The blog post today written by Monica Moore, MSN, NP-RNC and one of her patient’s, describes the nurse-patient relationship and the rollercoaster of emotions experienced by both in the face of infertility. It also reminds us of the joy and resolution that can be found when choosing adoption for family building after infertility.
As a nurse practitioner who has worked in infertility for over 18 years, I have formed close relationships with many patients whom I will never forget, even once their treatments have ended. The daily contact, and discussions of such a personal topics (building one’s family and all of the activities and challenges that that entails), forges strong bonds quickly. Although most patients are able to conceive using current technology, some are not, and choose either adoption or child-free living. Here is the story of one such memorable patient (and friend) who offered to share her story in the hopes of helping others who might be in a similar situation. I am incredibly grateful for her candor and know that her perspective will resonate with others.
A Nurse’s Story
I met M when she first came to our office in 2009 and right away was entranced by her bubbly personality balanced with practicality inherent in being a great teacher, I imagined. I knew that I would enjoy working with her but didn’t realize then how emotionally invested I would become in her journey, both personally and professionally. She was young, with, theoretically, the cause of her infertility being something that was surmountable, using the technology that we had then. Bolstered by both of these factors, I was confident that we would be able to help her achieve a pregnancy (or two).
She became pregnant on her first IVF cycle with us, which, unfortunately, resulted in a loss. M handled this disappointment with her usual blend of optimism and pragmatism, and once she was medically able to try again, she proceeded with her second cycle. She, unfortunately, had another loss, and I’m not sure who was the most upset, M or her team (me, her navigator or her physician). Of course, it was M, but we were all so excited for her (as she had made it much farther than the last cycle) that we had to contain our tears when calling her to confirm the diagnosis first seen by ultrasound.
On to two more cycles, she took injections prior to freezing embryos to make enough chromosomally normal embryos, in order to replace them in a frozen/thawed cycle. Pregnancy test after all of that? Negative.
What the….??? How do I explain this to her when I can’t digest it myself? I was so angry, not even sad, just really mad. I realize that nothing is foolproof and even though I know this cerebrally, I thought for sure that this cycle was going to be the ticket. I conveyed this belief to her. I was so ready to call and give her good news. Everyone was devastated. It troubled me calling her at work to tell her awful news, and then imagining her proceeding with the rest of her day as a middle school teacher. Did I mention that she is one of the best teachers ever (this doesn’t come from me but from many of my kids’ friends who have been lucky to be in one of her classes)? I can think of only one word used to describe her in this situation.
After this cycle, M had her consult with Dr. Hurwitz who gave her many options, adoption being one of them, and she and her husband struggled with the confusion (“is it my uterus that isn’t working since embryos are normal”), frustration, and uncertainty. Of course, at this point there are financial as well as emotional limitations. How much more can they afford? What are the chances of pregnancy using other technologies? What if they continue to spend thousands of dollars and are unable to grow their family? How many bad phone calls can someone receive, regardless of his or her resilience? We followed up with M, who asked for some time to talk to her husband and reflect regarding their next steps. In the interim that followed, I thought of her often, struggling to give her, the privacy and space that she needed to make a difficult decision. Sometimes I found myself just wanting to call, email or check in on her for my own benefit because she has such a positive energy and strong spirit, like one of your friends that you will have forever, who always fills your tank regardless of how often you talk.
In 2012, she called to say that they decided to pursue adoption as the next step in their family-building journey.
When I left my first appointment with my reproductive endocrinologist, I had such a sense of hope and relief. I was young, only 29 at the time, and there was no reason based on my initial bloodwork and examination that would leave him to believe that I wouldn’t be able to conceive. We were so excited to be parents and were so thrilled to begin the process.
Throughout our fertility treatments, we were never promised that it would work… we just believed deep down that it would. Our nurse and doctor were with us every step of the way; guiding us, making us laugh, keeping us sane. And what I learned is this: they want it to work as much as we do. Whenever I got positive results, I could hear the joy in my nurse’s voice. And when the news wasn’t good, she was there to lift my spirits, give honest advice, and help us to come up with a plan for our next step. I am forever indebted to her for helping us through what was a very difficult time and an emotional roller coaster. These things don’t work for everyone, though, and unfortunately, they didn’t work for us. After four attempts, my husband and I decided that we needed to move on.
I think people move on from situations in life for different reasons but for us, it was really the emotional component of infertility. We had a lot of heartaches and felt that there were other avenues to explore that would help us build our family. We considered egg donors and embryo adoption but, ultimately, decided that we wanted to go the adoption route. And we have never looked back.
Little did we know, a mere month after deciding to pursue adoption, we were placed with our oldest son and we knew the second that we met him that everything was meant to happen exactly the way that it did. And we felt the exact same way when we welcomed his brother two years later.
Will I always have the sadness of not carrying a biological child to term? Possibly. But it’s an occasional afterthought as opposed to the searing, all-consuming ache it used to be. I’ve learned that my love for my children knows no bounds and that motherhood has very little to do with whether or not you’ve birthed your children.
I have so many friends who have had great successes with fertility treatments, but I know there are many others out there who are exactly where we were a few years ago. To anyone reading this, please know that as hard as it is now, you will find your path to parenthood, and whatever road you choose will get you to your ultimate destination. And, I promise, you too will never look back.