How My Struggle With Infertility Defined My Road To Entrepreneurship

How My Struggle With Infertility

Defined My Road To Entrepreneurship

Like most girls growing up, I had an ever-changing list of what I wanted to be when I grew up. The list was chock full of the usual suspects: ballerina, actress, singer…I think magician was even a consideration around the third grade. But as nature would have it, I’d soon learn that I didn’t have much talent for singing, or dancing, or pulling a rabbit out of hat, and those occupations eventually fell from the list. There were two professions, however, that never wavered and made the top of my list each year: mom and teacher.

After graduating from college with a dual major in Elementary Education and Special Education, I began working as a teacher. I soon met my future husband and on our first date we discovered that we shared a mutual desire to become parents. We married three years later and immediately began trying to grow our family. All seemed to be going just as I had planned as a child.

In the beginning, I was surprised each month when I failed to yield a positive pregnancy test. But as the months passed, my once initial surprise grew into absolute devastation. Over the next 3 years we endured 7 failed IVF’s (3 resulting in miscarriage.) I became angry, depressed, and hopeless. I frequently found myself on the receiving end of pitying expressions from friends and family as they gently broke the news that they were expecting. I found myself reacting with overzealous enthusiasm so as not to reveal my secret pain. I would then dart to the nearest bathroom to sob. Meanwhile, my husband and I were also anxiously waiting to be matched with a child through adoption. We began experiencing conflicting information and delays from our agency. My hope of ever having a home full of children began to fade and my passion or enjoyment for just about everything faded right along with it.

After a heart-to-heart with my father and a refocusing on the unconditional love and support of my husband, I realized the pity party I had been throwing for myself wasn’t changing anything about my circumstances. In fact, it had wiped out everything else good in my life.

A Bright Signs Learning Customer

There was more to me than infertility and it was time to start living again in spite of it. I took the attention off of what I could not control, and began focusing on what I could. With that, I started investing in myself, one day at a time. I began by simply exercising again. Then, I turned my attention to my tutoring business. I took on new students and I continued to improve my sign language interpreting. I found so much joy as I developed in my professional career, and took pride in developing the skills, games and techniques necessary to teach students to read and love learning.

In August of 2010 we got the call we had been waiting for: we had been matched with a beautiful baby girl. That Fall, my husband and I flew to Ethiopia and our world changed forever. I was finally a mom. I could physically feel the fullness in my heart when I held my baby girl. I knew without any hesitation that if I was called to become a mom through adoption again, it would be my greatest honor and my blessing. As irony would have it, I would discover merely nine days later that I was pregnant (naturally) with our son, Jack.

Having waited so long to become a mom, each day with my kids was like living a dream. Using the skills I honed during that time of professional investment, I began making educational home videos that I would play for my children when I was cooking dinner or taking a rare shower. These videos included sign language, phonics, art and calming music, and my children loved them. We would also play basic educational games together. Both of my children began reading by the age of 2, which attracted the attention of friends and strangers alike. After several inquiries wondering how to buy my videos, my husband and I decided bring these videos and flashcard sets to a larger audience by creating our company Bright Signs Learning LLC. I’m proud to say that Bright Signs Learning now is a thriving and award-winning business that has brought the joy of learning to kids across the world.

Looking back at my infertility, I wouldn’t change any of it. It forever altered the way I live my life. I learned to control that which I can control and to let go of the things I can’t. I am now the mother to four beautiful children who each came to me exactly when and how they were meant to come.

Reinvesting in myself during my darkest hours resulted in the birth of my company. I am proud that my children get to see me in the role of mom AND entrepreneur. It is never lost on me that each and every day I am living out my childhood dreams of being a mom and a teacher.

Photo Courtesy of ravanelliphotography
Shelby Rideout

Shelby Rideout is the founder and creator of Bright Signs Learning, the award-winning program designed to inspire children ages 0 to 4 to read by uniting sign language with early reading concepts. Shelby, a mother of four launched Bright Signs Learning after teaching each of her own children to use sign language to communicate.

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