Why this Infertility Warrior and Heart Health Advocate is Helping Parents Speak to Children About IVF

Rebecca Hochreiter

CMO of GoStork

Tess Kossow is the author of the children’s book series I’m Very Ferris focusing on IVF through a child’s perspective. After having her son Ferris through IVF, and aware of the void she needed to fill, she left her corporate job to set up her own company. She wrote I’m Very Ferris to capture IVF in words a child could understand for parents to use when introducing the subject. 

Infertility wasn’t Tess’ only struggle, though. She’s a sudden cardiac arrest survivor, and today she’s an advocate, host of the podcast Titling Tess, and a coach, supporting others informed by her own unique experience.  

During our conversation, Tess shared the journey that led to her son, her books, and being named the first Indianapolis Woman of Impact winner with the American Heart Association and Go Red for Women in 2021. 

Read on for Tess’ story, her advice and how she can also support you on your own path to parenthood. 

Tess and her adorable son, Ferris, the inspiration behind the I’m Very Ferris books.

 1.    Your journey to create your beautiful family was far from easy – can you share a bit about your path to parenthood and your son, who was not only your last embryo and ‘the answered prayer of faith, love and science’ but also the inspiration for your children’s books?

In 2017, after a year of trying to conceive, my husband, Dan, and I were referred to a fertility specialist.  Next a surgery to clear a blocked tube, and then finding out about a cyst I had, as well as enduring many, many blood tests, it was brought to our attention that there were problems with both Dan and I, and the odds of conceiving without medical assistance were less than 1%.  IVF would give us a chance of up to 73% success in conceiving, and not knowing what I would be in for, we decided privately that would be our shot (no pun intended) to have a baby. 

I had seven eggs retrieved, and all seven were successfully fertilized.  We ended up losing some of the embryos and were down to three to be sent for genetic testing.  One was discarded, and one came back positive for transfer.  There was one embryo that did not come back with a result, and I remember the doctor’s office asking me if I wanted to have the embryo retested.  Dan and I decided that we did, and while that embryo was sent out, I could have the embryo that came back positive transferred. 

A few days after a successful transfer, we were cautious and careful in everything I did.  And then I got the call…the transfer stuck, and we were pregnant.

Right before the transfer it is important to note that we received information that the embryo that needed to be retested came back positive.  Stunned at this news, we decided to keep that embryo frozen and would think about the possibilities later. 

After additional blood tests to see how the transfer was doing and the pregnancy progressing, I remember getting another call telling me that the HCG numbers should have doubled but mine did not.  They would need me to come in again for another test.  Worried about what could happen, I did all I could to shield Dan from the heartache and pain of bad news.  The numbers were not rising, and we had a miscarriage. 

Soon my body healed and with continuous shots and medication, I was ready for the transfer of the final embryo we had; the “surprise” embryo that was retested and came back positive.  I remember that whole week acting completely differently than I did with the first transfer.  I was doubtful and felt like I needed to prepare myself for disappointment again.  It would help me when something bad happens this time around if I already expected it.  But Dan reminded me to stay focused on this fighter embryo.  

We had the transfer, and I remember our nurse specifically telling us to do everything opposite we did with the first transfer.  “You’re not superstitious, are you?” she asked.  Being that I am not, we tried to be as normal as possible and not live-in fear of the tiny embryo that was fighting to stick inside of me and become a positive pregnancy.  And even though my body was reacting completely differently with this transfer than from the first one, I did all I could to remain calm.  

Then the day came for the blood test to determine if I was pregnant. This time, I went to work and tried not to think about what the result would be.  When I got the phone call that afternoon, the nurse was happy and told me the transfer was successful, and we were pregnant.  Still, knowing that things could take a turn for the worse (the HCG number was lower now than with the first transfer), I played my emotions cautiously.  A few days later, I took another blood test, and the HCG number grew more than expected.  I remember getting the call and this time things were dramatically different.  The pregnancy was healthy and successful and although anything could happen, we were further along than before! 

Speed up nine unforgettable months, and on April 19, 2018, my water broke.  On April 20, 2018, after hours of pushing, I gave birth to the most beautiful baby boy.  His name is Ferris Jobs.  We chose not to find out the gender or tell anyone our name choice.  When the nurse handed him to me and said I had a son, Dan and I looked at each other and cried.  It was the happiest moment of our lives. 

And that was the turning point for me professionally, as well.  I knew I wanted to start my own company and create something I felt that world needed.  That would be a children’s book capturing IVF in words a child could understand.  And in 2019, I’m Very Ferris, a child’s story about in vitro fertilization was published.  The very first children’s picture book series focusing on IVF through a child’s eyes.  It is now a two-book series and sold worldwide.  It is my passion and the driving force for the next stages in my business at tesskossow.com.

Tess and Dan’s long journey led to their rainbow baby

2.    Tell us all about I’m Very Ferris & I’m Very Ferris Takes a Bath!  How did you make the leap out of corporate to work towards sharing the perspective with the world – and what has it meant to you to know you’ve helped parents share the IVF journey with their children?

It was a lightning bolt moment to leave CBS and start my own company.  One I knew I needed to act upon fast or I would talk myself out of it and lose that spark.  So, I dove into entrepreneurship and became an author, with a 16-week-old son and never looked back.

It began with I’m Very Ferris, a child’s story about in vitro fertilization (IVF is in the title). In this 31-page children’s book, I’m Very Ferris takes the complex world of in vitro fertilization and creates a story for the innocent mind of a child to understand. Infertility is a topic that can now be addressed with children of all ages, as they follow Ferris through his life adventures, and yet always give respect to the process of IVF. Opening the topic of a new conversation on an important subject, I’m Very Ferris welcomes children into this honest series about a special and beautiful way to create a family.

I’m Very Ferris Takes a Bubble Bath is a 38-page children’s book, in which children can come along with Ferris on a new adventure. This second installment in the I’m Very Ferris series invites children from all families to understand IVF through a child’s point of view. However, Ferris is taking you along in one of his favorite routines…bubbles and suds with bath time in the tub!

It is incredibly moving and rewarding to know that families find the I’m Very Ferris series to fit a special mold in each home it enters.  Opening the topic of a new conversation on an important subject, I’m Very Ferris welcomes children into this honest series about a special and beautiful way to create a family.

Infertility is a topic that can now be addressed with children of all ages, as they follow Ferris through adventures and to read reviews and the personal perspectives with the book and others, well, it’s the greatest gift an author can receive.

3.    Congrats on the launch of your coaching business which will support intended parents through the lens of your experience as a fertility warrior and heart disease survivor!  How do you plan to work with clients and what do you hope for them to gain from your unique experiences and services?

I am beyond thrilled to take tesskossow.com to the next level with my certified fertility coaching.  Branded as -Tess Kossow Coaching, “Where Fertility Meets the Heart,”- I can separate myself from others with the walks of life I have endured and help to comfort and guide, especially with concerns of heart health.  Doesn’t matter if you are single or with a partner, conceiving through intercourse or with ART, if you have had a miscarriage or are looking to adopt, I can be your confidant and yet, someone who can offer up wisdom and understanding in what can be very unfamiliar territory for many.  I will do my best to have clients see I have invested in them to come out of my coaching sessions on the path to parenthood, even if that path changes from when we started.  It’s an honor and a privilege to have someone welcome you into their life when it comes to coaching, and I intend on being a positive and happy voice in their life in return.

4.    Congrats also for being named the first Indianapolis Woman of Impact winner with the American Heart Association and Go Red for Women in 2021. What is your main focus with regards to your advocacy work for the coming year?

This is something I am most proud of for 2021.  To be the first in something is a true honor.  I hosted events, raised thousands of dollars, and I spoke to groups and organizations about heart disease prevention.  And besides the title, the trophy, and the recognition, I connected on the deepest of levels with people from around the world who were touched and inspired by my personal tragedy turned to triumph. I understand I have been given a second chance at life, and I decided to partner with AHA and Go Red for Women to bring attention to something that unfortunately, often gets overlooked…the heart! Heart disease is the number one killer of women and the fact that I survived, well, I simply cannot sit still.  Speaking, walking in a fashion show to raise awareness, hosting my podcast: Titling Tess, and empowering future Women of Impact candidates is how I plan on continuing my personal mission of awareness with others come 2022.  Plus, it will most definitely be a part of my fertility coaching, as all of the body eventually points back to the heart.

Tess and her much-loved dog, Mr. Big

5.    As we discussed, your medical team currently believes there is no correlation between your infertility and heart disease, but your recent experience has been in fact meeting many others who similarly have suffered from both.  Do you believe there is a potential tie or that future medical research may lead to a better understanding that there may be?

In my opinion, I do not believe infertility played a part in my sudden cardiac arrest.  Too much time went by for the two to be connected.  However, the stress from infertility and motherhood and the specific walks of my personal life (my dog’s unexpected death in my arms three days prior) might be the undiagnosed players in the game of my specific story.  That’s why I am coming forward and sharing all aspects of my experience with others.  Doctors do not have a definitive reason why what happened to me did.  So, holding back information isn’t going to help me and it might continue to put pieces of this medical mystery back together.  And if not to diagnose me in my lifetime, then maybe to help diagnose someone else in theirs.  That’s why I advocate.  Because my struggle and my story might be the ticket to survival for someone else.

6.    What are your words of wisdom for new intended parents or fertility patients just beginning their own family building journey?

Trust the process. Block out the noise. The road might change on your way to parenthood, but you are not lost, and you are not alone. 

Thank you, Tess, for sharing your incredible journey, for supporting intended parents through your coaching, and for educating so many about heart disease prevention. 

And finally, congratulations!  We wish you the best with your new coaching business.

Intended parents, learn more about Tess and how she can support you along your journey at tesskossow.com