In the realm of attitudes and stigma surrounding infertility and childlessness, I have a long list of things I’d like to see change in my lifetime. Somewhere close to the top of that list is the manner in which life-changing news is delivered.
Here’s how I first got official notification that there was something very wrong with me, and that my chances of conceiving naturally were next to zero.
A phone call. From someone (not sure who) in my RE’s office, but certainly not my doctor. I was at work, in an open office space, within earshot of my co-workers when I got the call.
The Mystery Person said, without pausing for breath, “We got your test results back, your blah-di-blah is high, so call us on the first day of your next period so we can get you started on IVF.”
No explanation of what that meant. No word about infertility. No offer of counseling on what to expect or where to go for help. I went from “let’s do a test to see what’s going on” to “let’s do IVF because you’re infertile” and the course of my life did a full 180 in the span of a ten-second conversation.
From talking to many of you on this subject, I know that this was not an isolated incident; in fact, I’d dare to say it’s the norm.
I compare this to my friend’s experience when a lump in her breast was diagnosed as cancer. She talked about the physicians who walked her through every step of her diagnosis and subsequent treatment. She talked about the volunteers at the breast center who took her into a quiet, comfortable room and gently guided her through brochures and directed her towards her counseling options. My friend’s diagnosis was life-changing, too (and not necessarily life-threatening, either), but the way the news was delivered couldn’t have been more different.
There was a time when cancer was a shameful disease and people didn’t talk about it openly, but kept it to themselves. Over the years, that’s changed. The medical community learned the need for compassion and understanding when dealing with patients who are scared and whose lives have been turned upside down. Thankfully, survival rates for cancer have risen dramatically over the years, but the need for compassion hasn’t diminished.
My hope is that infertility will attain a similar level of understanding and compassion, so that no one should have to have their lives upended with no more support than a ten-second phone call.