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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Cattle Call at Your Local Fertility Clinic...

So I shared that we embarked on in vitro fertilization (IVF) for baby #3 after suffering two ectopic pregnancies.  I had some experience with our fertility clinic after my first son, Oliver was born since I was having trouble getting pregnant a second time.  I was referred to Reproductive Endocrinologist Specialists of Charlotte (REACH) by my OBGYN after having my first ectopic and subsequently not being able to get pregnant for several months following.

I will start by saying that REACH is a fabulous practice with some of the greatest doctors in North Carolina.  I am beyond grateful for all of their help in my journey and I really grew to love my doctor there.  Grew to love him.  My first visit to the REACH office was not great.  At the time, a couple of years ago, my mental state on all this baby-making business was pretty bad.  I was sick of trying to get pregnant with no results and I didn't understand why it had suddenly become a problem after an easy first time.  I was impatient and scared.  Leaving my regular OBGYN was hard too since I had become familiar with his practice and all of my nurses there.

First of all, the vibe in a "regular" OBGYN office is much lighter.  Most people visiting are there for regular exams or are pregnant.  People are chipper and happy.  Usually you are leaving with normal happy results and visits are pretty routine.  The vibe in a fertility clinic could not be more different.  Everything is somber and no one makes eye contact.  The staff is friendly enough but they don't make a lot of small-talk.  I assume it's because they never know the mental state of the patient with whom they are speaking and they do not want to rock the boat.  I understand, I mean after all most women are there because something is "broken" with their reproductive system.  Patients are coming because either, they having been trying without results, have gone through something traumatic like multiple miscarriages or are starting the process of a sometimes-lengthy fertility treatment.  Needless to say, most patients do not come in looking like a ball of sunshine.

Add to these factors that a lot of patients have zero children.  They are sometimes couples who have waited later in life to start families and therefor are running into issues with fertility.  I always felt like these couples would look me up and down with a sad smile as if they were thinking, "Hey, at least you have age on your side."  It made me feel bad that I am young (ish).  Or there are healthy-looking young couples who are clearly ready for a family and for whatever reason are not having any luck just yet.  These couples just look worn down.  It was always these women who avoided eye contact as if they felt embarrassed or ashamed that they had to be there.

The absolute worst was when I was forced to bring my children with me.  Children are not a regular sight at a fertility clinic and I know why.  When I would bring my kids they stood out like a sore thumb.  It just feels wrong to bring them there....like you are flaunting them and your good ovaries.

But as bad as it was to bring children into the office it was far worse to witness the men.  Sometimes the men were just there to accompany their wives and offer support but when you see them on the 3rd floor, it is a whole other story.  The poor men would look absolutely mortified to walk in the lab to retrieve their "specimen" cup.  They know why they are there and you know why they are there and there is no way to pretend you don't even when they try to act nonchalant.  Come on buddy, we all know why you are going in that little room.  Poor men.

All of this is just a prelude to your actual first appointment.  For me, that was not a good day.  I couldn't wait to meet this specialist and finally get some answers.  So after waiting for a good 30 minutes for a doctor who, I would later learn is notoriously late, I was fuming.  You would think that a good joke to break the ice would cure my irritation but something about a doctor talking like Donald Duck just didn't ring funny to me that day.  Or the several after on which he would do his impersonation again.  This man risked his life by 1. being late and 2. trying to bring a Disney character into my appointments.

So, the warm and friendly vibe of my regular OBGYN was gone.  I became a name on a long list and started feeling as though I was part of a cattle call.  But slowly I began to find the familiar faces who always made my appointments feel more personal and less depressing.  Even my doctor became a trusted partner in this whole process and I came to love him dearly.  Yes, duck voice and all.

My experiences at REACH became less and less horrible and eventually I found my groove among all of the somberness.  Hey, on one occasion I even saw a reality star!  Wish I could share who but I really wouldn't feel right.  So hang on with me and I will continue to share my road to baby #3!

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