My name is Jamie Kushner Blicher, and I paint with sterile IVF needles.
When I learned about Hadassah’s reConceiving Infertility initiative to decrease stigma around infertility by sharing people’s personal journeys and helping people access treatment, I felt compelled to share my story with The Times of Israel Blog readers for June World Infertility Awareness Month.
My husband, Brian and I met on JDate in New York City. I had graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology and was living there while working as a retail buyer. Brian is an engineer and had just moved to NYC. We fell in love and got married in 2014. We are both from Maryland and knew we would move back one day to start a family. In 2015, we made the big move home but wouldn’t start our family for three more years. Like one in eight couples, we experienced infertility.
First, it was a year of trying to conceive naturally and getting discouraged each month when the pregnancy tests were negative. This is when I got back into art. Artmaking has always been a healing and safe place and while I was feeling out of control, this was the thing that helped me the most.
But it was a lonely journey. My family was incredibly supportive, but they didn’t know anything about infertility, as it was a taboo subject when they were young. Our friends were moving forward – having babies and making “new parent” friends. I felt stuck and frustrated – I felt like my body couldn’t do the one thing it was supposed to do. It was unfair and it was depressing. I then called Shady Grove Fertility in Rockville, Maryland and started seeing Dr. Chang.
Treatments started quickly and after three failed attempts at IUI, we moved forward with IVF treatments. The first transfer worked but I miscarried twin boys at eight weeks. After what felt like the longest wait to become “unpregnant,” we were allowed to try another round of IVF.
The second round did not stick, and the rollercoaster of my infertility journey continued. A few months later, we transferred another embryo, which resulted in another miscarriage. There was never a real diagnosis or reason I was having trouble staying pregnant, but Dr. Chang was confident that if we kept on going with treatments, we would eventually be successful. In the meantime, I was heartbroken that I couldn’t create a child. Thankfully, Brian is very even keeled and kept optimistic for both of us.
I was painting more than ever and finding creative ways to heal. My art process is primarily inks on paper. Using brushes and pipettes, I move ink around the canvas in thoughtful and unique ways. One day I was staring at an unused IVF needle and wondered what putting fluid or ink through the syringe would look like on paper. And wow, was it riveting to execute the experiment! Taking control back of the tool that caused so much frustration, anger and disappointment and making beauty with it was empowering. I felt like I was for the first time in a long time, moving forward. If this was helping me cope through infertility, who else could it help?
I created a new Instagram account called Glitter Enthusiast – the name means “happy place” but little I do contains actual glitter! From there, I shared my work and the meaning behind it and started connecting with individuals all over the world with comparable stories to mine. The art caught on and the Instagram following grew. Others commissioned work with the use of their unused IVF needles. We often get sterile needles at our door – it sounds funny but when the art is complete and hung in rainbow baby nurseries, it’s powerful.
In December 2017, we successfully transferred two embryos and delivered fraternal twin boys in July 2018. Ethan and Bennett are about to turn four and are the kindest humans we have ever met. We are over the moon and the boys will forever know how badly they were wanted and how hard Mommy and Daddy worked to bring them here.
And Glitter Enthusiast has grown – Ashley Fisher, an incredibly talented photographer, digital artist and daughter of an infertility warrior has joined the team. We have a flourishing website and carry prints, headbands, tote bags and many other products – all stemming from original art created with IVF tools. I have completed over 200 commissions for families experiencing infertility and individuals who love the art and appreciate the meaning behind it. We have also provided art to the nursing rooms in corporate offices. We are bringing infertility into the art world and art into the fertility world.
Two Glitter Enthusiast original paintings are now hanging in Shady Grove Fertility’s flagship office – we often receive messages from patients about how the art has offered hope and community to them when they have felt alone.
If you are facing infertility, this process is challenging and can feel like a rollercoaster at times. Find your happy place – find something that is not fertility related and makes you feel like yourself. And if you feel comfortable, share your journey with others. It can feel validating and is helpful on both ends. I have become a stronger and more resilient person through this, which has helped me tremendously in motherhood. This is my life’s calling to help individuals find creative ways to get through adversity and shine.