The Business of Hope: Part 3 of 5


It's hard to believe that our first little one is due this week!  I'm so excited to meet her (and evict her) that I can hardly breathe sometimes! (Of course, that also could be because she has her feet firmly planted in my lungs...) 

Because this week is so different from every other, I've also chosen to write about something very different.  

This week I'm posting a 5 part series about my experiences being diagnosed and treated for infertility.  I can't lie - it's personal and somewhat painful to share. But I also feel it's incredibly important to create an open dialogue about the topic (something that is strangely lacking or taboo) and share the experience in the hopes that those who don't know much about it can become more familiar with the journey and those who are going through it are reminded that they're not alone.  

Friends, as you read this, please do so with an open heart and mind.  Please know that the intentions are not for pity or grandstanding but for a greater understanding of something that is still so isolating for so many.


Click Here to Read Infertility, Part 1
Click Here to Read Infertility, Part 2

Infertility, Part  3                                                                                                                       


I sat next to Scott in the bright waiting room.  Above me, a tv buzzed with daytime talk show chatter.  Several other women – a few accompanied by their partners – sat patiently in chairs scattered around the room.

I often get the feeling that doctors’ offices are a sort of timeless medical purgatory.  And by “timeless” I really mean that the décor has been sapped from all of the leftovers of decades gone by.  In fact the word “décor” might be a bit generous.

This waiting room, however, was different.  The walls were a pale buttery color, and the windows reached up to the very high ceiling, spilling light across the floor.  Instead of cheap motel room prints or Norman Rockwell knockoffs, the walls were adorned with tasteful but understated framed paintings of local scenery.  And, conveniently, they still had the obligatory model of a women’s reproductive system sitting next to me on a table.  Why is that convenient?  I don’t know, but where else are you going to find one?

I finished filling out the zillionth form, signed it and handed it over to the smiling woman behind the counter.  Walking back to my chair, I raised my eyebrows at Scott.

“Now we wait.”

He nodded.  Doctors’ offices all over the world are masters in the art of running behind schedule. 
No sooner had I sat down, a young, pretty nurse called my name.


Surprised, we followed her back to a small room where she took blood and chatted away to us about anything and everything.  The chatter was calming.  When she was done she left the room and returned shortly with an embarrassed look on her face.

“I am so sorry,” she said. “The doctor just called, and she’s is running a little bit late today.  She’s only a few minutes away but she hates making people wait.  Generally, she likes to meet with people and talk with them first before the physical exam, but, if you’d prefer, we can do the exam first and then you can chat with her after. Totally up to you. Like I said, she feels terrible about making you wait and she doesn’t want to waste your time.”

Well there’s a first.  I looked at Scott and shrugged.  I suppose some people might have cared, but it was six and one half dozen to me.  Into the exam room we went.

A large and jovial nurse came in to do the exam.

“I’m sorry about doing things a little out of order for you guys today.  Nothing like a perfect stranger poking around some sensitive areas as a way to get to know somebody, right?”

“Well, usually I make someone at least buy me a drink first…” She chuckled and Scott rolled his eyes.  He, at least, is used to my I-feel-awkward humor.

The exam went quickly and I was allowed to sit up and pull the sheet back over me.  After a moment there was a knock on the door and a beautiful and stylish woman in a lab coat came in.

“Emily? I’m Doctor Shapiro.  I’m so sorry I’m late.” She addressed both Scott and I as she said this. I’m not sure I’ve EVER had a doctor apologize to me, or seem to exhibit genuine concern for my time.   She continued with a self-effacing  smile, “Normally I like to at least have a conversation with new patients before making them jump up on a cold table with strangers.” 

“No worries.  I generally meet people for the first time with my pants off. I find it breaks the ice.” 
Dr. Shapiro laughed and I immediately felt more at ease.  A doctor who not only has a respect for my time but also has a sense of humor.  Points.

“Why don’t you get dressed and we can go into my office and chat a bit about what’s going on and what’s going to happen.” 

For the next hour Scott and I sat in her bright, calm office discussing the process, the problems, the medications, and the options.  She asked about medical history – my long history of endometriosis and the surgeries I’d had to try to fix it.  She asked about ovulation predictors (which I reassured her that we had done for long enough to own a majority share in the OB corporation).  She asked about Scott’s background (which was a short conversation, as he’s adopted).  She asked about our sex life and other mildly mortifying questions that I would discover over the next few months become anything but private (although they NEVER become comfortable).

As we talked, she listened intently and without judgment.  I suppose that’s what you expect from a decent doctor.  What I didn’t expect was the level of quiet compassion she showed.  Not pity. Compassion.  Empathy.  There was nothing about it that said “oh you poor thing.”  Instead, her attitude was “Yes, this is not ideal.  Yes, this is frustrating and incredibly difficult.  But it is NOT insurmountable.  And together we’ll fix this.” 

By the end of our visit, I felt drained.  Dr. Shapiro had given us a tremendous amount of information about medications, procedures, and options.  We had discussed all of the oh-so-intimate details about our private lives and parts.  We had decisions to start making – tests, drugs, shots, procedures, timeline, not to mention finances.  We said goodbye to the doctor, set up our next set of appointments and tests and collapsed in the car. 

The drive home was fairly quiet.  There was a lot to talk about, but there was a lot to process first.  We had gone over the most common fertility problems with the doctor - blocked fallopian tubes, fibroids, uterine issues for women; low sperm count, the shape of the sperm, lack of movement of the sperm for men – all of which had to be tested for. 

Meanwhile, I was to start on hormones and we had been given a date and time for our next “sexual encounter.”  (And, for the record, nothing kills the romance quite like penciling it in via doctor’s orders.  You get this feeling that somewhere, some nurse or receptionist is checking it off on her calendar…)

Finally, I looked at Scott.  “We okay with all of this?”

He smiled faintly and nodded.  “I think we kind of have to be.”

The Business of Hope
 “We must rediscover the difference between hope and expectation.” - Ivan Illich

I’m never sure if we went about sharing our journey the right way.  I write this now because I want people to know what it’s truly like to go through this process.  I think that there are many topics that have been deemed “too inappropriate” to be discussed openly, and infertility is certainly one of them.  It has a stigma of being a dirty little secret.  The irony in that is that we have no compunction discussing alcoholism, drug addictions, or weight loss struggles – all of which are, arguably, self-inflicted.  Please don’t misunderstand - this is not a slam on any of those things – I think we SHOULD have open conversations about them, I applaud and support those who are struggling to overcome them and I frankly can relate to several  (though that is a topic for another time).  My point is simply that we find it more appropriate to discuss things that fall into those categories than we do something that we have absolutely no control over (none of us get to select the status of our reproductive system).

But even as someone who is acutely aware of this disparity, I have found it exceptionally hard to divulge our struggle, particularly at the time.  

On one hand, sharing our trials with a few close friends and family members brought added support and prayer – both of which are invaluable and help build that hope structure.  But, by disclosing our plans and the processes we were going through, we also discovered the added responsibility of disclosing the results (or lack thereof) of every step along the way.  Every well-intentioned conversation became a retelling of the doctor’s visits, the potential prognoses, the reliving of the day to day struggle.  Supportive phone calls after each appointment were wonderful spirit lifters but also meant the extension of the exhaustive and often humiliating procedures, when all we wanted was to forget the events of the day and pretend to have a normal life. 

On the other hand, by NOT being entirely open with everyone regarding our situation, we inadvertently assured that we would continue to encounter thoughtless questions and comments.  I remember receiving one note from a friend asking when I was going to start “popping out babies” now that Scott and I had moved home toward our families.  While I knew he was half joking, I was so angry at the communication.  I couldn’t even find the words to respond. 

Granted, his phrasing was a little more crass, chauvinistic and narrow-minded than most, but it certainly was not the only incident of this kind of question.  And every time a comment or ill-thought joke was sent my way, I battled the urge to vent my rage and helplessness toward the unintentional offender. 

And, frankly, it went beyond that to people who had done nothing wrong.  Strangers who were simply out enjoying their giggling, cooing babies.  Friends who sent me pictures of their kids, or posted notes about how lucky they were to have their wonderful families.  Facebook became a very dangerous place.  Of course, the sane me was thrilled for these people.  The sane me loved knowing that people I cared about were happy and appreciative and enjoying the blessings in their lives.  But the sane me was too exhausted from maintaining hope to make an appearance much of the time. 

Would sharing our story earlier with all of these people (save the random strangers who would probably just invoke restraining orders) have helped us to cultivate this structure of hope or simply added to the responsibility of keeping everyone updated and, thus, extended the pain?  I honestly don’t know.


Click HERE to continue on and read Part 4 of the series.

More Reading:
 Infertility, Part 1 
 Infertility, Part 2

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.
**This article is strictly our experience with infertility and not meant to be read as medical advice or fact.

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