Changemakers in Fertility & Reproductive Health: Katy Huie Harrison, Ph.D.

Changemakers in Fertility & Reproductive Health: Katy Huie Harrison, Ph.D.

Meet Katy Huie Harrison, Ph.D.

Katy Huie Harrison, Ph.D., is an author, educator, and founder of Undefining Motherhood. She makes research-based information mainstream to empower moms to own their fertility, pregnancy, and parenting experiences. She's the author of a guided journal for pregnancy loss, Mourning Retreat, a pregnancy planner, Expecting & Organized, and she teaches a digital course to support people in their transition from pregnancy to parenthood, The Nested Blueprint. She lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband and two children.

How did you decide to do the work that you do?

"When I was in graduate school, I studied motherhood in Victorian England, and I kept finding myself drawn to all the ways in which mothers were made to feel out of control of their own experiences and bodies. This was during the Industrial Revolution, when printing presses were making mass media a public experience for the first time. There were newspapers, magazines, books, religious pamphlets, medical pamphlets, and these crazy little things called conduct manuals. And every single one of them told women that their primary goal in life was to be a mother, and then provided insane prescriptions on how to go about being a mother.

But the advice was impossible to live up to. It all conflicted. And it was predominantly written by men. My research centered on how impossible it must've felt to be a woman living with these insane prescriptions hanging over her at all times.

And then it hit me. We live in a similar age. With the rise of digital media production, we're similarly bombarded — with mommy blogs, social media, news media, television, pop culture — and it does something similar. Parenting has become factioned into different "types," with everyone insisting that their way is correct. How much has really changed?

Suddenly, my theoretical academic work became very personal, and I realized there was a lot of important work to do far beyond the walls of academia."

What are you most proud of in your work?

"I'm most proud of the fact that I'm able to bring people together to talk about hard subjects that have traditionally been pushed under the rug.

I'm a huge believer in mental health, and I think we've been emotionally harming women for centuries by enforcing prescriptions for how they'll manage their lives and bodies, while simultaneously insisting they stay silent about the emotional toll of these things. And it needs to stop. I think we're taking important steps to get there, but there's a long way to go, and I'm so proud to be a small part of that process."

What is a challenge you have overcome in your work? Or, what is the biggest challenge you are currently facing in your work?

"Honestly, I think the biggest challenge for me is a major challenge most women face — understanding and believing that my experiences are valid and deserve a voice. It's easy to feel like I'm being too loud; to worry I'm going to upset someone; to believe there's someone more qualified than I am. I have to constantly remind myself that every voice matters and mine is knowledgeable and important."

What do you wish people knew about fertility and reproductive health?

"That it's more individual than most of us can ever imagine. Our experiences, while collective in many ways, are so uniquely our own, and we cannot fathom what we're going to experience until it happens. So often, we think "Decide to try to conceive, get pregnant, have baby." We don't recognize how much more complicated, nuanced, and difficult every single piece of that puzzle can be. But we need to. We need to understand that situations arise beyond our wildest imaginations, and they aren't one in a million — they're real life for everyday people on a regular occasion. And they very well could be real life for us or someone we love."

Is there anything happening in the reproductive health field that you're especially excited about?

"I'm excited that we're sharing more openly about experiences, and thus slowly normalizing our myriad reproductive experiences as humans."

Who inspires you in this field?

"I think my biggest inspiration is probably Dr. Jessica Zucker. She has played a huge role in forging a path that allows loss moms to normalize the experiences of pregnancy and baby loss, and her work really helps people come to terms not only with their grief, but with their feelings toward their own bodies after these types of trauma. Reproductive health is so rooted within our bodies, and I think it's essential that we give a voice to understanding the connections between our bodies and our traumas."

What are you working on next?

"Right now, I'm working on creating new resources to help pregnant and birthing people support themselves after baby arrives. So much of our focus is on having a baby and then supporting baby. Going through recurrent miscarriage, pregnancy after loss, and parenting after loss has made it so clear to me that we have to create spaces to care for ourselves, and that's something we're greatly lacking as a society."

Want to meet some more Changemakers? Read on here.

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