Monday, February 11, 2013

waiting room

I sat in the waiting room at the fertility clinic for 50 minutes on Saturday. Fifty whole minutes. I was getting annoyed. Maybe I'm crazy, but there's a weird vibe in fertility clinic waiting rooms. When you sit in a regular doctor's waiting room, the people around you are there for all kinds of boring reasons - sore throat, ear infection, ingrown toenail...but at the fertility clinic, we're all there for the same exact reason. We want a baby. Really, really bad.

I try so hard not to stare at the people sitting near me, but I can't help it.

There is a woman in scrubs. She is my age and has a kind face. There's no way she's infertile, I think. She looks way too normal.

There's a really tall guy sitting behind me. His wife shows up and they talk quietly together. I want to give them some privacy, but I also kind of (okay, more than kind of) want to hear what they're saying. Are they doing IVF? Is it her issue or is it male factor infertility? Maybe both? How is their relationship holding up under this stress?

Another woman walks through the door, checks in and sits nearby. She leaves her coat on. She looks tired. I wonder how long she's been at this, how many cycles she's done, what meds she's tried, whether she's miscarried.

This happens to me every time I go to the clinic. Give me more than thirty seconds in that waiting room and I get this urge to start talking to the people around me. I want to ask the woman in scrubs how her treatments are going. I want to ask her if she has PCOS, endometriosis or low ovarian reserve. I want to ask about her husband's sperm count and whether they have any friends who have been down this road. I want to ask if they've considered IVF, whether they've gotten second opinions. I want to ask about their insurance coverage and how she's doing with all of this. Like really, how are you doing?

And I want her to ask me.

I want it to be a conversation. I want us to sit next to each other and laugh about the crazy places our men have given us shots and all of those birth control pills we religiously took way back when. I want the tired girl with the coat to hear us and move to where we're sitting, join in with a story about a pregnancy test she was sure was going to be positive...and wasn't. I want to put my hand on hers and tell her I'll say a prayer for her every time she comes to mind. I want to stand up when the nurse calls my name, turn back toward them and smile as I walk away. I want to say, "Nice talking with you."

But none of that happens. We just sit there - on our phones, in our magazines, sinking deeper into the collars of our shirts. We keep our mouths shut because we've heard of HIPAA and there's that sign ten feet from the front desk telling us to stand back to protect each other's privacy.

For some reason, all of this reminds me of this one time when I ran a marathon. The first thirteen miles were a breeze. Thousands of people lined the streets, cheering for us til their throats were sore. The spectators' roar mingled with my adrenaline to create the sensation that my feet were barely even hitting pavement. It was like I was floating. But then mile fourteen hit. It got really hard. The crowds lessened a bit. The day got hot. And I wanted more than anything to give up.

But there was this lady.

Her race badge said she was in the 70-75 age category and she ran with a limp, almost like she'd had a stroke. She passed me, and as she did, she spoke a word of encouragement that kept my feet moving. I passed her later on and made sure I returned the favor - just a "you go girl!" or "you're doing great!" to lift the spirits of a fellow runner. She passed me again. And again, she used a bit of that precious, fleeting energy to keep me going.

She wasn't the only one. There was a middle-aged guy, a couple of teenage girls, a group of moms. All of us runners were finding the strength to look past our own journey and speak words of encouragement to those who were struggling beside us. This is the reason I ran that marathon. It wasn't just some crazy idea or something I wanted to check off my bucket list. Looking back, I know I was supposed to run that race so that I could feel that camaraderie...with total strangers.

And maybe this fertility stuff is kind of like a marathon. We're all running the same race with the same finish line. Some are young. Some are older. Some run with partners. And some run alone. Some run a little more smoothly and others really struggle. For some of us, it's our first race. And some of us know what it's like to cross that finish line. It can be exciting at first, even fun.

But then we hit mile fourteen. Maybe it's the realization that the money we set aside for treatments is running out. Maybe it's the third miscarriage, the eighth negative pregnancy test, the second canceled IVF cycle. And when we hit mile fourteen, we need more than we can offer ourselves. We need that 70-year-old lady. We need each other.

We're running the same race, with the same goal in sight, just an arm's reach from one another, but we're still really lonely.

So maybe someday, I'll do it. I might just speak up, take the risk.


"What are you in for?" I'll say to a woman in skinny jeans, clutching her insurance card. Maybe she'll be offended. Maybe she'll tell me it's none of my business.

Or maybe she'll take a deep breath and talk about it...actually talk about it. Maybe for the first time. Maybe she...maybe we...won't feel so lonely in that fertility clinic waiting room. Maybe I can be her lady with the limp. Maybe she can be mine.

And maybe someday, we won't really care how long it takes for the nurse to call our names.


44 comments:

  1. WOW. I mean...wow. This so perfectly explains what I have felt so many times and didn't know how to put words to. Beautiful Em.

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    1. Thanks so much for your kind words, Josey. I've been thinking about this issue for a long time and I'm glad people can relate to it.

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  2. I LOVE this post Em! I felt the same way so often. I'd see someone walk-in looking miserable and I would want to offer a kind word, a blessing over her appointment, but fear and anonymity always held my tongue. I want to encourage the women I bump into in real life just as I can with fellow bloggers, but for some reason I don't. But I know that there were days during treatment when I could really have used a kind word from someone who understood. Hoping I become braver as I become a hang around longer.

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    1. Hi Amanda! Glad this post spoke to you. I think this is why so many of us blog. We can still stay as anonymous as we want to be but while finding encouragement and encouraging others. This community is so important, and I feel so blessed to be part of it.

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  3. You beat me to it. I have been thinking in my head lately with these appointments, wondering what would happen if I struck up a conversation with the person next to me, and wanted to make a blog post about it. Because you're right. We all sit there, staring down at the floor, or our cell phones and no one talks. But I am sure 90% of those women WANT to talk. For me, it is insecurity of putting myself out there and it really shouldn't be a big deal. Hope your appointment went well. I would love to grab coffee with you sometime :)

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    1. You should still blog about it, Risa! Maybe we can start a movement. (-: And I'd love to grab coffee too. Just say the word!

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  4. This really is such a great post and such a good comparison to a marathon. I have also ran a marathon, in addition to sitting in those waiting rooms wondering what the other people were there for. Any time I saw a guy get called back I'd think to myself "I know what HE is going to do!" lol If I saw someone with a big bag full of meds, I would know they were there for injection training. We can't help but wonder about everyone's stories, when we have such a big emotional one ourself. I think that is why we all were drawn to the blogging world. It is a place that we can talk about it, with others that we KNOW will understand.

    I see that you are a fairly new blogger just like me! I am looking forward to learning more about you and following your blog. I love your intro. It is a great reminder that this really is all about the story that God has in place for us.

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    1. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and for following me! As a new blogger, I'm sure you can relate to the celebration that happens with each new follower. (-:

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  5. What a wonderful, touching, spot-on post. Thank for you writing this; it's what I needed to read today. I've been struggling a lot lately with sharing my current experience of TTC#2, even with those in the blogosphere, those who have supported me for years. It's felt almost like a burden that I am placing on them, depending on them to keep me afloat. But you are so right with this post, it's a give and take, an ebb and flow of energy and stamina and kind words in this long journey. I need to remember that, and perhaps, to continue the metaphor, take my ear buds out in order to hear the cheers being offered.

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    1. I love where you took the metaphor. I think so many of us have earbuds in to drown out our own pain, other's (seemingly) easy successes, and the well-meaning comments that hurt more than they help. Blessings to you on the journey toward your second child. I'll be cheering you on. (-:

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  6. I LOVE this post! LOVE LOVE LOVE. As a runner and someone who has gone through IF (both primary and secondary), it just really struck a chord with me. We are all in the same boat. If we are at the fertility clinic, we are there for the same reason (unless you just so happen to be an egg donor). The only place I ever had someone talk to me was at CCRM. It was a couple I had been eyeing all day and was just DYING to talk to. They looked so normal and the woman looked so fit, like you said, how could they be going through infertility? I secretly wished that all the couples from that day would go out to dinner or lunch and swap stories. I think that's why I like the ALI blogging world, we all have something in common and I connect with people just like me.

    I will be following along from here on out :).

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    1. Thanks so much for your sweet words, Christine! Glad you can identify with the post. And I'm really glad you were able to step out of your comfort zone and have a conversation with someone else at the clinic. You may have just inspired me to do the same!

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  7. I used to be a runner, so completely relate to this. In fact, my husband encouraged me to run without music so that I could soak in, and give, the support you describe. I've never run with music since, including my half marathon.

    I hate the waiting room at the RE. It's the most depressing place I've ever been. I am a chatter and so want to strike up conversations, but I know that could be controversial. Sigh. I have been known to NOT talk quietly with my DH in an attempt to get others to chime in, but to no avail.

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    1. It IS depressing, isn't it? It's okay to be controversial though. I hope somebody chimes in soon!

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  8. As I am not a runner, the metaphor is lost on me. However, when I first sought treatment I went to a VERY busy office. It seemed they had a revolving door of people coming and going. I like you always wonder what they're "in for." I have only been involved in one conversation with another patient and it was more in regards to our daughters who were playing with each other. It is weird since we all know why we're there that we can't start up a conversation. I wrote a bit on this last September as I was waiting for my failed FET #1. Wondering who had been through what and what kind of support they had. So much runs through our minds, and it's obvious through this post we all feel this way while waiting. This is a beautifully written post and appeals to so many. Even if I don't get the metaphor, your description brought me to tears. Thank you for sharing and allowing PAIL to feature it this week.

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    1. A revolving door is a good way to describe it. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and also for the encouragement!

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  9. I love this post. I am a pretty new blogger, and even newer to blogging on infertility...it's been good for me to start sharing my story because, like you-I want to encourage and be encouraged. Thank you for this...I will be following your blog for sure! Jess
    http://homedaycareandme.wordpress.com/2013/01/09/trust/

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    1. Thanks Jess! I'll be following you back!

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  10. Lovely post! So glad to "meet" you through PAIL! I am so "that girl" in the waiting room looking for the slightest sign that someone wants to talk. I think that's why I turned to blogging, it was just spilling out of me and I needed to get it out, because there weren't enough people in real life to listen, or who "get it." Also I run half-marathons, and I totally get the race metaphor, when you feel like you can't go anymore and then suddenly some stranger on the sidelines, who doesn't know you from Adam, calls out your bib number and tells you to keep going, or the racer who passes you and tells you "good job, keep going," it helps SO much. Look forward to reading more of your blog!

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    1. I think you're right - that's probably why a lot of us turned to blogging. And way to go on the half marathons!

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  11. I loved reading your post. I'm not a runner but totally get the mateship you would feel running a race together all after the same goal to reach the finish line. It took me a long time to feel comfortable talking about our fertility issues even with family and close friends but once I started I couldn't stop and found speaking with people, even strangers, very therapeutic. Thank you for sharing your thoughts while you were in that waiting room. And I hope you don't have to wait much longer. You go girl!!!

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    1. I'm so glad you find talking about your struggle therapeutic. It's the same way for me, and it seems that talking about doesn't just help me, but the people around me too. I think we'd all be surprised if we knew how many people around us battle (or have battled) infertility.

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  12. wonderful post!

    I've not run a marathon (some day I hope), but I totally get this metaphor. THat's what IF is exactly like.

    It's amazing to me that every RE waiting room is the same, eyes down, smart phone in hand, pretend you don't see anyone else.

    Wishing you lots of luck in your journey

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    1. It really does seem to be a common experience, doesn't it? Thanks for stopping by my blog.

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  13. The atmosphere in a clinic is so weird. Even when I run into my friends there I don't really feel like I can talk to them. I used to be a compulsive chart watcher. I'd compare the size of the chart with the woman whose name was called, and then wonder what was wrong if the chart was really big. And then my chart got really big and I realized other women were probably now thinking the same things about me.

    Good luck making the decision about your husband going back to school. I am a big fan of life-long learning, but it definitely takes a toll on family life.
    T.

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    1. I remember you writing about the chart size thing. I have never noticed the size of my chart, but I'm going to look next time. I'm guessing it's probably pretty big. (-:

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  14. I wrote about this too, once. I was SO thankful for the blog community I stumbled upon during my journey, or I would have felt so alone.

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    1. I'll have to look for the post! I'd love to read what you have to say about this issue.

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  15. Thanks for you comment! It, for some reason, isn't showing up. This has happened before, can you tell me whether you signed in through Google, or how you left it? I hate missing comments, as I love to reply to each one! :)

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    1. I did it from my phone, so maybe that's the problem. I'll revisit your blog now and comment again!

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  16. Thanks for the comment!

    I wrote two posts with a different running/IF metaphor years ago:

    http://babysmiling.wordpress.com/2008/07/25/its-not-a-race/
    http://babysmiling.wordpress.com/2008/08/14/the-race-is-on/

    And on another note, I used to attend an IF support group through my acupuncturist's office, and we often served as each other's woman with a limp -- until members would get pregnant and disappear forever (which happened to most members after 1-3 group meetings). I did run into one of the remaining longtime members in the RE's waiting room once, but unlike the interactions you imagine it was super awkward, because that was the day of my first U/S showing that I was carrying twins, whereas she was there for a miscarriage follow-up and heard the doctors discussing me in the hallway.

    But, I will say that the support group was really good for satisfying the curiosity about other people's stories -- more detail than you ever wanted to know. Once I was in the group I stopped wondering about the people in the RE's waiting room.

    Hope that you're able to be done with that waiting room very soon!

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    1. So glad you found support in your group. The interaction with your friend at the infertility clinic does sound tough. I really hope that she has a child of her own now.

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  17. I don't even know how I found your blog, but I'm glad I did! I just read from beginning to end and must say that your writing is honest, humble, and inspiring. Thanks for sharing your experiences and your heart!

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    1. That's one of the nicest compliments I've ever gotten! Thanks so much for stopping by my blog!

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  18. Oh my gosh- LOVE this!! The RE waiting room is definitely a strange place...if you were in mine, I'd be happy if you struck up a conversation. :)

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    1. You seem like you'd be a super cool person to talk to - in a waiting room or anywhere else. (-:

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  19. I found you circuitously, and I know this post is a few months old, but good God is this good. As a runner, and an infertile, thank you. This is amazing.

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    1. So glad you liked it and could relate.

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  20. Fantastic post, Em, as evidenced by the emotions I felt when I read it (I remember feeling the same way both in the clinic's office and in the waiting room of the adoption agency) and by the fact that I had to scroll down 26.2 miles to leave a comment!

    Excellent contribution to Creme.

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  21. So glad you have chosen this post, Em. I often wonder about people in the waiting room and actually wanted to strike up a conversation. HA.

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  22. Great post! I feel the exact same way. It brought tears to my eyes. I can relate on both levels - I wonder the same thing in the waiting rooms, and I ran a 1/2 marathon where people of all shapes and sizes cheered me along to the finish line and I did the same. Thanks for this.

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  23. Oh I know this! Thank you so much for capturing an experience that can be so isolating. I often feel so alone in the whole TTC journey. Blessings!

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  24. I am so glad that I am not the only person who has felt like this in my RE's waiting room. I'm always curious what everyone else is there for. Where are they in their treatment - IUI, IVF, there for the very first consult?

    And I love your running comparison. Being in a "mile 14" place myself right now - both in terms of my running and infertility - this post is wonderful. It is exactly the encouragement you talk about so vividly. Thank you.

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