In the summer of 2021, I launched my new sustainable diaper company Kudos to the public, and simultaneously started IVF. As our startup continues to grow, so does my baby bump. Going through these experiences in tandem on my journey to becoming a working mom may be wild to some, but I’ve found both have more in common than you’d think.
Sure, starting a company doesn’t come with needles and hormones. Fertility treatments don’t come with engineering brainstorms or shipping delays. But at their core, both of these difficult yet rewarding life experiences have taught me so much about myself and our resiliency as humans.
Related: I’m a CEO and a mom who doesn’t do it all, not even close
Here are the three lessons I learned going through both IVF and starting a new company:
1. Prepare for anything and don’t give up
When my husband and I got married in the summer of 2019 (a few months after officially following my dream to found Kudos), we knew we wanted to have kids someday. But then I found out in October that I had a 16 cm fibroid through my uterus. For reference, that’s about the size of a honeydew melon. I had a myomectomy to remove the fibroid which took me out of commission for three weeks – not exactly what you want to hear as an eager new founder.
The uncertainty of the fibroid growing back led us to start trying to have a baby once I was cleared six months post-surgery. Like many under 35, we tried for the recommended year before seeking out the help of a fertility clinic. After consulting with my fertility doctor, he mentioned that there was a slightly higher likelihood of twins with medicated IUI and given my myomectomy surgery, he wanted to minimize any chances of twins, so we went straight to IVF treatment.
Related: How to make a baby: The quick & dirty guide to getting pregnant
When you’re going through IVF for the first time, it’s impossible to know how it will end. I certainly didn’t envision myself having a melon-sized fibroid removed from my uterus. I definitely didn’t picture giving myself hormone injections while preparing to launch my company.
Just as my path to pregnancy involved unexpected hurdles, so did raising our seed round for Kudos. I was ready to dive right into the product and brand development, but I must have heard “no” from 30+ investors before I got my first “yes.” We fortunately went on to raise a $2.4M seed round.
Related: It’s time to stop calling infertility a women’s health issue
Then when the pandemic hit, a whole new set of challenges emerged: materials shortages, supply chain delays, manufacturing plant closures…But I kept moving on, believing in my mission, finding the right people who could help me and persevering–this has been essential in my pregnancy and founder journeys.
2. But understand you can’t control everything
I was raised to believe that I could do anything I put my mind to. I’ve always thought that if you study or work really hard, you could get the results you want—or at least some of the results.
With infertility, I didn’t have control. I could take all the supplements, follow all the recommendations, or jump into the treatments, and it still may not have mattered. This was the most important lesson for me to learn.
When we started our TTC journey, I would plan my entire life in two week cycles. Period, ovulation, two week wait, repeat. And within those cycles, I would try my best to eat clean, exercise, cut out caffeine, etc. Then I came to the realization: you’ve got to live your life.
Related: My wife and I struggled with infertility for 7 years—here’s what I learned through the process
We can put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect—to control every little aspect hoping it influences the outcome we care so much about, like getting pregnant. But at the end of the day, there is so much in pregnancy that is out of our control.
Starting a company during a pandemic has taught me the same lesson. Our team spent so much time developing a state-of-the-art, next generation diaper that was unmatched by any other product on the market, in terms of its sustainability and performance; we developed the only diaper on the market to have 100% cotton touching baby’s sensitive tush-not plastic. But no one could have predicted the timing of launching during a global pandemic.
I could have tried to control every part of our process. I could have stressed over all the roadblocks in both fertility and launching Kudos. This isn’t to say that I didn’t have moments of stress where I wanted to have everything in my pregnancy and Kudos go a certain way—accepting that something didn’t go the way you wanted it to isn’t easy. But I had to do that in order to bring joy to the simple, everyday moments in life that go beyond my pregnancy and Kudos; I couldn’t let just those two things define my existence.
3. And don’t be afraid to share your struggles
When going through IVF (especially when it feels like there are pregnancy announcements and baby showers everywhere) and starting a new business, I sometimes felt like I had to have my best face on all the time. Who wants to worry their family or make their team and investors nervous? But I’ve learned that the more I mask what’s really going on, the more I miss out on incredibly valuable advice from the folks in my community who have been there, done that, faced the same struggles, and are eager to share the lessons they learned, making my journey one that is less lonely and more informed.
The best investors are the ones who help you through the trying times as well as the thriving times—they’re the ones who’ve seen it all. Similarly, your best friends are the ones who are going to support you no matter what—but they can’t do it unless they know what’s going on.
Related: Hiding my IVF journey was hard, hiding my accidental pregnancy was even harder
A few weeks into my first trimester, I started bleeding heavily. If I didn’t have a group of friends who had been through this before, I immediately would’ve assumed it was a miscarriage. Thankfully, I have a handful of friends who have been through or are going through the IVF journey, including a close friend who is pregnant at the same time as I am. She had told me a few weeks before that she had the same excessive bleeding and was diagnosed with a subchorionic hemorrhage—a pooling of blood between the embryo and the uterus that is the cause of about 20% of bleeding during the first trimester.
Having a team of folks who I trusted and had been through similar experiences helped me feel companionship as a founder and expectant mother. Having this team allowed me to better navigate these confusing and tough situations. Community is truly everything. That’s why I love the Motherly community so much and hope my experiences can help someone else going through similar circumstances. If you’re going through either (or both!) of these experiences right now, know that this is incredibly brave of you to endure. Neither of these journeys are easy and you’re so strong for continuing on. And if you’re looking to build a team of fellow founder-new-moms or entrepreneur-while-doing-IVF, I’m here for you.
While it is often hard to see the bright sides in the challenges I’ve faced through entrepreneurship and infertility in the moment, I’ve found a beautiful harmony in retrospect. Both led me down an unknown path with so much promise for the future. Both required me to step out of my comfort zone and learn a lot about myself. Both required me to lean on others and trust in the process. Both will keep me very busy this summer, and I can’t wait to watch them grow in tandem.