Don’t suffer in silence: Infertility and loss

It’s more common than you think. 

Experiencing infertility and loss can be isolating, frustrating and lonely. It doesn’t have to be. 

We hear you. We see you. We are with you.



Nicki Kirlin, Jenna Fortinski


Jenna Fortinski  00:00

Welcome back. Yes, welcome. How are you doing, Nikki?


Nicki Kirlin  00:04

I’m pretty good. I just finished my first course first official course for the program.



Yes. Congratulations,


Nicki Kirlin  00:15

I think is a huge accomplishment. So thank you.


Jenna Fortinski  00:18

Yeah, it’s fantastic. And how did you do?


Nicki Kirlin  00:21

I think I did pretty well, better than what I was anticipating. So it was it was actually a really, it was a really fascinating experience, not only because of the content, of course, but because doing a program that’s solely online is always interesting. It makes for a different experience, I think. So it was quick, like it was 10 weeks of very intense study. So it was awesome. So I feel very, I feel very accomplished that that is over now. And now I’m already starting on to the next course started today, which is a Monday, and we’re already rolling into the next one right away. And in this one, I’ll be short, it’ll be I think it’s five weeks, this next one.


Jenna Fortinski  01:04

So that’s incredible. Yeah. Congratulations. I think that that’s such an accomplishment. And you must feel so proud to finally get this ball rolling for yourself and to see that your hard work is paying off.


Nicki Kirlin  01:16

Yes, exactly. Yeah. And that’s, you know, part of the journey is just getting your head back into that space again. So, yeah, no, it was it was a feat for sure. So thank you and you, how are you doing with your work?


Jenna Fortinski  01:27

I’m doing well. busy at work, which is good. And it’s nice to see that people are reaching out and getting the support that they need. I’m hearing lots of clients are reporting that their insurance companies are finally getting more on board with, you know, allocating more benefits to people’s packages for mental health supports. I’m very how really are that? Yeah. Oh,



that’s awesome.


Jenna Fortinski  01:52

So I think it’s, it’s nice for clients to know that they have the option to to get more sessions in through their benefits. So that’s really nice to hear that


Nicki Kirlin  02:02

people feel more secure with being able to access that support so well. And it’s great for people who are maybe diving into that field for the first time, right? Like if they’ve never sought out that kind of help before. And now this is their first time doing it. It’s a great sort of vote of confidence to know that okay, like this is this is covered. And yeah, if I need the support, I know I can easily access it. And finances are not something that I have to worry about and doing it


Jenna Fortinski  02:28

right. Exactly. Yeah. It’s been a long time coming. And so finally, the insurance companies are getting up to speed with with the private world here in Alberta. So that’s nice to see. Yeah, that’s great. Yeah. So,



so today, we


Nicki Kirlin  02:43

have a not so fun topic.





Nicki Kirlin  02:46

We’re going to be discussing infertility and loss.



Yes. Which is


Jenna Fortinski  02:54

very, very, very common.


Nicki Kirlin  02:55

Yes. And I think that’s probably something that we want to say as a sort of disclaimer Is that likely most folks that are listening, have probably, you know, if you’re in if you’re in that journey of hoping to conceive or going through loss that know that you’re not alone, and that probably most folks have experienced it in some shape or form.


Jenna Fortinski  03:22

Yes. including both of us. Yes, that’s right. So we both have gone through our own losses. And yeah, I think I’m definitely reaching that point in my life where I know more people that have struggled, yes. Then that habit? Absolutely. So. So yeah, so definitely echoing what Nikki said that you’re not alone. And I know the official stats say it’s one in four. But I would really like to, yeah, that’s probably not accurate. I think it’s much higher, I think so to Azure. Probably part of the reason of that is what we’ll be talking about today is the stigma and and people probably not wanting to talk about it as much so. But yeah, I think the message right out of the gate is that you’re not alone. And hopefully, this episode will speak to you and hopefully give you the courage that you need to continue.


Nicki Kirlin  04:19

Yes, absolutely. Okay, so, as we always do,





Nicki Kirlin  04:25

Let’s start off by talking about what is infertility and loss.


Jenna Fortinski  04:31

So for this episode, we are talking about difficulty with either trying to get pregnant or trying to conceive. And when we’re talking about loss, we’re talking about losing a pregnancy at any stage. So that’s just specific for this episode. That’s not a general definition of what’s out in the world. I just want to be clear about what we’re talking about specifically here today. So it encompasses the emotional and physical toll of going through either trying to conceive or suffering a loss. Okay.


Nicki Kirlin  05:04

And I think that’s fair. That’s a it’s a sort of general definition, which I think is perfect for the purposes of our conversation. And anybody who’s in this journey knows that there’s a lot of language around trying to conceive and experiencing a loss. So, okay, so who does it usually affect when it does happen? Either the infertility piece or the last piece?


Jenna Fortinski  05:27

Well, definitely, it’s both men and women, so or, depending on what the situation is both partners in the relationship. And I think part of this episode will be me really speaking to, you know, that there’s two people in the process, typically, in most cases, and just really advocating for both people that are involved in that process to to get the support they need, and to work through all the struggles.


Nicki Kirlin  05:54

And I’m glad that you’re acknowledging that because I think, in a lot of cases, the partner or the person who, you know, if we’re talking about a loss, specifically, the person who isn’t going through the loss per se, in a physical sense, or physiological sense, often gets forgotten about, they have the role, a lot of the times of playing, being a supporter, you know, holding that sort of strong ground for the person who is experiencing the physical sort of physiological piece of



it. Yeah.


Nicki Kirlin  06:24

So let’s talk a little bit about that.


Jenna Fortinski  06:27

Yeah, I think that goes also for trying to conceive. Right, is that Yeah. And so I think in both situations, whether it’s trying to conceive or, you know, suffering a loss, the partner often, yeah, does have that assumed responsibility of caring for the one that’s struggling, or the one that’s going through that, yeah, physical piece, like you said, but I think it’s very important that we talk about that, we know both parties are suffering, right. And, you know, like suffering in different ways, maybe the same ways. But just know that there, there is a lot of emotional toll that goes on for both parties that are involved, when this stuff is happening. So to really make sure that, you know, we’re, we’re having conversations and that were key, you know, touching base with each other to check in with our feelings, and, and to acknowledge that we both have feelings about the situation. So really, making sure that it’s not just one person that’s focused on that you both have a role in it, you have a role in either trying to conceive, and you know, like, just really trying to connect with each other throughout the whole process, so that one doesn’t get left behind.


Nicki Kirlin  07:46

And I think that’s, I’m just reflecting as you’re talking, and I’m thinking that that’s so important, because a lot of the times when this happens, the two people in that situation can be at different places, right? Yeah. Like if you are, whether whether you’re struggling to conceive, or whether if you have conceived in any way experienced a loss. Sometimes one person is like, okay, like, I’m ready, like, Let’s do this again, let’s try again. And the other person is like, nope, like, I


Jenna Fortinski  08:15

am so not ready for that yet. Right?


Nicki Kirlin  08:17

So how do you sort of when you’re working with clients, who are maybe seeing you for support in that situation? What what’s your advice to them? How do they? How do they work through that?


Jenna Fortinski  08:27

Well, I think that’s where, like, the communication is so important, and, you know, communicating as soon as you’re able to, and I think just really being easy on each other, and understanding that it is a very high emotional place to be. So understanding that there’s gonna be times for having difficult conversations and times that we kind of need to table it and set it aside to maybe go back to it at a different time. So being easy with each other first is understanding, you know, most importantly, that you both are suffering, you both are highly emotional. And then when there is that little bit of a disagreement, you know, it’s, it’s okay to talk it out and, and to, you know, plan times to have those conversations, so that, you know, one party isn’t taken off guard, and you both have time to reflect on what it is that you want to communicate to your partner and come up with a plan together. And, you know, like, the other pieces is that because it is a highly emotional place to be and it can be a difficult conversation, then reach out for support, you know, it’s not expected for you to just do it by yourself. And, and again, I think that goes back to the stigma as well as that, you know, like we have to suffer in silence and that’s not the case. And, you know, oftentimes when couples come to me with infertility issues or after suffering a loss, you know, just having that third person in the room to navigate the conversation helps so much. And yes, you may have been together for a long time, you may know each other the best but just having that outside voice to really help each other feel heard. Heard is so valuable, and really helps to bring the emotions to a place where you can be heard and validated. And you can hear your partner and validate your partner as well. I think


Nicki Kirlin  10:11

that’s really, really solid advice. Because, you know, making time and making that a priority is hard to do. Right, especially when you’re in the throes of, you know, going through that process, it’s difficult to set aside that, that really critical time to check in with one another, and to have those really good, hard, very hard conversations. Right. So I think that’s awesome advice. Yeah. So should we talk then a little bit about? What, what does it look like when somebody experiences a loss? Or when they are struggling with infertility? How does how does it affect a person?


Jenna Fortinski  10:48

Well, like I said, it’s a highly, highly, highly emotional place to be. So you know, oftentimes, I hear feelings, and I felt myself feelings of loneliness, regret, frustration, depression, anxiety, disappointment, you know, disappointment in my body, or just feeling like, you know, how come? How come this couldn’t happen? Or why is this happening to me again, you know, all those thoughts and just confusion, and, you know, thoughts of desperation, and, and feeling like, you’re never going to get what you’ve always dreamed of. Yeah. So that, again, it’s just such a highly, highly, highly emotional place to be, and, you know, so in combination with all those emotions, we know that there’s also a physical toll that comes along with it, right. So you’re going to be exhausted, you’re going to be feeling like you can’t be productive, you can’t concentrate, you’re going to be distracted, you’re going to be probably quick to anger, quick to frustration. So everything is just so heightened that your body is going to find a way to compensate and start to shut down on you in certain ways, right? So there definitely is that physical and emotional piece to it.


Nicki Kirlin  12:02

And it’s crazy, too, because I mean, while you’re going through this process, you know, if you are trying to conceive, and you’re having difficulties, or if you’ve gone through loss, you’re expected to like you were saying before, in a sense, sort of suffer in silence are expected to just journey on with your life everyday as if nothing else is going on. Right? Like you, you know, you’ve got your daily stressors as it is, with your family with your work, or whatever commitments you have. And then you’ve got this other piece, it’s sort of in the back of your brain, that’s always there. Right. And so it’s so challenging to, you know, deal with that in a sense and still move on in your life on a daily basis. So I think, you know, how you said about suffering and silence is so key, because it is that’s, that’s what it feels like. And it’s a it is a very lonely experience.


Jenna Fortinski  12:54

I think, also, what makes it even worse, nowadays is social media. Right? So this is the conversation that I have often with my clients is, you know, if somebody is struggling with infertility or a loss, they always say to me, Well, how come my friend is getting pregnant? Or she got pregnant? So easy? Yeah, and all my friends are getting pregnant, and I’m not. So social media is such a curse In this sense, because it really gives people only one side, one side, what’s happening in people’s lives. So you know, just the same as people don’t know that you’re suffering, they probably don’t want to share that they have suffered, or, you know, like, it’s been hard for them, it doesn’t matter. Everybody has their stories. So just because we’re seeing beautiful pictures on on social media, and we’re seeing these beautiful announcements, it doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a struggle behind that. And if there wasn’t, that’s okay, too, right. So just be easy on yourself and be easy with your own expectations of yourself and your body and your partner. All of those things, because social media can really just put us in such a dark place because it’s so filled with pressure. Absolutely. Yeah. I’m


Nicki Kirlin  14:09

so glad you brought that up. Because I think that’s very, very important. It is something that we’re absolutely faced with on a daily basis. And it can it can become overwhelming to have those constant reminders of everybody else’s success. Right. So yes. So we you know, we’re kind of talking about this peace around suffering and silence and the stigma of shame that comes with infertility and loss. Why Why does that exist? Well,


Jenna Fortinski  14:40

so that’s a loaded Yeah, exactly. So I think like, like we said, is that you know, it is it is such a highly emotional place to be so I think inherently that makes people not want to talk about it because it is hard to talk about. Another piece that comes up for me is, you know what, I’ve heard so many times from clients and And also what I’ve thought in my lifetime, too is, you know, your whole life, you’re told that it’s so easy to get pregnant and to be careful. And you could get pregnant just just by one time, one time you can get pregnant. And, you know, like, that’s, that’s not the case for probably 90% of the population, if not more, right? So I think then therein lies the stigma of while I was told this is the case my whole life. And now my body’s not doing that. So what’s wrong with me? Right? So then there’s that message that there is something wrong with you, because it’s not happening right away. So I think that that’s part of the stigma as well. And I think the other pieces is that we’re afraid to talk about it, because people don’t know what to say,



Mm hmm.


Jenna Fortinski  15:52

And people don’t know how to respond. And oftentimes, when we do talk about it, we get responses that are not helpful, right?


Nicki Kirlin  16:02

So what what is your advice? And what how do you how do you navigate that conversation if somebody has shared that they’re struggling with infertility, or they’ve or they’ve experienced a loss?


Jenna Fortinski  16:12

So what I, what I need people to remember, and I say this a lot is that, you know, I’ve gone through a few years of school, to learn how to respond, and I still struggle with how to respond. And I’ve also experienced it, right, yeah, I’ve experienced it, you know, difficulties to conceive. And I’ve also experienced loss. And so I still struggle with what to say. So in saying that, listen,


Nicki Kirlin  16:40



Jenna Fortinski  16:42

Just listen, and just empathize. So just saying, I can’t imagine how difficult that would be. Or I can’t imagine how hard this is for you. I’m here for you. What do you need from me? What can I say to help you? So even just asking the person that’s sharing with you? What can you say? Or what can you do? That’s okay, it’s okay to, to just be there in that moment with a person. So stay in that muddy, yucky, gross feeling with them. Don’t try to shift out of it, don’t try to make it better. If somebody is sharing something that intimate with you. And they’re, you know, sharing that highly emotional place with you just sit there, just be with them. And you know, like, even offer to hold a hand or to give a hug, or, or just, you know, if you’re on the phone or over zoom nowadays, right? You just sit there with them. And you know, just be in that moment with them. That is that goes such a long way, such a long way. And you know, like we are quick to try and make it better so that we can make them feel better make ourselves wetter and just make the moment go away. Yes. But you don’t like there’s, there’s such a connection in just sitting in that moment with that person. And letting them say what they want to say?


Nicki Kirlin  18:00

Well, and especially because we don’t have space to just talk about it. Yeah, right. Like, it’s not, I think it’s getting better. Like I think there’s, there’s a lot more of a conversation happening now moreso than there’s ever been, from folks sharing their experiences, but it is, it’s still something that we don’t talk about very often. So I think just having this space to be able to talk about it in any in any way. Whatever that looks like, is so critical. So that’s fantastic advice.


Jenna Fortinski  18:30

And I also think that if you are someone that has experienced a loss, and you are sharing with a friend, and you get that response of well, at least you know, you can get pregnant. You know, just to say to that person, say, you know what, actually, that’s not really helpful. I just need you to listen, yeah. So you know, it’s okay to guide people and to let people know, and give them that feedback that, you know, that’s not the most helpful thing to say, so that they don’t say it to other people, and that they’re also learning in that moment, too. So we need to be open and gentle with each other in terms of feedback. And, you know, just really staying in that tough moment with that person. And in that, again, there’s such a beautiful connection that’s built, right. And it just really helps to, to alleviate the person that suffering of their ills and ailments, and also the person that’s listening, it just offers them more insight into that relationship.


Nicki Kirlin  19:24

Yeah. Yeah, I think that’s really important. Because it is it’s a, it’s, it’s a, it’s such an intimate experience. Right. And I think that’s why it’s so emotionally charged is because it’s something typically relationship that you don’t really talk about, you know, so the subject matter itself is already really intimate. So if somebody is being vulnerable, and sharing that then it’s it’s a, it’s important that we respond in an appropriate way. And I think the advice that you’ve given is great because it’s easy, and it’s simple. Yeah, right. Just listen, just be there for the person and that’s all that counts. At the end of the day, and if you’re not sure, ask


Jenna Fortinski  20:02

Yes, yeah. Right. So if you’re just in that moment where you’re just flabbergasted, and you never would have imagined that, you know, your bestie is telling you this after you’ve been best friends for however long, right? Just ask them, Hey, what do you need? Right? And I’m here for you. So those little sentiments go a long way in these situations.


Nicki Kirlin  20:22

So what are some of the options that we have to support? If we’re a person that’s going through it? Either the infertility piece or a loss? What are some of the options that we can think about to support ourselves?


Jenna Fortinski  20:35

Well, I really think like, first of all, I really want to encourage people to advocate for themselves, like here in Alberta, you know, we have a great medical system, you know, we’ve got free health care, unless you’re going through infertility treatments, and there are some costs that are associated with that. A lot of costs. Actually, I shouldn’t say some, yes, just to be honest. But you know, like, I think I really want to encourage people to advocate so now is not the time to just, you know, sit back and, and wait for things to happen. I really want you to advocate for yourself. So if you are confused, or you’re not sure, or you’ve talked to the doctor, and you didn’t really get the message that you wanted, call back, ask more questions, it’s okay to do that. That’s what they’re there for. So a lot of the times that I’m talking with clients, they’re like, well, I talked to the doctor, and I’m not really sure what they meant by this. So please call back, get that clarity, get the answers that you need, and push the system and, and you know, they’re there for that. And, you know, so please utilize that outlet, so that you can get the information that you need. The other thing is is is to focus on accessing support for yourself and your partner, or whichever The situation is, look into what options you have for support. There’s lots of great free counseling programs here in Calgary. And then there’s also private counseling, which is great, and you can access that through your insurance benefits here in Alberta. But you know, like, there’s lots of options and to seek out that extra support. So you know, whether it’s talking with family, talking with other loved ones, getting friends involved, talk about it, reach out for support, again, you’re not alone. And you know, there’s other people that have gone through it as well. And to really create, you know, a sense of community around yourself, so that you can, you know, be strong in those weak moments, or you have somebody that can really boost you up when you are having those weak moments. And to just stay the course, and and to lean on your partner and for your partner to lean on you. And to really build up a really strong front to battle the war.


Nicki Kirlin  22:38

Yeah, I think that’s, again, really solid advice. The advocacy piece, I think, is really important. A lot of the times we feel like we shouldn’t be questioning, you know, a healthcare practitioner just because, you know, we assume that they’re giving the full information, and most of the time they are, but there’s always those little pieces or like you’re saying little nuances of information that kind of get lost. And so it’s really important that we go back and ask the question, and, and, you know, and there’s nothing that can come from that, except for more knowledge, which is always a great thing. Right. So, good. Good advice. Okay, anything else that we want to chat about before we wrap up? This episode?


Jenna Fortinski  23:23

I don’t think so. I think, you know, really just you’re not alone, right? You’re not alone. So, you know, there’s so many people that are, are struggling, whether it’s trying to conceive or have gone through a loss and you know, if you have gone through a loss, it’s okay to talk about it. You know, there’s so much grief that comes along with that, because the moment we find out we’re pregnant, there’s so much hopes and dreams that go along with that. And, you know, dates really stick with us as, as we even pass the loss. So it’s okay to talk about it. It’s okay to find little rituals to to incorporate. You know, that, that loss in your life and to make it healthy and healing for you. So check out our grief episode, because that might help you. Yeah, through loss.



Yep. Good idea.


Jenna Fortinski  24:15

But yeah, like there’s, you’re not alone. So please reach out. There’s so many supports out there. And if you have any questions, you know, reach out to us through our podcast page on our website, or, you know, DMS on Instagram or Facebook. Please let me know if there’s anything that I can do to support you. But you’re not alone. Yeah, I


Nicki Kirlin  24:35

think that’s really great. And I do want to just reiterate that message that we had earlier about, please don’t suffer in silence. It doesn’t have to be a lonely experience. It shouldn’t be a lonely experience. And don’t be scared to talk about it. Because sometimes there’s some sense of relief that comes in sharing your story. So it’s Yeah, I would echo that from your advice. So earlier on, Jen, I think that’s really, really good advice.



Okay, excellent.


Jenna Fortinski  25:05

So we will wrap up. And so our next episode is going to be about stress. God knows this past year has given us a real treatment of stress. That’s right, exactly. All


Nicki Kirlin  25:21

new kinds of stresses.


Jenna Fortinski  25:24

Yes, definitely. So we’re gonna end this episode with a quote from Marianne Radmacher. Courage doesn’t always war. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says, I’ll try again tomorrow.