As we recognize National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) 2015, many articles will be written through the eyes of the patient, but today I am writing from the other side of the desk, from the perspective of those that work in the specialized field of assisted reproduction.
For all those struggling with infertility, I embrace this year's slogan of "you are not alone."
I have been working in assisted reproductive medicine for more than a decade, and it escapes me how the English language can have so many words, yet none that come close to the inspiration that our patients bring to my team and I every day. Whenever I scan the faces of those people sitting in our waiting room, I see a familiarity, a thread that connects them. It is the light of a WARRIOR.
The definition of a warrior is a person who shows or has shown great vigor and courage.
A warrior is also referred to in many places as a champion -- defined as a person who fights for or defends people or causes, a fighter or warrior.
There couldn't be a more authentic or describing word.
I'm sure some of our patients would laugh at that word, but let me share what have seen in all these years for the warrior comes in many different armors.
Some of these warriors sit there nervously laughing, some holding the hand of their partner, some with their gaze cast to their feet. Each of them having their own protective armor, they do what they have to in order to make it through today. I take in the realness of why they are here today. Somewhere along their path to parenthood, something didn't go as planned. Somewhere when they made the life changing decision to start a family their bodies let them down.
To get here, to get to the clinic, our warriors have had to go to battle. They have had to deal with many unfair and insensitive comments, made by people with no experience of infertility. Infertility is not like a blister that will heal in a few days. Anyone with infertility knows the hardships that you have had to endure, the battle of constant disappointment, exhaustion on a mental, physical, financial and even spiritual level. Infertility can drain you.
But this is a special group of people. They fight for the cause of having their family and do this with such great courage. For many, this fight looks like a daily choice. The choice to eat better, to make healthy life choices, to do research on this consuming disease. This army chooses to laugh when all they want to do is cry, to hug that friend that just announced they are pregnant knowing they are not, they endure the wounds of a body that has let them down, they encourage themselves or their partner when they are at their lowest and question if to even continue on this path of parenthood. And in my eyes the most courageous step they make, is the choice to seek help. To see an IVF specialist is like taking a sword and wielding it at the attacker. To many of you reading this, these are not just words, what you have just read is your real life.
As with any battle, you sometimes have to change tactics while on the battlefield. We have seen patients through the years have to redefine their description of success when it comes to infertility treatment. For some, that means stepping up the treatment regime to move to IVF, or repeating another cycle if the first cycle did not work. For others it may mean using donor eggs or donor sperm, or moving to adoption. For some this definition means closing the door on all further fertility treatment. This is something that is not talked about a lot, and would be remiss of me if we didn't acknowledge the valiant warriors on the field, but when treatment doesn't work it can be the most heartbreaking moment both for the patient and for us. To know when to stop fertility treatment and take back control of your life and live it with a new definition of success, well this simply is beyond bravery.
These warriors are a very special band of brothers and they all have one thing in common: Each of them have looked at this disease and decided not to go down without a fight and choose to seek help, they have joined the ranks. As these warriors do this, they extend their dream of having a family into our hands. They have asked us to come alongside and help them in this fight and we respectfully accept this challenge. For many of us on the other side of the desk, me included, the bestowment of this request is humbling.
I am extremely fortunate to be a part of a very progressive and successful IVF unit creating the next generation of society in an environment where we see love, courage, dedication and science combined. Here we see many victories and daily have confirmation that our protocols are working and consistently have couples returning with their babies for us to grab a quick snuggle or send in photos in of their new family radiating their new love. There are the days when I shed a tear see the reward for the effort I know our patients went through to get to this point and the extreme dedication of my fellow team members.
So today, from the other side of the desk, to you our patients I say thank you... YOU inspire US! We look at the world through your eyes and you make us better people. You are strong, you are brave, you are WARRIORS of love, you are WARRIORS of life. We are with you in this war, we are a part of your army. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.