Shine is a tremendous community resource for those facing fertility challenges. It is one of the most stressful life events that women, men, and couples face and there are few resources to help. Founder Katie O’Connor has created a unique space for all those affected by fertility challenges to gather and to empower themselves and connect with one another so that the suffering associated with fertility challenges is no longer in silence. Katie brings firsthand knowledge and experience to the organization and has the right balance of sensitivity and knowledge needed to effect positive change.
Shine is a wonderful resource for fertility issues. I found it to be a truly positive group, while experiencing mostly negativity and discouragement as I entered into treatment. It was really wonderful to talk with women who understood what I was going through, and who had the same frustrations and determinations as me. Additionally, I found that collaborating with others provided me with exceptional resources. There is so much information out there, and it really helped to find who and what had made a difference to other group members on their own journeys. Katie provided excellent speakers that spent time answering complex questions that my providers hadn’t. Ultimately, I did find a path to motherhood and am so grateful for the support of Shine.
When things got really hard with our fertility challenges and we decided to move forward with medical intervention, it made such a difference knowing that I wasn’t alone, that there were women right here in Chicago that were like me and really could “get” it. Friends and family tried to be supportive, but it was hard to let them in. Joining Shine provided an instant safe and caring community for connection during the ups and downs of fertility treatments. I gained so much from hearing from other women going through similar struggles. I maintained hope by witnessing the success stories of women who stuck with it and finally got what they worked so hard for. I got some good laughs on the absurdities we experienced on our journey. I became more compassionate towards myself, my husband, and others about just how taxing fertility challenges can be. I was so glad to have Shine there when things didn’t go the way I wanted them to in our first round of treatments.
Katie’s passion and dedication to Shine is undeniable. She struck the perfect balance of being appropriately positive and encouraging while sharing valuable insights and knowledge as our facilitator during our meetings. She was open to hearing our ideas on what would be most helpful to us and quick to act to draw on her impressive network to bring our ideas into reality. I felt supported by her and by the organization through the resources made readily available to us as well as the warm, uplifting, and down-to-earth energy at meetings.
I am grateful for the support I felt during my time as part of Shine. I continue to feel helped out through the various resources and partners recommended to Shine “graduates.” Because of the overwhelmingly positive experience I have had with Shine, I have sought out several of those resources with great confidence, and they have exceeded my expectations and offered much help.
Shine served as both my unofficial and official welcome into the infertility community. Upon first contacting Katie about the meetings, I was worried about anonymity, as I hadn’t yet shared my struggle with anyone. Katie helped me feel 100% safe and welcome and I attended meetings throughout my treatments. When a cycle was not successful, Shine meetings were a safe place to vent and find support. Katie was there for me 100%, even when I fell off the radar after a particularly difficult time and three of the group members have become good friends. I have recommended Shine as a place of support and education for those struggling with fertility. Thank you Shine!
A year after getting married my husband I decided we were ready to have children. I was 28 at the time and since my mom had gotten pregnant easily in her late thirties I thought that within a few months we would be pregnant. Eight months later (and many doctors appointments in between) I was diagnosed with PCOS and we started down the path of fertility treatments.
Part way through this process my husband and I relocated from NYC to Chicago. Going through the process is very trying – both physically and emotionally – and doing it in a new city without many friends or family was even harder. After another failed round of Clomid and a few teary days, I decided I needed to find a greater support system. I started searching for fertility support groups in Chicago and found Shine. I emailed Katie to introduce myself and get more information and she immediately gave me hope that my story would have a happy ending. Katie has an energy and optimism that is contagious and since she has herself been through the same struggle she knows exactly how difficult it can be.
I looked forward to every Shine meeting that I attended. Katie found the perfect balance of providing us all with relevant, important information and also time for talking among ourselves. There is something very comforting in talking to someone else who knows how difficult what you are going through is. In addition to the meetings, I found a friend in Katie. She checked in with me every step of the way to see how it was going and offer words of encouragement. Finding Shine was such a blessing at such a difficult time.
We were very fortunate to get pregnant from our first round of IVF. I had my son Charlie earlier this year and he has brought me more happiness than I thought possible. I can’t imagine my life without him now, but I also know that I wouldn’t have made it here without the help of some wonderful doctors and the support of groups like Shine and the wonderful women I met there.
You know how they say, “When you want something so bad, just keeping thinking about it and pray, and it will happen?” Yes, well, that doesn’t work in every situation.
When it comes to having the baby, you actually get the opposite advice. “Don’t think about it. Focus on something else. When you don’t think about it, it will surprise you.” Yeah right. I’d hear that and think, “Are you serious?” It’s ALL I can think about…how can I escape it? Everyone else is having children and for some reason, I can’t. And, even when I don’t try to think about it, it STILL doesn’t happen.
Welcome to what goes on in an infertile mind. Having a baby becomes the one thing you want so very badly and still stays out of reach. Every thought goes through your mind…is it me? Is it him? What have I done in my life where I have become undeserving or unworthy of being a mother? Am I too old? The list goes on. For the woman that can easily get pregnant, she cannot understand or empathize with a woman that is constantly told, “It’s a negative,” when she tries so hard to get there. This woman begins to feel alone. Like no one understands her struggles. This woman was me.
I was in my mid 30s. I would constantly get comments from friends, family, even clients, asking when are you having kids? That is probably the most insensitive question anyone can ask a woman in her 30s. Unless she’s actually come out to say she doesn’t want them, you cannot assume she hasn’t tried. The ignorant questions and comments always took me to a sad place where I’d cry the minute I was alone.
My struggles started at the age of 30. We were married when I was 29 and he was 34. When I turned 30, we decided we would try but we were in no hurry. So, we tried. And nothing. And nothing. And nothing. That continued for about 2 1/2 to 3 years. We kept track of ovulation, our diets, exercise, even stress levels. Still nothing. So, we started getting concerned and decided to reach out to a fertility specialist. I was 33. We did 3 IUIs, and though our hopes were high, they were shot down each time. Then, we switched to IVF, which we knew would be a much harder journey. But, we wanted a child so badly. So, we did it. Wow, the number of shots and meds were so overwhelming!!!! Not to mention the hormone changes and emotional breakdowns. What did we sign up for??? Needless to say, after all the ups and downs with that first IVF, we were devastated when we got a call saying, “You’re not pregnant.” We tried again. I got pregnant but I miscarried on my own. We tried again. I got pregnant. But, no heartbeat at 7 weeks. At this point, I was so deflated, weak, and questioned everything. I can honestly say I was depressed. It wasn’t just the negative news I kept getting, but it was the build up of the work involved prior to getting the bad news too. The efforts never paid off.
That’s when I was introduced to Shine by a girlfriend of mine who was friends with the founder. She said it was a support group for infertility, where there would be other women there that would understand what I was going through. I was at an all time low, so I figured I would have nothing to lose.
When I went to my first meeting, I met other women that were at different stages of their journey. But, this was a place where I found myself finding it easy to finally release and cry in front of women I didn’t know about my struggles. And, they understood. And cried with me. It was a venue where I could mourn for my past losses and cry for my helplessness of going forward. I wanted to give up, but leaving these meetings, I knew I couldn’t. Katie keeps these meetings casual, but she brings in fabulous speakers and educators too. In fact, I met my fertility doctor who I found success with through Shine. She was a frequent speaker.
Katie became a personal friend. She genuinely cares about the members individually. Being that she had gone through struggles herself, she is empathetic towards each woman in the group. She would always reach out to help. And, that’s what I needed. Someone who knew the RIGHT thing to say and someone who knew exactly what I was going through. Katie knew I had 2 more IVFs that went very wrong. But, the 6th time was a charm. And, she and I got together and cried happy tears over it. 6 years of struggles got us to a pregnancy with twin girls, which we just introduced into the world on 10/6/14.
Thank goodness for people like Katie and for organizations like Shine. Infertility is certainly prevalent in today’s world, but it’s not always talked about. I felt less of a woman by not being able to conceive. And, I didn’t know who to talk to about it. Because other women didn’t truly understand. Shine gives women an environment where they don’t have to be embarrassed or feel less of themselves when the topic can be so openly discussed and resources can be provided to get these women refocused and back on track.
I am thankful I was introduced to Shine. It made me realize I wasn’t alone.