Infertility as a physician: the gift of perspective


As physicians, we know all too well how life can change in an instant.  How tomorrow is never promised.  This knowledge can sometimes feel overwhelming, but it is also a gift.

Because we know how precious life is.

I am a physician—but I am also a patient.  An infertility patient, for whom each passing year can feel like a lost opportunity.

Because my eggs don’t have the perspective. They don’t see the privilege. They are in a rush.

My path towards motherhood was later than others.  I spent my best, fertile years in medical school and residency, waiting for the “right” time.

I’ve been asked: Am I grateful or angry for those years?  It may surprise you that I can say both.

During my fertility journey, there was a combination of emotions I felt on a regular basis—hope, grief, compassion, fear, love, jealousy, determination, and anger.

Above all else, as a physician, I felt conflicted. How dare I feel sorry for myself? How easy it was to move from self-pity to anger.

Anger: that no one educated me about infertility awareness, about family planning—how is this not a part of our education?

Anger: that at age thirty-five, I was already classified as “advanced maternal age.”

Anger: that my body seemed to be failing me at such a “young” age.

But there was gratitude, too.  And gratitude is stronger.

Gratitude: for the knowledge I have gained about infertility awareness.

Gratitude: for the opportunity to have access to medical care to help me start my family.

Gratitude: for the community I became a part of—1 in 8 of all women—because it is all too easy to feel isolated in our journeys.

And after all the ups and downs over the last five years, I have been given the greatest of all my gifts: my two sons.

It is because of all this that I share my story.

Today, when people ask me when I’m having another child (just like early on when I was asked when I was going to start having children), I don’t just smile politely and say, “Oh, I’m not ready yet,” I tell it like it is. I share my story—the revolving door of specialists, the constant anxiety of IVF, the sobering consideration of surrogacy and adoption—because in doing so, I might help at least one other woman.

I want all medical students and residents to have infertility awareness.  So they can be educated to make decisions that are best for them.  So they are not blind-sided when they are ready to start a family.

I became a fertility and life coach so I can help other women find confidence and clarity on their journeys.  They will not be alone.  We can make it better together.

I am hoping to go through IVF again in 2021.  When I do so, I know I will have help. I will not be alone, either.

I am grateful for each year, each experience, each challenge—to become a better version of myself.

A better wife, mother, doctor.

What a gift.

Kate Hoppock is an internal medicine physician.

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