November 20, 2016

Rachel Strella

Courage, Community and Conception

Unless you’re a stranger to my posts, you know that I advocate showcasing the human element. People form relationships – and relationships are built on trust. Simply put, people buy from those they know, like and trust.

It’s refreshing to stumble upon posts of folks who are willing to share their journey – whether it’s business or personal. And, my friend Matt Hannaford, is no exception. I was happy to see the post announcing that he and his wife, Erin, were expecting.


Could this be any more adorbs? 🙂  I was unaware that Matt and Erin have been on a long road to conceive. Shortly after announcing the pregnancy, he shared the first blog post of his journey. Kudos to you, Matt, for your willingness to share your story! It’s no coincidence that I decided to interview Matt about his experience, during the week of Thanksgiving. His story reminds us why we should all count our blessings  –  and focus on what matters the most.

Here’s the Q&A with Matt…

Matt, tell me about your family journey.

After getting married in 2010, Erin and I decided to wait to have kids until after she finished her graduate degree and so we could just enjoy married life together for a while. Once she competed her degree in 2013, we decided to begin trying to conceive. After a full year with no success, we went to the doctor and the tests began. Everything kept coming back normal, but then when the doctor did an ultrasound, he discovered Erin’s uterus was filled with fibroids and would require surgery. After two surgeries in the summer of 2015, we began to try again in the fall. By spring of 2016, we returned to the doctor to figure out what was next.  They recommended that we try IUI or IVF. A friend of ours gave us some sound advice, shortly after we got that recommendation.

“Just take the summer and enjoy each other. Make a decision, in the fall, if you have to.”

It was the best advice we could have received, at the time. We put so much pressure on ourselves. No matter how much we tried to avoid thinking about it, it was always in the back of our mind. Each month was another disappointment.

Finally, in late August, we had a positive pregnancy test.  In retrospect, I think the best thing we could have done was take the vacation we did at the beginning of August. We took a few short trips, throughout the week - a few days in NYC, a day at Knoebels, and a quick trip to the beach. Those days together – just enjoying each other’s company without work or any other stress – that we believe set the stage to the pregnancy.

What made you decide to blog about this journey?

As we mentioned in our first post, the blog was initially created for a completely different purpose. We had seen other online entities – blogs, Facebook posts, albums – that connected families looking to adopt with women who wanted to consider adoption for their child. We figured it wouldn’t hurt to try it for ourselves.

I wrote the post, showed Erin and we set up the blog site. We decided we were going to wait until the end of August to share it. We had photos done in July and everything was set to go.


After we received the news of the pregnancy, it was clear that our journey was just beginning. We plan to have at least two children, so we know the adoption could still be in the cards, in the future.  There is a chance, after this pregnancy, that Erin will not be able to conceive again - or that our doctors may feel that she shouldn’t. This blog started as our adoption story and it’s now morphed to our family journey.

From ‘black hole’ to ‘baby,’ what were you feeling with this transformation? I recognize that it’s such an emotional experience. How are you able to put into words?

In a word…crazy. It was only a four-day lapse between the photo of the black hole to the photo of the yolk sack, but the size difference in just the ‘black hole area’ is incomprehensible. We’ve been lucky to see so many photos of our little one, throughout the process. But, now I’m definitely feeling withdrawal. I miss being able to see my baby every week. I’m extremely happy that we are no longer considered ‘high-risk’ and understand that, because if we were, we won’t see our baby as often, but it makes me wonder how other couples cope with only seeing their baby only a few times throughout the entire pregnancy.


It’s early, but I’m curious. Have you had anyone contact you about your blog because they are going through (or have gone through) something similar?

It was almost immediate. We’ve had a few people reach out.  I’m planning to write a post sort of going through some of the feedback that we’ve gotten from people already in mid-December. We’ll have the “big reveal” in early December and then I want to write a post about this. It’s been incredible.

What advice would you give to someone who is struggling to conceive, given your experience?

It’s hard. I think the advice that most give – well it sucks. “Just relax and don’t think about it and then it will happen.” Statements like that make you want to punch them in the face. If it were that easy, I wouldn’t have struggled for so long. No one would.

My advice is to use an app and track your cycle. If you have been trying for a while, go talk to the doctor and see if there are any tests that could help. Sometimes, it’s something that can be fixed relatively easy.

And finally, take a vacation. If you’ve figured out when it’s a good time to try, go on vacation a week before. Enjoy your time together and reconnect. If you’ve been trying for a while, it’s hard on both of you –taking that time to reconnect is key. Remember what made you fall in love with that person in the first place.

What is the level of support you’ve received from your online community? Are you surprised by the level of support?

It’s still early. Most of the “community” consists of our friends and family. There’s also some of my social media contacts, but for the most part, it’s been people that we’ve known for some time. When it comes to support, it’s been amazing. Many have reached out and just said, “thanks for being brave and sharing this.”

It’s not that we feel that we are doing anything crazy by sharing our story, but rather, we want to bring awareness to how common it is. We’ve seen shows like “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom,” where is seems like if you sneeze on a girl, she’ll get pregnant. And yet, there are so many people that struggle to conceive.

What advice would you give a person – or a company, even – who is reluctant to put themselves out there, in this manner?

As Nike says, “Just do it!”

It’s scary to put yourself out there. For me, I’m used to it, after DJ’ing weddings and being on the radio. But, for Erin, it was more challenging. It took us months to feel that we could share anything about our struggle, but you’ll see what we did share, in our first post. The blog that we read and shared just hit us so hard - and rang so true - that we felt like we had to share it.

Remember, if you are going through something, someone else can relate.  Share your story and connect. You might be surprised how common your uncommon situation might be.

Publisher’s note: I have always advocated the importance of being human and encourage our clients to incorporate the human element in their business brand. But, for those who are uncomfortable, this doesn’t mean that you have to share every detail about your life. When it comes to your online brand, my best advice is to do what fits your comfort level. I commend Matt for his courage and wish him – and his family – many blessings this holiday season. Please check out his blog at this link.

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