Last month Rachel Daugherty met her daughter after a 12-year infertility struggle. Her journey included "three IVF cycles, six miscarriages, one failed adoption and four surgeries." She was gracious enough to open up about her pain—and the path to healing—that has made her into the mother she is today. Her daughter has given her "sense of home and wholeness I did not know before her birth."
And in tandem with her story of motherhood, she found herself called to become a small business owner. Rachel brought Fine Healing Goods into the world with a mission to offer relief and support through a finely curated selection of cannabis products to promote plant-based healing. She tell us, "I learned that there is relief, that I did not lose myself through this process, and that a return to wellness was not only possible, but it was necessary."
Read on for more advice on how to navigate the challenges of infertility, the adoptive process and on finding personal wellness and hope through it all.
Tell us about your decision to have children; was motherhood something you always wanted for your life?
My desire to have children has been lifelong. I knew I would be an older mother. While I knew I wanted to be a mom, I intentionally waited to have a baby until I had experienced more of life. I am very much in love with being productive in multiple ways, and staying home to make a family just wasn't motivating to me when I was younger. After college, I was a sales executive for 17 years, traveling five to six days a week. I was so lucky to be able to work for large corporations that afforded me the opportunity to travel and meet people, and see things and go places I otherwise never would have. I experienced so many wonderful things, and I would not change that. My intention in waiting to have children was to establish myself, my independence, and my self-sufficiency so that I could 1) create stability for my child(ren) and 2) be an example to them of valuing self-care, curiosity, productivity, and new experiences.
Was the path to parenthood what you had envisioned?
No, not at all. When I began to try to grow my family, things were not as easy as I had expected. I knew there were considerations in having babies later in life that I accepted and was willing to endure, one of them being the reality of fertility treatments. When I was 30, I started seeing one of the world’s highest-rated fertility doctors. I began rounds of daily hormone shots, tracking cycles to the hour, and going to doctor appointments every week before, during, and after becoming pregnant. Fertility treatments were not and still are not covered by many insurance plans, so I was spending thousands of dollars to become pregnant. I was very fortunate to be able to afford this, as many longing mothers and parents cannot, but that was always part of my plan while I focused on my career and financial stability before having children.
I was very optimistic about becoming pregnant, but the process became harder by the month. Over the course of 12 years, I tried unsuccessfully to start a family. The physical pain, anxiety, and stress produced by two fertility clinics, three IVF cycles, six miscarriages, one failed adoption, and four surgeries left me yearning for relief and healing.
How did you handle the emotional journey that you faced? And what did you learn about yourself process?
The emotional journey of struggling to have a child in and of itself was unpredictable and changed every day in range and intensity. Add hormone injections on top of that! At any given time, I felt optimistic, pessimistic, physically stressed, excited, emotionally exhausted, hopeful, anguished over the difficulty, and resentful of every pregnant woman, especially those who easily became pregnant or giggled about having an “oops” baby. I remained determined to build my family. I did not know when my child would join our family, but I knew that it would happen. This desire turned the periods of hopelessness into renewed strength and resolve.
A significant part of this journey was learning how to cope. I tried every trick in the book. Exercise, yoga, medication, acupuncture, diet, reduced workload, therapy. You name it, I tried it. Nothing helped.
The big turning point for me was when I discovered the healing properties of CBD hemp extract. As I mentioned, after all of the IVF cycles, surgeries, and miscarriages, I was physically and emotionally spent. After each loss, I turned to over-the-counter pills, wine, Xanax and other prescription drugs. None of it made me feel better, and often, it made me feel worse. One day, my husband convinced me to try a CBD bath. I struggled with the stigma that follows cannabis, but I reluctantly got in the tub. After a 30-minute soak, the relief was so immense, I could not believe that I emerged from the tub feeling a physical and emotional lightness (not an intoxicating high).
I began researching to learn about the optimal dosage and frequency for me. I learned that there is relief, that I did not lose myself through this process, and that a return to wellness was not only possible, but it was necessary. I knew that other mothers who experienced loss could benefit the way that I did, and I was on a mission to change the conversation about infertility and cannabis.
Infertility is something faced be many but discussed by few. Were you open with your struggles? And if not, were their tools, either physical or emotional, that helped you through this period?
In the beginning of my journey I was very private about it. I was ashamed and blamed myself for not doing enough or not doing the right things to become pregnant. It was harrowing and lonely.
Over the last three to four years, I became more open about it. This was partly due to the fact that when I would mention anything about infertility, other women started to open up to me. I learned that when I made myself vulnerable, it helped others to share. Having these conversations started to make me feel a little bit better. Another part was thanks to the healing that I found in cannabis in the form of hemp extract. Once I discovered it helped me, I wanted to share it with as many people as I could. It felt like my duty.
Ultimately, my journeys through loss and pain have culminated in the launch of Fine Healing Goods, which is what has helped me the most. I find renewal and energy in sharing with others how I was able to find relief and restore myself. It is important for me to share with women that there is help when you need it and educate as many people as I can to de-stigmatize the plant. Why not use something natural to help you instead of popping pills or drinking, that leave you feeling worse the next day?
What are some of the misconceptions about infertility that you would like to dispel?
For those seeking to become pregnant and carry their child: It is a misconception that it is your fault you cannot get pregnant or carry to full-term. That your weight has something to do with it. That drugs, injections, or doctors can fix the issue 100% of the time. That if you just "relax" you can get pregnant. Or that when you "least" expect it, it will happen.
For everyone else: It is a misconception that offering unsolicited advice is harmless. Some of us biologically cannot carry a child to term, and some of us cannot even get pregnant. I wish more women would think about that and be more sensitive when discussing pregnancy and children. It is not okay to just ask someone when they are going to start having children. Better than asking these probing questions that assume everyone has or wants children, ask more general questions about their life. Gently share about your own life and family (if you want to), and see if they respond in kind. Allow them to bring up pregnancy and/or children. Pay attention to the clues of body language and what the person does and does not say. Follow their lead in what is comfortable to talk about.
What made you decide to go through the adoption process once more?
The day my husband and I found out our first attempt at adoption failed, we picked up and left Austin and drove with our two pups to Colorado. We called this trip our “babydoom” instead of “babymoon” — we were so devastated, we had to make ourselves laugh every way we could. After a hike in the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, we loaded up the dogs, and were about to leave when an intense summer thunderstorm came out of nowhere. The temperature suddenly dropped 20 degrees, and the sun remained shining as the rain came down. In this moment of feeling the beauty of this storm that juxtaposed light and darkness, warmth and chill, predictability and surprise, loss and renewal, we received a call from the director of another agency, an amazing woman who sympathized intensely, listened to our concerns and our heartbreak, and with love and support, reassured us that our child would still come to us.
We decided we would give it one more year, as we had spent 11 years on this journey. We gave ourselves this deadline so we could set boundaries and take care of ourselves better financially, emotionally, etc. That was August of 2018. Our beautiful daughter, Charlotte, was born and came home with us exactly one year later, in August 2019.
How are you adjusting to motherhood? What has been the best part thus far?
I feel like I was made for this role. I am a very anxious person, so I was very worried about being the best mom I could be to Charlie Jane. But somehow she calms me. I still use my CBD daily, but she gives me a sense of home and wholeness I did not know before her birth. The best part by far was her official birthday. I was so lucky to be close with the birth mom, and I was able to deliver my baby girl with my own hands into the world. Seeing her and meeting her for the first time was overwhelmingly amazing and something I will never forget. Over these past two weeks I have dreamed about that day over and over, and I am already so proud of my daughter!
What would you like to say to the women who are in the same or a similar situation to what you experienced for the past 12 years?
You are not alone. Talk about it. The more I opened up, the more support I received. The more I let people know how I was feeling, the better they were able to assist me. In the beginning I was trying to be superwoman and do it all myself, and that is just not possible. It is such an emotional journey, and in my experience, hiding from the world only makes you feel more alone and sad.
I joke that I have ‘Irish twins’ because both my business and my daughter were birthed in 2019. Creating Fine Healing Goods has allowed me to share my journey of healing with other women and create a network of support and wellness. I am not alone in my journey anymore. I can still attempt to achieve superwoman status, but now I am surrounded by other superwomen.
What, if anything, would you say to yourself 10 years ago, if given the opportunity?
Listen to your gut. Stop when you think you have had enough. There are many ways to become a mama and that doesn't mean you have to biologically grow or birth a child to be a mom. Don’t worry so much about your age, or keeping up with the growing families around you. Your time will come, and when it does, it will be magical.