If there is one thing we can all agree on, it’s every parenting journey is truly unique and it doesn’t always come easy. When you’re at the point where you want to start having kids (or add more to your roster), you’ll realize the path to baby isn’t linear. Whether you conceived on your own, through fertility treatment, or pursued adoption, we want to highlight the different paths families take while on this journey of a lifetime.
We sat down with Jennie Monness, CEO of beloved blog Mo’ Mommies and founder behind Union Square Play, the premiere play space in the heart of NYC. She walked us through her IVF journey and some of the bits of wisdom she’s learned about herself and the power of patience.
Tell us about yourself.
I have studied and worked in early childhood for about 12 years. My first job was teaching English to 18-24 month old native Mandarin speaking children, helping to prepare them for entrance to the most prestigious schools in NYC. I then became the Educational Director of several early childhood centers for 8 years, creating programs that used research-based best practices. About 2 years ago, I decided to take a decades worth of knowledge in early childhood education, and share my learnings with new parents to educate and empower them through my blog Mo’ Mommies. I now teach classes, lead moms groups, speak at events, and use social media, to provide timely information about my own parenting and toy recommendations that new parents deeply need and desire.
My aim has been for moms to connect, support and empower one another, and to learn how to allow their child to play in the most enriching way. I quickly discovered that I needed a physical space to truly bring all of this to life in person and to bring all of these moms together. So when I met a mom in one of the classes I was teaching at the time, and she said she was starting a play space under her Kellogg’s restaurant, I knew it was meant to be. So I am now a co-owner of Union Square Play, where I get to bring these ideas to life through developmental, sensory, music and creative classes in addition to a thoughtful open play space. My methods center around open-ended play materials and objects, so that babies can be engaged rather than entertained, creating their own “curriculum” and learning in the most natural, innate way.
Walk us through your IVF journey.
I remember hearing that once you want to have a baby it goes from 0 to 100 really quick. That’s what my relationship was like with infertility. Starting at a 0 anxiety level and that I was in no real rush, I went off of birth control in November 2015. My husband is younger than me and he was nervous and not totally “ready.” So, I told him we could wait but that first I needed to know that we didn’t have any issues getting pregnant, as I wanted to stay at 0. I was 32 and slightly hesitant about waiting and having a potential issue. So, I got checked and he did too. Sure enough, we found out there were some issues. We were told that we could still get pregnant naturally but that it may take a bit longer. This is when it went from 0 to 100 for me. I soon felt that I couldn’t get pregnant quickly enough and I needed it to happen yesterday. We gave it five months and nothing happened. We decided that with no real remedy for our “subtle” issues, we should visit a fertility doctor. The doctor told us he’d try an IUI. Two failed IUI’s later we decided to move onto IVF. I remember one doctor telling me “you decide how fast you want to ride this train” and I jokingly told my mom, I wanted the freaking ACELA express.
I spoke to a close friend who had done IVF and asked her for advice as I stepped into this uncharted territory. She told me that before I start the process of IVF I should ask for a saline sonogram. I humored her and asked my doctor for one. I got the saline sonogram and the results showed that I had a septate uterus and needed a surgery called a hysteroscopy. Feeling so impatient and as if time was running out, I had to postpone our IVF process for this surgery. Once the hysteroscopy was done, we started egg retrieval. After retrieval and ICSI, we had created successful embryos and were lucky enough to get plenty. We were hopeful and excited for our first transfer. It failed. The same friend who advised me to ask for a saline sonogram mentioned a reproductive immunologist. Due to a family history of immunological issues, we made the tough decision to postpone our next transfer until I visited this reproductive specialist. I couldn’t get an appointment right away so this would mean about a two month delay in this process that couldn’t happen quickly enough. Against everything I felt in my heart, my head told me that I needed to do this, and give this next shot everything I could. Finally, I had my blood appointment, where they had to take a ton of blood and a few weeks later, he put me on a protocol of steroids, blood thinners and intralipids. My next transfer was a success and I was pregnant by March of 2017.
What advice would you give to other parents who are starting their IVF journey?
Be your biggest advocate and never give up. Our journey would have taken some couples years, but because I asked for specific things, early on, and had an incredible support person to tell me what to advocate for, my process took us just a year. No matter how many delays and disappointments there were, I just kept trying and kept going. Although a year seems like an eternity during this process, I got through it knowing that by being my biggest advocate, I was already advocating for my future child and moving closer and closer to becoming a mom.
What do you wish you knew about IVF before you started?
Infertility let me know that there are some things that I can’t control. I’ve lived my entire life mapping out when and how things were going to happen and they always seemed to fall into place. Infertility taught me that, just like I anticipate motherhood being, life isn’t always happening according to plan. I’ve learned to accept that and felt stronger and more ready to become a mom because of it. So I guess I wish I knew and trusted that this was all part of the plan instead of trying to fight it.
Why did you start Mo' Mommies?
I first started the blog, Mo’ Mommies at around 9 months pregnant with my first child. I realized that with all of my experience, there were going to be many things that would come more naturally to me. I wanted to share my knowledge and guidance with other moms as a resource, while also going through it alongside them. At first, the blog was a way of showing what I was doing with my young baby to encourage curiosity and confidence in her through open ended play. Then, once I became a mom myself, I quickly realized how none of us are immune to the overwhelming feeling of becoming a mom and not knowing what to do at times. Even me who thought I knew it all! So my blog turned into an honest and open account of motherhood in addition to being a resource on play. A Mo’ Mommies mom tribe was formed via instagram, moms that all felt similarly about thoughtful, intentional play and just being real about motherhood.
What advice do you have for parents who need a cheerleader?
Find your tribe. If you can’t, then create one! We have the ability now to connect with others and its absolutely crucial for support, empowerment, and sanity!