Select Page

Making a Difference: The ART Of Infertility

November 17, 2017 – Making a Difference – Elizabeth Walker – Maria Novotny, PhD

At RADfertility, we understand that infertility can be a very isolating disease to face. It is important to know you are not alone. The purpose of the Making a Difference series is to highlight the dedicated organizations and individuals in the community available to help you on your journey.

In addition to her role as Founder and Co-Director of The ART of Infertility, Elizabeth Walker is an artist that works in imaging and communications for the University of Michigan Medical School’s Department of Pathology. Maria Novotny also serves as an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh where she teaches professional writing. They began their work together after meeting in May of 2014 in Washington, D.C., where they were both lobbying for infertility legislation on Capitol Hill. After meeting for monthly dinners to support one another, a great friendship was born in addition to The ART of Infertility.

The ART of Infertility’s mission is to break the silence around the experiences of infertility, offering art and storytelling as therapeutic heuristics to capture and express the realities, pains, and joys of infertility.

Elizabeth Walker and Maria Novotny, PhD. Co-Directors of the ART of Infertility

After lobbying for infertility legislation on Capitol Hill in May 2014, you shared that you became fast friends when you both discovered your mutual role as peer-led infertility support group leaders. What happened next?

Elizabeth: Maria went to view the first exhibit, The ART of IF: Navigating the Journey of Infertility, which was on display in my hometown of Jackson, MI. We started meeting for monthly dinners. They were first meant to be a support system for our shared experience of the stresses of being a support group host. However, they quickly turned into meetings to discuss the ways that we could work together to collect and distribute patient stories through art. We’d spend hours in a dining hall on the campus of Michigan State University, where Maria was getting her PhD at the time, and talk about what this project, now organization, could be. We started traveling to do interviews and pop-up exhibits and started submitting abstracts to present at medical humanities conferences.

Your exhibit entitled “Cradling Creativity” is set for November 3 to 28 at the Old City Jewish Arts Center in Philadelphia. Is this your first event in the Philadelphia area?

Elizabeth: We had the opportunity to be interviewed for the Waiting for Babies podcast live, on stage, in Philadelphia back in August. We brought along some artwork from our permanent collection as a sneak peek of what was to come with Cradling Creativity. We’ve shared our stories many times but that was the first time we’ve shared so much about how we came together from our individual journeys to join forces and use art to educate about the experiences of infertility.

 

How has art been therapeutic through your personal fertility journeys?

Elizabeth: I was silent about my infertility for a long time. Not because I was ashamed, just because I had no idea what to make of it. Creating artwork helped me come to terms with my infertility diagnosis and figure out what it meant for me. Art gave me a voice when I felt silenced by my experience. It’s funny to look back at some of the pieces I created early on and reflect on both how differently and how similarly I feel. Art has been a reminder for me that although my body cannot create a baby, there are many things I can still give birth to.

Maria: I was looking for a way to document my experience. I am not sure why, but I had this feeling that I would want to look back at my experience. I was feeling isolated and struggled that many of my friends and family members simply did not relate to how I was feeling. While I struggled to actually talk about my loss without breaking down into tears, I turned to writing about my experiences because I knew that I could share my writing without having an actual conversation about it. It helped me tell others what I was going through, and I think it helped others reflect on how I felt.

 

What advice do you have for others navigating their fertility journey?

Elizabeth: Find a creative outlet. Be true to yourself and do what’s right for you and your family. It’s easy to get distracted by the advice and experiences of others but only you and your partner know what is right for you. Don’t be afraid to take breaks to gain clarity and definitely find a good therapist to help you through the tough decisions that come along with infertility.

Maria: Share your story. I know this isn’t always the easiest, especially when you are new to infertility. I remember how strong I felt when I first told my friends and sisters. They didn’t quite get it, but that was okay. I needed to stop hiding, stop staying silent. I also found that by telling my story, it connected me to so many other individuals who were going through the same thing. In fact, by telling my story, I found Elizabeth and a great friendship was born.

 

What are your goals and what do you strive for every day with the ART of Infertility?

ElizabethTo make infertility visible. To share the stories that aren’t as often heard. Those of single parents by choice, those preserving their fertility before cancer treatment or before transitioning. Those who choose not to pursue fertility treatments. Those who can’t for whatever reason. Stories of same-sex couples and people of color. To use these stories to help raise awareness about infertility and create a community of support so those with an infertility diagnosis don’t feel so alone.

 

What are some of your proudest accomplishments?

ElizabethJoin us on social media. We’re on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.  Invite us to bring an exhibit and/or workshop to your communityMake a piece of artwork that we can display in our exhibits. Contribute financially. Share your story via a guest blog post. Attend our exhibits and events.

We are always looking for stories and artwork to share, as well as volunteers. If you want to become involved with our organization, we encourage you to contact us at info@artofinfertility.org

 

If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

ElizabethFind an infertility support network as soon as you feel you need it. I didn’t seek out a support group as early as I could have used it because I felt my situation wasn’t “bad enough” yet and that my presence may hurt others who had been dealing with infertility for a longer amount of time or who had been through more treatments. The early months and years dealing with infertility are incredibly stressful and the resources you’ll gain from finding support through people dealing with similar experiences are essential.

MariaPractice self-care. Trying to conceive consumed so much of my life. One day I looked in the mirror, and I just remember feeling so unhappy. I didn’t recognize who I had become nor the life I was trying to build with my partner. I decided that I had to get back to who I was. So, I began running every morning. 7-8am was my time, just for me. Running helped clear my mind and also reminded me that I was healthy, even if I couldn’t get pregnant. I still run today and really value the ability to make time to just be with my body – even if it can’t make a baby on its own.

Follow The Art of Infertility on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

More Patient Experience Resources

Patient Care Team

Meet RADfertility’s exceptional staff that goes above and beyond on many levels of patient care.

Top Fertility Doctors

Our five leading Delaware fertility doctors are board certified experts in their field who follow the golden rule of fertility care.

Leading Clinicians

Meet RADfertility's clinical team made up of compassionate and caring women who will be by your side every step of your journey to parenthood.

Read Our Blog

Inspiring community members that are making a difference to the latest news put in perspective for our patients.

Patient Stories

RADfertility's Seeds of Success program is founded on inspiring stories from men and women who found success at RADfertility.

Celebrating 25 Years 

In August 1995, Dr. Barbara McGuirk founded Reproductive Associates, now RADfertility, and was soon joined by her partner, Dr. Ron Feinberg. See how we celebrated this special milestone!

Reviews

Read our latest reviews written by RADfertility patients.

Careers

If you are looking to join an enthusiastic team that has helped thousands of families grow, check out our current job listings.

Peggy Sue O.

★★★★★

"I feel so lucky to have found RADfertility. I tried two other clinics before I expanded my search and found RADfertility. I drive an hour each way to go to them but I don’t regret a thing. They are so caring and so professional. Every time I message them they respond quickly. Every time I see them they have a friendly smile and warm welcome. They explain everything so well and I never feel lost in the process as I did elsewhere. They also took the time to figure out what was wrong. Other clinics threw up their hands, said 'I don’t know' and pushed me to try IVF."

TJ P.

★★★★★

"Dr. Feinberg and the entire staff at RADfertility are absolutely amazing. The receptionists, coordinators, nurses, and lab staff are compassionate, caring, and straight forward. I’ve had a 12-year infertility journey and I’ve tried other clinics but RADfertility was the only one I felt at ease with. They answered any questions that I had and were there any time I needed them. My coordinator, Amy, was the absolute best and always had my back. Dr. Feinberg’s dedication to his patients is incredible. You are not just a number there, you are a person with individualized needs and care."

Anupama P.

★★★★★

"The RADfertility team gives you so much emotional support and positivity that it adds to your strength and keeps you focused on the end goal - a healthy and happy baby."

Samantha G.

★★★★★

"My journey with RADfertility and Dr. McGuirk started when my husband and I were trying to conceive and were having difficulty. We went to RADfertility, where we met Dr. McGuirk. I always say she changed my life and 'fixed' me. Dr. McGuirk is always learning more about endometriosis and how to help her patients. She’s brilliant and truly cares for you! I’m eternally grateful to her and everyone at RADfertility for their unwavering support, love, and care."

Annette D.

★★★★★

"Every step of our journey was tailored to us. We were treated so respectfully. Every detail was clearly explained and we felt so comfortable. Rhonda Wright was a Godsend and inspiring. I highly recommend this place! I cried when my weekly appointments were done and I 'graduated.'"

Amy W.

★★★★★

"The day I met Dr. Neithardt I knew she was the perfect doctor for me. Dr. Neithardt was so compassionate every step of the way. She held my hand, she hugged away tears, and continued to give me hope. There are not enough 'thank you's' in the world for Dr. Neithardt and the whole RADfertility team who will forever have a special place in my heart."

Shannon M.

★★★★★

"RADfertility's staff has heart and provided me with exceptional health care. I knew I was in good hands and felt like we were in this together. The doctors and nursing staff always answered all of my questions and provided thorough information about all of my options. I am so fortunate and appreciative of the care that I received at RADfertility. They go above and beyond."

Megan L.

★★★★★

"I cannot begin to explain how wonderful RADfertility is. We were frustrated with trying to start a family and it not working for us. The entire team of doctors and nurses made us feel comfortable and hopeful that we would be parents. We experienced so many ups and downs but we never felt like we were on our IVF journey alone, we had our RADfertility team every step of the way. If you're looking for a supportive team on the IVF journey, look no further. RADfertility is the absolute best."

Anonymous on FertilityIQ

★★★★★

"Dr. Schillings always kept us informed and never gave up on us. She always explained our options and risks with each procedure. She called us personally when there were any issues or sensitive subjects to cover. Dr. Schillings was the first doctor that had answers for us and wanted to help us have our miracle baby!"

Newark Office

4735 Ogletown-Stanton Road
Medical Arts Pavilion 2
Suite 3217
Newark, DE 19713

Wilmington Office

Silverside Medical Center
2700 Silverside Road, Suite 2A
Wilmington, DE 19810

Dover Office

Eden Hill Medical Center
200 Banning Street, Suite 240
Dover, DE 19904

 

Phone: (302) 602-8822

Fax: (302) 602-8832

©RADfertility 2021