I am a medical doctor—a hospitalist working in an environment with many talented professionals.  We share our knowledge and our approach to medicine with one another in ways that profoundly affect our patients and other personnel in the hospital.

At our best, we are a community whose foundation is a willingness and openness to discuss hard facts and make difficult decisions.

So why is it that when I was first diagnosed with infertility, I felt so alone?  I was 1 in 8.  Where were the others? There are hundreds of thousands of female doctors; where were the thousands who shared my situation?

I didn’t know anyone else.

Because no one talks about it.

I had so many questions: What did infertility mean for my future? How would this impact my career? What would my family look like? What would people think if I couldn’t have children? What would people think if I chose IVF? Or adoption? Or surrogacy?

Along with the questions, the feelings came flooding in: guilt, embarrassment, shame.

Overwhelmed with it all, I decided it would be easiest to keep it all to myself.  I worried I would be judged. That no one would understand.

Not surprisingly, the isolation made everything worse.  Working full time and juggling the physical and emotional challenges of my infertility contributed to my burnout.

I felt:

The stress of trying to make every appointment at 7 in the morning so I wouldn’t be late for work.

The guilt whenever I left the hospital during lunch to get an ultrasound or blood draw.

The fear of thinking people judged me because I wasn’t working through my lunch break like before.

The alienation that came with the pretend smile when people asked if I wanted kids.

I didn’t feel guilty asking for help when I had the flu. Nor would I ever question if my co-worker was sick.

I didn’t feel embarrassed when I asked for time off to help my dad after his surgery. Nor would I ever question someone else who needed time off for a procedure or surgery.

I didn’t feel ashamed of leaving work when someone died. Nor would I for someone else.  I’d want them to take however much time they needed.


Why is there guilt when asking for help during infertility treatments? It’s a medical diagnosis.

Why is there embarrassment in asking for a day off for an egg retrieval? It’s a medical procedure.

Why is there shame for leaving work if you have a miscarriage? Someone died.

Guilt has no voice when you realize you did nothing wrong.

Embarrassment has no place when there is acceptance.

Shame cannot exist when there is empathy.

It’s about time we start normalizing these conversations.

You don’t have to tell people why you need help.  Or why you need the day off.  But when we normalize the conversation, you will feel more comfortable asking for what you do need.

Normalizing means:

Not having to justify what you need—to yourself or anyone else.

Not having to hide your emotions—or go through it alone.

Eliminating the space for guilt, embarrassment, and shame.

Infertility, IVF, miscarriage.  They are part of life.  Just like the flu, surgery, and death of a parent.  By having the conversation, we make it easier for someone else.  Just like all the other taboos science and medicine have fought to overcome.  We are saying it is ok for you to do whatever you need to.

Women are strong. Women are resilient.  AND we are human.  We don’t have to feel like we did something wrong because we were diagnosed with infertility.  Because we chose to do IVF. Because we had a miscarriage.

I speak up to help you find your voice.

I speak up to help the 1 in 8 find her community of voices.

I speak up, so you’ll know you are not alone.

Kate Hoppock is an internal medicine physician.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

Source: KevinMD

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