Navigating Infertility As A Control Freak
By Elyse Ash
I’ve always been a control freak. Blame it on being the first-born. Blame it on genetics. But I’ve
always loved structure, order and organization, whether it be by lining up all my stuffed animals
as a 3-year-old or arranging all my apps by color as a 35-year-old.
These Type A inclinations have *mostly* served me well throughout my life. They gave me a
successful career in advertising, a beautiful home and most importantly…the smug, false sense
of security and misguided belief that I had complete control over my life.
As a young woman who grew up in an affluent suburb and never had to deal with any real
challenges or struggles, I naively and stupidly believed that you could out-work, out-train or
out-smart just about any problem that life threw at you. And then…infertility knocked me on my
smug, naive, privileged but…
Infertility popped up for my husband, Brad, and myself at the end of 2014; after two years of
marriage, we decided it was time to have a baby. So I did what any self-respecting Type A
person would do: I bought a bunch of ovulation predictor kits, pregnancy tests and a Basal Body
Thermometer and started obsessively tracking my temperature on the top-rated ovulation cycle
tracking app. I was going to proactively plan my way to pregnancy with the same rigor and
commitment with which I approached school and work. Month after month I’d track my
temperature, pee on sticks, go to fertility yoga classes and acupuncture…and month after month
And it took me to a really, really dark place. I was burning all my friendships to the ground. The
lack of control was changing my personality from a gregarious, fun-loving social butterfly into a
a shame-filled, frustrated, bitter woman who cried passing the baby section at Target.
I dug in my heels. The more I learned about infertility, the more ways I tried to control it. I figured
I just wasn’t drinking enough pomegranate juice. Eating enough pineapple core. I should be
taking Vitamin D supplements. I should cut out alcohol and caffeine. I should get a vaginal
steam. I should meditate. I should…I should…I should…
And I did. I did it ALL; everything I could to try to boost my odds of getting pregnant…but the
more I tried, the more frustrated I grew. It felt like I was studying for an exam every month and
failing again and again and again.
It wasn’t until our second appointment with our fertility doctor that we learned I had
endometriosis and that we’d need IVF to have a real chance at conceiving. It was such a
stressful, intense time and I felt so completely out of control that I decided to do something truly
insane: launch a new business.
I threw all of my emotional energy, stress and fear of the future into Fruitful Fertility, a
mentorship matching service that connects those struggling emotionally to conceive (cough,
cough…like myself) with someone who has been through a similar experience but is now on the
Even though launching Fruitful was a lot of work, it turned out to be an incredibly cathartic
experience. It was a way to take my pain, fear and anxiety and turn it into something that was
helping others. Turns out it was truly a great outlet for all my nervous energy, especially as we
geared up for our first frozen embryo transfer which ended up giving us our daughter.
Infertility was the hardest thing I ever experienced. And while it’s hard for EVERYONE who has
to go through it, sometimes I think it’s especially torturous for Type A people who are used to
seeing a direct correlation between effort and outcome. Infertility, this relationship doesn’t exist.
You can do everything “right” and still not have a baby…or conversely, you can be a 15-year-old
alcoholic, have sex one time and get pregnant with a perfectly healthy baby. There’s no rhyme.
No reason. And making peace with this is the only thing that makes any of it feel ok. Because
it’s NOT ok.
It’s deeply unsatisfying for people like me who do everything by the book and want to get
rewarded for it. But that’s just not how infertility works. It’s deeply unfair. Unjust. Ridiculous. It
makes me want to call up God or The Manager of The Universe and complain. “Excuse me…my
friends and I here are doing everything right! WHERE ARE OUR BABIES!?!?” But nothing is
owed to us.
All we can do is count our blessings. Breathe. Write. Talk to our friends and loved ones (or at
least the ones who don’t say crap like “Just relax!”). Garden. Bake. Take walks. Find a great
therapist. Sing at karaoke night. Travel. Create our own blogs and side projects. We have to put
all that energy and anxiety into *something.* So find what feels good to you. Whether it’s a new
project, a new puppy or a new hobby. All we can do is do what feels good and live our lives.
Because there’s no shortcut or hack or trick to beat infertility. Believe me. I’ve looked…
Elyse Ash is the founder and CEO of Fruitful Fertility. To learn more about Fruitful’s mentorship
program for women experiencing infertility, visit www.fruitfulfertility.org. You can follow Fruitful
Fertility on Instagram at @fruitful_fertility.