Exclusive: Bobbie Thomas Opens Up About Her IVF Journey
Today show style editor Bobbie Thomas didn’t have a quick or easy road to pregnancy. Dealing with the emotional ups and downs of IVF in 2014 gave Thomas newfound perspective on the process and inspired her to speak out; she now serves as a spokesperson for Fertility Facts, a site dedicated to early fertility education. Shortly after announcing her pregnancy, Thomas opened up about her experience to The Bump, including how she dealt with those hormone-induced side effects, what she wish she knew earlier and the moment she found out she was pregnant.
You’re usually a very private person. What made you decide to go public?
I basically had a couple of things happen at once. First, I found myself whispering at work to colleagues who said, “Are you okay?” I was a little nauseous and faint. I would quietly say, “Eh, I am doing IVF.” I was leaving the show one day and I thought to myself, why am I whispering about this? This is an opportunity for me to try and have a family. Also a few times I noticed that people, even close friends at work, are uncomfortable when you tell them something so personal. They’re not sure how to process it…and when you don’t know something, it becomes this crazy monster in the room.
At the same time, social media started noticing my appearance. My team here at Bobbie.com—I have a nest of girls who are protective of me. My assistant, one day, was trying to shield my eyes from her computer, and it turned out she was trying to hide a comment that said, “Is that a burrito or a baby bump?” I’ve been doing TV for a really long time. This spring I’ll have been with the Today show for 10 years, and I knew a long time ago when I signed up to share information with people that I was sharing myself. But I’m human. The fact that people take notice —the five-pound difference at the time—it was just like, wow. I was touched that people were interested in how I was but at the same time I struggled. For me, I couldn’t be who I was if I wasn’t forthcoming. So those were the two main reasons that I wanted to open up.
What helped get you through each time the IVF didn’t take, and then keep moving forward with it?
Life is all about ups and downs and, of course, it is amplified when you are going through fertility challenges. For me, it was having the support system of my husband and my best friend. If you are lucky enough to have a significant other that is huge. But that could be your best friend, that could be your mom, that could be your sister, or even your colleagues. My whole team here in my office, these are my sisters. It’s like they are having this baby with me! They’ve given me shots when my husband has been out of town (we took a picture of that. It was hilarious!), they’ve picked up prescriptions, they’ve helped me when I was crying. I was really lucky between my husband, my best friend, and my team. When I had a bad day I would just lean on all of them and they would remind me why I am doing this.
And the side effects of the hormones, like the weight gain—how did you deal? What advice would you offer to women going through this?
I think the biggest thing that women talk about is the physical frustration of the weight gain and feeling hormonal. It’s hard enough, without all the drugs, for us as women to love the way we look, so you can only imagine what happens when you say, “Let’s just pump you full of hormones and then add on five to eight pounds!” But this isn’t about feeling fat—and I want to be really clear about that. Whether you are a size 6 or 26, it’s about you not feeling like yourself. You feeling like “ugh”: you’re breaking out, your face is a different shape, your feet are swollen, your favorite jeans don’t fit, your bra doesn’t fit, your underwear is tight. This is about just feeling like an alien on hormones and not being able to control that your boobs are four times their normal size and they hurt. And that you’ve got bruises all over your body.
In the hardest moment in your life, you have to stop and realize that you’ve got to be nicer to yourself. I did little things to treat myself so I could feel beautiful in ways that had nothing to do with staring at myself in a particular outfit. But I did have to look in the mirror to realize that I was strong and I was really lucky to be doing what I was doing. And when you really think about being grateful, that really got me through bad days. It was the gratitude, and it was being nice to myself. I can be meaner to myself than any social media tweet, blog, whatever.
Is there anything you would have done differently?
I did find myself frustrated after starting the IVF process that I hadn’t been told about it sooner. I couldn’t believe that I had visited numerous physicians that told me, “Don’t worry about it,” or “You can’t really test for that.” It was unnerving. I wish someone would have told me at 30 that I could have invested a little bit of money into one round of IVF to put some eggs away. In my mind, when I first talked about IVF to my doctor it was, “Okay, IVF is the solution, we’re just going to do this for one month and then we’re good. Right?” It seemed like the last resort that was the sure fix. People don’t understand, like, if you can afford it, if you can suck it up and get through all the shots and the doctor appointments and the surgery, you are still just going to be spinning the roulette wheel hoping that the number lands on you. There is no guarantee. I have met women who told me they were going through this and they always say until you walk in someone’s shoes, but wow. The admiration, the heart I have now for other women…I would give them a hug on the street if I knew what they were going through. I just wish I had known more, and that is another one of the reasons I wanted to open up about this.
It must be so amazing to finally get that BFP! Tell us where you were when you heard the news.
So I had a really rough weekend because the Friday before I was supposed to go to my doctor for the blood test, I had the worst cramping and I started spotting. Of course, I freaked out because I assumed it didn’t work. I was inconsolable. I had snot coming out of my nose and onto my mouth and I called my doctor and she was like, “I can’t understand you!” My poor husband was just sitting there, and after listening to me cry for an hour she told him to run to the store and get a pee stick. When he came back I took the test and there’s a faint line, and I’m having this whole heart attack. So I take a picture of it and sent it to my doctor and then called her and she’s like, “I’ve been waiting for this, you’re fine, you’re fine. Just relax, it doesn’t mean the worst.” So we didn’t have full confirmation yet, but we had this crazy night where I Googled the heck out of everything: Do cramps mean you aren’t pregnant? Does spotting mean you aren’t pregnant? Does it mean you’re pregnant? And for every one answer that said no, one said yes.
The following morning we went in and we did the blood test. I’m so tired from freaking out the night before that I got home and soon fell asleep sitting up and my doctor called. We called her back an hour later and she said, “I can’t believe you missed the phone after freaking out all night! But you are pregnant, it reads positive.” I just sat there in shock and I just started crying. And she said, “You’re just hormonal.” I literally laughed. I know that was a long-winded story but that is what the IVF roller coaster is.
What has this whole process taught you?
I feel so overwhelmed by love. Even the fact that you guys are interested in talking to me, I am so grateful. Whatever my experience can do to help someone else, I feel that I have been so gifted with so many friends and awesome things in my life that if there is anything I can do to help somebody else so they don’t feel alone, they don’t feel crazy, they don’t feel fat, then I’m game. I feel like if something bad still happens, I am going to have that many more people rooting for me and sending me heartfelt words.
I also just want more women including myself—I say this out loud, we just really need to be nicer to ourselves. We have to be kind, we have to realize that we are not super human. But, I think the biggest lesson that I am going to take away from all of this is to love myself a little more and to be a little nicer to myself.