Infertility as a physician: the gift of perspective

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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.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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