Monday, August 19, 2013

Postdoc-hood & Infertility

Guest Post: the below post was submitted anonymously by an astronomy post-doc.

My husband and I have been actively trying to conceive for over a year and a half and working with a fertility specialist for over a year. We’re both postdocs in STEM. I’m in astronomy.

As a postdoc, I know I’m not alone in feeling a lack of control over ‘the next step’ in my career. Having another important piece of my life feeling as though it’s outside of my control has at times been too much. It’s particularly hard at the beginning of each new cycle. I’m a naturally optimistic person, and so each month I get excited about the possibility, and then when it doesn’t happen, I’m still learning how to cope with the loss.  

I’m extremely grateful for the flexibility that comes with being a postdoc. Because of this, I’ve been able to arrive late or leave early for the multiple appointments each month (1x during the first week of the cycle, 1-3x mid cycle, and 1-2x at the end of the cycle). I’ve also been thankful that I can choose whether to travel or not for research. Although I love to travel, we saw early on that, even if I don’t feel stressed while traveling, it has a significant impact on the length of my cycle, when I ovulate, etc. But I do worry about the impact this has had on my research and forward progress in this career.

I’m still finding the right balance, for me, of how much emotional and mental energy to give to our fertility quest. We know we’ll be parents, whether through treatment or through adoption, so sometimes I am able to legitimately take a longer timescale view of the process and gain comfort in that. But other times it’s just really hard.

It has helped to speak with others who are going through similar experiences. Infertility impacts ~6% of couples (though the rate varies depending on a host of factors), which means there are a lot of couples out there who are going through a similar experience at a similar phase in their career with similar additional factors that come into play.

By the way, I have searched a little online to see if there’s a chat group for postdocs with infertility, but haven’t found any. If anyone knows, definitely post a comment to let the rest of us know.

Anyway, when I read the post about menstrual cycles on this blog, I thought – maybe it’ll help someone else to know there’s another postdoc out there going through this. Not that this post has contained much in the way of advice or answers. Truthfully, I don’t know what to do except take a deep breath, talk with friends when I get sad, frustrated, and/or angry, and hope for the best.

Speaking of which, in October we'll start the process for in-vitro fertilization. Wish us luck. I can post about that process, if folks are interested.