A Letter to Fertility Medical Professionals
Dear fertility medical professionals,
Hi. I’m Liz. I’m scared, confused, concerned, anxious, overwhelmed, depressed and yet hopeful. I am your patient, newly diagnosed with infertility. And I will rely on you for so much — more than you probably thought patients would when you were in med school.
See, I’m not a medical professional. Maybe I watched episodes of “ER,” “Grey’s Anatomy” or “The Good Doctor,” but not a one of those shows really dealt with what I’m going through. (Besides merely watching medical shows does not make me an expert by any means.) So I have no basis or background, however small, to help me navigate our appointments, the upcoming cycles and the information you’re going to give me. I have you though. You are my guide.
Remember that my world has likely turned upside down in a few short days or weeks. It’s no longer “when” I am pregnant but “if.” It’s no longer about having two or three kids but “Can I, will I have any?” All the visions I had for pregnancy and motherhood are gone. Some people can switch gears on a dime; others need time. Be patient if I need time. Provide me with clear and concise information so I (and my partner) can discuss options and formulate plans.
Remember the information you give is crucial. Because infertility is a matter not usually discussed even among friends. I may not realize I know anyone who has gone through this before. I may feel isolated, ashamed, embarrassed. Google searches will turn up huge amounts of stuff — some helpful, some frightening and some downright outdated. The information you provide me will be my road map, my atlas, my Bible. Make sure it’s written in layman’s terms us non-medical professionals can understand. Make sure it’s consistent across different offices within your practice and consistent with what you are verbally telling me. I likely only know what you tell me.
Remember, this is likely my first experience ever with infertility, meaning I don’t know what I don’t know. So when you ask me if I have questions and I stare at you like a deer in headlights, perhaps gently suggest questions. Prompt me by saying things like, “Would you like to know common side effects to these drugs?” or “Did you know that this treatment cycle will differ from your last in __ ways.” You know that no two rounds of anything are the same, but I don’t. I assume if the meds don’t change, the cycle will be exactly the same as last time. These may seem like little things to you, but they are huge to me. They are the things that mean the difference between feeling lost and helpless with feeling empowered and accepting of my new normal.
To my doctor who consults with me each month, gently telling me what didn’t work and how we’re going to approach things next time: thank you. Thank you for taking your years of training, knowledge and sharing it with me to try to make my motherhood dreams come true.
To the nurses who seemingly do it all from responding to my weekly voicemail of questions to holding my hand and wiping the tears from my eyes during my first, second and third egg retrieval surgeries: thank you for your compassion and smiles during the most difficult time of my life.
To the receptionist who manages to find that perfect appointment time: thank you. Remembering I have an hour drive each way and you want to make sure I’m not stuck in traffic makes me feel I am a person, not merely a patient at your practice.
This is a steep and rocky road — one I did not plan on taking, and I have no idea how long I’ll be on it. Thank you for guiding me and treating me the way you would want your sister, friend, daughter to be treated.
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Getty image by PATCHARIN SIMALHEK