For more than two years, Tara Engelberg was traumatized by her infertility; feeling that talking about it would have been like pouring salt on the wound. Then Tara got an official diagnosis and learned that she had essentially no chance of conceiving naturally. Something broke within her, but the experience ultimately pushed her to rebuild her sense of self. She connected with others around her and in the community, particularly by sharing her story on Instagram, where she now has a strong support base, and where she helps others on their own fertility journeys.
We spoke with Tara to find out how breaking free of her own isolation helped her make a dramatic life shift, why she thinks her infertility journey resonates with so many, and how healthy nutrition helps her stay positive.
1) Can you briefly describe your infertility journey?
My husband and I began our fertility journey in 2016. Like many couples, we believed conception would happen when we were ready to grow our family. But, for us, pregnancy never occurred.
We worked diligently to support our health for natural conception for more than 2 1/2 years. After continuous heartbreak from each failed attempt, we were ready to seek help from fertility experts. In the fall of 2019, I was diagnosed with stage 1 endometriosis and unexplained infertility.
With only a one percent chance of conceiving naturally, we were ready to begin treatment in the spring of 2020. We started our care with one timed and medicated cycle followed by two failed medicated IUIs. We are currently in our second cycle of IVF, and we are hopeful it will be the answer to our prayers.
2) You have said that you “quietly” went through infertility before sharing your story. How has being open about your infertility impacted your journey?
We kept our struggles with infertility quiet for 2 1/2 years, and it was the loneliest, darkest period of my life. Week after week, I felt myself spiraling downwards. I was terrified and I felt ashamed, broken, and alone. I hit rock bottom, but I didn’t know how to ask for help. Sharing our story online and with our friends and family changed everything for me. It opened a pathway to talk about our challenges with infertility and offered me connection and support.
Talking about our infertility struggles completely changed my experience with the disease. I no longer felt that shame or brokenness I once had. Instead I felt supported, empowered, and informed. Although infertility is still incredibly trying, I now have the support, community, and tools to better work through the many obstacles of infertility. I am immensely grateful to all of the incredible people and organizations I have connected with since sharing our TTC journey. I do not know where I’d be today if I didn’t come forward with our struggles.
Talking about our infertility struggles completely changed my experience with the disease. I no longer felt that shame or brokenness I once had. Instead I felt supported, empowered, and informed.
3) Your negative pregnancy test post went viral, why do you think it resonated so much with others?
I’m still in awe thinking back to my Instagram post going viral last year. When I shared the “It will be OK” post on my account, I had no idea it would resonate with so many people. At the time, I was going through immense heartbreak from yet another failed attempt at trying to conceive. I felt as if my heart couldn’t bear any more pain from infertility. After my husband and I grieved, I started writing to cope with the trauma. Tears were still rolling down my face as my words came to the screen. When I wrote that post, I was in so much real, raw pain. I didn’t hold back and I shared what was in my heart during those moments. I think that is what people responded to.
We’ve all experienced pain, trauma, and loss before. These are overwhelming emotions that are part of life. I think people related to the post because, in many ways, we’ve all been there. We’ve all had letdowns, struggles, and broken hearts. Many of us have felt the emptiness that occurs when hope starts to slip away. Even though our stories may be different, the emotion is the same. Pain, struggle, love, and hope is what makes us human and connects us all.
4) Infertility can be so exhausting, as you have shared. What has been the most challenging part(s) of your journey?
Infertility is incredibly exhausting. For many of us, we keep our TTC and infertility journeys quiet, and we go on with our days with heaviness in our hearts. That is how our story began, and it was the most challenging part of our journey. By keeping such an emotional aspect of our lives so private, it made coping incredibly challenging for me. There were so many times I’d cry all alone with no one to talk to and then have to pick myself back up to go out into the world with a smile on my face. There was a constant pain in my heart that no one knew. I felt friends slipping away because we weren’t ready to share our most personal struggles with anyone yet. We were making excuses for all the things we were doing in our lives to hide our infertility. I have always been a very open person, but I stopped sharing, and I felt myself slipping away.
I began struggling with anxiety and depression and began experiencing mental blocks. Some of these mental blocks sounded like: “I can never do IVF, I can never do injections, we can never afford treatments, and I will never be able to get through this, etc.” Working through those mental and emotional blocks and traumas was incredibly challenging, and I am still working through them today. Fortunately, the spirit is resilient, and I found my strength along the way.
Sharing our struggles with others was the greatest gift we could have given ourselves. It allowed us the opportunity to heal, to grow, to spread awareness, and to let others know they are not alone.
Working with healthful foods brings me joy and helps me focus on nurture, love, and positivity while the foods provide beneficial support to my body.
5) We know there’s only so much we can control during infertility. In your opinion, how can nutrition choices help people struggling to conceive? How has it played a role in your journey?
Nutrition has played a vital role throughout my fertility journey. From an emotional standpoint, working with fresh fruits and vegetables has been therapeutic. On days where I felt lost or sad by the struggles that come with infertility, food grounded me. Cooking allowed me to open my heart to creativity. It gave me space to “just be” and process the hardships going on in my life. Working with healthful foods brings me joy and helps me focus on nurture, love, and positivity while the foods provide beneficial support to my body. Good nutrition has played such a supportive role in my emotional and physical healing throughout all the procedures, protocols, medications, and stress I have endured over these last few years.
Food plays a vital function in our health and healing and may offer additional support to those who are trying to conceive. Whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds provide nutrients to support every cell in the body. It can aid in cycle regulation, sperm and egg health, inflammation reduction, improved detoxification, hormone balance, adrenal (stress) support, digestion, nutrient absorption, and support conditions like PCOS, endometriosis, and more. Healthful foods are supportive of fertility and help to maintain a healthy body, mind, and spirit.
I encourage people to work closely with their reproductive endocrinologists to include nutrition in their fertility plan. I recommend finding support with a certified nutrition professional and other practitioners that may specialize in areas like acupuncture and functional medicine for a comprehensive, holistic approach to their care.
6) Is there anything else you would like to share?
Your feelings are valid.
You are not alone.
You are so much stronger than you know.