Empowerment Series: Emmy-Winning Journalist, Style Expert and E! Entertainment’s – Lilliana Vazquez Shares her Journey from IVF to Pregnancy
On March 31, 2021, Lilliana Vazquez announced to the world that she was expecting! AW had the wonderful opportunity to speak with the style genius and interviewer to get the scoop. We talked about some of the challenges faced during the time leading up to her announcement. She was candid when discussing her journey with IVF, struggles related to the disappointments, coming to a decision to share the journey, as well as, a new collaboration with Kindbody. The Latina’s down-to-earth and sweet nature made for an amazing interview, reinforcing the power of vulnerability.
A woman’s journey can only be understood by another. We endure pain, suffering, inequality, injustice, as well as, judgment from the outside world when expectations are not met. The immense shoes to fill can be too much at times, especially, when our body betrays us.
According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 12% of women, ages 15 to 44 have trouble conceiving or carrying to term. By definition, infertility is the failure to get pregnant after one or more years(s) of having sex without protection. The emotional toll to those that dream about motherhood is daunting. If a woman has a compromised reproductive system, the complications can hinder or slow down the process of conception. Fortunately, modern-day medicine has provided effective alternatives for women that encounter fertility issues. Although infertility does not discriminate, access to top-level medical care is not possible for everyone. Specialized fertility treatments such as In vitro fertilization (IVF) are costly, and insurance coverage laws for these treatments are not generous.
Lilliana Vazquez understands what it’s like to want motherhood terribly but be let down, over and over again. At the age of 35, a blood test called AMH (anti-Mullerian hormone) revealed her egg count was as low, as a woman in menopause. The news was life-changing, a 6-year journey with IVF tested her emotionally, physically, and mentally until she made the decision with her husband, Patrick to surrender to what they wanted most – to be parents. Whether their little miracle was achieved by surrogacy, adoption, or IVF the end result would be the same. A baby boy or girl would be received with a warm and loving homecoming. Imagine, the excitement when she was able to finally embrace the news she was having a baby of her own.
Lilliana was glowing in pink during our Zoom meeting! Happiness was coming out of her pores, as she gushed about “Baby M.” The couple wants to keep the element of surprise, deciding to wait for the moment of birth to find out the baby’s gender. She was authentic and gracious, as she shared some personal moments. It is important for her to help destigmatize infertility, as highlighted during our talk. Latinas are increasingly postponing motherhood to later years. We have a responsibility to encourage education among our women. Have the difficult conversations that remove power from its taboo in our communities.
This subject matter affects all of us, therefore, I am elated that we could have an open dialogue to address the topic. Undoubtedly, readers will be charmed by her story and feel just as much joy as I did, after our sitdown.
You have shared your beautiful news in such a special way. The reveal of “Baby M” was personal and touching. Congratulations on your pregnancy! You began the IVF journey in 2015 but after experiencing so much pain, loss, grief – the dream has come true! Once you let your guard down and stopped being afraid of what could happen. What did you feel the moment you embraced pregnancy and the idea that your miracle was on the way? I think of finding out I was pregnant with two specific dates – receiving the doctor’s call telling me I was pregnant. The other is a day back in December, while I was in Los Angeles when I surrendered to being pregnant. I gave in to the joy that comes with this miracle, growing inside of me. There had been many tears leading up to this moment because I was processing the loss of the last 6 years. I was processing all of the pain, disappointment, and carrying it with me for the first 2 months of pregnancy. I had been bearing it, however, once I finally embraced happiness, the weight was lifted from my heart and spirit. I say that with intention because physically, I can shoulder a lot of weight but the heart can only handle so much. Letting go and surrendering to happiness gave me the ability to live in the light versus focusing so aggressively on the negative. I stopped living in the “What if” and it feels incredible that I get to live in that every day!
April 18-24 was National Infertility Awareness Week. Many women struggle with reproductive challenges. The condition affects all races, ages, religions, and economic statuses without warning. It can happen to anyone but we are resistant to having frank discussions about the problem and feelings that arise. I’m not sure if it’s shame, embarrassment, or guilt but women going through the painful experience feel alone in their journey. Some choose to suffer in silence which is a heavy load to carry. You made the decision to share your experience with the world. What has been the major reason driving this decision to share such a personal story and why do you feel it is important for us, as women to share? I think you hit the nail on the head! There is some regret that I kept my journey private for such a long time. IVF is not a magical solution and the idea of sharing the suffering from multiple losses in a public way was challenging. Some women experience many losses and are incredibly resilient but I did not have the strength to go through the loss openly, it didn’t feel right for me. I was not in a place emotionally to be able to do that. I could barely be vulnerable enough with my husband to cry in front of him when something didn’t go right.
I grew up around courageous women who had no choice but to be strong. These women have been like impenetrable mountains. When you grow up with that, it’s a tremendous example but can also be detrimental. The ability to share vulnerability and disappointment with loved ones is stalled. I watched my mom raise my brother and I, as a single parent, it was tough but so was she! My mom went through some very hard times and remained indestructible. I modeled myself after that but going through this journey, I now understand that we need that care and empathy from our family, friends, and community. I was not able to share my pain all those years, today, I see the significance in leaning on others.
Sharing this story is important, acknowledging the loss is necessary because it’s part of the healing process. My vulnerability has become a strength and I want to build awareness and education for our communities to feel it’s okay to seek help.
There is a general perception that Latinas are very fertile. I’m not sure where it comes from, maybe, it’s the general mindset that makes us think women are made to procreate. In an interview for “People Magazine” you discussed feeling isolated during a stage in your life when you were trying to conceive. I would bet plenty of women feel the same. Can you tell us, how you were able to free yourself from this mindset? I think growing up Latina is all about family. We know each other’s business, talk about what is happening in our lives – it’s what we do. I did not give my family the opportunity to support me in this part of my journey. When you are in this, you’re not thinking clearly, you are an emotional disaster. It’s not easy for loved ones to see us go through it alone but that’s what I needed. I did not want to answer questions or expose myself to an inquiry.
Present-day, I feel there is freedom in telling the story on my terms. I am ready to open up, the time has played a key role and everything happening around us has led up to this moment. I’ve been able to re-design how I prioritize life, how I operate within my community and my relationship with my husband. It has taken 6 years to make the decision to put it out there, it did not happen overnight.
Your infertility journey has been lengthy. Years of treatments, testing and confronting challenges that take a toll physically, mentally, and emotionally but you have turned it into a positive. Using your platform and experience to help other women is amazing. You are collaborating with Kindbody.com to help a dozen Latinas receive a full infertility assessment at no cost. This is a wonderful initiative, how can women who are interested find out more about the program? Kindbody has really modernized and revolutionized fertility for women. They are putting knowledge, access, and resources in the control of women, whether they want to be mothers or not. Fertility is not solely motherhood, it is about looking at the health of your ovaries, uterus, and fallopian tubes. We need to understand our reproductive system and get insight into how everything is running. You want overall wellness, it’s not only about checking in with a primary physician or gynecologist. Kindbody makes it easier to get insight on these things and every woman should be an advocate for their own body. They have offices in major cities and are bicoastal, the services have incredible value.
Black women and Latinas are so underrepresented when it comes to fertility. We don’t talk about the financial or emotional side of things, we need to do more of it. Medical and reproductive healthcare should not be limited to certain groups. Using my platform will hopefully encourage women to take control of their reproductive health, as well as, get the support necessary to improve their well-being.
I partnered with one of my favorite and most trusted charities, 100 Hispanic Women to choose the women for this fertility assessment. They are going to help find the 12 women that will come to Kindbody for these checkups. We’ll be doing Instagram LIVE and panels to start some real and educational conversations around reproductive health.
Having knowledge is power, whether you are considering motherhood, thinking of freezing your eggs, or opting out of having a child. This is about getting full workup at $0 cost, whatever the women choose to do with the results is up to them but it’s critical to have all the information about your entire health.
We are so happy to partner with these organizations to promote awareness in the Latinx communities. We need to have additional resources and normalize IVF – talk about it openly!
AW is about giving women a resource for hope, inspiration, empowerment, and encouragement. I like to end interviews by asking for a quote, mantra, affirmation, or advice to help women. Can you provide us with some words for those struggling with reproductive challenges in their own life? It’s something that my mom always says to me, sometimes it’s hard to process and really, actually live it. But as I go into my 40’s and during my fertility journey, I have thought a lot about these words. I’ve leaned on it during my career, as well, “Siempre ‘pa lante. Para tras, ni para tomar aire.” Always look forward, never back, not even to catch your air!
Keep moving forward, don’t look back – instead, look to the future. I loved how Lilliana ended this special interview.
We all have our own challenges to face. Difficult decisions or choices to make, conflicts to resolve, and moments throughout our lives that will force us to take a real look at ourselves. As women, we often repress feelings, ultimately becoming martyrs to save our loved ones from concern or pain. The emotional weight placed on our shoulders are boulders large enough to bring us to our knees at certain times. We start believing that it’s our responsibility to bear the suffering alone but it doesn’t have to be this way.
Infertility affects men and women, however, there is an archaic assumption that women are made to have babies. This ideal leaves us feeling like a failure when our bodies do not immediately respond the way nature intended. For the women that want to experience motherhood, infertility has the potential to create havoc on their physical and mental state. It’s critical to understand, we are more than our body and reproductive system. We must take care of ourselves, remain kind to the woman in the mirror.
Nurturing self-love and allowing your people to support the journey, no matter where it takes you is a big part of the process. The reinforcement that you are not alone will help take off some of the self-imposed pressures that come with it all. Give yourself space to manage the complications in a way that doesn’t hurt your spirit. You are whole, loved, and honored as a human being, none of which has anything to do with your ability to reproduce. Remember, a family is a unit of love that looks different for everyone. You get to decide what that picture means to you.
AW is incredibly honored to have had an opportunity to share this beautiful story. I am immensely thankful to Lilliana Vazquez and the Bonita Project for making this possible. I believe that telling our stories creates connection and promotes healing. My wish is that her story offers hope to those that are in need of it today.
Protected content. 2021 awakened-woman.com
Protected content. 2021 awakened-woman.com