By: Debbie Regan, RNC, IBCLC
3rd Party Coordinator
Audubon Fertility, New Orleans, LA
Fertility practices in the state of Louisiana are few and far between, so being a fertility nurse in New Orleans is a unique privilege. It is a job I have grown to love and feel passionate about.
Audubon Fertility, established in 2011 by Dr. Lindsay Wells, has become a well-known entity in the city of New Orleans. Dr. Wells, a native New Orleanian, proudly came back to her hometown to begin her fertility practice in the sweetest little renovated cottage and offered the women in the Big Easy and surrounding area, homegrown and southern charm with her fertility care.
Dr. Wells quickly came to realize that the need for fertility care in New Orleans was far greater than she imagined. The practice has continued to grow each year and continues to achieve successful outcomes.
As a seasoned nurse with years of women’s health experience, I started with Dr. Wells shortly after her practice opened as the first IVF Coordinator / Clinic Nurse Supervisor. Although I was experienced in nursing – Fertility is a “whole other ballgame” in medicine.
Soon after I settled into my position at Audubon, we were ready to get the IVF component going.
I was excited and terrified at the same time. Anyone who has ever met Dr. Wells, knows she is an amazing, intelligent and fearless person. She is also the most calm and reassuring physician to work with as a nurse or as one of her patients. She helped me quickly get over my fear of initiating IVF and with her guidance each step of the way – it was full speed ahead and no looking back.
Our first IVF cycles went well and so the journey began! It seems so long ago that we celebrated our highest number of fresh cycles for one month of 12 and now we are more than quadrupling that number monthly in just a few years. Our practice manager said in a familiar quote, “if you build it, they will come”. She was right!
It wasn’t long after our first IVF cycles were implemented, Dr. Wells informed me that we would need to expand options for our patients to include donor eggs. I thought starting to offer IVF was terrifying, and now, we were talking about obtaining eggs from “who knows who” and have them shipped from “who knows where” to our lab by “who knows how” and then make embryos from them? I was up for the challenge and dove into researching the “hows” and “whys” of using donor eggs. It was so fascinating and opened up a whole new world for our patients...and me.
Fertility medicine is like that – just when you get comfortable in your position, along comes a new twist that you will need to learn so you can manage your patients with confidence. Women know when you are not completely sure of what you are presenting to them and the use of donor eggs is one option I wanted to make sure my patients had every question and concern covered when we started this process.
I have learned so much about fertility care from reading, conferences and seminars, however some of the most useful knowledge of how to talk to our patients comes directly from the patients. They voice their concerns, fears and questions easily if you just give them the opportunity to do so. When I meet with a patient who is contemplating using donor eggs, the first question I ask is, “where are you with all of this and where do you want to start?”.
Sometimes I get an answer, “I have no idea” or “start from the beginning” or sometimes patients are just wanting to review their full fertility history that got them to this point. I find that is probably the most cathartic thing patients do to work out in their mind that they really are at the point where the use of donor eggs could be the answer. Patients know when they have gotten to this point, they just need to work through it and talk it out. I see it as their way of closing one door and opening the new door of using donor eggs for their goal of becoming a mother.
I am so thankful to have previous patients who have had children resulting from donor egg cycles, who volunteer to speak to current patients considering using donor eggs. It is so beneficial for both parties; the “seasoned” mom revalidates her decision when she shares her journey resulting in the joy of motherhood and the prospective recipient who can ask questions and discuss her concerns with someone who has been there.
When I sense a patient is having difficulty accepting the recommendation of using donor eggs, I often refer to the writing, “Welcome to Holland” by Emily Perl Kingsley (paraphrased):
“When you're planning to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."
"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."
But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.
But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.”
I am so fortunate to be able to work with women during a very vulnerable time in their lives and have been able to help them achieve their dream of becoming a mother. Hopefully, we can successfully help our donor egg recipients to acceptance and embracing the beauty of Holland. Families are made in many ways and we are able to do this every day in our work at Audubon Fertility.
Debbie is an award-winning healthcare practitioner with more than 25 years of experience. She enjoys providing personalized care to help families grow.
Ready to take the next step? Call us today at (504) 891-1390.