When the Embryologist Becomes the Patient

Infertility isn’t something anyone can prepare you for. We all grow up saying “when I have kids,” not “if I can have kids.” So, if the day comes where a doctor is telling you that you’ll need major intervention to have the family you’re hoping for, it will absolutely knock you off your chair. In my case I didn’t even know that was going to be a conversation because I hadn’t been trying. I was working on my science career and not even thinking about it yet.

When I was 31, I found out I had cervical cancer. Rather than take the OBGYN’s recommendation of an immediate full hysterectomy, my oncologist decided to try surgery, so I would at least have a shot at being a mom. I was warned that my ability to carry would be heavily compromised so I should start trying “yesterday”. Long story short, 8 IUIs and nearly a year later, I hadn’t even seen a positive pregnancy test. Talk about being thrown for a loop. Everything always looked great, I responded well to all meds, nobody could tell me why it was not working. It felt like another kick in the stomach when I was already struggling with anxiety that was through the roof.

That’s when I was sent to SRM, which changed my life in every possible way. Not only did I become a patient, a short time later I was also hired on to be an embryologist!! It was/is a DREAM job for me, and I literally had to pull over and cry when I got the call to offer me the job. I cannot tell you how much my own struggles, defeats, victories, tears, fears, and emotional journey has influenced my job.

I feel everything every patient feels, I take everything personally (sometimes too much), and I genuinely want the best outcome for everyone because I know… I know how much you beat yourself up for decisions you made 1, 5, 10 years ago. Everyone tells you to just relax, but that only makes you more sad or angry. I know how much sleep you lose and how anxious you get waiting those 9 days between your transfer and your HCG test. Everyone says it will happen when it is meant to. That only makes you more sad or angry. They tell you to try taking a vacation or getting drunk “because that’s how it happened for my friend…” or whatever.

I know how hard you cry when it’s negative and how hard you cry when it’s positive. I also know how absolutely terrifying it is when it is positive. Maybe you’ve already lost one, so you can’t let yourself relax even a tiny bit. I ultimately went through 2 egg retrievals and 5 embryo transfers. My journey was four years of CONSTANT treatment and doctor’s visits. I know how exhausted you are, and I know why you keep going back time after time even when people start asking you when you are going to just stop trying.

When I finally had a good pregnancy, I still took a pregnancy test every day until well after my 7-week ultrasound. I know that while you’re celebrating and telling everyone how happy you are, on the inside you are more scared than you have ever been. Happy tears are a welcome change, but your partner is still not totally convinced that you aren’t going to have another total breakdown. On that note, HUGE shout-out to the partners too. I was fortunate enough to have an incredible partner that kept me together-ish through all of it, when I was at my best AND my worst.

Infertility, and the whole journey that goes with it is the biggest roller coaster imaginable, and much of the population has NO CLUE. But if it makes any of you out there feel any better, I do. I understand it all. So, rest assured knowing you have someone “on the inside” that is celebrating with you and sharing your disappointment. My son is 3 years old now, he is the light of my life. Every single little embryo, every little egg, everything I touch in the lab reminds me of him and everything I went through for us to find each other. If you are reading this and struggling, I know it is so hard, but keep trying! Give yourself permission to feel whatever you need to feel to get through the day, take it hour by hour if you must. Accept love from those around you, and if you need more, then please ask for it! There is no stronger bond than a mom to her child, and that absolutely includes the journey to get there. Be kind to yourself and do whatever you need to do, because I know you can do this!

April 27, 2021

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