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Justine Taylor, Sheila Miller, Stacey Dicerbo and Greta Joost love their jobs, but sometimes they cry at work.
Taylor, Dicerbo and Joost are among the 15 nurses at CNY Fertility; Miller is a sonographer and gives women their first glimpse of their babies via ultrasound imagery. The women have nearly 70 combined years of experience helping women deliver and create babies. They started their careers at Bellevue Woman’s Hospital as labor and delivery nurses and joined the Latham office of CNY when it opened in 2006. Fertility treatment has grown since the four started working in the field. The first successful in vitro fertilization (IVF) took place in 1978, just a few years before Dicerbo’s career began. Now IVF and intrauterine insemination — IUI — are commonplace. But as the science has raced along, the nurses’ role has remained the same. They are the ones who look into the eyes of each client, whether the news is good or bad, and say “I’m here for you. I’m going to help you through this.”
Often, clients ask about the nurses’ personal stories and whether they have children. Three of the four women have children — but they also each experienced pregnancy losses. For Joost, motherhood was a goal she never achieved. It used to hurt when she watched women give birth as a labor and delivery nurse. She has made peace with it over the years, and now feels helping other women bring babies into the world is what she was meant to do.
“Even if they’re not mine, a little piece of me goes with them,” Joost said.
In addition to providing medical care, the women say they have served as counselors, cheerleaders and friends to hundreds of families seeking fertility treatment. Many women feel they have failed because they can’t get pregnant, Taylor said, and the nurses seek to soften the blow of clinical terms like “incompetent cervix” and “primary ovarian insufficiency.” They share their clients’ excitement when a treatment is successful and their sadness when it isn’t.
“Clients come to us after they meet with the doctor and say, ‘I understand what the doctor explained, but I need more,'” said Dicerbo.
It is the nurses who talk each woman and her partner through the emotional roller coaster of fertility treatment. It is their job to ease a stressful situation, and despite the stress it causes them because they take it to heart, Taylor, Miller, Dicerbo and Joost said they love coming to work. Friends for decades, they consider one another family.
According to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control between 2006 and 2010, 6.7 million American women struggle to conceive and to carry babies to term. The nurses at CNY see an average of 80 clients a day.
“Everyone who is struggling with infertility wants to stab the person who says, ‘Just relax, it will happen,’ or ‘Have a glass of wine, it’ll happen,'” Taylor said. “One of the main reasons people give up treatment is the stress, but persistence pays off.”
The financial aspect of infertility is also stressful for clients.
“The two questions women have when they come in are, ‘Will I get pregnant, and will I be able to pay for it?'” Dicerbo said.
IUI is often covered by insurance, but IVF is not. One cycle of IVF costs $3,900 at CNY, not including medications and monitoring, which cost between $2,000 and $5,000 if not covered by insurance. There are several financial aid options, Taylor said.
CNY takes a holistic approach to stress relief. The CNY Healing Arts Wellness Center and Spa is upstairs from the clinic, and the nurses encourage their clients to take yoga classes and have massages and acupuncture treatments, in addition to the medical treatment they undergo while trying to conceive.
The nurses also said they like the ability to dispel myths about infertility.
“There is a social stigma attached to infertility, and because it isn’t talked about, each woman fears she is the only one going through it,” Dicerbo said.
She moderates online support groups and corrects misinformation. For example, the cause of infertility is undiagnosed in 40 percent of cases. The other causes are spread equally between the man and the woman. Doctors now inject sperm directly into the egg rather than putting sperm and an egg in a dish hoping for the best, Taylor said.
Eight weeks after clients get pregnant, they are discharged to an obstetrician. But the pictures of newborn babies on CNY’s walls testify to the staff’s bond with many families.
“I have one client who calls me every year on the anniversary of the day I told her she was pregnant,” Joost said.
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