According to actor Gina Hiraizumi, “I’m known as that ‘Asian girl’ from Lifetime.” As a Japanese woman, who is in the public light while struggling to conceive, one of Gina’s goals is to break the taboo of infertility and any shame associated with it. Since she’s “come out” with her story, she’s heard from countless men and women who are also struggling and it’s shown her how much we share, despite our different backgrounds.
Q: What is your infertility journey in a nutshell?
Going on four years of trying. When we got married, we naively thought it would be so easy to conceive. Little did we know when we started trying that iit would take us two years to even get pregnant in the first place. I was 35 years old at the time. I then learned about the ovulation window, and how women only have a three-five day window to get pregnant per month. (Editor’s note: it’s not uncommon that infertility teaches us so much more about our bodies and reproductive lives!)
Those ovulation sticks worked, but I had two miscarriages — one early in the First Trimester, and a second, after a year of trying, in the Second Trimester when I was supposed to be in the “safe zone”. I had a traumatizing D&C surgery to remove the fetus, and pathology tests revealed it was due to chromosomal abnormalities, common in women in my age group of 35~40.
I think, when actors and celebrities share their stories, it almost gives people the comfort that we are all the same: same biology, same human body, same uterus, same struggles.
Because of that data, our OB recommended IVF, and I immediately jumped in. It felt like there was no time to waste at the age of 38. I knew that the age of my eggs upon retrieval was so important.
I feel blessed that I had a good AMH, so ovarian quantity was not an issue. It seemed that the matter of finding the “quality egg” among those was the goal, and were we humbled! It was sobering and shocking to learn about the small number of chromosomally normal embryos we had through IVF and PGT-A (formerly called PGS) testing. We have those embryos frozen now.
Q: Being in the spotlight, why do you believe it is so important to share your journey? How has the response been?
The response, the appreciation and love has been so much more than I could have ever imagined! As Michelle Obama says, we need way more awareness around infertility. Luckily, I’ve never felt any shame….I don’t know why, but I won’t question it! 🙂
I think, when actors and celebrities share their stories, it almost gives people the comfort that we are all the same: same biology, same human body, same uterus, same struggles. We have unity. And, hopefully it gives people the courage to share their own stories. What has been surprising is that I get so many letters from husbands and male partners sharing their pain, also. It’s so heartwarming to me.
Q: Unfortunately, COVID-19 delayed your IVF. What was that experience like?
Don’t get me started! Hah. A few days ago, we FINALLY had my ‘five-month-delayed due to Covid’ fibroid surgery. I think the correct term is: Hysteroscopy/Myomectomy. It was so frustrating to be delayed five times during the pandemic due to the Covid spike. Every time we had a surgery scheduled, we were rescheduled to the next month, and the next month, etc. Saying that I felt hopeless would be an understatement.
For the ones that may not know, when you have fibroids and polyps in your uterus, removing them surgically lowers the chance of miscarriage for when the embryos are transferred. But, this past August, it finally happened and I am recovering to get my uterus ready for the next step — the ERA mock cycle, then the actual FET embryo transfer. So many steps ahead still, but we are moving forward!
Q: Although you are still in trenches of treatment, what has been the hardest point of your infertility struggle, and conversely, what is something unexpectedly positive that has come from your hardship?
It’s a shame that there still is a silent taboo in some cultures. I’ve been told, as an Asian-American (specifically Japanese), that I was ‘brave’ for sharing my infertility experience despite the strict cultural taboo.
The hardest part of this is probably the uncertainty. I have come to fully accept that there are no 100% guarantees in the success of this process. But, all I can do is try my best. The rest is truly in God’s hands.
The unexpected: the number of women that have privately DM’d me on Instagram or on other social platforms revealing their infertility struggles. You’d never detect it on the forefront of their IG pages, but so many people are suffering in silence. I was floored. It’s a shame that there still is a silent taboo in some cultures.
I’ve been told, as an Asian-American (specifically Japanese), that I was “brave” for sharing despite the strict cultural taboo. Luckily, my family has been fully embracing and supportive. Nobody in my previous generations have gone through this, but here we are.
What I’ve noticed is that most people just don’t know and are absolutely clueless about IVF. I’ve spent hours and hours just educating family and friends about what this whole process even is to the point that I feel like an OBGYN or a Reproductive Endocrinologist by now! Haha.
Hopefully if we all keep spreading awareness, we can promote the compassion that these IVF and infertile women all deserve. It’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life, and I’ve done a lot of hard things!
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share about your journey?
I share my journey pretty openly on my IG @ginahiraizumi and my husband is also open to connecting with other husbands that may need the support, from a male partner perspective. Feel free to connect with us!