Mindfulness and meditation expert Josephine Alturi's path to parenthood has been anything but straightforward. Marked by surrogacy, international adoption, multiple rounds of IVF and late term pregnancy loss, Alturi's family building story makes one realize that there truly is no single way to build a family.
Looking at Alturi's family now, with 5 kids and a pair of twins on the way, one might be surprised to know the difficulties the couple had to go through in order to create their beautiful family.
With her husband battling a terminal illness that impacted his fertility, Alturi knew from the get-go that their path to parenthood would not be simple or straightforward and that in fact she might never be able to conceive naturally.
Finding hope in assisted reproductive technology (ART), the couple set out to create their first miracle baby. They opted for ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) initially, an ART process where a tiny needle, called a micropipette, is used to inject a single sperm into the center of the egg. With either traditional IVF or ICSI, once fertilization occurs, the fertilized egg (now called an embryo) grows in a laboratory for 1 to 5 days before it is transferred to the woman’s uterus (womb).
Unfortunately that did not work.
"The more and more we progressed with the cycles, the more defeating it was, and the more it started to really impact my mental wellness and how I looked at myself," Atluri said on the podcast. "I started to look inwards and wonder if there was something wrong with me because my body wasn't able to work the science to create a child."
Defeated and exhausted, the couple switched to a different fertility practice hoping to feel more supported and heard. Alturi did fall pregnant and they were both finally able to feel a sense of relief as they made their way to the 2nd trimester. However, Alturi experienced an "unexplained" miscarriage during the 17th week of her pregnancy, an experience she terms as truly "devastating".
It took them months to grieve and make peace with the fact that even assisted reproductive technology might not be the answer for them. Disheartened and lost, the couple finally decided to go the adoption route.
They travelled all the way to Kazakhstan to adopt their first baby, now a teenage boy, as they had the country had much shorter wait times for adoption as compared to the 2 year average everywhere else. Additionally, it was a complete leap of faith as they had no clue about their match and were required to spend a month over there. But since they felt they had nothing to lose, they decided to go ahead with it.
A year after bringing home their first son, the couple decided to give ART another shot, this time with the help of a third fertility clinic. Alturi did fall pregnant again and was put on an extended bedrest after undergoing a procedure closing her cervix. The couple welcomed their first biological set of twins as a result, helping them regain trust in the assisted reproductive technology process.
But the couple's family-building wasn't complete yet. They wanted to have more kids so they decided to use their frozen embryos from their previous IVF. Given Alturi's complicated medical history with pregnancy, she didn't want to risk carrying the babies herself so they found a surrogate carry her now-five-year-old twin sons.
"You'll hear things like, (using a surrogate) is 'out of convenience,'" Atluri said, "as if it were not a difficult proces or a difficult decision." She experienced a mix of happiness, sadness, and jealousy, for example, after hearing about the surrogate's doctors' appointments.
"Just because you decide to do one path doesn't mean that everything else in the in the past has gone away, and it's wiped clean and that now you're going to become a parent and so you should feel better," Atluri said.
The family now has a third set of twins, born on May 20th, also via surrogacy. Alturi reflected on how the entire parenthood experience affected her mental health and how she was able to take charge of it by practicing mindfulness and meditation as a conscious decision. She went on to reveal that she developed an eating disorder after her 2nd set of twins, as a result of the trauma of infertility she was constantly battling.
She has now made a career out of practicing and prioritizing mental health awareness and is not just successfully coping with it on her own but also helping out other parents deal with the troubles of infertility through mindfulness coaching.