Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Postdoc-hood & Infertility: Part 2

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

A few weeks ago I posted about my husband and my quest for fertility. The emails and conversations I’ve had since have been heart-warming. It’s so helpful to hear other people’s stories; those who have happily come out the other side, those who have adopted, and those who are in the thick of it now. It’s also been further confirmation that there are a lot of women and men in STEM juggling infertility issues and career uncertainties. My best wishes goes out to all of you.

In the most general sense, this experience has been a good reminder of the obvious – people present a certain version of themselves at work, but who knows what kinds of obstacles and hardships they’re dealing with outside of work. Remembering this has made me more empathetic in my workplace interactions, treating people with extra gentleness and give.

Since the post, I’ve received an abundance of helpful advice on how to approach IVF/ICSI  (which we’ll be starting in October/November) with as much calm and optimism as possible. Among that advice, I was given the contact info for an acupuncturist who specializes in infertility and have my first appointment in a couple weeks. I also set up an appointment with a therapist, to work on relaxation techniques and identify ways to minimize stress.

I now also have what I hope is a more realistic sense of the potential impact that the cocktail of medications taken pre-IVF have on a person’s emotional and physical state. For some, the reaction is minimal. For others, it’s a real struggle, both physically and emotionally. In response, I’m working now to rearrange my responsibilities and schedule for the weeks leading up to the IVF procedure so that I can minimize time at work and avoid stressful situations (and stressful people!) as much as possible. I’m so thankful that the flexibility of a postdoc allows me to do this. And I’ll be enlisting friends, family, and the few colleagues who know what we’re going through to help during that time. In this case, it takes a village to have a baby (let alone raise it)!

Although we’ve made this choice for ourselves and are firmly on this path, I do wonder whether we’re forcing something that’s not meant to be. It’s interesting being a scientist who embraces all that medicine and technology makes possible, and at the same time, feel doubt about having science assist in this fundamental act. Whatever the answer, I am so thankful to live at a time in history when I have the option to ponder the question in the first place.

One final note: if you do have a conversation with someone who is dealing with infertility, please consider this sage advice.