Saturday, August 14, 2010

"Where Everybody Knows Your Name"

I love my Reproductive Endocrinologist (better known as my fertility doctor.). I love him as well as every single member of his staff in a deep, would-throw-myself-in-front-of-a-bus-to-save-their-lives, committed sort of way. The funny thing is, I think they feel the same way about me. Well, maybe it isn’t realistic to think they feel that way about their patients. But they make me feel like they love me in that way, and that is good enough for me. When I walk into their office, I feel like Norm walking into Cheers. I get a big, friendly warm welcome. During an IVF cycle, when I am seeing them 3-4 times a week, the office becomes my second home and they are a surrogate family to me. And when I am on a break from treatments, I actually miss them.

After six months of trying to conceive naturally at the tender age of 26, my ObGyn recommended that I go see a specialist. This referral made me sick to my stomach. It confirmed and made real my underlying suspicions that there was indeed a problem. I didn’t want to go to a specialist. But, more accurately, I didn’t want to have a fertility issue. Rising above my anger, fear and frustration was my overwhelming desire to conceive and become a mom. I made the appointment with the specialist and anxiously awaited the big day.

I was truly hoping for some answers. None of the doctors in my gynecologist’s group understood infertility. They all had said things to me ranging from completely dismissive, to terribly ignorant and hurtful, to just plain outrageous. One doctor in the group told me that every women had painful periods and it wasn’t that uncommon (I was later diagnosed with endometriosis). Another doctor actually touched my arm, made a noise like he was electrocuting me, and assured me that he gave me his “special touch” and I would be pregnant in the next five months. His nurse looked at me and said, “MmmHmmm honey! I hope you are prepared to be pregnant. It always works!” The same doctor told me on a separate occasion just to get a bottle of wine and go on vacation, and that my husband and I would be pregnant in no time. He was confident that it would work for us because it had worked for him and his wife. (Thank you doc for the TMI-Too Much Information)

Anxiety, sadness and despair overwhelmed me and my husband the first time we sat in my fertility doctor’s office waiting for him to see us. It was really strange seeing all of the other women around me waiting for their turn to go in. It was the first time I had knowingly been around other women who were having fertility issues. I was so anxious that the doctor would not take my issues seriously and would write me off as too young, crazy or “just stressed.” I was also just as anxious that based on my symptoms he would tell me my case was hopeless and there was something seriously wrong with me.

As it turned out, the specialist did neither. My husband and I went in to meet with him and he listened to our journey and my symptoms. He asked many questions regarding my personal history. He recommended some initial testing and explained it in a clear and descriptive manner. He didn’t dismiss me. He listened with empathy. He didn’t overwhelm me with a lot of information, but gave me enough to feel empowered. He didn’t promise me that I would get pregnant, but he didn‘t find my situation hopeless either. He answered my long list of questions. I immediately felt comfortable with him. And his staff were all very friendly, and also answered all the questions that I had. I left the office that day feeling sad that my journey to conceive had resorted to seeing a specialist, but I also felt new hope in being in the right hands with this new doctor and his staff.

Over the past four years I have counted on my fertility doctor and his staff through my and my husband’s most difficult days. One particularly rough day included a visit to my ObGyn for a yeast infection I had developed after taking an antibiotic right after one of my IUI procedures. I knew there were at least ten days to go before my fertility doctor wanted me in for a pregnancy test following my IUI. I shared this information with my ObGyn, yet she kept going on and on about how she always got a yeast infection when she became pregnant with each of her four kids. She was sure I was pregnant too. I assured her that a test couldn’t show it now, even if it were true. She ordered one anyway, and as I was waiting for her to give me the results of my urine test, I heard her outside my examination room telling the nurse that the test was negative and that I could go. The doctor couldn’t even bear to look at me. I asked the nurse about the test, wanting to be sure I had heard correctly. The nurse responded, “Don’t worry, you can relax. It is negative.”

I tried to keep it together as I left the ObGyn’s office. I immediately called my fertility doctor’s office and through tears told the nurse my story. She assured me that it was too soon for even a blood test to show a pregnancy result. She said that she was sorry I had to go through what I just went through and told me to relax and come back in a week and a half for a blood test. The fertility doctor and his staff supported me when that blood test did eventually turn out to be negative. They always gave me the difficult news of negative pregnancy tests, or worse, of impending miscarriages, in a compassionate, professional manner. I could always tell they were rooting for me, and yet they never gave me false hope. They were so incredibly happy for me when the fertility doctor told me and my husband that the pregnancy with my daughter was viable, after many blood tests and ultrasounds. I feel like they truly are the only ones who understand all that my husband and I went through to conceive my daughter, and the odds my daughter overcame to be here. I count on the fertility doctor and their staff for their honesty, for their guidance, for their support. They are never dismissive, they never say the wrong thing. They define the word “sensitive” day after day.

I love my fertility doctor and his staff. I feel I can never repay them for what they have done for me these past four years. My fertility journey has been quite traumatic, terrible and even terrifying at times. They are a shining light for me, and I know I will continue to count on them to get me through the long journey that lies ahead of me. When my daughter and I say our prayers at night, we make sure to say a special prayer for them. For them we are so grateful.

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