As told to Lisa Manterfield
When Lisa Stigliano’s identical twin sister became pregnant within a few months of trying, Lisa was genuinely happy for her, but it also made her realize her own struggles to conceive were more complex than “being a little older.” Read on to learn how Lisa found her way into a new chapter of her life and a new career.
LWB: Briefly describe your dream of motherhood:
Lisa Stigliano: I was always a goal-oriented, ambitious, hardworking person. Being raised by a single mother with little money made me want to create a better life for myself and my family.
LWB: Are you childfree by choice, chance, or circumstance? Please explain briefly.
Lisa S: About 10 years ago, like many other newlywed couples, my husband and I purchased our first home and were excited to start our family. I was 36 years old and time was of the essence.
After about a year of trying with no positive pregnancy tests, I consulted my OB/GYN, who suggested we keep trying, as it takes longer the older we get. After another year, we saw a fertility specialist who found polyps on my uterus that could be interfering with implantation. We waited a few months after the surgery for everything to heal and begin trying again. About six months later, we opted for Intrauterine insemination, which was also unsuccessful.
And then it happened. A positive pregnancy test. Oh no, not mine. My twin sister got pregnant naturally after trying for a few months. It opened my eyes to how serious our infertility struggle really was.
At this point we decided to try IVF. I was approaching my 40th birthday, my FSH [follicle-stimulating hormone] level was high, so the fertility clinic recommended donor eggs. This is when it truly hit, and I sank into a deep depression. So you are telling me that my eggs are too old to produce a baby but my twin sister’s are not? We are identical twins with similar lifestyles—no alcohol, nonsmoker, loved to exercise, etc.
This is when I came across a Naturopath doctor on my local news segment who specialized in women’s issues, and I knew I needed to do something fast. She introduced me to holistic ways to improve my fertility. And with her help and my new holistic lifestyle, I was able to lower my FSH level to an acceptable level for IVF. I was beyond thrilled. Like I won the jackpot or something.
Little did I know how grueling the next year would be. While my sister was preparing for her bundle of joy, I was in and out of fertility clinics.
LWB: What was the turning point for you?
Lisa S: After four unsuccessful IVFs through two different fertility doctors, I was emotionally and physically done. I decided I couldn’t take the treatments anymore. I had become so far from the woman I used to be, always crabby, depressed, and not fun to be around.
My husband was super supportive about stopping and even suggested looking into adoption. Then my father was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension and put on oxygen therapy. About six months later, he passed at the age of 61.
I was done with everything—the baby that may or may not come, the crying, the depression—and decided to focus on what I could control.
I allowed myself to grieve the loss and come to the acceptance that it may never happen. This was not easy, but I knew it was necessary in order to move on and become the best version of myself.
LWB: Where are you on your journey now?
Lisa S: When I was ready, I started to make new goals. I enrolled in the Institute of Integrative Nutrition to pursue my interest in holistic nutrition. I loved the ways I could support my body naturally without the need for prescription drugs. I went on to start my own company, Keeping Fit After 40, where we support women in midlife with holistic lifestyles. I recently published my first book, Let’s Celebrate Midlife, and I am active with rescuing stray and abandoned cats.
LWB: What do you look forward to now?
Lisa S: Everyday I try to be the best aunt to my six-year-old nephew, who I love more than anything. And yes, I spoil him and he loves it.
LWB: What have you learned about yourself?
Lisa S: I could never have made it through this transformation in my life had I not gone through the stages [including letting go, grieving, making peace, and moving on] that Lisa talks about in her book, Life Without Baby: Surviving and Thriving When Motherhood Doesn’t Happen. It has been a long journey, but one that was so worth it. I learned a lot about myself along the way, and I want to encourage other women that there is hope for living an amazing life without children. We don’t know what will happen in our lives, but I truly believe that there is still a life for us out there, baby or not.
Lisa Stigliano is a Certified International Health Coach. Her company is Keeping Fit after 40, which helps women over 40 transition naturally to midlife. She lives in New York with her husband.