In this episode, Lisa McCarty joins Sarah and Whitney to recount the emotional whirlwind of her own infertility. Through her story, Lisa shares a raw and powerful perspective on why listening to your body and practicing self-advocacy is essential in our healthcare system. If you're a mom who has ever felt alone on your journey or has struggled to find their voice amid the trials of infertility, this is an episode you've got to listen to.
* Correction: According to the World Health Organization in 2021, there were just over 1,000 maternal deaths per year. And as of March 2023, over 70,000 women die each year from postpartum hemorrhage.
Click here to learn about Lisa's Story.
About Lisa McCarty:
Lisa McCarty is a Writer and Women's Health Advocate for key issues such as infertility, maternal health, mental health and breast health. She is passionate about empowering women over 30 to be more informed and be their own best advocates for their health.
Her instagram account is dedicated to providing a safe and supportive community for daily inspiration and education on women's health topics and more. Her mission is to help other women who may be struggling with their mental health, infertility, postpartum and beyond. She also writes personal essays and poetry to share her own experiences as well. You can follow her @lbmccarty717 on Instagram.
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Hi guys, welcome back to Preview Lions podcast. This is Sarah, and I'm joined by Whitney and a very special guest today, lisa McCartney-She is fan favorite of ours and fellow mom and we're so excited to welcome you, lisa, and hear your story. So welcome to Preview Lions podcast.Speaker 2:
Thank you so much for having me.Speaker 1:
So tell our listeners who don't know you how we've got to know you in your story, just a little bit about you and then we'll kind of dive into, I think, a really important message, which is your story and what you're advocating for moms.Speaker 2:
Sure. So my name is Lisa and I am a writer, a women's health advocate and a mom. Last but not least and I have two kids I actually conceived the IVF. I went through years of infertility and became a women's health advocate over the last couple of years, because it's really important for me to not only share my story to help others feel less alone, but also to advocate for decreasing the stigma around infertility and raising awareness on this common problem that affects millions of women.Speaker 1:
And it is so common Me and Whitney both have experienced the journey of infertility in different routes and the shame and the stigma we've talked about and just feeling like I mean, I think there's nothing worse when you're going through it and you're secretly crying, when you get your period and you thought, well, it could be this month. And then you open your phone and you're seeing gazillions of baby announcements, especially around the holidays. Right, it's just like is anybody in their brother not pregnant?Speaker 2:
or so triggering, for sure, it's really hard.Speaker 1:
You want to be happy for them, but like you're holding this in and you just go like what's wrong with me? So we always welcome these conversations because you're very valid and the point is like women need to know they're not alone on this. This is very common and what you're feeling and saying to hear someone else join in and say me too. There's so much power in that. There really, is.Speaker 2:
And I would say also that at the beginning of my journey I didn't have the support because I feel like Instagram didn't exist. I'm not going to say my age to date myself, but it was a while ago and our journey was close to 10 years on and off, so I didn't have access to that support until late in my journey. So it was basically the second time we started IVF again. So I think, to your point, there is a lot of power and support and community, and the biggest piece I've learned along the way is that hearing someone else validate and say I see you, I know what you're going through, I empathize with you, that empathy sort of creates that validation within you. Today, oh my gosh, somebody understands without me explaining, and I think that's really powerful.Speaker 1:
So let's walk us through. So you get married, you're like, let's, you know, we all I think we have been saying this before we just thought you got married and pregnancy just happens right, like in the movies, like in a Disney movie, yes, like every rom-com.Speaker 2:
We just, you know, like it's just how it works, or, oops, I'm pregnant. You know the accident which you know, I think we all, anyone who has gone through infertility and you know you guys have, so you can understand this better than anybody. When you have gone through that, you know, prior to the experience, you think sort of like that misconception in your mind it's going to be easy, just like everyone else, and then it's like, nope, that's not at all.Speaker 3:
That's not at all. That's not an experience.Speaker 2:
It's going to be like. So it's challenging for sure. So my husband and I got married and the funny thing was that I look at sort of as a funny moment because I think to myself my period stopped for a few years and I thought, wow, I'm really lucky. Like this is going to be fantastic, I don't have to deal with this because of the headaches and the cramps and all the things. At that time I didn't want to become a mom. So you know, you spend the first half of your life, like many women, trying not to get pregnant and then the second half of your life trying to get pregnant in some cases. So, in a nutshell, my periods had stopped. I went in to see the OB. They referred me to an endocrinologist to which I'm thinking like why do I need to see someone about this? Why can't you just, you know, snap your fingers or give me some magical pill to like, fix it? But that's just. You know not at all how our experience was. So yeah, so essentially, we met with the endocrinologist. It took a few months to get an appointment and then we sat down and talked about all the factors in my situation. You know, I had a period for a long time and then it sort of just abruptly stopped. He initially diagnosed me with post-ementorrhea, which is when, in some cases, being on the pill birth control pill for a long period of time can result in a lack of period for six months or longer, and for me it was like close to three years that I didn't have a period, so like the day we got married. I still remember the spivots that like I didn't have a period, so like I didn't have to worry about anything. You know, like I'm wearing all white, you know it was sort of like, just ironic, but anyway. So we basically started treatment. We did a couple rounds of IUI, ended up doing, had all negative cycles no, no losses initially. And then we started IVF and we actually got pregnant with our first IVF transfer, which was my daughter, who is now just turned 11. I don't know how that happened, but flash forward. And then we kind of paused and you know I'm enjoying motherhood and then we basically went back into treatment again because I knew that I wasn't able to, like my cycle hadn't resumed on its own. So essentially I was actually diagnosed with PCOS at that point because I was overstimulating with the medication. Actually I'll back up a second. So right before we did the transfer for my daughter, we were originally planning to have fresh transfer and that actually ended up overstimulating. I ended up in the hospital with a suspected DVT, which is when your legs are swelling up and there's potential blood clot in your leg, and so luckily it ended up being negative. So I was grateful for that but induced a panic attack and all of the anxiety came to surface for that. So anyway we did a frozen transfer for her and then obviously it was successful and we had her. So we waited a couple of years, we started transfers again. I had some remaining embryos and those all were negative cycles. It was just like nothing was happening, which I think again. I had that misconception that it would be easy because I was able to successfully get pregnant with IVF the first time. I thought, okay, we figured it out, I've overcome infertility, it's gonna be great. No, it was like the opposite. So I actually wrote an essay about this in HuffPost recently. You guys might have seen that Essentially the path was using the remaining embryos and then we ended up doing another egg retrieval and we were able to yield seven more embryos, so we did a total of 14 transfers. Right before the last transfer I had essentially had four losses in a row and it's crazy to me that it took us a year to get diagnosed because my doctor didn't even talk to me about the potential of a condition called Asherman syndrome. Have you guys talked about that?Speaker 1:
I wasn't sure if you guys talked about it. We have not, and I read your article and so I was at risk for Asherman syndrome myself because I had our first pregnancy was a miscarriage, I had to have a DNC, I had a septate uterus, so essentially my uterus had this bunch of just like tissue that supposed to have evolved and moved away and the womb never did. And so Ava, who I talk about, she was our first pregnancy. I lost her at 13 weeks. She had implanted on my septum and my uterus and they had not hot that and clearly there's no blood flow to the septum. So essentially she was not viable from that. But I could not pass her in my miscarriage because of that septum. So they had to go in with the DNC and it was a pretty aggressive DNC. So for listeners the DNC is basically when they have to go in surgically and they have to remove the sac or the fetus once the baby has passed, because you cannot safely pass that in a miscarriage. And then I had to have two more surgeries for my septum so I had a lot of scar tissue and they told me they said you may be at risk for Asherman syndrome. And I was like what is that Like?Speaker 4:
you know I threw nursery flowers, like no one ever told me that.Speaker 1:
And my husband he's a physician and he was in actually radiology residency at the time. He was like, oh, I hope you don't have that and I'm like, well, that's comforting Right. Very, very sure. You're like me too, me too, and he is like it is very hard to diagnose. I remember him specifically saying that. So when I was reading your story because it is repeated losses, yeah, and it's a big sign from that. But I know from my experience. Well, our first loss, our first miscarriage, I was very dismissed from and I had to end up switching OBs. They said, well, you're young, it happens. Yeah, and I read it in your article. You said in your gut you knew, yes, something was wrong. And I felt that in my gut I was like, nope, this is more than that.Speaker 4:
And so often we trust our doctors because we feel that they are the medical experts. You know, they're the ones that have that training to tell us what's wrong. But in actuality I believe not only as an advocate, but as a woman and someone who's been through a lot of this you know decision point, that crossroads where you have to decide with what your gut says and what the doctor says, and if they don't sync up, you have to make a decision. You know, am I going to go with what my gut says and get a second opinion, or am I going to continue on this path and follow and trust my doctor, which, of course, we always want to trust our practitioner. But in some cases, the gut is the answer. And so, yeah, I'm so sorry for your loss.Speaker 1:
I didn't know that. You know it's. I'm a lot more comfortable speaking about it now and I say this to a lot of moms. I'm just like, when we talk about miscarriage, reoccurrent loss, there is some kind of horrible standard out there, like it's just okay, and I thought to myself, if I didn't follow my gut, how many losses would I've had to endure? You know, and I've heard of women say oh, they said you have to three losses before I do anything else. Or I miscarried Well times there before someone would listen to me or I found a doctor, so I hear these stories and I think it's very validating and a loss is a loss and the whole process of healing that, and only on your body, but mentally that's trauma. I mean Whitney sees several patients that we know that they're having these losses and the postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety and our mental health is very much a complication, just like it would a full term pregnancy and birth.Speaker 2:
Yes, definitely, and I would also say that the part that isn't as communicated by obese and other medical practitioners, that maybe your providers, like an endocrinologist or OBGYN or gynecological surgeon they would be the ones probably to say it, but in most cases a general doctor isn't going to tell you about Ashermans. This is unfortunate, like it seems to be the case in many women that I've talked to and medical studies that I've read, that Ashermans is just not communicated that much. And then the second piece of that is that DNC, c section, ovarian cancer, miscarriage, recurrent miscarriage, those are all trauma to the uterus and unfortunately they raise your risk for Ashermans syndrome, and that's also the part that I didn't know. So I actually have had two DNCs. One was just after my daughter was born because the placenta wouldn't come out. I had a retained placenta, which was another complication and another trauma, and so that caused trauma to the uterus and they ended up doing an emergency DNC. So then fast forward to the four losses, my second time going through IVF for almost four years, I basically had to have. One of those was DNC, and then I actually ended up having an emergency DNC after my son, one week postpartum, yeah, which was another trauma and, I think, in general, the body. You know women's bodies are incredible that we can make a child in the first place and endure years of infertility and all this trauma. I think the real takeaway is, though, that like following that intuition and that gut feeling, but also knowing your body, so, like you said, you notice that there is a change in your pain. For example, in a couple of the cases, like I noticed that pain or the bleeding started before they even told me that it was a loss. I mean, pay attention to that sort of natural feeling like how do you feel normally, and then, if there is a change or impact on your quality of life, like your pain is that high, like talk to your doctor, and if you don't feel like you're being listened to, then raise that with another doctor, get a second opinion. I mean, we have to be our own best advocates in everything, especially when it comes to our health as women.Speaker 1:
Totally no, I don't even look at. I've harped on this because so I remember. So I had to have an HSG, which I'm sure you did as well. It was very I remember. I had no clue and I remember asking my husband I was like is he? He went in training? He was like reading them, perform on them, and I you know. Clearly, I was like, oh, is this going to be bad? And he was like I really don't know. You know, because he's like I've never experienced it, he's like someone missing. Just tolerate it, okay. And I looked at the nurse right before. I never forget this I was changing into your little gown and you know, and that's just like the fact, like let's just even say that, changing, getting naked and put it on this little right, yeah, scary.Speaker 3:
OR room.Speaker 1:
Like that's super uncomfortable so awkward. It's so awkward. And then they're going to start a speculum and insert this thing upside you and shoot dye, and you know, and you know this is going to happen right, and there's the doctors there to read the scan. I remember looking at her. I said, is this going to hurt? And she goes, it's going to go quick, and I thought, oh my God.Speaker 2:
On what? On what planet is that reassuring?Speaker 1:
You know, and then it's like they gave me a leave and I'm like that was.Speaker 2:
They should advise you ahead of time, right, Because I don't remember that. No, they did not help me. I had multiple HSGs and I recall them all being uncomfortable.Speaker 3:
Not just scary ones listening.Speaker 2:
I would just say talk to your doctor in advance and ask if you should take something, even if it's just like a Tylenol, because I don't know if you can do an anti-inflammatory like a leave, if there is a potentially could increase the bleeding, but they didn't say anything to that hand to me, and I was just like wow.Speaker 1:
And then I talked to one of my friends and they're like oh no, they got under anesthesia in Texas and I was like what?Speaker 4:
Under anesthesia.Speaker 1:
I literally got like over the counter meds and I went back to work that day, but if you think about what they give men for a vasectomy right Like all this pain medication and for here, for us they're just like the luck with your top.Speaker 2:
Well, because our pain threshold is much higher, don't?Speaker 3:
you think yeah, it is.Speaker 2:
As women, we are built to withstand any level of pain, I feel like, but we also speak up, I feel like, better than generally men do. But I do feel like there's probably like that Years ago there was a viral video from a mom blogger. I can't remember her name at the moment, but it was like the man cold Do you remember that? Yes, I remember that I went around and it was like when the wife or the mom is sick, nothing stops. You still have to do the job of taking care of everyone because we don't get sick days right. And then the man cold, is like I'm going to bed, I'll be back in a week, you know like he's checked out and yeah, we can have 102 fever and throwing up and we're like it's fine, I just need a sip of Sprite.Speaker 3:
I'll make it yeah.Speaker 4:
Let me switch the laundry, Let me fix dinner. It's just wild, but I think it goes to. It's a greater issue there that, like it happened to me, it happened to you about it was just to be okay that we had this loss right, or it was just to be expected or for these traumas to happen to you. You know my miscarriage was very traumatic to me. I'm sure he lost his, for you were. And then you know the fact of the retained placenta that could have been life threatening for you.Speaker 2:
Easily. I honestly saved my own life because the second one she quote, I think I got it all it was. Yeah, there's more to that story, but I will say this I am the one who identified the pain and I brought myself back to the doctor and that's really like, at the end of the day, if you feel like you're being dismissed. You know people talk about medical gaslighting in general for anything, whether you're a woman or a man, or people in minority communities, lgbtq community especially is a problem because they are already being judged for whatever, which is just disheartening, because there should just be equal care and there should just be equal. You know a doctor giving you that time, more than 18 minutes, in a medical office to say what is the problem? So, yeah, I mean, I think it's. It's a problem to not only to assume that women are going to just be fine. You know, you guys were built to make babies and built to have a child. You can withstand pain, but we should also know when something isn't working and something is wrong.Speaker 3:
Yeah, it's very disproportionate, the expectations that are put on us to cope with pain, to cope with complications, and then it's one of those. Well, you're going to be fine, are you? Oh, you're being dramatic. Oh, it's your hormones. Well, maybe it is my hormones, but there's still something wrong.Speaker 2:
Yeah, yeah, exactly, makes you feel like you're crazy. It does, because in some cases it's an invisible problem, right? Because it's not something that people can see. You don't need a band-aid, you know you're not physically showing anything. Besides, you know, like I actually know of many women who had complications after delivery and ended up taking themselves back to the hospital within a few days because they had a fever of 108. I'm like, why is this still happening? Because it's still an invisible problem, like the doctors are saying. You know, this is why we have a rise in maternal deaths. I mean, this is why it's at an all time high. And obviously the African American community has a serious problem with this because there's bias and other problems that exist within a very disproportionate care. It really is, yeah, and it's crazy because it's 2023 and we live in the United States Like we should all have equal access to care regardless and, in addition to that, we shouldn't still be having this problem because I have care. You know, like I was lucky, I basically almost died twice. So, like, how many times does this have to happen for you know there to be a change? And I think, in order to make an impact, we all have to share our story and talk about what we've experienced so that other people not only, like I said, feel less alone, but also that we raise awareness on this problem, because it's not going away, it's not going to just get fixed with one solution.Speaker 1:
No, and I think that's a good point, because you know Asherman syndrome, why it is. You may be like, well, I've never heard that, but now we're knowing. Okay, just from this conversation. Hey, if I've had D&Cs, miscarriages, if I've had C-sections, if I've had uterine surgeries or uterine traumas, that is a term. Now we can go to our OBs and say you know, or our midwives, whoever, and say, listen, this is my history. What do we need to do for us to both be aware of this and be preventative and Try to be ahead of the game here? I mean, that's the whole point of preview. How we approach mental health is we want to be ahead of it. We want to tell you what's normal, what's not, what's common, what could happen. You know what these thoughts are, so you would recognize it. So we're doing the same thing here, because we hear a lot from our moms and I forget this. When mom said this, they said Sarah, they don't even believe me when I say physical symptoms are wrong. Why would they believe me with my mental health when I was like, oh my gosh, she hit the nail on the head because she was saying I'm having this pain or you know, this doesn't feel right, and the doctors were saying look, your vials are good, your labs are good, right, like you right, I can't identify the problem.Speaker 2:
But that goes back to the thought that if it's impacting your quality of life, if it's something that you in your gut and you know your body that it's wrong, then you need to push it, you need. I mean, maria Munoz is a perfect example. You know she recently went and had a Serious surgery for her pancreatic cancer that they caught early. Fortunately, I mean, not everybody has access to the type of MRI that she had and that does not, you know, sort of replace any general appointments that you should be going to in my opinion. But anyway, I think in general, yes, ashram in specifically, if you feel, for example, that you've had recurrent losses, and I think that the two kind of Categories are if you're under age 35 and you've been trying to conceive and you're having losses, it's 12 months. So under 35 is the 12 month period, and then over the age of 35 and you're having losses is Six months. So essentially, for me it was a year and I was over 35 and it took a year to be diagnosed. So I was well beyond that period of time. I know I'm shaking my head with you because I Am not faulting my endocrinologist, because he was in practice for 30 years and he said to me I'm not retiring until we get you another baby. You know like he's just this incredible man. However, I do wonder why took so long to get diagnosed, and I do regret Not speaking up earlier because I didn't know about ashram. I honestly just thought we would figure it out. They'll just keep giving me different protocols. We tried ERA, we tried all the different variations and medications. I mean, if you name a test, I did it. You know we. We went through it all. They could not figure it out. So then that is when he said and I think this is the sign of a good doctor in any situation Is when he said I need to send you to a specialist who can potentially help you more than I can and. Delegating it to someone else, in my opinion, is absolutely the sign not only I mean in any situation medically like the doctor should have ideally referred me earlier, but when he said You've had four losses, we've literally thrown the kitchen sink at you. We cannot figure out what's happening. You've done all the things I know how to do, but you know I want to help you so I'm gonna send you to this specialist. So I think that is the point is really just making sure you feel safe and supported With your medical provider and, like you said, if you feel dismissed or you feel like you have a physical symptom that you can't see, but you're feeling, say something, absolutely yeah.Speaker 1:
Yeah, advocacy, we talk about that a lot with our premium moms. I think that's a lot of just young women in general about their health. You know my husband's like you give these conversations for your babysitter. Sometimes I'm like, yes, because no one told me and I wish someone would have said that to 18 year old Sarah. Like listen, you're gonna have to fight for yourself and you're gonna have to listen to your body and you're gonna have to speak up and like, if you don't feel it's right, you find someone who will listen. And I I'm very instinctual I think moms are, and I think that's just how we're made and to follow your gut and you deserve to have good quality care. You deserve to not be in pain, you deserve to have what you want out of this life. And if that's just a reminder of that and it's okay to have a different opinion, like it is totally fine to say this is not serving me or I'm not being heard, and you can have that conversation at first is hi, doctor, so and so this is my concern, this is what I've been feeling, this is how long. And if they just miss it, say I don't believe this relationship is gonna work because I'm not being heard. I'd like to be referred and you can always go patient advocate. You can go to the manager of the office, you can. You know, for our Medicaid moms. I know sometimes we're talking to them and they're just feeling well, it's hard to find a doctor even takes Medicaid right now. It's like well they, they actually have patient care coordinators that you can call and say listen, this provider Was not listening to me and they will help you find another provider. It is hard, especially in our state in Alabama we have maternity deserts of our mom's drive two hours one way for OB care.Speaker 3:
Well into the hospital.Speaker 1:
Karen Birmingham just shut down their L&D units this week so I do think it's interesting and we see this every day with our moms is like there is not care in some parts of the states, and especially in Alabama, like literally there is not care. In your driving is a maybe you've drove two hours that person you see. You kind of feel like, well, who else am I going to see?Speaker 2:
That's so there's. There's an incredible organization. I highly recommend you guys check out if you're not familiar. Every mother counts, are you guys?Speaker 3:
I was started by.Speaker 2:
Christy Turlington. She actually had a traumatic birth. She almost died at birth. Also, I don't think it was retained placenta, I want to say it was like an abruption, but she basically hemorrhaged the same situation that happened to me and so many other women. But she decided something had to be done because this happened in the United States and this is happening. I think it's. I don't want to get the the statistic incorrect, but there's hundreds of women dying a year in the United States and it's just debilitating because we're still in this situation. So, anyway, there's, there's an organization, and they basically provide access to care to people who may not. So it may be worse. Looking into that, this is not just internationally. I think they also help in the US as well. But yeah, I mean speak up and ask what your options are at work too. Maybe they could help with something like that.Speaker 1:
Access to no. I think, if anything this message is, you deserve it to speak up, follow your gut, advocate for yourself. And then, lisa, we asked this question to all our guests. You can we've had ever answered no domain count. So this is like don't feel like you're, we have to talk. You know specifically advocacy, or? Oh man, I wish I'd done that. What do you wish you would have known about motherhood before you? Or a mom Like? If you go back and say something to Lisa pre babies, what would you tell her?Speaker 2:
That's a great question. I would say you're doing a great job. Wherever you are is okay. I feel like prior to motherhood, I feel like I didn't have that level of confidence in myself and like, whatever I was doing in my life and as a mom now I feel like I could also use that advice sometimes, you know, we give great advice to other people but we don't necessarily take it ourselves. I think we are, in general, our own worst critics. I feel like this goes for everything in life, but especially for motherhood, like that mom guilt that sits with you. I feel like prior to becoming a mom, I think I was also that way. I'm a little bit of a perfectionist when it comes to everything, but really the bottom line is there's no such thing as perfect. You know there really isn't, because you can just do the best that you can and whatever you did is enough. I believe that with my whole heart as a mom and as a woman.Speaker 1:
Well, we are so thankful that you are using what happened to you as a platform to help other moms to come, and we really believe in sharing is the key for strength and empowerment and that is our whole goal here at the podcast is to say it so you feel like you're not alone and we don't believe anybody else is going to bring certain topics to you but us. So we try to be that safe space. So we appreciate your support and just know that moms can look you up and follow. You will tag everything that you put out great work and it just it's really. I hate that trauma and infertility bring so many people into like the Me Too Club or like this community, but we heal together and we process together and again, I really think it's just strength and knowing we're not alone, absolutely.Speaker 2:
I agree with you. Thank you so much for everything that you do for your community, because I think it's critical to start the conversation and if you think that your voice doesn't matter, your story matters, your words matter and I think we're all listening. So thank you for everything that you say.Speaker 1:
That's our honor. So we will be back next week. But, lisa, again, thank you, and we hope this episode just lets you guys know you're powerful. Okay, you got a good voice. Use that voice and speak up. We will be back for next episode next week. Till next time, thank you guys, see ya.Speaker 4:
Maternal mental health is as important as physical health. The Previous Alliance podcast was created for and by moms dealing with postpartum depression in all its variables, like anxiety, anger and even apathy. Hosted by CEO founder Sarah Parkhurst and licensed clinical social worker Whitney Gaye, each episode focuses on specific issues relevant to pregnancy and postpartum. Join us and hear how other moms have overcome mental health challenges, as well as access to tips and suggestions on dealing with your own challenges as moms. You can also browse our podcast library and listen to previous episodes at any time. Please know you're not alone on this journey. We're here to help.