Elisabeth Rohm's Baby Steps
Actress Elisabeth Rohm tells her story to help women make informed decisions about their fertility
Five years ago, at age 34, actress Elisabeth Rohm went to the doctor to inquire about freezing her eggs. She ended up learning she was infertile. In her new book, Baby Steps: Having the Child I Always Wanted (Just Not as I Expected), the former Law & Order star opens up about her unexpectedly rocky journey to motherhood, and what she hopes other women can learn from her experience.
In your book, you write candidly about the shock of finding out that, at age 34, you would never be able to conceive naturally. What happened?
It all started when I ran into a stranger who spoke with me about freezing my eggs and the need to be proactive in protecting my fertility. I went to see my doctor to talk about this, had some testing and was given the crushing news that I was experiencing something called accelerated ovarian aging. I was in shock. How can this be, I thought. I’m athletic, I eat healthy, and you think everything is going to be OK because you look so much younger than you are, and it feels like there is so much time left to have a baby.
After finding out that you would need to undergo IVF, you started treatments. What was this process like?
I went through my first cycle of hormone treatments and found out that it wasn’t good enough and I wasn’t producing enough eggs. It was the first time I thought that I might never get pregnant, ever. It was devastating. However, I was extremely lucky that in my first IVF transfer, I put four embryos in and one took and that’s my daughter, Easton.
Until recently, you’ve kept this struggle with infertility private. What inspired you to go public?
I think when we’re in our 20s and 30s, we hear our mothers and grandmothers saying, “Your clock is ticking, get with the program!” and we laugh it off as we finish school and work on our careers. And you know, we should do these things, but somewhere in this conversation, there needs to be a higher consciousness among young women about how fertility fits into the picture. I decided that I wanted to be a part of this conversation, and to use my experiences as a way to help get that basic information out there.
What would you like women to know about taking charge of their fertility in their 20s and 30s?
I would love it more than anything if women knew that, starting at age 30, it’s a good idea every year to check their hormone levels and check their ovarian reserve. Knowledge is power, and these simple tests can help you make the most informed decisions possible about your fertility.
I was recently at the pediatrician’s office, talking to the doctor’s assistant, and mentioned that I was writing this a book about how I had IVF with Easton. She responded, “Oh, I need to read that book!” It turns out she was 38 and had just found out that she would be not be able to conceive naturally, and was headed down a similar path.
We just need to get this more out in the open—that in your late 20s and early 30s, you can plan ahead. This doesn’t mean that your particular experience is going to be easy, or if you do have a fertility issue, your problem is going to be easily solved. But if you make fertility testing part of your annual check-up, you might avoid the increased odds for fertility problems that begin to escalate after age 35. This doesn’t mean rushing out to have a baby, but it could mean looking into freezing your eggs.
You’ve also mentioned that Nicole Kidman has been an inspiration for you. What is it about her story that has helped you tell your own?
People often get celebrated for being parents, but we don’t really talk about the journey to get there. I really admire Nicole Kidman for speaking so openly, and in such an empowered way, about using a surrogate [Kidman's daughter, Faith Margaret, was born via surrogate in 2011]. Once she discovered that things weren’t going well, she made the best decision for herself. I was very moved about the very plain and truthful way she spoke about all this. It’s so simple, but speaking honestly and sharing our stories is one way for women to help each other out.
It sounds like it had its ups and downs, but what was the best part of this entire process? Besides getting pregnant, of course!
When my mom met my baby. After all I had been through, and the doubts I’d had that I would ever get to that moment, it was amazing to see her holding my daughter. [Rohm's mother passed away in 2010, when Easton was two]. I will cherish that memory forever!
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