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In Opening Up About IVF, Infertility, Mallory Weggemann And Husband Jay Hope To Help Others

By Karen Price | May 18, 2022, 10:54 a.m. (ET)

Mallory Weggemann celebrates during the medal ceremony for the women's 50-meter butterfly S7 final at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Sept. 3, 2021 in Tokyo.

 

This was not the news Mallory Weggemann and Jay Snyder hoped to share.

Since November, the Paralympic swimming champion and her husband have been talking openly about their infertility journey and attempt to have a child through in vitro fertilization, sharing their story both on social media and in mainstream media including People magazine. In April, shortly after Weggemann qualified for her fourth world championships, they had an embryo transferred with the hopes and prayers that, come June, Weggemann would be competing with baby on board.

Sadly, that did not happen.

In a joint post on Weggemann’s Instagram account earlier this month, they wrote of learning they were not pregnant: “In the days since we have faced a heartbreak we never knew possible, attempting to process the loss of our beautiful little one we have prayed for and held in our hearts from the moment we got the call that our retrievals were successful. It is with heavy hearts that we share this with all of you — a reality that we know so many of our fellow infertility warriors are all too aware of and truthfully, one that we prayed we would never experience.” 

Weggemann, 33, has never been afraid to share her story. A three-time Paralympian and five-time medalist, she often posts not only poolside pics and action shots to her Instagram but also behind-the-scenes snaps into her life with husband Snyder and their pup, Sam, as well as her thoughts on disability, representation, life as an athlete and overcoming challenges.

She and Snyder, who live in Eagan, Minnesota, decided to share their quest to have a baby in real time with the hopes that by talking openly about a journey that isn’t often discussed in such a way they can reshape views on infertility, reduce the stigma and shame often associated with it and encourage others to begin their own conversations.

“There were some stories out there that people shared after the fact, but when you’re going through it you’re reading it thinking, ‘Well, that’s after the fact as you’re holding your baby in your arms and you’ve had the happy ending,’ What I want to know is what the emotions were when you were going through it, before you got the happy ending,” Weggemann told TeamUSA.org in an interview prior to learning the IVF results. “Because that’s where we’re at right now. And there just really wasn’t a lot of conversation about it.”

Mallory Weggemann competes during the women's 100-meter breaststroke SB6 qualification heat at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 28, 2021 in Tokyo.

 

Weggemann and Snyder announced the start of their journey with a post on Instagram showing the arrival of Weggemann’s medication back in November. Since then they’ve shared information about the process as well as their thoughts and emotions along the way. Among the details with which they’re very forthcoming is the fact that the infertility comes from Snyder. 

That’s important to share, they said, for a number of reasons. 

One is because while there is still a hesitancy to speak openly about infertility in general, despite the fact that it affects one in eight couples, there’s an even greater hesitancy to speak about male factor infertility. Snyder realized just how little people are willing to talk about it when he went searching for other people’s stories and found next to nothing. That made him even more eager to share their story.

“It’s been pretty amazing since we went public about it, the outpouring of support we’ve gotten from other couples who’ve gone through it, or are starting to go through it, especially on the male side,” he said. “The wife will reach out to Mallory and say her husband is scared and doesn’t want to talk about it, he’s ashamed, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Absolutely nothing.”

Another reason to share, they said, is because people are quick to assume that Weggemann is unable to have children because she’s in a wheelchair. Snyder’s even had total strangers tell him they’re sorry that he can’t have kids.

“It had nothing to do with me; they just automatically assumed that oh, she’s paralyzed, so how can she have kids?” he said.

People have said worse to Weggemann.

“You’d be amazed how many people think I’m not capable of being a mom,” she said. “Not just having kids, but actually being a mom.”

Yet another reason why Weggemann wants to start a conversation around going through an IVF journey while still pursuing a career as a professional athlete is because you don’t hear much about that, either. Like Snyder trying to find others talking about male factor infertility, she tried in vain to find information on pursuing elite level athletics while undergoing IVF and what that might look like. 

Each time Weggemann writes a post, she said, it’s scary and it’s hard, but she also finds power in speaking about it and helping create a path forward for anyone dealing with infertility, including other female athletes and those with disabilities.

“Each time I post I’m like, ‘Is this what I want to say? Am I saying it right? Jay, read this,’” she said. “I think about it so much because this isn’t just our story. God willing, hopefully, it’s our little one’s story, too, so we’re making sure we’re doing it in a way that’s not sharing just to share, but sharing for a purpose. That’s what’s leading us through every decision we’ve made on how we want to share our story.”

Karen Price

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic and Paralympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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