life, love, and maybe babies

Friday, November 11, 2016

G Force: My Encounter with Celebrity Infertility Hero, Giuliana Rancic

Everyone seems to have a story about an A-list celebrity encounter. Your mom saw Oprah buying a hideous scarf at Hermes in Chicago. Your best friend totally stood next to that guy from Mr. Robot at Whole Foods in LA last summer. And your gynecologist went to high school with Paul Rudd's Mom.

But me? I have no celebrity story. No quirky tale I can whip out at an awkward Thanksgiving moment when the convo turns political. No cute story to tell strangers when our elevator gets stuck. Nothing. Nada.

Until now.

Amazingly enough, my A-list celebrity encounter happened last night, and in the process managed to make my whole infertility journey come full circle. I never even saw it coming. Let's back up.

A few weeks ago, I got a flyer in the mail that Giuliana Rancic was coming to Kansas City. You know Giuliana Rancic. She was the anchor for E! News forever, has her own wine and clothing line, and is married to the winner of the very first "The Apprentice", Bill Rancic. Oh, and she kicked breast cancer's ass and never has a bad hair day. She's basically a superhero.

The flyer said she was coming to town as the guest speaker for North Kansas City Hospital. They were promoting Club W, an organization that supports women through Wisdom and Wellness. (Go here to join Club W; it's amazing. And free. SCORE!)

Anyway, I saw the flyer and hyperventilated, then immediately texted my good friend and radio DJ extraordinaire, Jenny Matthews. I asked Jenny to be my date to this event because, let's be honest, Giuliana is our Holy Grail. If we were creating a celebrity squad, Giuliana would be President and CEO. Not just because she's pretty and has killer style (though those qualifications certainly don't hurt), but because of what she has done for the infertility community.

You see, Jenny and I are IVF warriors. Our three children (Jenny has 2, I have 1) are the result of countless hours of crying, testing, poking, prodding, wondering and waiting. Jenny's story is hers to tell, and you can read all about mine here on this blog, but the bottom line is, we have Giuliana in common. Giuliana went through the IF and surrogacy process for her son, Duke. She shared her story, and not just as a quick anecdote in a "10 Things You Didn't Know About Giuliana" glossy magazine story. Oh no. Giuliana and her husband Bill filmed her journey - from injections to conceptions - on their reality show, "Giuliana and Bill."

Big deal, you say. They had a reality show. Of course she told her story for ratings. 

Um, no.

Not even on my best day as an infertile did I ever wake up and think, "Damn, it'd be so great if there were a camera in my face right now." At no point did I stare at my swollen belly, rock hard with fluid and 26 eggs that would be retrieved in the most painful process ever and think, "This would be so fun for 854,000 peeps to watch. Sign me up!"

Infertility is pain. It is ugly. It is more tears than you knew your body could produce. It wreaks havoc on a marriage. And more than anything, infertility is the epitome of uncertainty. For Giuliana to tell her story without the guarantee of a happy ending is a) brave b) kind of insane and c) something to be celebrated. Besides, Giuliana was already a celebrity without the infertility angle. She could have easily just produced Duke at a press junket one day and said, "Oh, that baby? Yes, that's my son. Let's talk about my clothing line now." 

Instead, she made the decision to open her life, her marriage, and her journey (including breast cancer, eventually) to millions of women. Women like me who were watching her on television in the midst of our own failing fertility cycles. Women like me who watched her go to Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine in Denver and  thought, "Maybe they can help me, too." 

Because of Giuliana's story, I was inspired to not give up. I was inspired to walk away from my current RE, pick up the phone and call CCRM. Because of her I traveled 622 miles from home to a place that I feel put just as much effort into me as they did Giuliana. 

Lastly, because of Giuliana Rancic, almost two years ago, I was inspired to do something I never planned to do. I took a deep breath, singed into Instagram and Facebook, and shared a link to this very blog. No more hiding. I detailed the good, bad, and ugly of trying to get pregnant. The curse words, the sleepless nights, and my own seemingly endless uncertainty.

And like Giuliana, I was overwhelmed with the response. Friends emailed that were going through their first IVF cycle. People I hadn't spoken to in years reached out to ask about a medication or a procedure. I heard sad stories of miscarriages and failed IUI's. I heard happy stories about twins and triplets. I listened to stories of cautious hope and dwindling optimism. Some of those stories are still ongoing to this day. 

And so I knew I had to jump on the chance to see the person that helped me get to this point.

So, back to my celebrity encounter. Because my dear friend Jenny is in radio, she was able to secure an interview with Giuliana prior to her speech. I was so happy for Jenny. She was going to meet our hero and I was going to live through her vicariously. Maybe she'd get me an autograph.

And then Jenny said I could come along.

And I died and the story ended.

No, not really, but close. 

Last night Jenny, myself, and our friend Shaylee (who also idolizes Giuliana) found ourselves in a small conference room at the Embassy Suites. And there, less than 15' away, was Giuliana, answering questions from several journalists in Kansas City. We were the last to go.

Jenny could have easily just sat me in a corner and been like, "Kim, you stay here and be quiet like a good girl, please." But she took my hand, stood me up and said, "You have earned the right to tell this woman what she means to you. You're coming with me."

And just like that, we sat down with our hero, Guliana Rancic. (Can I just tell you that Giuliana actually got up and rearranged the lighting so we'd all look better? The woman is a beast.) She smiled at us, a small black eye from a bounce house incident with her son peeking out from beneath her expertly applied makeup. And then she said, "Okay, let's do this!"

I think I wet my pants.

Jenny, being the pro she is, asked wonderfully poignant and professional questions. I, on the other hand, instantly morphed into Tommy Boy with my pretty little pet.


I fumbled words, made weird faces, and at one point practically leapt across the table to shove a picture of my son in Giuliana's face. Of course, she was completely gracious and as you'll see, handled my ridiculousness with the utmost poise. She was sweet, attentive, and charismatic. All the things she is on TV, she is in real life.

As Jenny and I say now, it was one of the top 5 moments of our lives.

Let me reiterate that this wasn't about her being a celebrity. Sure, that part was fun. At the end of the day, this was about her being a celebrity that put her voice and her platform to good. To talk openly about something that as recently as even 5 years ago was considered "taboo". In some places, it still is. But because of this amazing woman, I felt strong enough to tell my friends, family and clients what I was going through.

So, Giuliana, thank you. Thank you for handling my questions with a smile, for not running away after glimpsing my insanity, and for helping to make my son a reality. I owe you more than you'll ever know. 

A-list celebrity story? Level: Pro

Here's the taped interview, courtesy of Jenny and SheKCLifestyle:


Here's me and G (with her expert lighting arrangement):


And here's the picture I showed her of my son and my very handsome hubby:

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