Honoring National Infertility Awareness Week, RSC andrologist Evelyn Elnar writes about her transition from viewing infertility as a mere diagnosis to becoming acutely aware of it as a complex emotional journey.
I can’t believe I’m about to have my one-year anniversary as an RSC employee. I was hired to be an andrologist, primarily working in the fertility clinic lab with male infertility issues.
When I took this job, I was not at the beginning of my career. Before I worked at a county hospital laboratory. So why did I switch my field of practice? Family. I needed to have more time with my family, especially my daughters (17 and 9).
The short working hours helped me be more efficient and less stressed when completing daily activities in an almost organized manner. In other words, kids are in school on time, they are picked up on time, homework is done on time and dinner is on the table on time. Ah, parenthood.
Most of our patients at RSC Bay Area desire nothing but to be parents. Before, I never really paid much attention to infertility. In the hospital lab, I dealt with hundreds of samples, blood and urine, and that’s it. All I thought about was lab test results and looking for hormone imbalances.
But there is more to infertility than hormone imbalances and lab tests. In the andrology lab, I call the patient’s name, see the patient’s face and sometimes get to know the person. I can ask, “How are you doing? How’s the commute? What did you have for breakfast?” I get to observe the emotional journey our patients go through. It really is a rollercoaster ride.
What do I know about the rollercoaster emotions of conceiving? My two girls were unplanned and effortless. There was no need for me to track my cycle, no pills to take, no injections to give, and no decision to make as to what was the best course of treatment.
But now my daily work puts the emotions of conceiving in context. One day, I see a couple for an IUI (intrauterine insemination), again. As an andrologist, I know that means the female partner’s hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) was low last time – no pregnancy, back to cycle day 1. I guess they were able to regain their strength and rebuild their hopes to try again. “I hope this is the one,” the man says.
Related Reading: Male Infertility Overview
From tears to a fertility clinic full of hugs and smiles
If a female patient is in for her first hCG blood test, which can evaluate levels of this hormone that indicate pregnancy, I might hear everything from, “It is a big day,” “I am so anxious,” “It is so frustrating,” “It is so surreal,” to “I still cannot believe it.” Sometimes, I witness tears. Other days, my favorite days, hugs and smiles fill up the whole office.
Yes, in the small Orinda laboratory working beside the phlebotomy chair, I finally got a ride on that rollercoaster.
“CONGRATULATIONS!!!” On that special day, Dr. Willman or Dr. Rosenbluth (our dedicated physicians) get to say “CONGRATULATIONS!” Suzanne, the Orinda fertility clinic’s committed physician assistant, hands the patients a graduation card.
And then soon enough, they’ll get to think of the paint that will go on the nursery wall rather than tracking their cycles. List baby names rather than take pills. Enjoy their baby showers rather than have an egg retrieval.
They will experience sleepless nights changing diapers rather than sleepless nights anticipating blood results or a consult. They will videotape those little feet taking their first steps, hear their baby’s first word, take pictures of their child’s first day in school, and then even realize how much effort it takes to pick out a prom dress.
They will need to figure out where to hide eggs during Easter, buy a costume for Halloween (hoping their little girl or boy will still want to wear it next year so they don’t have to buy a new one), make sure the tooth fairy puts money under the pillow and check that Santa ate those cookies and drank the milk. Ah, parenthood.
I am fortunate that I get to spend more quality time with my family and cherish every milestone of my daughters’ lives. But even more, I see the worth of what I can be a part of. I can be a part of the lives of people who chose to be parents, people who chose to look for a deeper sense of meaning and purpose, and people who chose to nurture and love a life other than their own.
Almost 365 days and counting.
– Evelyn Elnar, CLS/andrologist