I have grown up in the fertility world, literally, my entire adult life has been spent helping those that cannot become pregnant without assistance.
It is hard to believe that when I began working in this field of medicine I was only 20 years old and had just become a teenage mom the year before. I really had no idea pregnancy was hard to achieve as I was a 4th generation teenage mom. You did not hear about IVF on the news, and characters on TV shows rarely, if ever, complained about having difficulty getting pregnant. There were not many famous personalities sharing their stories and women really were not taught that their fertility definitely has an end date.
The concept of assisting the gay male community was in its infancy. I remember the first meeting I went to where I, as an employee, was being told we would begin to help gay men become parents via egg donation and surrogacy. Thankfully, the center I worked for at the time was one of the more open minded centers. Ovulation predictor kits were fairly new on the market and they were a large step up from having the patients collect urine for 24 hrs to test for ovulation. Though, we all struggled a bit to read them and there were frequent discussions on colors of lines and were they darker or lighter, but they were welcomed. Retrievals were thankfully being done vaginally, with ultrasound guidance, but I have had the privilege/torture of witnessing ones that were done laparoscopically. (FYI: You cannot see follicles easily on an ovary without ultrasound, and the docs that did them that was are so very skilled!!!) All the injections were administered I.M, except Lupron and women did larger doses of Lupron than you see with fresh cycles these day. Just imagine the hot flashes and headaches brought on by daily 20 units of lupron. The “Gonal F/Follistim/Bravelle and Menopur” were “Pergonal and Metrodin” and they came in ampules that you opened with a tiny saw that was in the box with the ampule. Yep, that’s right, a tiny saw, we didn’t get to just snap them open or use a handy pen (this is my equivalent to walking up hills, both ways, in the snow, with no shoes). Picture the horror on the patients face as you were teaching them how to “saw open” their meds and having to assure them the glass shards would not make it into the mixture.
The first embryo transfer I assisted in was done in the knee-chest position and I remember the doctor saying; “like dropping eggs in a basket” when he completed the transfer. I felt so bad for the patient, but she persevered and in the end she did end up pregnant with twins.
There is an uncertainty when dealing with human lives. Pregnancy rates were low nationwide and so more often than not, bad news was being delivered constantly. It was devastating every single time, and just like we all still do today, we cried with them. However, when we delivered good news the whole office would celebrate along with the patients and a sense of excitement filled the rooms.
Even though I was young, fresh into the business, I was certain I had found my place in the world. I loved the constant changing and advancing of reproductive technologies and I knew I was having an impact on the world around me. I am not sure 20 year old me would have guessed that 42 year old me would be writing this, but what I do know is that I still love helping people all over the world start their families.
Stay tuned next week to the story continuation…Gestational Surrogacy.