Talking About Fertility with Author Mary Wong
Talking About Fertility with Author Mary Wong
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Mary Wong in March. We had an enlightening conversation about fertility, overcoming challenges and how Mary ended up on the path she’s walking today – it’s a phenomenal one.
Mary has been in practice for over 28 years. Some of her accolades include founding and directing A.L.I.V.E. Holistic Health Clinic, being a certified High Performance and Wellness coach, creating and hosting Fertility Talks, previously sitting on the Ontario government’s appointed expert panel for Infertility and Adoption (which lead the groundwork for IVF funding in Ontario), practicing acupuncture, being an international speaker and bestselling author of Pathways to Pregnancy.
As a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner and former IVF patient who struggled with her own infertility, Mary has made it her life’s mission to transform lives by bridging the gap between Eastern and Western medicine.
Here’s what she shared with us:
Tell us a bit about your journey to becoming an author. Did you ever envision yourself writing a book?
It’s funny. At a young age, I knew I wanted to write a book, but a book with a different story. Have you heard of Joy Luck Club? It’s the story of an American Chinese woman talking about different generations of Chinese women. I wanted to write something similar that represented my own family. My grandma was a concubine and my mother a child labourer.
Hope Beyond Diagnosis
Little did I know, I’d encounter my own fertility challenges. I realized how those with fertility challenges are seen as shameful and often get discarded. We don’t talk about this. People stay behind closed doors. It wasn’t just that I wanted to write this book, it was that I was called/compelled to. I had to tell this story and open up this conversation.
People feel inspired through stories. People need to know they aren’t alone and there is hope beyond their diagnosis.
I felt privileged even though I was seeing patients with challenges while I was having my own. They were my source of hope during their depths of despair and I was able to see them transform out of it.
Storytelling is powerful, it’s not just my story but the story of others.
Without giving too much away, is there a key message or idea you want your readers to leave with once they’ve read your book?
Pathways to Pregnancy is compiled of 15 stories of hope, one of which is my own. This is a book meant to provide inspiration and move beyond a place of doom and gloom. A diagnosis is not a place of permanence, it’s a jumping-off point. There is always a way out of whatever challenges you may find yourself in and I have got lots of tools and practical advice to help optimize your chances of conceiving a healthy baby.
Being an acupuncturist and an expert in the field of Traditional Chinese Medicine, treating women with fertility, pregnancy, postpartum challenges, Why do you say that you are not your diagnosis and what does this mean?
First, you are not the diagnosis that your doctor or you give yourself.
Second, your diagnosis is just a moment in time. It’s when they take all the numbers from your tests and compare you to a graph of data, typically a bell curve. You may be on the edges of the curve but that doesn’t mean you’ll be there forever because parameters can change. You have a challenge in a particular moment.
1 in 6 women
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
It all really goes back to not being your diagnosis.
Take this example. You go to a fertility doctor with hope, excitement and optimism until they push egg freezing on you because, “in X amount of years, you’ll be too old” or they tell you straight up, ”reproductively speaking, you’re geriatric, your eggs are old, and you need to do an IVF right away.” You walk away from that appointment feeling old and defeated. Why can’t we instead look at overall health and lifestyle factors? Coming from the place of, “I need to get pregnant yesterday,” is not a good place to be and will cause you to be more stressed and anxious which does not help your fertility journey.
Think of COVID. We read headlines about the death rates but we don’t know the parameters around them. We aren’t told if those who have died had another condition prior to COVID or if those people followed the precautions. But there are precautions we can take to keep ourselves safe. It’s the same with fertility. There are steps and precautions that can be taken.
In actuality, not everyone with a particular diagnosis such as endometriosis or PCOS will have fertility issues. Age doesn’t mean you can’t have a baby. What it means is that you may have some challenges and they need to be addressed in a positive way. We need to dispel these myths. 1 in 6 women have fertility issues. Lifestyle is one of the most important factors. If you don’t want to be that 1 in 6, what can you do about it?
We’ve all heard the saying, “it takes a village to raise a child” but I say, “it takes a village to make a child” these days. It’s also important to mention that you don’t need to have a baby that comes from your womb to be a mother.
How many books do you read in a year?
I read about two books a month. In an ideal world, I would read print books. I love the smell, feeling, and turning of pages. Mind you, we live in a tech world and given my lifestyle, I often “read” by putting on Audible. My favourite audiobooks are the ones narrated by the author.
What’s on your bookshelf?
I have different books of interest. I read books around entrepreneurism, coaching and those directly related to my field. Some titles related to the latter are:
The Fourth Trimester by Kimberly Ann Johnson
The Infertility Cure by Randine Lewis
High Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard
10% Happier by Dan Harris
The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins
Atomic Habits by James Clear
The First Forty Days by Heng Ou
The Fifth Vital Sign by Lisa Hendrickson-Jack
Energy Medicine by Jill Blakeway
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Do you have a favourite book?
Yes! My all-time favourite book is The Book of Forgiving by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Or, anything by Brené Brown.
What does a typical day in your life look like?
It looked much different before we got our puppy; she’s four months and we’ve had her for two. The morning used to be my time, now it’s hers. I wake up at 6:00 a.m. and let the dog out. We go for a walk/run and then it’s time to get ready. Oh, and the cat! A lot of time is spent keeping them away from each other because they don’t get along.
I drive my daughter to school and then head off to work. In the evening my husband or I will cook dinner and then we have family time. Actually, both Friday and Saturday nights are movie nights in our house.
I definitely have a nighttime routine as well. I read with my nine-year-old before bed. Right now, we are reading I am Jackie Chan by Jackie Chan – she loves it!
What’s your go-to meal or recipe?
Roasted chicken because it becomes multiple meals. Meal one would usually be some of the chicken with whatever sides. Then I’ll make bone broth soup and a base for other soups. I will freeze some and we will eat the rest. Recently I have made chicken noodle soup, leek and potato soup or spinach soup. Then we have the leftover meat for other things like quesadillas!
What helps you get in your flow/zone?
Breathing; mindfully. It’s how I start off my day.
How do you handle failure?
I actually don’t like the word. I see it as a challenge that will help me look at life in a different way; a growth opportunity – it’s a necessity for success.
I also don’t take it personally. The connotation is “I failed or I’m not good enough” and I refuse that. Take my own IVF journey. There were so many moving pieces out of my control. I had done all I could. Instead of placing blame on myself, instead of thinking I’d failed at being a woman, I took it as “it failed,” while simultaneously looking for other opportunities.
We need to move away from blaming and shaming, and instead, move on to create the future you want. Surrender and relinquish; keep your options open. You may not know what you’re open to until you’re challenged and need to think creatively.
Life evolves, you face challenges, and with an open heart, you might be able to walk down a separate path than you originally envisioned, dropping expectations.
How have you been staying connected to your friends/family/community during COVID-19?
Zoom and distanced visits when allowed. My parents are on their own so they do some meal prep for us. They want to help and I requested help. It’s all about connection and community. Connection is vital for our health. When we don’t have that connection, it decreases our immune functions and overall longevity.
I am also lucky to still be working as I’m a regulated health professional. It’s nice to be able to interact with my patients and offer them continued support.
When you’re writing – where do you write? What is the setting?
Specifically around my book? It was an isolated time. What I did is not something I’d recommend. I would write in the middle of the night after I put my daughter ( a toddler at the time) back to sleep. I’d sit at the dining room table with lights dimmed. Then my eyes started to go! I wrote on the computer but had been making notes prior to starting my writing in journals about my personal experience
What exciting projects do you have coming up?
Recently I shot on CityLine with Tracy Moore. They reached out to me as one of the producers of the show saw a Facebook video I had done on acupressure for sleep.
During COVID, I have been co-hosting the Embrace You First podcast with Dr. Tanya Wylde, ND. We are working on an online program for Postpartum women. Because I am able to tend to preconception and pregnancy at my clinic, we find that women become isolated and alone postpartum. This online program is to help women thrive with tangible tips and tools such as what to have in your food cupboard and how to set up community and get the support you need, to instill confidence, and to help with balance and recovery both physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually
What is your dream brunch date? Where and with whom?
Mother Teresa, anywhere in Italy. She didn’t actually birth a baby but is known as a mother to so many children. I would love to ask her “what does mother mean to you?”
Dim Sum with Archbishop Desmond Tutu. And if I were to pick someone living, Brené Brown.
What is your ideal comfort food?
My mom’s congee, which is like a rice porridge soup. It’s something warm and reminds me of home, being comfy, cozy and loved. And for my guilty pleasure, dark chocolate with nuts or my homemade dark chocolate mousse.
Which authors inspire your work the most?
Randine Lewis, author of The Infertility Cure, and of course, Brené Brown.
The topic of fertility is near and dear to BooknBrunch co-founder Zuzana’s Drakul heart. Zuzana has struggled with her own fertility journey over the past three years. You can read her own written words on the topic of normalizing IVF here.
Find Your Support
Zuzana wants to normalize the conversation around this very difficult topic. Join her on May 13th with special guest Mary Wong for an open and honest discussion about fertility, a sharing of your journey, your experience and helping you find your support system in a safe space. Reserve your spot here.
There are many paths available to women. Come out and share your journey, your experience and find your support system in a safe space.
Favourite book: Purple, Green & Yellow by Robert Munsch
Favourite brunch item: waffles, fresh berries, maple syrup and, if she’s getting extra fancy, a little bit of coconut whipped cream to top it off