One of the aspects I find truly humbling about my writing is how it has led me to others, to hear their stories and become a part of different journeys. I’m always incredibly in awe to see the wonderful ways in which so many are unceasingly working to make a difference within the infertility community, and beyond.
I recently had the honour of getting to know Kristen, whose journey began when she was just 19 years old after being diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Failure. Fast forward ten years of life and infertility experience, to a conversation with Karla, friend and now co-founder, when inspiration hit and the spark of an idea for Pineapl was created; that every person living with any form of infertility should have the opportunity to build a private support community, which they can control.
“Infertility strips away the control from everything and this shouldn’t also be the case when seeking support.” – Kristen
I feel I’m never able to eloquently put into words just how tough and isolating it can feel being infertile and how it can be an inhumanly and hauntingly lonely place. I didn’t know anyone else who was going through the emotions, procedures, paperwork and fear at the same time as us and so I scoured the net, looking for answers, finding solace in the world of fertility forums. I had discovered my tribe; there were others out there just like us. For a while they became my comfort blanket, I had the freedom to, anonymously, ask questions, receive virtual hugs and be initiated into a world which hadn’t previously even been on my radar. And then, as the months went by I was, once again, left behind, because treatment was refusing to work for us in the way it was for my newfound peers. I ended up feeling like a fertility forum has-been and didn’t know where to turn.
Which is why I’m really keen to share Kristen’s story and vision for Pineapl, a peer matching and social media app, designed specifically for those who are struggling to conceive, by someone who has been there.
When I look back to my life at 19, it really brings Kristen’s story home. Whilst I was backpacking around Nepal and India, my biggest concern over where to go next, Kristen was dealing with the loss of her ovarian function, being forced into a mature world of infertility, adoption, donor eggs and the possibility of a childfree life; heavy decisions for a teenager who wasn’t even ready to start a family.
“The diagnosis changed the way I looked at relationships and young adulthood. It made me think seriously about who I was going to share my life with and who would be able to cope with my infertility.”
You’ll be pleased to hear that Kristen did meet someone who was more than able to deal with the tough choices ahead, and was happily married in 2016.
They decided to try for a family.
At the time of her POF diagnosis, Kristen’s sister had suggested the use of her eggs, should Kristen want to go down the donor route, and although almost a decade had passed, the offer was still there. However, whilst Canadian Kristen had found herself living in London, her sister was still based in Canada. It wasn’t the easiest of donor cycles logistically, but Kristen found a clinic prepared to coordinate treatment with a donor overseas and, in May 2017, underwent an embryo transfer which resulted in a pregnancy. Tragically Kristen suffered a miscarriage at nine weeks. A few months later, in August, Kristen underwent a double embryo transfer, and her twin boys were born the following year.
“There’s a definite need for conversations to be had but I always felt there must be a better way of having them.”
Like many of us, Kristen sought out online peers but realised early on that the platforms used, predominantly through social media outlets, weren’t necessarily built for that level of support.
The “closed” networks she joined were seemingly private but didn’t always allow for a full level of privacy. Although it’s now changed, at the time Kristen was connecting with groups, members were listed and therefore visible. As much as this has been rectified, other privacy issues are still rife and it’s not uncommon for personal contacts to have various groups suggested, or recommended, simply because someone they know has joined; when it comes to something as personal and private as infertility, it should be able to remain that way. Kristen also found that the algorithms currently used can mean that protection isn’t always in place, even when workarounds are created. This unfortunately allows for potentially upsetting information to be visible to all and, where workarounds are successful, it can ultimately lead to less support:
“Because of the algorithms used, in social media, any posts including warnings for TMI, triggers and sensitive content can’t easily be seen by all group members, which can reduce a large amount of peer support to just a small number of people.”
Kristen felt there had to be a better way to create a safe, secure and private support network.
What is Pineapl?
Pineapl is the first social media platform dedicated solely to infertility. It enables users to create their own community and get matched with others facing similar challenges, locally and / or around the world. It’s fully private, allowing for intimate conversations with people who understand and, most importantly for me, the user is fully in control and able to hide any sensitive or pregnancy related posts from their feed:
“People needing support shouldn’t have to disconnect from networks or be made to feel upset or left behind.”
And with this, I completely agree.
Every one of us is unique, we all need differing levels and types of encouragement and protection. It can therefore be increasingly difficult to find someone who gets us, our situation and even the terminology which goes hand in hand with each fertility issue. And we change, as do our protocols and treatments, yet we should still all be entitled to a high level of sensitive support, however we’re feeling and whatever we can face, at any given time. I’d truly have relished a network which allowed for choice, control and compassion, during my own journey.
Pineapl is currently in its early stages of fundraising and design and hasn’t yet launched, but Kristen and Karla are working incredibly hard to get it off the ground. It’s hugely important to them to create an environment where support is rife and safe, because it’s coming from people who truly understand.
“It’s our hope that, through Pineapl, everyone will be able to have those vital and all-important conversations, the way they want to have them.”
If you’re interested in finding out more about Pineapl or in becoming involved financially, then click here.
The pineapple and infertility
For anyone in the know, the pineapple is a well recognised symbol of infertility and trying to conceive. There are many reasons as to why, so here’s a few:
Pineapple cores hold a high concentration of bromelain, an enzyme believed to reduce inflammation in the body. Because of this, there’s a, very large, school of thought that eating one piece of the core for five days, following an embryo transfer, helps with implantation. Trust me when I tell you there’s a reason “normal” folk don’t eat that bit…
The pineapple is also widely recognised as a symbol of friendship, warmth and welcome, as Kristen and Karla put it; “Three things you can look forward to when the app is released.”
And finally, for those as interested in etymology as I am, in English, the word ‘pineapple’ was first recorded to describe the reproductive organs of conifer trees, which the crown of the later-discovered fruit closely resembled.
And it’s a crown we all deserve to wear.