In today's day and age, you might be surprised to learn that infertility is still a taboo subject, but the inability of women to discuss this painful problem leaves many feeling alone and misunderstood. Sarah Ivens, the founding Editor-in-Chief of OK! Magazine, knows this feeling all too well. As a single, high-powered career woman in New York City, becoming a mother was the last thing on her mind, but when she was reunited with an ex-flame from university at the age of 33, and resigned to live in Kentucky with him, a wedding was quickly followed by an overwhelming urge to conceive.
When 12 months later, she was still bump-less, she and her husband decided to take a backpacking trip to Asia to try and take the pressure off themselves and look at their options without the peeing-on-a-stick pressure she'd put them both under for over a year. In the three months they travelled, she tried every kind of healing: from praying at penis-shaped statues in Bangkok to visiting a medicine man in Bali. "For $50, he promised us we'd have two children," Sarah remembers. If that's not ambitious enough, Sarah lit so many incense sticks in a love shrine in Kyoto that she set her hair on fire.
She thought it must have worked, when two weeks after her return to the Bluegrass state, the longed for positive sign showed up on a pregnancy test. Yet fate was to deal the couple another blow. At 13 weeks, she suffered a miscarriage and had to endure an abortion.
"The weeks following my abortion passed in a blur of emptiness. I was mentally and physically empty," Ivens recalls. "My swollen breasts and belly slowly deflated but the pain remained as prominent. My heart felt too heavy to carry on beating. I couldn't understand why becoming a mother was so impossible for me."
Instead, she documented her journey for herself and other men and women searching to conceive in Amerikarma: Good Things Happen to Those Who Can't Wait. One part travel memoir, one part healing, her story eventually served another purpose. It became her masters thesis in Graduate School. "One of my professors was an expert in scriptotherapy, a concept which interested me greatly -- not just because I felt to capture my pain would help me, but I felt it could help other women too. Women aren't honest enough about the anger, jealousy and despair they feel when falling pregnant alludes them," she explains.
From hiding from blood-thristy Komodo dragons in Rinca to trying to avoid the impertinent locals she meets across Thailand who can't understand why a woman of her dotage (she's 34) isn't a mother, her authentic voice encapsulates the real reason many of us escape to far flung places: to run away from our problems. It's only natural to face fertility, heartbreak, and hope with a journey, and often, if we're active enough in our own process of discovery -- and hopeful that life will guide us along this path to show us what we truly need -- the path will present itself because we're actively searching for it. Two things in Sarah's own process became clear in Amerikarma. With honesty, humor, and hope, we, as human beings can endure and survive almost anything.
For anyone who has been on a difficult journey -- literally or figuratively -- each chapter of Sarah's story also introduces us to the world's most fascinating places, from Angkor Wat and the Adaman Sea to karaoke in Tokyo and Singapore ex-pat bars, the spirit of hope and change is infectious. For women seeking something in life that may be elusive, perhaps what may be needed most is a good physical journey. After all, love, life and all her lessons can often be found in the most foreign of places.