I began seeing Michele after 5 years of struggling with infertility. My journey thus far had included one ectopic pregnancy, two miscarriages, two surgeries, numerous tests and drugs and more negative pregnancy tests than I would care to count. After watching the calendar every single month for 5 years, I was both physically and emotionally exhausted.

I read about Michele’s infertility counseling in an employee publication at Vanderbilt. I e-mailed her and went to see her shortly after that. It began a partnership in healing that lasted a year and helped move me through and to the end of my fertility journey.

Although I was exhausted, depressed and hopeless when I met Michele, I didn’t know how to get myself out of it and off the infertility roller coaster. I was not sure I wanted to do IVF, was uncertain I wanted to adopt, and didn’t believe I could be happy if I did neither. I was stuck. My counseling and work with Michele taught me how to cope, helped me define my path (which in turn gave me power I had not felt had in so long, and most of all taught me that I wasn’t defined by my infertility). Infertility will always be a part of who I am, but it’s not all that I am. Michele helped me realize that. Once I cleared my head and increased my vision and utilized the tools I learned during the work I did, I ultimately decide to pursue IVF while also looking into an adoption plan. I also kept the possibility of deciding to live without children on the table as well. Where I had been paralyzed by inaction and indecision before, I was now hopeful with the decision to open multiple doors.   Happily, my IVF was successful and my daughter was born in July 2009.

After I became pregnant, I stopped seeing Michele for counseling, but I had the opportunity to attend one of her workshops as a peer support. My desire and decision to be a peer support was actually a simple one – I wanted people struggling with infertility to know “YOU WILL BE HAPPY AGAIN”. I was happy again BEFORE I did IVF. My happiness is WHY I could do IVF and not be sick with fear of it not working.  I knew by that point in time that I could be happy, fulfilled and complete even if it didn’t work. I had so much peace when I went though my IVF cycle and I was actually the most relaxed I’d been in years. It was so amazing that I shake my head in disbelief as I write this almost two years after cycle. My desire is to convey the message to others struggling with infertility that “YOU WILL BE HAPPY AGAIN”. That message of happiness can mean a lot to someone who is living through the darkest days. Infertility is a struggle, but the complete infertility journey (no matter the outcome) can be a happy one, full of light and discoveries when one does the work to get there.

Yes, my infertility journey now includes a pregnancy and the birth of my daughter. But my journey to healing, confidence and peace was well underway by the time I underwent the IVF procedure. The counseling and work with Michele enabled me to undergo IVF and know in my mind and heart that even if it hadn’t been successful, I would be happy. That’s what this work meant to me. I could be happy again. That’s true healing.

Rachael H. – Florida

I actually was a patient at a local mental health center and went to my medication management appointment where I had a bit of a breakdown. I though I needed to up the medication I had been taking for mild depression/irritability. During my appointment with my Nurse Practitioner, I explained that most of my worries were fertility related and my provider referred me to Michele, explaining to me that infertility was Michele’s specialty. I spoke with Michele over the phone in my provider’s office and she made arrangements to see me later that week.

The first time I met Michele was wonderful! She was like an Angel that God had sent into my life to help usher me through some very serious life choices. Starting a family is such a major life decision and it makes sense to have professional help during the planning process. She helped to put everything into perspective. She also opened my eyes to the various ways in which I could become a parent. I left our initial meeting feeling that everything was going to be okay. …Like Michele always says “This or something better!” My husband and I met with her together the next time. As you can imagine, my husband was quite apprehensive about the session. However, we both left feeling relieved and with not only a  better understanding of each other, but also with some clarity as to how we would proceed with starting our family. Michele again was our guide through some very un-chartered waters. I can’t explain it but after meeting with her she felt like part of our extended family. I felt we had an immediate rapport and connection. She is so good at what she does. Some people wander throughout life wondering what their true purpose is or why they are here. Michele is definitely operating in her purpose (her gift actually) through her practice and that is awesome. But even more importantly, so many people will live better lives after having worked with Michele…lives filled with peace and hope versus anxiety and despair. I don’t know what lies ahead for my husband and me, but I’m so glad we have Michele along as our guide where our family planning is concerned. By the way, I feel great emotionally and spiritually. I am at peace and there was no need to raise the medication after all!

Angela C. – Nashville, Tennessee

I started seeing Michele two years into our infertility journey after finding her information through the RESOLVE website. At that time I was so focused on doing everything “right” and listening to everyone’s well-meaning advice that I had buried my own voice.  I had no idea who I was or what I wanted for our journey.  I was completely lost and overwhelmed.  With Michele’s guidance I learned how to shut out the outside noise and focus on making the right decisions for myself and my husband.  Part of what makes Michele unique is that in addition to being a professional she also just gets it.  Through our work together I began to reclaim my life while still navigating infertility. That’s amazing work!  Michele has been a partner through procedures, tests, set backs, treatments and as we transitioned into adoption.  There was a time when I couldn’t imagine adoption as an option to build our family.  As I write this with my son asleep in my arms I can’t imagine my family without him.  Michele continues to be a support, partner and resource as I navigate this new chapter of parenting through open adoption.  Two years ago I could not associate the words hope and gratitude with our infertility journey.  Today I can.

Jessica M. – Nashville, Tennessee

After five years on the fertility roller coaster, most recently dealing with secondary infertility issues due to age, I needed to get my life back. I was tired of the anger and grief and wanted peace. Then I found Michele. Through my work with Michele–both individual and couples sessions as well as the mind/body support group– I not only gained the tools and guidance to move forward, but I also experienced the compassion and understanding to help me heal. While there are several options ahead and I do not know what will happen, I now move forward stronger and with the gratitude for the relationships that surround me. There is hope.

Robin M. – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

I really appreciate you being there for me these past two months. You are a person whom I am blessed to have come in contact with during this difficult journey of infertility, so I hope you know how much you are appreciated.   I am excited and anxious…but mostly just excited about my journey right now. I think that for right now, I am in a good place.  If I decide I need another outlet to talk through the process, and have a listening ear, I know that I can turn to you again.

Megan M. – Nashville, Tennessee

My husband and I struggled with infertility for several years. We were late starting a family, but I never thought infertility would happen to us. After two pregnancy losses and the subsequent inability to conceive, I became extremely depressed and completely lost all hope. The loss of hope is a terrible thing; I had become afraid to even dare to hope. Because I was 39 years old, my doctors gave us slim chances of having a baby of our own. I listened to their statistics and I believed them. I tortured myself by reading every piece of advice to increase fertility and how to get pregnant, and I considered spending money to travel to attend expensive retreats that promised results. I religiously dieted and exercised, and followed expensive herbal remedies, all to my own detriment. I set my alarm early each morning to take my basal body temperature, even on weekends. Our relationship focus was on getting pregnant and every month it didn’t happen I became more and more desperate. I was afraid to even eat a cookie, believing anything unhealthy would cause me to not get pregnant that month. Like so many women suffering from infertility, I was an emotional mess.

I found Michele’s practice by a word-of-mouth recommendation and was inspired that her own fertility journey had led her to counsel others in group and individual sessions. Then at rock bottom, I decided to attend her very affordable weekend mind/body workshop for infertile couples. It was the best step I ever took. I met a wonderful group of people who were at various stages of their own family building journeys, and these individuals continue to provide friendship and support over a year and a half later. The best thing about the workshop is that it opened the door for me to hope. Michele taught real tools for dealing with the ups and downs of each day. She provided tangible and practical advice, and her personal experience with infertility allows her to relate and to provide useful insight in a way that other counselors cannot. I started to seek counsel from Michele several times a month and I was able to progress from hopeless despondence to a place where I was ready to take action–my husband and I vowed that we would have a baby no matter what. That was a huge step for me. Coming from a place where I was afraid to hope, taking action had once seemed impossible because I had convinced myself that any action would fail. Michele and I discussed many options for family building and we explored the feasibility and practicality of each one. We discussed the  pros and cons and reasoned through our best chances. With limited resources, my husband and I settled on three of the options which we decided to pursue simultaneously–where one might fail there was hope in another. This also helped us to move forward.

Last year we conceived our beautiful baby daughter through IVF. She is now three months old and is the light of our lives. I cannot express enough gratitude to Michele for her counsel and guidance through the most difficult part of our journey. Her first-hand experience, understanding, and in-depth knowledge of a wide range of family building options combined with medical expertise make her the best choice for couples working through their own infertility journeys.

Amie G. – Nashville, Tennessee

After having lost two babies as a result of ectopic pregnancies, I began counseling sessions with Michele Martens.  I found Michele to be supportive to both my husband and me as we dealt with these losses and continued the journey to try and become pregnant.  My husband and I both attended the couple’s mind/body workshop which was a wonderful help for both of us.  It helped us get on the same page with our feelings about the unfortunate issue of unsuccessfully trying to conceive.  Working with an experienced infertility counselor drastically changed my overall well being and my outlook on my journey to becoming a parent.  I felt more emotionally and mentally sound after working with Michele than I had in 2 years….this is directly related to the work I did to get my mental health and emotional state of mind healthier when thinking about my struggles with infertility.
My husband and I decided to pursue IVF treatment and I did phone sessions with Michele during this time as well.  Michele’s knowledge in the field of infertility helped me through the many different stages involved in our journey to become pregnant.   Michele was supportive of our decisions and continues to be a valuable source of encouragement and knowledge for us.  We are now pregnant with twins! We will be forever grateful to her for her compassionate care.

Allison D. Jackson, Tennessee

I don’t know how I would have endured my journey through infertility without Michele’s help. I first reached out to Michele when my infertility-induced depression brought me to a dangerous low, where I felt useless, helpless, and despondent. I had never before seen a therapist, but infertility brought me to my knees, and my husband and I knew I needed help to recover. My entire life revolved around getting pregnant, and Michele helped me escape that horrible cycle of disappointment and shame.

I felt relief after my very first session with Michele. Infertility had worn down my self-worth, and in Michele, I found the advocate I so desperately needed. For the first time in my two year struggle with infertility, I had an ally who understood exactly what I was feeling, and who could show me how to reclaim my life.

My infertility diagnosis worsened while I was seeing Michele. After she had helped me prepare emotionally for the option of IVF, my doctor discovered I had no eggs left and so could not proceed. My chances of conceiving a biological child were greatly diminished. Michele helped me face this reality while remaining hopeful. She reminded me again and again that I would be a mother, that I would find a way. She helped me and my husband mourn the loss of our potential biological children, and worked with me to explore other options, like using donor eggs or adopted embryos. She helped me tap into my own intuition to find the path that is best for me and my family, which for us will be adoption. I have always been open to adoption but kept it in the back of my mind and my heart as we tried to conceive a biological child. Michele helped me face the many fears and insecurities I had about adoption, and she’s been so comforting and encouraging, patiently letting me discover my own path to motherhood.

My husband and I recently made an appointment with an adoption agency to get the process started, after taking the last year to enjoy the clarity and contentment that Michele helped bring into our lives. My time with Michele has helped me to appreciate my life as it is now and to know that I am a strong, brave woman and I can still be a mother. I can’t thank her enough for helping me see that this heartache and difficulty has actually been a blessing, bringing me closer to my child, whoever he or she may be.

Caroline C. – Nashville, Tennessee

I have a long history with infertility, IVFs and pregnancy losses. I went through a divorce a couple of years ago and have since entered into a new relationship. I decided, though still battling with loss of hope, that I would consider trying to start a family again. Last year I experienced my third pregnancy loss and oddly enough that loss gave me a small sense of hope because it happened naturally.

Since moving to Nashville, Spring of 2013, I have struggled with reclaiming my life, the life I had before all of this “waiting for baby” started and the love and happiness I once had. I was fortunate to find Michele through this website.

Michele introduced me to ideas that I have thought about, but was never encouraged or supported to act on. Through Michele’s caring guidance and her incredible sense of compassion, I have slowly but surely begun to piece my life back together.

Infertility and loss can destroy hope. One can feel isolated, punished and helpless, but it’s with the help and care of someone like Michele that you can begin to pull yourself out of the proverbial rabbit hole.

Michele’s knowledge and clarity has helped me to see that happiness doesn’t come in the form of a baby. Working on myself by letting go of past pain, sadness, shame and guilt has made way for joy. I know in my heart that I will be a mom someday. This hope has not existed within me for many years. Michele is a great facilitator of what is possible!

Jes B. – Nashville, Tennessee

When I met Michele, I was despondent. At the age of 41, after several failed attempts to have a child, I was told by a fertility specialist that I would not be able to carry a pregnancy to term. My husband was against adoption, and my dreams of having a child were slipping through my fingers.  My best efforts at coping and creating a life beyond the image of myself as mother were not working.  None of my friends had faced infertility issues that I knew of, and I felt uncomfortable turning to them for help. No one seems to know what to say to you when you tell them you want a baby but can’t have one.  I was seeing a psychiatrist to help me work through depression, and while he is a great doctor, I felt I wasn’t able to really communicate with him about the very specific type of pain and sense of loss that comes with infertility.  When the news of a very dear friend’s pregnancy filled me with overwhelming jealousy and anger at the unfairness of the world, I knew it was time to look for someone who specialized in helping those struggling on their fertility journey.

I was drawn to Michele after reading in her profile that she had struggled with her own fertility issues. This, I thought, was exactly what I needed—someone who could relate to my experience and tell me there was life beyond infertility.

When I called that first time, I expected a receptionist to pick up and to simply schedule an appointment. I was surprised when Michele herself picked up.  She was warm and friendly and asked me to describe a little of what I was going through.  I was so unprepared that I muddled through it, throwing out details in a random order.  She was calm and encouraging and took my scrambled story in stride. Right away, she offered me comfort, saying she would be happy to meet with me the following week.  By the time I hung up the phone, I was already feeling better:  I had found someone who understood and could help.

From our very first meeting, Michele has been exactly the support and comfort I needed. She has helped me on my fertility journey and beyond.  What is so wonderful about Michele, and what makes time with her valuable beyond the time spent in her office, is that what she offers is another way of looking at the world.  She opens your mind and heart to new possibilities.  You begin to be able to see your situation and yourself in new ways that allow you to move forward to whatever your next step is.  She helps you see that happiness and life are still available to you.

But perhaps best of all, what I found to be most healing in those early, pain-filled days, is that she let me know I was no longer alone. She understood what I was going through and would be there throughout my journey, no matter where it led.  With her help and guidance I have grown tremendously in the last several months and have found peace on my journey.  I will always be thankful for her presence in my life.

Tara M. – Nashville, Tennessee

My husband and I have struggled with infertility for nearly seven years now. Our journey is like many others in this club: numerous tests, drugs, procedures, fertility treatments, negative pregnancy test after negative pregnancy test, and with finally two positive pregnancy tests, the extreme despair of two miscarriages. There were many lofty highs and even more extreme lows. It was after our second miscarriage that my husband and I found Michelle through Vanderbilt’s Fertile Hope Program. With little to no hope of coping or finding peace with our situation, we were desperate for someone to help us.

We came to Michele exhausted, hopeless and depressed. We were not sure if we could carry on in this painful journey, but we were too afraid to let go. If we let go that meant accepting that were not going to have our own children and I would never experience the miracle of bringing life into the world. There were a lot of emotions associated with this journey that we needed to deal with. Grief, loss, anger, but most importantly a broken heart. The journey of infertility can be so lonely!

We owe everything to Michele. There is no possible way we could have navigated through this without her. Michele helped us cope with our emotions, opened our eyes to other options, and more importantly, restored our HOPE and HAPPINESS. We are still in our journey to parenthood, and it is still a tough road to travel, but we are able to do so now with the belief that we WILL become parents one day. We can now see that all of these steps are just leading us one step closer to our special baby meant just for us! Because of Michele we can accept what God has in store for our lives.

I know this for sure, we simply could not have done it without her. Michele has a true gift. She understands every emotion at every stage and she provides the tools necessary for true healing. Michele has truly helped us gain control of our lives again. Although infertility will always be a part of who we are, it no longer defines who we are. We have been honored to have Michele by our side every step of the way. She truly has been an invaluable partner in our journey, and we will forever be grateful for her love, support and guidance.

Jennifer L. – Nashville, Tennessee

My husband and I have been incredibly blessed and have twin boys through the efforts of many people to include 2 egg donors and a gestational carrier.   As I write this story, one of our twins is sitting on my lap.  My husband and I are a dual income, middle class family, but through saving and finding a carrier with medical insurance, we were able to cover all the costs.  This journey took many years of research, reflection, planning, saving and taking big financial and emotional risks for all of us. In the beginning of this journey, we found ourselves hesitating on several steps.  It took us awhile to understand that there are many “angels” in the world that want to help couples who cannot have their own children and there is a way to go through this process safely and take care of everyone’s needs.   Once we got started in earnest, it really felt good to be at least trying.  I did not want to wake up at age 55 and regret not even trying.   For financial reasons, but after doing a lot of our own research, we decided that we were going to find an egg donor and a gestational carrier without an agency. (We primarily used an online site – Surromomsonline to find an egg donor and gestational carrier. )  We did get help with lawyers and certified counselors.

One of the most helpful in this process was Michele Martens. She helped our egg donors, our gestational carrier and her husband, and my husband and I.  She talked us through all the major decisions that would have to be made and helped us make sure that we were all in agreement.  We found the overall process of medical screening to be very frustrating and slow.  In some ways, the legal requirements and screening were more stressful than the medical procedures of IVF.    Michele Martens was such a breath of fresh air in getting through the counseling requirements and some of the legal considerations.   Michele really helped reduce our stress.  She was very responsive and she organized counseling sessions as quickly as she could and at unusual hours such as on the weekend, because we were working Mon-Fri.   Her advice and counseling was really helpful and I am still using some of her recommendations today, as we bring up our baby twins.   Our Gestational Carrier was also very glad to get advice and counseling from Michele.  Overall the IVF medicine and process, the retrieval of eggs and the legal aspects were very expensive, especially because we were working with a fertility clinic on the east coast.   I commend Michele because her rates were very reasonable.  Michele obviously loves her work and loves helping people.  I wish I had been introduced to Michele much earlier in the process.   So for any person or couple reading this story, I pray that you are successful in having the family that you want.   Once you hold your own child, all the joy will make the years of pain and trial a distant memory.   “The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it” – Moliere.

J & C, Pennsylvania

I wanted to let you know that we finished our home study and profile and have officially entered the “any day now” waiting phase. Woohoo! Thank you again for all your help along the way. You’ve been such a wonderful guide on this journey, and I say as much in my letter. This whole application process has been a joy, and that is because you taught me how to look at everything in the right light. SO many people comment on how unfair it is that we have had to be thoroughly vetted when lackluster parents have kids so easily. I don’t feel that way at all. I am truly thankful for every part of this journey and you helped me find that mindset. The technician at the crime lab (haha – I love that our path to parenthood included a visit to a crime lab) who took our fingerprints talked about how unfair it was, but I just laughed and said, “Oh, well. Some parents-to-be go to ultrasounds, but we get to see our fingerprints scanned onto a screen.” My husband and I chose to celebrate all of these tasks, as if we WERE going to an ultrasound. We’ve had so much fun and I can’t imagine a pregnancy being any more exciting or special. Thank you for helping us find such joy!

-C and G, Nashville

Infertility nearly killed my spirit. I have never felt so hopeless, angry, or depressed in my entire life. The depth of my despair reached a scary low; I honestly didnt want to live anymore. I couldnt see any way out of it, and I felt like it would never end. I lost my energy, my spark, and my ability to connect with others. My father suggested that I see a therapist, and I am so glad that he did.

When I first saw Michele, I was empty. I was so tired of feeling the tremendous sadness, I stopped letting myself feel anything at all. She immediately asked all the right questions; it was like she had a roadmap to where I was and how I had gotten there. I could tell that she was not judging me, and it was easier than I had imagined to open up to her and let the emotions out in a safe environment. After the first session, I felt like some of my load had been lightened. Just saying what I had been thinking and feeling out loud to someone who wouldnt jump down the emotional rabbit hole with me made an immediate difference.

I had undergone several unsuccessful IUIs at this point, and I was gearing up to do IVF. I was scared of the process, and more scared of what would happen to me if it didnt work. I went to Michele weekly, and within just a couple of weeks, I experienced a strong shift emotionally. I started letting myself feel hope again; previously I had been disappointed so many times, I refused to feel hopeful to avoid the inevitable crash. But I started to feel like I could let go of that fear and let myself think positively about the outcome of what I was doing. Michele taught me breathing techniques, which I desperately needed because I had been holding in my breath out of anxiety, not really breathing. Literally, I started to breathe again. I hadnt even realized that I had stopped.

Weekly, I had somewhere to go where I could safely process my fears, my frustrations, and my hopes. Its unbelievable how much my infertility had affected every aspect of my life, from my marriage, to my family, to my friends, and to work. I am so thankful that I put in the time to examine the broader effects, because I have been able to heal my relationships and my feelings toward myself so much through therapy.

I really think that the success of my IVF was at least in part due to my increased happiness through therapy. I cant help but believe that what I feel emotionally has some physical effect. I feel like I have returned to myself again, after having felt so lost and down. I wish everyone who experiences infertility could get therapy with someone like Michele; it has made all the difference to me and I am so thankful for the help that I received when I most needed it.

-Caitlin Nashville, TN