Last time we spoke with Cincinnati graphic designer and artist Andi Ploehs of a.p. loves design, it was 2017.
After unsuccessfully attempting to conceive a child on their own for several years, Ploehs and her husband, John, began seeking medical assistance in their quest to become parents. As a result, Ploehs began designing a line of greeting cards specifically aimed toward other women who are also experiencing infertility issues.
Since that 2017 interview, Ploehs gave birth to her son, Xavier, and is working to bring to light conversations about infertility and pregnancy struggles. She is still working on her card line and has plans to launch a traveling roundtables series, “Infertility Won’t Silence Me," to create a safe space for women to discuss fertility issues and "to know they’re not alone on this journey," she says.
We reconnected with Ploehs to learn more.
CityBeat: So I know you wanted to touch base about recent updates in your life since your original CityBeat interview in 2017 regarding your line of cards geared toward women experiencing infertility issues. At that time you had been going through fertility treatments and had experienced several miscarriages. Can you update readers about what has happened regarding fertility treatments since?
Andi Ploehs: Since we last spoke in summer of 2017, my husband and I were emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted. We took a trip to New York City for the holidays to reconnect, and when we returned home we began to discuss the possibilities that, OK, we’ve had nine IUIs (intrauterine inseminations) — three of them successful but ending in loss — but now we were at the point where we need to consider IVF. IVF is very expensive and our insurance, like most, unfortunately doesn't cover its expenses. But the topic deserved serious discussion.
That weekend after our talk I also noticed I was a couple days late. I took one of the many bulk pregnancy tests that I purchased off Amazon (TTC — aka trying to conceive — women know what I’m talking about), and couldn’t believe the test was positive. In the two years of trying to conceive naturally we’d never seen a positive sign. I gave the test to my husband and he responded with, “We didn’t go to the doctor this month, right?” Our rainbow, Xavier, was born nine months later in late fall of last year.
CB: October is National Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month. Can you say what that means to you now and what this month and awareness campaign has meant to you previously
AP: National Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month is a personal reminder for me of how far we’ve come in our journey. It serves as a reminder that there are so many other women and families who are either beginning their journeys, who are smack dab in the middle of it, or who are just completely exhausted from years of appointments, shots, pills, joys and heartbreaks. One in eight women experience fertility difficulty and one in four women experience (pregnancy/infant) loss. This month and every month, please remind those families that they aren’t alone on this journey.
CB: Does having a child change anything about your outlook toward infertility awareness or change the message you want to share with those experiencing similar setbacks or struggles? What is that message?
AP: After four years of waiting for our rainbow, my message hasn’t changed. There’s no doubt that this journey is extremely hard. It’s not easy to go through infertility and/or loss and have to watch family and friends grow their families when you aren’t able to. But throughout this journey, I’ve learned to be OK with taking a step back. I had to take care of myself in order to be happy for others, and it’s OK to love from a distance. We were never secretive about what we were going through and people understood when I wasn’t able to attend their baby shower or gender reveal party. We were doing what was best for us at the time. This brings up memories of folks telling us that it’ll happen as soon as we stopped trying… Not always the case. We stopped trying many times, once for almost six months because I needed a break. So, yes, we understand that if it’s meant to be, of course it will happen, but we don’t need someone else telling us that.
CB: Why do you think infertility and miscarriage are such taboo subjects to discuss in our society?
AP: Any topic about women and their reproductive bodies and/or rights make some people uncomfortable. The world relies on women for one of the most important jobs, if they choose to do it: carrying life. And society has conditioned us to believe that something is either wrong with us or we are "less than" if we’re unable to carry a child, or if we need a little science to jump-start those reproductive organs. Forty-three percent of women who miscarry haven’t told friends or family. Can you imagine going through something so life-changing and not being able to share your sadness with some of the most important people in your life? I also learned during my journey that women of color are twice as likely to experience infertility. This is hugely in part because of resources that have or haven’t been made accessible to them. This needs to change!
CB: I know your card line was intended to help bring that conversation to light in a real way, addressing real emotions. Are you still doing design work or making cards?
AP: Short answer is yes, I am working on another line of fertility cards and still doing some graphic design work. There are still people in my life who are going through infertility and even though I considered the debut line (to be) honest, the newest line will still be compassionate along with a little rawness but focusing on lettering.
However, next year I have plans to speak to women around the country about our fertility journey. I’m working on putting together “Infertility Won’t Silence Me” roundtables where women who need a safe space can talk about their fertility journey and hear stories from women experiencing a similar journey. I know I’ve said this before, but it’s so important for women to know they’re not alone on this journey. You are enough. So if you would like to host or attend one of those events, please keep an ear out for updates and feel free to reach out to us at [email protected].
CB: If women reading this can relate to what you went through, do you have any resources you'd like to share?
AP: I didn’t read books on infertility during our journey. What I realized is the more I openly talked about it, the better I felt. This is when I learned that there were so many women around me that had experienced the same thing, or something very similar. My mom, grandma, cousins, friends…There were a few ladies on Instagram(@bumps2baby) that have become a safe space for me to vent, or ask questions especially, and that’s been really nice.