Addressing infertility abroad

Starting a family is a life-altering decision that doesn’t always go as planned. Expat partner Joanna and her husband have persevered through infertility challenges, an international move and a pandemic while pursuing their goal to have a baby.

Obstacle course

Joanna and Jeroen were undergoing fertility treatment in the Netherlands when Jeroen took a new role in Moscow. They commuted for over a year to juggle their expat assignment and fertility treatments. In March 2020, the pandemic prohibited travel between Amsterdam and Moscow, forcing them to decide where to continue the fertility process. They chose Moscow as fertility clinics in the Netherlands were closed frequently to redirect medical resources to the pandemic.

Tried and failed

Joanna’s former colleague recommended a clinic in Moscow, but it was less than satisfactory. “We needed a translator, which was quite awkward as five of us were crammed into the doctor’s small shared office, with the nurse managing another matter on the phone,” Joanna says. “The translator missed some instructions for necessary tests, which diminished our trust. The inability to properly communicate and the sterile setting made me feel like an anonymous cow in a processing plant. It didn’t feel good at all.”

Happy days

Joanna’s gynaecologist recommended a colleague in her hospital group, and this proved a much better experience. “I clicked right away with this specialist. Fortunately, she spoke some English, and with the help of Google Translate, we were able to communicate.” The joyful outcome is that Joanna and Jeroen are now expecting their baby, due in December.

Cautiously optimistic

Resilience and determination have served the couple well, but the hurdles along the way have instilled a sense of wariness. “This journey of over four years has been about balancing hope and disappointment,” says Joanna. “I find it hard to believe I am carrying a baby. When I saw the ultrasound, I believed it somewhat, and maybe when the baby starts moving, I’ll believe it more.”

Don’t give up

Joanna credits a healthy relationship with her husband for providing a strong foundation throughout the process. “Fertility is a joint effort; we are in this together,” Joanna says. And to other expats confronting fertility difficulties, Joanna encourages them to keep trying: “Try everything, even if it’s a longshot. Also, try to build your network as much as possible. We weren’t able to effectively do that in Moscow during the pandemic. It would have been helpful to have a support group to navigate the whole process.” Joanna is actively seeking groups of new mothers in Moscow, with whom she can share questions and experiences as she begins her next chapter – motherhood.

Photo: Joanna and Jeroen

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