After battling infertility, Katie O’Connor knew she wanted to help other women facing the same struggle. The result of that impulse? ShineChicago, an infertility support group. Membership includes an open forum for discussion and access to guest speaker seminars as well as exclusive discounts from select local businesses. O’Connor spoke with Our Town about her journey and what she hopes ShineChicago will provide.
Our Town What inspired you to create ShineChicago?
Katie O’Connor My personal journey through infertility and pregnancy inspired me to create Shine. The experience affected my whole outlook on life. I was open about my infertility journey, and the more I opened up, the more I noticed women opening up to me about their story and questions about the process. I knew infertility support was something that was needed and it was something I was passionate about.
OT Can you talk a little about what it was like to grapple with your own personal infertility issues?
KO I had several close friends go through infertility struggles before me, so when my husband and I decided to start trying to get pregnant, we almost expected to have trouble. It was still difficult to handle, very stressful at times, and the process became all-consuming. I struggled the most with the side effects from the different hormones and medications. I didn’t feel like myself and it was hard to be as active as I liked. However all the challenges made me that much more appreciative to hear the words “you are pregnant” and much more ready for the most important role in my life - “mom”.
OT Do you feel like there’s still a stigma attached to such struggles?
KO I don’t know if I’d say there is a stigma, but there is definitely a silence associated with infertility. It is an issue that is often only discussed between the couple and their doctor. Women are still apprehensive to share what they are going through with family, friends, and co-workers because of infertility’s intimate nature, for fear they won’t understand, or will be judgmental. I think women get to a point where they feel they want to open up and find support, because it can be so stressful to keep all the emotions, fears, and anxieties to themselves. That is where a forum like Shine can be so valuable.
OT How does ShineChicago work?
KO Sessions are designed to be comfortable and welcoming, a place to feel secure sharing your thoughts and asking questions. Meetings provide peer support through open discussion and professional knowledge from guest speaker seminars.The goal is to create a community that allows women to laugh and cry side by side while celebrating the successes and battling the challenges of infertility, as well as provide members with knowledge to feel empowered throughout their journey.
OT What sort of guest speakers have you hosted?
KO Dr. Eve Feinberg, board-certified in both Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, of Fertility Centers of Illinois: discussed “everything fertility” including an overview of female and male infertility, as well as testing & monitoring procedures and treatments, a panel of real women who have gone through infertility treatments discussing their personal struggles and successes and upcoming, we have Sara Connell, author, speaker, life coach, and infertility survivor.
OT ShineChicago has partnerships with other local organizations. How were they chosen and how does that work?
KO Many of the businesses and organizations were selected because I had a personal relationship with them during my struggle; they were warm, caring, and supportive during one of the most difficult times in my life. Members receive special discounts to services my partnering businesses provide, all to help support them during their infertility journey.
OT What are your hopes for ShineChicago’s future?
KO I hope that Shine can grow to be the go-to resource and community for women during their infertility journey. I am excited about where it is now and the path of growth that it is on. I am motivated by the positive response I have received from my initial members. I know that success is built on word of mouth and on quality of experience. My goal is for every member of Shine to feel supported, gain more knowledge, and be empowered throughout her journey.
ShineChicago meets twice a month on Tuesdays at 7:15pm at the Dailey Method in Bucktown.
A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for sites like Pop Matters and
afterellen.com Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," was called “poetic and heartrending” by ALA Booklist. Sarah is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
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