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I just got back from presenting my research at the Society for Reproductive Investigation meeting in San Francisco. It was a great time – keeping up to date on cutting edge technology, re-connecting with old friends from my training, and showing others my work of the past few years. But it was not the meeting that was on my mind while flying back home across the continent --- it was my experience the next day.
Fortunately, I was able to stay with my aunt in her old Victorian house while at the meeting. I usually prefer to stay with friends or family on these trips (as my cousin once proclaimed – “you never know who was staying in the hotel the night before you!”). The Saturday after the meeting had ended, I woke up early as I was still on East Coast time. My aunt was doing her am routine and preparing for her daily swim in San Francisco Bay.
Being a native Midwesterner and never a swim team star, the idea of voluntarily immersing myself in the frigid Pacific waters was less than appealing. For reasons still unknown to me, I took up her offer to come to “the club” and go for a swim. I borrowed a bathing suit and a head warming cap, got in the car, and came down to see what this was all about. The next thing I knew, I was standing knee deep in the frigid waters of the bay.
Life presents many choices and I was faced with yet another one. I could (a) dive in with reckless abandon and hope to warm up quickly, (b) move in deeper inch by inch in a graduated approach in hopes of acclimating slowly, or (c) turn back, go in the sauna, and forget about the whole affair!
On the plane that afternoon, I felt a new empathy with my patients undergoing fertility treatments. Here we both were, in foreign territory, doing something somewhat uncomfortable and very unsettling. Every day, I present a similarly uncomfortable proposition to my patients – taking shots, daily monitoring, insemination, and in-vitro fertilization. While routine things at this point for me, to the patient they must often be anything but. In fact, they are facing a similar choice to the one I had faced standing in the cold water.
In the end, I kept moving deeper in the water, followed by small recoiling when I couldn’t take the sharp temperature decline. After about 10 minutes of this “2 steps forward, 1 step back” approach, I dove in head first. Following the initial shock, I was fine. I swam along the Hyde Street Pier, swam back, and hit the showers. My adventure for the day was done and I was ready to head back home.
Back in office, I continue to counsel patients on pursuing fertility treatments, “cold” as they may be. I hope they can face these challenges head on, using the most comfortable approach for each woman in her own time. With the proper guidance, they will be glad they dove in to fertility treatment as I did the cold water.