As a part of the Morning Lazziness series about empowering women who are encouraging and doing incredible things with their ideas in society, I had the pleasure of interviewing Cheryl Dowling.
Cheryl Dowling is a Certified Counselor, advocate, and founder of The IVF Warrior, a fertility health and wellness platform connecting people from all over the world who are navigating different paths to parenthood. On The IVF Warrior she provides support, resources, and empowerment across multiple platforms, using her expertise and experiences.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Absolutely! Mental health has always been fascinating to me and something I’m extremely passionate about. I studied counseling in school and landed a career as a women’s addiction and mental health counselor. Focusing my career on women’s health and wellness wasn’t what I originally envisioned, but I can’t imagine having any other focus. It shaped who I am today.
I’ve now worked as an individual, group, and crisis counselor supporting women with mental health issues and teaching tools to optimize wellness and overall well-being. I’ve created and led self-care courses as well. While struggling with health issues and then navigating an emotional and isolating fertility journey, my current platform – The IVF Warrior was born.
I realized while navigating fertility issues, that support and resources for those experiencing fertility issues were non-existent. I started by sharing my story, as well as providing information for those trying to conceive or dealing with different health struggles like PCOS or endometriosis while trying to grow their family. The past few years have been so fulfilling. Being able to connect with people while providing hope, support, and resources is very rewarding.
1 in 5 will experience mental health issues in any given year. 1 in 6 will experience infertility. 1 in 4 will experience pregnancy loss. With infertility and loss comes a long list of mental health issues you’re more likely to experience, from PTSD, trauma, anxiety, depression, and postpartum depression and/or anxiety. My work has been crucial for bringing more awareness to this and helping to change the conversation about infertility, loss, and mental health. There are so many layers to infertility and loss that many don’t see. They can both cause lifelong mental health effects. My hope and goals are that others know they aren’t alone, that people understand how to support someone struggling, and that over time, more people feel like they can speak up about their journey and struggles.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
There have been so many interesting things! If I had to pick just one, it would be being able to meet and connect with so many different people from around the world. It’s been such a career highlight for me. When you’re dealing with things like infertility and mental health, most people feel very alone and misunderstood. Most end up looking for others who understand their struggles. This is when a platform like The IVF Warrior has been able to connect people and offer a community full of support and understanding that most can’t find elsewhere. When you become part of a health statistic, like the 1 in 6 with infertility, it’s shocking. Most think they’ll be part of the 5 in 6, not affected! So, when you’re faced with something like this, the effects can feel very scary, isolating, and overwhelming. Finding support in some way is important for your overall well-being. Finding support also opens your eyes and shows you that anyone can be affected and you’re not alone.
What are the three things that mostly helped your online business succeed?
Patience and persistence: I think a lot of people expect overnight results or success with a lot of things in life, but this isn’t usually the case. Anything worth doing takes time. Starting a business is hard work. Most people don’t show how exhausting and challenging it truly is. It’s often a lot of falling down and getting back up. Having realistic expectations and goals is important. Don’t set yourself up for failure or disappointment.
Being passionate about my work: This has kept me going, especially during the more challenging times. Being passionate about your business is important. If you aren’t, then who will be? Mental health and fertility are two things that I’m extremely passionate about, they’re the things I talk about when I’m not working, the things I research in my downtime, and the things I look forward to speaking about every week on my platform.
Building a community: Understanding my community and truly getting to know my audience has been such an important step. Doing things like commenting back on social media posts, answering as many questions as possible, networking with other experts by building real, meaningful relationships, listening to the needs of my audience and wants, and trying to cater to them, have all been essential. Overall, providing great support, but also appreciative of their support, and work hard to better serve them in any way I can.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My husband Shane, has been such an amazing, patient, supportive person throughout the past few years. The IVF Warrior started as a passion project and side hobby, but it quickly grew into something more. Something that required a lot of work, time, ups and down… He pushed me to keep going when things weren’t always going right, he’s been my business and life coach to run ideas off of, and has always had my back. I don’t know if I would be where I am today without him.
What’s your piece of advice for readers who want to achieve wealth and success in life?
Success looks and feels different to everyone. I think it’s important to determine what wealth and success mean to you. Growing up, my vision of success was completely different than it is today. I initially thought that success would mean wealth – making a lot of money. I’ve realized it’s a lot more than that. It’s about feeling like I’m making a difference and being genuinely happy at the end of the day. That feeling of success now comes to me in the comments, emails and dm’s I receive from others sharing their story and thanking me for what I do and for being able to provide support to others going through the toughest time of their life. To me, that’s wealth and success… knowing that I’m making a difference.
Where do you see yourself and your business in five years?
Operating on a much larger, known scale. My hope is to expand in every way – staff, community members, and services. I’d love to reach more people and offer them support along their journey. There are so many people who have already navigated infertility, but find me online. They usually send me a note saying how they wish they found me sooner and how helpful my community is. Hopefully one day, more knowledge about The IVF Warrior earlier on in their journey, so they can access resources and support when they really need it.
What’s your piece of advice for people who want to quit their 9-5 job and start a business?
Make realistic goals and a plan. Having a plan in place can help you reach your goals over time. Whether it’s committing a certain number of hours per week to your business or making a specific amount of money per month before quitting your 9-5, work at those goals every week.
Step outside of your comfort zone, push through any imposter syndrome and show up confidently. Don’t get caught up trying to be like everyone else. The people who make a difference, aren’t trying to be like everyone else. They’re growing a brand that represents their values and mission, not someone else’s. You must tap into what you’re passionate about.
Also, growing a brand takes time, dedication, and hard work. Don’t expect anything to happen overnight. Starting a business is a marathon, not a sprint.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- Don’t Compare Yourself to Others: Something many of us do is compare, especially with the power of the internet. Typically, this makes us feel “less than”, jealous or have other negative feelings. Comparing isn’t helpful because we all have different paths, different circumstances, and different battles. We also can’t believe everything we see online. Most people share their highlight reel when it comes to work, relationships, and success… not the mundane moments or their struggles. Someone else’s journey isn’t yours. It’s important to focus your time and energy on yourself, including your life and your goals. This will bring more positivity to your life than wasting time compared to others.
- Be Your Biggest Fan: You can either build yourself up or tear yourself down with your thoughts and words. What you tell yourself every day matters the most. You have to learn to change the voice inside your head to be positive and loving, not judgmental or mean. When you start cheering yourself on, incredible things happen. When I learned to start incorporating daily affirmations into my life and shutting down that negative, critical voice, my overall thoughts and confidence changed.
- Never Sacrifice Your Mental Health: For a relationship, a job, to please others, for anything… Nothing is worth sacrificing your mental health for. Learn to prioritize your mental health just like your physical health. If you feel like your mental health is declining, do something about it! Talk to someone, take a break, practice self-care, unplug, or rest. Without our mental health in check, everything becomes harder to navigate, judgment becomes cloudy, productivity declines, and we can’t show up for ourselves or others the same. Setting boundaries and putting our mental health first is healthy.
- Celebrate Your Victories: “Life is what happens while you’re busy making plans”. We often get so caught up in the next big thing we want to achieve in life, we forget to slow down and celebrate our wins along the way, both big and small. It’s so important to celebrate life and all that you accomplish. Don’t get so caught up in the next big thing that you forget to celebrate your wins and what’s happening in the present time.
- Nothing Happens Overnight: In a world that loves instant gratification, I think most of us forget that life achievements take time and don’t happen overnight. Learning to be patient with yourself and the journey, is important. Success always looks so simple, linear, and different from the outside, which is why many of us fall victim to comparing, but success takes persistence, dedication, and typically many failures and hard lessons along the way. Learn to embrace the journey on your way to the destination.
What would you tell yourself ten to twenty years ago that you wish you knew then?
Everything in life is temporary, both the good and the bad. Don’t get too caught up in specific seasons, just enjoy the good as it comes and fight through the bad. You will survive 100% of your worst days, even if it doesn’t feel like it. What’s important or a struggle now, won’t matter in 10 or 20 years. Trust your gut. Remember to always be kind to yourself and try your best, that’s all you can do. You will be okay.
Lastly, what do you think this world needs the most?
Kindness and compassion. Once you realize that everyone is struggling in their own way, you stop comparing and you start empathizing, listening, and learning. Everyone has different struggles and silent battles they silently face. Whether it’s infertility, relationship issues, career setbacks, mental health challenges, or other issues like finances. I’ve learned to always be kind and not make assumptions about someone else’s life.
The majority of the work I do on my platform is me trying to make the world a better place. Every week I show up sharing my experiences, both good and bad, so others feel less alone, so awareness is spread and stigmas are broken down. I also offer support and truly try to empower others to navigate some of life’s heaviest battles in regard to mental health and fertility. I regularly share resources and have been able to provide fertility grants to couples in need. In my heart, I’ve always wanted to make a difference, spread kindness, and support others struggling. My passion for mental health and fertility health have been able to miraculously collide, and I feel like The IVF Warrior’s mission and work both support this.
- What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this