, so much of this is applicable to me as well. And I thank you so much for having the space that we can have these conversations.” So I’m getting it from both sides, which is phenomenal.
Dr. Fox: Since you are a physician by training. I’m just curious, based on your experience, personally, as well as organizationally, where do you think medicine has gone wrong for women struggling with infertility and pregnancy loss? Other than we don’t know enough, that we don’t have answers?
Dr. Baron: Yeah, I mean, you took my answer away. So thank you.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, I mean, listen, we don’t, we don’t, we’re trying. But if that’s something that sort of it, that’s just the level of I mean, I have the conversation when it’s horrible. I say, “This is all we know in 2021 and I, hopefully, in 5, 10 years, we’ll know more, but we only know what we know.” So other than that, but in terms of just maybe, like, either attitude, or empathy, is there something that the medical field is doing right? And is there something that we’re not doing right?
Dr. Baron: You know, look what I from my own experiences, and also from, the thousands of people that I speak to nowadays, I, unfortunately, I often hear about the callousness in the medical community about loss, specifically, the, “It happens, try again, don’t worry about it, or it’ll just be like a little period, or a little heavier period, or it’s just a small procedure.” I hear a lot about those kinds of things as a physician, obviously, I understand that. Because when you’re dealing with 30, 40, 50 patients on a daily basis, and each of them are going through their own life experiences, it’s hard to be emotionally available and on for each of them as you’re going through your day. Like, it’s basically impossible.
But I think there can be the recommendations that if I was asked, and you’re asking me, so I’m sharing, I would just say that the one liners, the one or two liners of, you know, “I’m so sorry that this is happening. This is really terrible.” Like, the humanity that that my doctor showed to me, after I had a number of these losses, like at one point, he turned to me and he said, “Aimee, I know that you wanna have more children. But the pain of watching you go through this is almost too much for me, like I’m begging you not to try to get pregnant again.” That one line. I mean, this is years later now, that one line is the line that stuck with me. Because he showed his humanity in that piece where he really…yes, he deals with loss on a daily basis. And to go from a room where you’re delivering a bouncing baby to scraping out somebody’s uterus, after with a DNC, like it’s a horrific experience. And the shift in emotions is like something that, I don’t think anybody can really do well. But that one line is the piece that stuck with me, and I think that if anyone in the medical profession could just give that one line, it’s not gonna take away people’s pain, but at least it just meets them where you are, where they are.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, and in my experience and tell me if it’s been a different experience for you. And it has nothing to do with whether the doctor is a man or a woman. It’s just…
Dr. Baron: Right. Correct. Absolutely.
Dr. Fox: Some people have it. And some people don’t. Or, on a given day, like you said, someone’s having a good day someone’s having a bad day. It’s not related to sort of the, “I have been through this myself. So I know.” It’s just plain empathy, just straight up.
Dr. Baron: Absolutely. And you’re 100% right, like, some of the stories that I’ve heard the callousness and the cold, like the icy, icy cold are coming from women, like the women physicians, who are delivering this kind of news? Like it has nothing to do with gender, nothing whatsoever.
Dr. Fox: What has your experience been, I’m curious, with women of, let’s say, previous generations? Are you getting women who are coming on who are older, maybe not going through something now, but for the first time opening up about something that happened to them a long time ago that maybe they were discouraged from talking about? Or maybe they themselves didn’t wanna talk about?
Dr. Baron: Look, I mean, my platform, the “I Was Supposed To Have A Baby” platform is specifically Instagram. So…
Dr. Fox: Oh, okay, forget it. I got you.
Dr. Baron: No, no, no. Like I’ll answer but I’ll quit.
Dr. Fox: All right, I’m 46. And anyone m age or older, forget it, were out.
Dr. Baron: Look so, you know the answer. But we specifically…
Dr. Fox: All right, I couldn’t imagine my poor mom trying to do this. “What the hell? What is this?”
Dr. Baron: No, no, no, but look, we specifically chose Instagram, because that’s where this demographic is like, the 20 to 40 year old’s. The ones who are trying to have children, that’s where they are. And so that was chosen by design. Do I get the grandmothers? Do I get the sisters? Do I get the supportive ones? Yes, every now and then I do. And the response is always. “Wow, I wish I had something like this.” “Wow, thank you for giving me the tools to help my son, my daughter or my whomever.” “Wow, this is bringing up so much for me. And I don’t know what to do with it. But I’m just so glad that a space like yours exists.”
Dr. Fox: Right, and yeah, please start a periodical that you can mail to me and I’ll participate.
Dr. Baron: Right. Right. Pretty much, pretty much. Exactly.
Dr. Fox: What you are discussing and what women are telling is this something you think women should know about before they start having found this? I’ve been thinking about that a lot. It’s like all the horrible things that can happen and do happen. Like they’re very common. Is that something that you think it’s better off for someone to be sort of aware of all this before they start? Or is it better to just sort of like entered blissfully unaware and deal with it if it happens?
Dr. Baron: You know, speaking of callousness, like this comment, this is just reminding me, I once gave a talk. And there was a woman in the audience, a female ob-gyn in the audience. And after giving this like sensitivity and awareness talk she raises her hands and she said, “I don’t understand why we’re talking about this miscarriage happens in every one in every four pregnancies. So why is this newsworthy?” Like, it’s just, it’s a fact of life. I’m saying, I’m a physician. So I’m educated. I know the way my body works. I’m a big believer in preventative health and preventative medicine. And there are specifically in these closeted more closed closet communities, where, the first time they’re even hearing about the steps is basically, a few weeks before the wedding, and they’re sort of shoved into this situation, and like, are they getting pregnant? Or are they not getting pregnant? What’s happening? How is it working? Do they get periods? Do they not get periods? Like, conversations about bodies are not happening.
And so when, God forbid, when they do end up struggling with infertility, or they do have a loss, it’s this like, overwhelming crush of like, “My God, this must be like…I must be the only person going through this.” And so I am a big believer in preventative health and this education beforehand. In fact, one of the initiatives that we’re working on to develop like a pamphlet or a brochure for high school, college age, like pre-marriage individuals, specifically in those communities, it’s good because I think the rest of the community has more access to resources. But in those communities where like, do you know that your period is supposed to come down, 28 to 32 days? Are you doing anything about it? If it’s not, do you have any idea like… Knowing that miscarriage happens as often as it does, doesn’t make the loss feel any less overwhelming and horrible when it’s happening to you. But if you knew that it was a possibility, some of that shame and stigma, like some of that would disappear. So I am a big believer in this, like preventative education.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, I mean, I found in my own practice that with early pregnancy loss, because those are much more common, what you went through is very uncommon, and so much more striking. In the sense sort of, statistically, it’s so rare, and it’s which is obviously part of the reason no one can understand it. But when women have early pregnancy losses, it gets to be very precise with the messaging, because what we’re trying to convey, hopefully, is, on the one hand, “This is a loss, this is horrible, I’m so sorry, like, this is gonna cause you grief, this is gonna cause you pain, this is gonna cause you sadness,” and show empathy and caring. But you’re also trying to say, at the same time, “You shouldn’t feel, A, that this was your fault, or that there’s something wrong with you, or that somehow this is unusual that it only happens to you, or that you’re not gonna be able to have children.” And so it’s very important to separate those two messages, because sometimes when they get blended together. It says, “Oh, I’m so sorry. But don’t worry about it.” And like, “What? What are you talking about? Don’t worry about it? I just lost like a, like a pregnancy, it’s horrible.”
And so it has to be separated, you have to say, “This is a loss. This is horrible. This is painful.” And so what I say is, you should feel sad, but you shouldn’t feel guilty. And you shouldn’t feel hopeless, because that’s not the case right? And you have to be very…
Dr. Baron: I love that.
Dr. Fox: …you have to be very clear. Of those two messages are not the same. They’re touching on different aspects of this. There’s the emotional pain, which is real, and has to be validated and talked about. But then there’s sort of the prognosis, like what’s it gonna be, and what it’s gonna be is whatever you want it to be almost always, obviously, not everybody is fortunate enough. But basically, the odds are in everyone’s favor. And if we’re not clear about that, women take away very different messages from what we say,
Dr. Baron: I love that. I love the way like you juxtapose both of those pieces, because you’re giving legitimacy to the, it’s terrible. But it’s common. Look, at the end of the day, no matter how many times someone, you know, if anybody would have told me like, “Don’t worry, it happens one in four times,” which in my situation, obviously was not the case. But at the end of the day, like when it’s happening to you, it doesn’t matter if this is happening to millions of other people like it actually doesn’t matter. But somewhere in the recesses of your brain, you’ll be able to pick that out later. And hopefully use that and put that in a place so that you don’t carry the shame and the guilt with you. I love that. I love the way you did that.
Dr. Fox: Yeah. And one of the other unfortunate things, particularly with pregnancy loss more so I think than infertility is there’s so much garbage out there that makes women feel like they’re the ones who cause the pregnancy loss. Like this idea, if you have sex, you’ll miscarry. If you exercise, you’ll miscarry. If you go on a subway, you’ll miscarry. If you eat this or drink this, you’ll miscarry. And so all that happens is someone has a miscarriage and then they say, “All right, I did this 24 hours before, and this, and I did this. And is it because of this? Because of that?” And you have to like, get it out of their heads, like you didn’t do this. And I tell people, “You couldn’t cause this if you tried to cause it. Like it’s not possible.” But it’s just over and over. And I think that it’s part of the reason. People make fun of me because I’m so like laid back about when a woman’s like, “Can I do this?” I’m like, “Yeah.” “Can I do it?” “Yeah, it’s fine. No worries. Like, it’s all fine.” Because when you start telling people, “Oh, you can’t do this, you can’t do this, you can’t do this.” And these are normal things that people do, they really believe that if they do this and they miscarry, it’s their fault, which is just insane.
Dr. Baron: That’s one of the pieces that, you know, I don’t know how we’re ever going to get rid of that piece, right? Like, I mean, obviously on a one-to-one basis, having a physician like you who’s sharing this, like, you’re like you’re beating them over the head and saying, “It is not your fault, period, end of story. Like you could never have done this.” And yet, at the end of the day, I think it’s just the way the mind works. We put together these like temporal relationships, right? Like, “Well, yesterday I like ran three miles on the treadmill. It must have been because of that because it happens like today.” Like we do this in our mind, I don’t think there’s a way to take away that completely. But you’re right, we have to do whatever we can to try to just chip away a little bit at this piece.
Dr. Fox: Yeah, I mean, I suppose… I feel like, you know, Robin Williams from “Good Will Hunting,” I just say to all the time, “It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.” And I specifically tell them, I say, “You’ll remember very little from this conversation. Please remember one thing. Like one thing, you didn’t do this, it’s not your fault. There’s everything else we could talk about tomorrow again, because you won’t remember. But please remember that.” Wow. And I’m just curious, to wrap up, where are we improving? And what do we still have to improve on?
Dr. Baron: Look, you and I are having this conversation, this conversation certainly would not have happened 10 years ago, this conversation probably wouldn’t have happened 5 years ago. And maybe we would have had a different conversation a year or two ago and touching on some of these issues. But maybe not even the totality of all the things that you and I have spoken about. We are as a community, as a Jewish community, and also a community at large, we are getting much, much better at talking about hard things in regards to fertility. We are…you know, besides the TV shows, and the newspapers and the movies, and all of that, people are having these conversations on a more intimate basis now. And it’s easier to have those conversations because they’re happening communally. But as much as I say that, there’s still so much work to be done, there are still… look what I always say is that there’s a difference between privacy and secrecy. The people have a choice, you don’t have to share with everyone about your circumstance, about what you’re going through. But let that be your choice, as opposed to a communally imposed choice, that we can’t talk about these things. So we’re doing it, and we’re talking. But I think in some communities, it’s still not as accepted as it is in others. And so that’s where the work still needs to be done.
- Fox: Wow. Well, I’m glad you’re on the team. And I’m glad you’re doing what you’re doing. It is really important stuff. And I think that “I Was Supposed To Have A Baby,” is an amazing organization, I think you have a great Instagram, great website, I encourage all of our listeners to take a look whether it’s applicable or not applicable to you personally. Because if it’s not applicable to you, and you’re the fortunate one, it certainly is to a family member or a friend who is going through this or has gone through this. And there’s so much to learn about how we can support them, and also for those of us who are going through this, how we can help get support for ourselves. Aimee, thank you so much for coming on. I really appreciate it. It was great to talk to you.
Dr. Baron: Thank you. Look, I love these opportunities to talk about this work because this is the way communal conversation start, one person listens, and then you bring it up at the table. And that’s the way it starts, one person at a time. So thank you.
Dr. Fox: 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 informational 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 in “High Risk Birth Stories” have given their permission for us to share their personal health information.