Fertility Program Trust and Experience - What's the Key?
On the theme of gift giving (which I am on today), I was given a tiny, little bejeweled key for my birthday. Its message and symbol was “trust”. A very dear, sisterfriend gave it to me. Oh, how I love my sisters and my sisterfriends.
Trust. In a key. I see it as the key to opening a heart. Or as the ability to keep a confidence. Knowing that whomever you have trusted with a key will come in quietly and listen first. Not judge. Not advise. Listen. Give the person a chance to be heard. A key indicates a lock, but interesting how much more frequently a key image is used than a lock image. Kind of like we use the word fertility program, instead of infertility.
Because a key opens things. Doors. Boxes. Our hearts.
I am honored and privileged to have the trust of many women through Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut (RMACT) and beyond. Maybe you are reading this because I have a certain amount of trust from you. If so, thank you. I feel honored each and every day that you chose to read PathtoFertility.
As a woman who has gone through the experience of infertility and fertility treatments, I understand certain things. I do NOT understand how you feel. I do understand how I felt in similar circumstances, hearing similar news but I do not presume to understand your feelings. Because I am not you.
Fertility Treatment Honesty
I do know what it felt like to me to be disappointed, frustrated, sad, hurt and more during my own fertility treatment. I know what you tell me about how you feel. I’m so glad to hear the word hopeful in your description often. We all know how often the word pain is in there.
Your trust in me reminds me to be thoughtful. Not to make promises. To be honest, with you and myself. To do my best to support you and advocate for you. That is my responsibility, when I speak with you, to listen and to tell the truth as I understand it. And to be very honest when I don’t know the answers. Which is often.
That’s where I feel so lucky to be working for RMACT. I can get the answers from people I know and trust. Who deserve my trust because of who they are, through their training and who they are because of the choices that they make every single day.
RMACT has a wealth of experience, starting with five board certified reproductive endocrinologists, a physician’s assistant, nurses, medical assistants, our lab director and embryology and andrology team members. Our nutritionist, acupuncturists, mental health professionals, peer support group leaders and more.
I trust when I don’t know an answer that I can find out the answer. That’s the key that I have and I am so grateful to be able to use it.
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Why not me?
I was speaking with a dear friend the other day. The kind of friend one doesn’t see often and that still, the amount of time gone by just doesn’t really matter. When we do see each other, we connect immediately and get down and dirty with what’s going on in our lives.
If she had been my friend while I was in fertility treatment and dealing with disappointment after disappointment, I think I would have confided in her.
I didn’t say, “why me?” a lot while facing infertility. I dove right in to managing the particulars. What had to be done. Which doctor to see. What fertility treatment protocol next?
Facing a Loss of Fertility
It’s an interesting question though, when dealing with a loss as major as fertility. Why do we expect to get through life unscathed? Grief surrounds us with infertility. It’s facing the loss of fertility, the apparent inability to successfully have your body undertake what we believe it is made to do. It’s having each monthly menstruation be a reminder. Or the lack of a regular menstrual cycle to remind us.
It’s astonishing how many things remind us of our loss of fertility. Babies, yes. Pregnant women, YES. Stroller ads, yes. Lollipops, yes (a big one for me, don’t know why). Invitations for children’s parties, baby showers, yes. Mother's day and Father’s day, yes.
All of these reminders open the wound of grief. So often there is only just a very thin membrane protecting us from the rest of the world. How many times did I burst into tears with just the tiniest provocation? It was so apparent that my pain was close enough to the surface that build up was as inevitable as the break down.
And break down, I did. And numb myself, I did. And isolate myself, I did.
I never asked myself why not me when other’s got sick. I assumed health and well being as my birth right. I lived with the clarity that my cells, organs and systems were functioning beautifully.
I was right.
Infertility Is Not Who You Are
While infertility is classified, rightly so, as a disease, I was not a disease.
You are not a disease. Even if you have one. Even if you feel diseased, that is not who you are as a person.
I was right. Most of my cells, organs and systems worked and continue to work very well.
I was not and am still not, perfect.
Possibly, neither are you.
And does it matter how we see ourselves?
I vote yes.
My sense of self was severely damaged by infertility problems. It affected how I saw myself in this world.
Still, I know I was right. I am a healthy, living, human being.
Still not perfect.
Much more content with understanding and accepting that these days.
Why not me?
You get to ask the questions.
And you get to answer the questions.
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Jaime King's Infertility Message
Actress Jaime King laid it all out on the line.
Eight years of infertility.
Undiagnosed PCOS and endometriosis.
Twenty-six IUI’s? That might actually be a record. And it’s totally not the point at all.
Photo: Instagram Jaime_King
I had no idea who Jaime King was until this news broke.
Infertility Struggles and Privacy
And it broke really big. It’s huge when a celebrity comes out in such a public way about their infertility struggles. Many celebrities chose privacy and even secrecy when it comes to infertility. Some even lie.
And before we jump onto some holier than thou platform, a lot of us lie when it comes to infertility. We say we are fine when we are not. We say we aren’t interested yet in having children when we are. We say that we’ll show up for events, like baby showers, when we have absolutely no intention of doing so. We lie to protect ourselves. Like a lot of celebrities lie to protect their privacy and that of their children. We don’t absolutely know when a celebrity is lying but it is pretty suspect when a woman of 49 gets pregnant and says that she was able to do so with her own eggs.
Still, why is it any of our business?
Jaime King spelled it out pretty good. Maybe it is none of our business, but she chose to share because she didn’t want any of us to feel alone. Or think that we were the only ones going through fertility treatment and the disappointments, pain and damage that we go through sometimes.
She chose to tell the truth, in black and white and in living color. And very out loud.
Money, youth, beauty, and celebrity did not protect her against the experiences of infertility. She may not have the worst, most painful story out there, but really, it’s pretty bad. A lot of pain. A lot of money. A lot of disappointment.
And not an easy birth. Not an easy adjustment to motherhood.
She laid it all out for us.
I take it for the gift that it was meant to be; for us not to feel alone.
We are not alone.
And although most of us don’t have the resources that she has, neither do we have to have our fertility treatment in the public eye and decide about lying. She could have kept this secret. We wouldn’t have known about what she went through unless she chose to share it.
Trying to Conceive and Knowing We Are Not Alone
It is a gift to know that we are not alone. We are not alone in the struggle of trying to conceive and carry a child. We are not alone in continuing the struggle despite tragic disappointments.
We are not alone.
Is this a matter of misery loving company?
Or is this a matter of knowing that we are all part of the human race?
Or is this simply a reminder that infertility is a very common group of diseases that prevent us from having our children when we are ready?
Maybe it’s a comfort to you that others have experienced infertility and have had this difficulty. Maybe it’s not.
Me, I’m grateful that Jaime King chose to share her story. I’m impressed with her honesty. I’m proud to have her on our team, so to speak.
Thanks Jaime King for the choices you made and for letting us know. Congratulations on your child and family. We wish you well.
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Happy Birthday Louise Joy Brown, First IVF Baby
Louise Brown celebrated her 36th birthday on Friday, July 25, 2014. Her full name is Louise Joy Brown, although now she is married to Wesley Mullinder.
I’ve written before about Louise. She is, after all, the first in vitro fertilization (IVF) baby in the world. First test tube baby. You can read about it on Pathtofertility, on other blog dates to learn more about the first IVF baby in the news. Her parents led the way, as did her doctors, to a course of fertility treatment that has enabled over five million babies to come into the world.
Louise Brown went on to have her own children, with no need for medical assistance and certainly not needing IVF. Infertility, in her case, was not genetic. I wonder about the big sigh of relief from her parents when they discovered that Louise would not need the help that they did. Perhaps they would have just continued to be grateful that IVF was there for Louise had she needed it. How grateful the rest of the world is that IVF exists.
IVF Pregnancy Success
There’s always a first and for IVF pregnancy success stories, Louise Joy Brown is it.
We celebrate her birthday and her parents and her doctors. While everything might not have been perfect every step of the way, they took the brave steps none the less. In fact, it might be very well true that if we looked at the procedures and information available now, we would be aghast at the protocols followed and not followed with Louise’s conception.
I’m pretty sure that’s called Monday morning quarterbacking. It’s important to remember that there was no example to follow. No how to manual. That’s what they were creating together. Looking back is a great way to learn though. Informed consent was not delivered to Louise’s parents the way that it would be in a responsible and ethical IVF fertility program today. First time, there was no role model to follow. That’s what the combination of doctors and patients created. The first, perhaps not perfect, model of how to perform IVF on a woman who had no other way of becoming pregnant.
Flawed consent, flawed protocols or not, the medical team was impeccable as proved by their ivf pregnancy success, the birth of a healthy child. We applaud them for their willingness to create a practice that has been refined, discussed and labored over ever since, in the quest of making fertility treatment the most effective and ethical it can be.
Happy birthday to Louise Brown. First IVF baby in the world. We’re glad that you’re here.
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Fertility Wishes from Meditation Reflections
I did a meditation today online. Amazing how high tech everything now is.
A free online meditation course by Osho, who describes himself as a contemporary sage or guru and has written many, many books. The course started on July 21 and I started it today with today’s meditation.
Free though it is, I did not find the time for it in the last three days. Although I believe that it will offer something substantial in my life, I did not take the few minutes to use the program.
How many of us do just that? Know that something will help and don’t avail ourselves of that help? How many times do I have an idea that something could help and yet I don’t reach for it?
Do we get frozen? Does an infertility diagnosis or cancer or heart disease or mental illness make our very beings slow down to a stop? Does inertia then take over?
Infertility Feelings and Honesty
Infertility made me feel numb. I don’t think I would describe it as frozen. I still got up and went to work. Most days. I still participated in family functions. Some of the time. I still saw and spoke with my friends. But not with as much honesty about how I was feeling.
It’s odd to talk about being frozen on a warm, muggy summer day. For me, it was more about being numb. Because if I was numb, I couldn’t feel as deeply. And I was willing to give up the happy part of my life to avoid feeling how bad it really felt when my fertility treatment cycle failed. Again. And again.
Numb meant that nothing penetrated as fully as it might have. It felt like there was a grey filter between me and the rest of the world. I actually avoided doing fun things because if I cracked the door open to my feelings, I was afraid of what might pour out.
I was deeply afraid of the depth of my sadness and grief around infertility and loss of fertility.
Maybe you feel that way too?
Maybe it’s scary to think about feeling happy or even ok. Maybe it’s reassuring to stay numb and not let anything penetrate too deeply. I know I felt it was necessary. That it was a survival skill that I needed to employ.
Fertile Birthday Wishes for Fertility Treatment
Today’s my birthday. What an awful day while I was in fertility treatment. Another year with no baby. It was awful. I hid from my birthday while I was in the throes of medication, ultrasounds, procedures and treatment cycles.
Thank goodness for the sunlight that crept in anyway. That sunlight was hand delivered by my sisters, my parents, my husband and my best friends. The light that they brought in reminded me that I was a person. A person in pain, yes. Still, a person, worthy of a birthday candle. A birthday present. And a birthday wish. We all know what I was wishing for, no secret there. You know too, don’t you?
Today, I offer my birthday wish to you. For you. To have the baby that you are wishing and dreaming and hoping for. To find and allow that bit of sunlight in, at least occasionally, in safe places and safe ways.
May I offer a suggestion?
It's Fertile Yoga. Three times a week, free. A safe place to feel just a little bit. To feel just a little less numb.
I will hold you there, I promise.
May my birthday wishes for you come true.
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CT Ladies Night In - I Couldn't Do It Without My Friends
Me, I couldn't do it without my friends. No way, no how. One of my biggest saddnesses during infertility and fertility treatment was how I pulled away from my friends. Fertility treatment was a place that felt so tender and vulnerable to me that I just couldn't bring myself to share the experiences that I was having with my friends who had never struggled with infertility. I just couldn't.
Thank goodness for peer support then. And now.
Try it out!
And please remember that RMACT is now running weekly drop in support groups on Monday mornings from 8-9 with Lisa Schuman. RMACT patients only. Free of charge.
Ladies Night In - Summer 2014
General Peer Support Group with Lisa Rosenthal & Carrie Van Steen
open to the public and free of charge
Come and meet a terrific group of women that gather monthly at Ladies Night In to share their stories, feelings, questions and laughs. Experience the relief of talking with other women who understand what you are going through. Build friendships with women who will be by your side throughout your family-building journey.
Norwalk (7:00-8:30) 20 Glover Ave RMACT Norwalk Finance
Thursday August 14th
Trumbull (7:00-8:30) 115 Technology Drive
Wednesday July 24th
Thursday August 20th
Danbury (6:00-7:30) 67 Sand Pit Rd
Tuesday August 5th
This group is free of charge and a light dinner is provided.
To RSVP or for inquires please email Carrie at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Infertility and Being Informed
Infertility was the first health problem that I experienced that made me realize that I needed to be an informed patient. An informed consumer. After all, I was, in fact, needing and purchasing a service.
This blog isn’t about picking a board certified reproductive endocrinologist. I’ve written on that subject and I’m sure I will again. This blog also isn’t about picking a fertility program based on SART or CDC outcome numbers.
This blog is about being an informed consumer about the actual process that you may need. If you are reading this blog then you may be considering any number of things, such as:
- Whether you are in need of help conceiving a baby
- Whether you need help carrying a pregnancy so that you have a baby in your arms
- What type of medical treatment you need if you have decided that you need help
- Are you ready to take the next step and get the treatment that is being suggested
- Is it time for a second opinion
- Have you appropriately processed what you need to so that you can move onto the next stage of trying to conceive
- How to appropriately process so that you can move onto the next stage
- Have you spent the amount of time that you are comfortable with in the treatment protocol that you have been using
- What is the next step? (Fertility medication, timed intercourse, intrauterine insemination, in vitro fertilization, donor egg or sperm.)
- Is there someone experienced that you are working with to help you make these decisions?
Notice a few things. One, the only question mark is on number ten. Because that’s the question for the other nine as well.
Are you working with an experienced professional who understands from years of experience how to process all these questions?
I’m asking because it’s not necessary to recreate the wheel. It’s not necessary to manage the convoluted maze of questions that come up as you go through fertility treatment or as you consider entering treatment alone.
How Fertility Counseling Helps
Fertility counseling or therapy is not just talking about your feelings. I had the honor of spending time with Lisa Schuman yesterday. Lisa is our new counselor/therapist at RMACT. She joins Melissa Kelleher, LCSW as an important and viable resource to find your way through the questions to answers that fit best for you.
Both Lisa and Melissa are not here to give you cookie cutter answers because of their experience in helping and supporting other fertility patients. It’s a matter of their using their experience and understanding of what works with your individual personality and your specific concerns and questions.
My take away message from spending time with Lisa Schuman, LCSW yesterday reminded me that I get to learn new things every day. Of course therapy and counseling is helpful if you are experiencing feelings that are a struggle to manage and live with.
Therapy and counseling are equally as important to be able to move ahead, secure in the knowledge that you have looked thoroughly at the different aspects of the choices that you had and that you have made a decision that you are comfortable with.
We all want that for you.
Fertility Treatment Decisions Don't Have to Be Made Alone
If you have a major decision in regards to fertility treatment, don’t think that you have to figure it out on your own. Lisa and Melissa are here to help you. And they are the right people for the job. Compassionate, bright and very knowledgeable.
Lisa is running a drop-in support group every Monday from 8:00-9:00 am, in the Learning Center at the RMACT Norwalk offices. She will be adding a donor recipient group once a month, starting in August. I’ll make sure you know when, promise.
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Affordable Fertility Treatment
I’ve been asked a lot lately, "is there affordable fertility treatment?" and, more specifically, “what insurance providers cover infertility?” Here’s a short answer! The very best way to find out about your particular insurance coverage and infertility/fertility treatment is to call us and ask. Our finance team will work with you to discover all the possibilities that your insurance offers. Our finance specialists can unravel the intricacies and discover definitive answers so that you can rest assured that, “yes, you can afford fertility treatment.”
As always, please call us with any questions. ~Lisa Rosenthal
Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut (RMACT) currently participates with the following insurance providers for fertility treatment:
- Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield
- Blue Cross/Blue Shield – All PPO Plans
- Blue Cross/Blue Shield of MA HMO
- Empire BCBS- All Plans
- First Health PPO
- GHI PPO
- Great West/One Health PPO
- Health Care Value Management PPO
- Health Connecticut PPO
- Humana PPO/Choice Care Network
- HMC PPO/Multiplan/PHCS
- Northeast Direct Health PPO
- Oxford Health Plans
- Pioneer Health Group/ Connecticut Health Plan
- United Healthcare
Connecticut & New York Fertility Insurance Providers
Those who participate as fertility insurance providers for infertility treatments vary throughout each insurance network. Please verify RMA participation with your network prior to
your scheduled appointment.
For more information about participating fertility insurance providers contact us.
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Fertility Specialist Dr. Shaun Williams Recognized for Excellence in Care
We are very pleased to share the news about one of our fertility specialists, Dr. Shaun Williams. We are grateful for having him on our team. Please join me in congratulating him on this recognition and our thanks go to his patients who offered their ratings and reviews, making this recogniztion possible. Below is the official press release.
Based on patient input, fertility specialist Dr. Shaun C. Williams of Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut (RMACT) is a Vitals Top Ten Doctor. Vitals, which is an online resource for patients to rate and find doctors, analyzes online patient reviews about several components of care, including bedside manner, doctor-patient face time, and degree of follow-up, to determine the 10 all-around best physicians in their specialties. Of the 870,000 active physicians, Dr. Williams is among the top 1%.
“I feel honored that our patients take the time to share their experience with others and rate us online,” says Dr. Williams, a fertility specialist with RMACT. “Our team, which includes fertility nurses, nutritionist, patient navigators, medical assistants and financial advisors, is extremely proud of the care we provide patients, and that is especially true of our stand-out pregnancy rates.”
Dr. Williams, who is board certified in both Reproductive Endocrinology and Obstetrics and Gynecology, has also previously been named a “Best Doctor in America” and Fairfield County “Top Doc.” Dr. Williams has been treating Connecticut infertility patients since 2005; beforehand, he practiced with Pacific Gynecology Specialists in Seattle, Washington and was an associate clinical instructor in the Department of OB/GYN at University of Washington.
Dr. Williams earned his undergraduate degree from University of Texas at Austin and went on to study medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, where he was part of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society. He conducted his internship and residency at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, where he received the Berlex Labs Resident Teaching Awards. Dr. Williams did a fellowship in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at The Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School.
Dr. Williams has been published numerous times, and has presented five of his abstracts at American Society of Reproductive Medicine’s (ASRM) annual conference for professionals in the infertility field. He is a member of ASRM, Fairfield County Medical Association, Fellow of American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and associate member of Society for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility.
Defining and Dealing with Primary Infertility
Primary infertility is loosely defined as the inability to get pregnant or carry a pregnancy to full term. We suggest treatment for women under 35 after a year; for women over 35, treatment is suggested after 6 months of timed intercourse. Primary infertility also means that there has not already been a child conceived.
For many of us, being unable to conceive comes as a rude awakening. Often we have spent years actively avoiding a pregnancy.
Photo: h.koppdelaney, Flickr Creative Commons
Even hoping and praying to avoid a pregnancy, as well as using birth control or practicing abstinence.
What then are we to do when getting pregnant doesn't happen? Most of us assume that the moment we stop using contraceptives, we will become pregnant. A lot of us will worry the very first month if we don't get pregnant. It doesn't get better the second month. Or the third. And so on.
Usually we are so confident that conceiving will happen easily that we announce to friends and family that we are "trying". I remember doing that. Words that I regretted deeply when I began to get questions from well meaning friends and relatives that I hated to try to answer.
Primary infertility hits you from every angle.
Trying to Conceive, While All My Friends Did
I remember when all my friends got pregnant and I was still trying to conceive. I married very young and so that didn't happen a tremendous amount until it had been a few years. Soon, though, it got to the point where I was afraid to return phone calls from friends who were married for a while or see people who I knew might be trying to conceive; I didn't want to hear their good news.
Their good news made me feel as though I were the last person in the world who couldn't conceive. Worse, it made me feel that I would never conceive because they had. Of course it didn't make sense, who said it had to? My chances of getting pregnant didn't go down because someone else succeeded. Or did they? If treatment is successful a certain percentage of the time, then didn't their success diminish my own possibilities? Yes, I absolutely did make myself this crazy. And even crazier at times.
How much easier would treatment and the delay in getting pregnant be if we knew that we would have that baby in our arms eventually? If we knew that after six months, one year, eighteen months, two years, or even just sometime in the future, we would have our babies, wouldn't we be content enough? But even with the greatly improved chances of succeeding that treatment offers, there are no guarantees.
Waiting for A Baby Together
So we wait. And we wonder. Are we ever going to have our children? Or are we going to be the statistical data that success leaves behind?
And still the answer is that we don't know the answer.
What we do know is that there are a myriad of unique and brilliant paths to bringing our children home. While waiting for a baby, help cultivate that place within yourself that is open to the child in your future. It may not be the way that you are currently envisioning; which was not what you envisioned before infertility created a place in your life either.
Then again, it may be that this next cycle works.
It's really that wait that makes us all so crazy. The not knowing.
Either way, I'll be here. Let me know how you're doing.
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