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Do Advances in Fertility Treatment Result in an Extended Life on Hold?

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a blog by Ellen S. Glazer, Feb. 18, 2010

I’m a social worker (and a mother through both adoption and birth) and over the past four decades, I’ve counseled countless individuals and couples about their struggles with infertility, their pregnancies, parenthood after infertility, their decisions about egg donation, sperm denoation and gestational carriers. When I meet an infertility patient for the first time, I usually tell her (it’s usually a “her”) that I went through infertility myself. Before she looks too carefully at my over–age- 60 wrinkles, I quickly add, “about 300 years ago.”

O.K. It wasn’t really 300 years ago, but close enough. I went through infertility in the late 1970’s, right around the time of the birth of Louise Brown, the first person conceived through IVF. It was a long time ago and so much has changed in reproductive medicine since then.

I tell people that I have personally experienced infertility because there are some aspects of the experience that seem timeless. I want women (and men) who are currently struggling to build their families to know that although 30 years have passed, I can still remember what I was wearing, where I was standing and, surely, what I felt when my best friend told me she was pregnant. I can also remember when, about eight months later, I visited my friend and her daughter for the first time and burst into tears when the new parents briefly left the room.

Many things change, some stay the same.

Here are some of the things that don’t change. The anxiety of wondering who will be next to announce a pregnancy. The feeling of being blindsided when there is an unanticipated pregnancy announcement (you thought your friend whose kids are 8 and 10 had completed her family and then wham, bam she has “something to tell you”). The fear of going to a dinner party and having strangers ask you, “Do you have children?” or worse still, “How old are your kids?” The strain in a family when one sister is pregnant and another is dealing with infertility. The feeling that you’ve lost control of your life —that no matter how hard you try, you can’t make what matters most happen. The feeling that God is punishing you or that God has a plan for you that you don’t quite agree with.

Here are some of the things that have changed. When my husband and I went through infertility, it was rarely an experience that lasted for more than a year. In other words, there just wasn’t a whole lot the doctors could do for you. There were surgeries for some conditions. There was clomid. Pergonal, the first of the “injectibles” was just arriving. Doctors were beginning to think about IUI. An infertile couple spent a few weeks or months getting a diagnosis, another six or so trying with surgery or medication and then it was on to adoption or donor sperm or childfree living.

Nowadays, I see people struggle with infertility for years, sometimes more than a decade and, I look back on the state of treatment in the 70’s and see it as both a blessing and a curse. There were fewer answers in those days. Fewer explanations. Far fewer treatment options. These have all expanded exponentially in recent years. However, there was also a sense in those days that you could deal with infertility and move on without an extended period of life on hold.

In my future blogs, I’ll talk more about the timelessness of infertility and also about how ART impacts people's lives. I’m happy to be blogging for the FertilityAuthority and helping you with any issues or questions you may have.

Please feel free to reach out to me for help.

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