Actress Becca Tobin is used to putting it all out there as one-third of the LadyGang. Alongside Entertainment Tonight correspondent Keltie Knight and designer Jac Vanek, she co-hosts a weekly podcast, oversees a community of outspoken women and has recently co-authored a New York Times-bestselling book, all in the service of making it easier for women to speak up about things not traditionally considered "ladylike." So when it came time to open up about something very personal – her IVF journey – she didn't hesitate.
In July, Tobin, 34, opened up on the LadyGang podcast about her two previous miscarriages and decision to undergo IVF in order to freeze embryos with her husband of four years Zach Martin. And though for many people, the quarantine and social distance required by the pandemic may have made such an admission feel isolating and lonely, Tobin tells PEOPLE it was the perfect time for her.
"I actually like to put things out when I know I'm not going to see people, so I can control how much I let in after I've put so much out there," she says. "So quarantine was the perfect time for me to do it, because I could post a video and then turn away from social media as long or as short as I wanted to … and I had time to process that for myself."
She adds that because so many others are feeling isolated, the timing felt even more right. "People are going through so much right now," she said. "Women put their fertility journeys on hold because of COVID, or whatever it may be. There's thousands and millions of women going through this … I felt like it's a disservice to not really put everything out there when our whole brand is about talking about what's happening in your life, the ups and the downs. I couldn't be like, 'Yay, my life is perfect.' I just felt like, no, that's not the truth. That's never the truth for anybody. We all have highs and lows. And that was why I felt like I needed to talk about it."
She had nothing but support from her cohosts, who had been standing by her as she kept the journey quiet for several years, and were right by her side when she decided to open up about it. But with the pandemic-mandated physical distance between all the women, they (along with so many others) had to get creative with their support, which is one reason they teamed up with Leatherology for the brand's Gift Joy initiative – a selection of curated gift sets that says "I'm thinking about you" across the miles and also gives back (50 percent of the net proceeds from their sets goes to the New Way of Life Reentry Project.)
"Just letting somebody know that you're thinking about them goes a long way, because people are so busy," says Vanek. "So actually taking the time and letting somebody know that you're thinking about them, I think it goes a long way."
Knight had recently coordinated a cookie delivery for a big moment in Vanek's life, and said for her, the idea of "gift joy" is even better when you send a little something and "you don't need a gift in return. It's just spoiling the people that have kept you sane this year. It's very important."
Tobin echoed that sentiment, and said that for her, while undergoing IVF, the most meaningful way a friend could show she cared was to check in with "a thoughtful text message" without expecting a response.
"As crazy as that sounds … I circled back to this whole [idea] of giving someone something and not expecting anything in return," she said. "And I think sometimes getting a text message from a friend, just being like, 'Hey, I saw that you're going through the IVF journey. I'm so proud of you for being open about it. I love you. I'm here if you need me' [is more helpful]. As opposed to, 'Hey, how's it going? How many embryos did you freeze? What's up, tell me about this.' "
The trio worked together remotely on getting their contributions to the Gift Joy campaign just right; the $180 "Gift for the Busy Lady" (modeled by Knight, above left) includes a train case and jewelry pouch, while (seen on Tobin, above right) includes a zippered tote and travel makeup case. Both sets come in six colors, are gift-wrapped and have the option to be monogrammed – which, in their opinion, is an excellent way to get gifting brownie points. "There is something about a personalized gift that you're like, Wow, you actually care," Vanek says. "You actually took the time to think about the gift a little bit beforehand."
But despite their ability to make magic happen virtually, there's no sugarcoating what it's like to be apart from your own lady gang for months at a time. "It sucks. It literally sucks. A Zoom doesn't do it," says Vanek.
Adds Tobin, "It's just like this ripple effect of feeling very isolated and very alone. And I think that people are struggling so much. That little getting out of your house and having dinner with your friends, it seems like nothing, but it's [so important]."
Knight says she's more of a homebody, so she is a pro at supporting friends from afar, something that's served her well as Tobin (and now Vanek, inspired by Tobin's story) goes through the process of embryo freezing. "I'm so proud of Becca and Jac for being so open. And it's not always easy because – [even] with all the fans and everyone that is like, 'Oh my God, we love the podcast,' there's always people that are jerks."
And that includes well-intentioned people who may be asking painful questions. Tobin, who has frozen embryos but not transferred them due to her current filming schedule, says she has no regrets about opening up about her fertility journey, but does know that there are going to be some difficult moments on social media now that it's out in the open.
"I know that everybody's hearts are in the right places, but the amount of messages that I now get about being pregnant: 'Enjoy that tequila, girl, because you're not going to be able to soon!' I know people are just trying to connect, I know they're excited for me. If they didn't care, they wouldn't message," she said. "But my first video [about her news] was, I'm not pregnant. So please don't text me. We just need to understand that: Stop asking women about their fertility, and let them volunteer the information and read the room."
She continues, "I know that the next couple months, there are going to be a few comments on Instagram. Like, 'Is that a baby bump? Are you pregnant?' That stuff is really tough. And I can't stress it enough that we just have to stop. We have to allow women to share their news when they're ready, and the speculation and the questions just adds more stress and pressure to a family."
A good reminder, heading into the holidays, that it's always a good idea to be kind – and gift joy whenever possible.
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