Deborah Simmons and Debbie Fischer are two women with a passion for helping others through the journey of pregnancy loss, infant loss, infertility, premature delivery, and NICU stays. They have a background of personal and educational experience that makes them well-qualified counselors in this field. They started partners (in)fertility in 2018 to help those going through the journey of infertility and to guide parents in decisions regarding the infertility journey including donor sperm, donor egg, donor embryo, gestational carrier, and IVF, and IUI. They also offer counseling and grief services with a focus on trauma to those who have suffered pregnancy loss, infant loss, and infertility. They also share stories of their journey of premature birth and loss. Their combination of personal experience, education, and professional experience make them leading experts in the field of mental health in pregnancy loss, infant loss, and infertility.
Deborah’s story starts when she had a 26-week-old premature baby. She gave birth at 26 weeks and that birth changed her life. That was the moment she decided to become a therapist specializing in pregnancy loss, infant loss, and infertility. She had a second child who was born at 35 weeks after 15 weeks of bed rest and a cerclage to make sure her cervix didn’t open. He also spent eight days in the NICU.
She has even written a book about her journey in hopes of helping other parents who have gone through the micro-preemie and NICU journey. Her book “We are always with you” can be found on her website yourpreemiestory.com. She believes strongly that mental health is a major part of the healing journey. She now has a Ph.D. in family social science with a focus on medical family therapy and over 25 years of experience in the field and taking post-doctorate classes.
Dr. Simmons said, “If we want to be able to heal, we need to be able to tell the story and know it for ourselves and for someone to hear it. Therapy is about the place where you can tell the whole story”
Debbie Fischer shares a similar story. She started her career in Human Resources but after losing two sons, having a miscarriage, and 11 rounds of fertility treatment to get her three lively boys, she decided that helping others go through that journey was where her passion needed to be. Her first child was conceived naturally but passed away on his due date. Her second child was conceived after seven rounds of IUI. Her third child was conceived naturally but passed away mid-way through the pregnancy due to cord complications. Her final two children were conceived after the third round of IVF and spent one to three weeks in the NICU. This journey and the trauma caused by it led her to the decision to become a therapist specializing in pregnancy loss, infant loss, and infertility.
Debbie says “This is an experience that everyone (the whole family) had had so often we separate the mother from the father because she carried the pregnancy, so we need to support her, and she must be hurting more, and the men (or non-birthing partner) don’t know whether they have a place to grieve because it didn’t happen to their body, so they need to support her. They often grieve separately and perceive things about each other. She will want to know ‘is this not upsetting you as much as it is me? Why aren’t you talking about it.’ He feels like ‘I can’t say anything, I just need to support her and so they keep missing each other. Counseling can be so effective in helping everyone tell their story and acknowledge everyone’s hurting.”
Partners (in)fertility is owned and operated by Deborah Simmons and Debbie Fischer. According to the about me page on their website. “Specializes in counseling for the trauma of infertility and its treatment, pregnancy loss, and assisted reproduction including IVF, inseminations, donor eggs, donor sperm, donor embryo, and gestational surrogacy as well as premature delivery.”
They offer specific trauma and counseling services including EDMR, clinical hypnosis, and energy work. They both feel that counseling is a step in the healing process and that choosing a counselor that understands, has an education, and has experience in pregnancy loss, infant loss and infertility will help along the path to healing. Debbie Fischer talks about her own experience with EDMR in this podcast episode Rainbow Babies Unite Episode 3.
They have adapted to the pandemic way of life and knowledge of their services mostly online through virtual appointments. This allows them to serve mothers, fathers, and families throughout the US. They do offer some in-person appointments as well but on a case-by-case basis.
There are many other resources available like Partners (In)fertility.
Star Legacy Foundation– “Star Legacy Foundation is a community of health professionals, families, researchers, policymakers, and advocates dedicated to healthy pregnancy outcomes and stillbirth prevention.”
Faith’s Lodge– “The tranquil setting of Faith’s Lodge provides a peaceful escape for families coping with the death of a child to refresh their minds and spirits while spending time with others who understand their experiences. Our long weekend retreats combine professional grief counseling, therapeutic experiences, and group activities that help families heal.”
Return to zero– “RTZ HOPE provides compassionate and holistic support for people who have experienced unimaginable loss during their journey to parenthood.
Recurrent Pregnancy Loss Association–“RPLA is dedicated to eliminating recurrent pregnancy loss through the advancement of research into causes and treatments; to providing support and resources to those affected, and to increase awareness of the impact of miscarriage and fertility challenges on individuals and families.”
These are just a few of the resources available to those going through pregnancy loss, infant loss, and infertility who have gone through a premature birth that led to a NICU stay. There is a story behind every birth and through counseling and therapy, those who have suffered can tell their story and begin the journey of healing and recognizing those feelings. This is the first step in getting others to realize what those who have gone through this are going through and the first step in raising awareness of pregnancy loss, infant loss, infertility, premature birth, and staying in the NICU. Being able to recognize their story and then tell it and talk about it, will help others talk about it. The more it’s talked about the more normal it will become.