The following article appeared in RNE's 2021 Vol.1 Magazine.
COMING FULL CIRCLE
By Jon Franke
Melanie Powers always knew she wanted to be a helper.
Growing up, she dreamed of being a teacher, but fate – and family – stepped in. Melanie’s mother was a nurse, and being around her and seeing how much she loved helping people had a profound influence. When the time came, Melanie followed in her mother’s footsteps and became a nurse as well.
“I would tell Melanie, ‘You have the criteria to be that great nurse: Endless patience, kindness, caring, understanding, strength and above all empathy,’” Melanie’s mom, Mo Chase-Powers recalls. “This can be applied to every aspect of nursing regardless of where you are.”
Originally from the Boston area, Melanie moved to Baltimore in 2014 to get her first nursing job. In addition to her love of education, Melanie has a passion for women’s health, so she started her career in Labor and Delivery while in Baltimore. While it was a great experience, and she was able to earn her Master’s in her “spare” time – anyone who knows a nurse knows that spare time is non-existent – she always intended to move back home to Boston. In 2020, she successfully made that move back to Massachusetts and continued her Labor and Delivery career at Winchester Hospital, coincidentally where she was born in 1991. “I love being there, I love being in the hospital on Labor and Delivery,” Melanie says. “At the same time, I was interested in learning something new.”That’s when she saw the job posting f rom Boston IVF.
A step back
Melanie’s parents’ path to a family wasn’t easy. They tried to get pregnant for several years in the early 1980s, with no luck. Finally, after several gynecological surgeries and two ectopic pregnancies, they decided to adopt Melanie’s older sister in 1987. “We had abandoned the idea of having another child until we learned that in 1991 in vitro fertilization (IVF) would be newly available with insurance coverage in Massachusetts,” Mo remembers. “We decided to give it a try!” They went to Boston IVF in Brookline, MA, and met Dr. Merle Berger, the co-founder of the first Boston IVF facility for patients in the Boston area. At the age of 42, Melanie’s parents were given an 11% chance of pregnancy. Sure, it was a slim change, but they decided it was worth trying – with a self-imposed limit of about two cycles. “Incredibly, the first cycle worked, and I had a smooth pregnancy,” Mo recalls, still excitedly. “How lucky were we? A sibling for our daughter, and she was a very excited five-year-old!”
A unique opportunity
That job posting from Boston IVF virtually jumped off Melanie’s screen. Melanie knew from quite a young age that she was an IVF baby and how unique that was given her parents’ long odds. She had always been curious and fascinated – even more so that she could have been a twin since her parents transferred two embryos. She decided she had to do it, in addition to keeping shifts at Winchester Hospital.Her mom, as you can imagine, was ecstatic.“Who could say they work in two places, one where her parents were helped with her creation and one where she was born!” Mo exclaims. “Now she is back to her roots, where it all started, caring for those who are pursuing the same goal as I did some twenty years ago.
She is a realized dream for many of her patients, hopefully sharing her story can provide that extra boost of hope.”Melanie especially loves being a helper for people in a real time of need. Those of us who have been through IVF know it can be scary, frustrating, and completely draining. While her mom is a very “go with the flow” person, she still remembers how grueling, stressful, and time consuming the process was.“
The frustration when pregnancy doesn’t happen can be monumental,” Mo recalls. “We were one of the very lucky ones; we had good support from friends, family, and work – and I had a partner who was fully involved.”
One thing that hasn’t changed in the 30 years since Melanie was a transferred embryo at Boston IVF is the psychological toll that IVF can take on patients. The emotional stress of multiple procedures can have a real physical effect as well. Melanie’s unique perspective enabled her to understand this at a profound level right from the start.
“Nobody wants to be there, understandably,” Melanie says. “You just want someone to care. I care.”
So far, Melanie has been working at the Boston IVF Surgery Center of Waltham, so her interactions with patients have been relatively short. But, seeing the process of creating a life, and seeing people have babies through IVF, is beyond rewarding. Going forward, Melanie would like to increase her opportunities for patient interaction. And she’s never lost that love of teaching – so educating young nurses or nursing students may still be in her future.
But, for now, serving her patients, both at Winchester Hospital and Boston IVF – which she first “visited” almost 30 years ago – is extremely rewarding. “Now she cares for both sets of patients: helping women to get pregnant and then assisting with childbirth experience,” Mo says. “What satisfaction to witness both wonderful life events!”
“I feel like I make a difference,” Melanie says. “It really is a huge part of me, if I wasn’t a nurse I don’t know what I would do.”
Jon Franke is a freelance writer from Newton, MA. He is the proud dad of 5-year-old twins conceived through IVF.