Tuesday, April 23, 2013

join the movement...smile courageously

I have been sitting here for a while now, staring at this smudged computer screen, trying to decide whether my idea is over-the-top crazy, borderline worthless, or downright life-changing.

Well, maybe every powerful movement starts out that way…so here goes nothing. This little dream was born a couple months ago as I wrestled with my thoughts and wrote these words…

I sat in the waiting room at the fertility clinic for 50 minutes. 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 this 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 the time I ran a marathon. The first thirteen miles were a breeze. Thousands of people lined the streets, cheering for us until 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.

It started with that dream, with that maybe. And then one day in the waiting room, I gathered up my courage…all of the courage that I’d earned from the infertility treatments and the blood draws and the tough conversations and the financial risks that infertility requires…and I used it to give my maybe a shot.

I decided to talk to someone. I picked a woman who looked really nice and friendly. I sat close enough to her to have a conversation but kept some distance between us to avoid freaking her out.

I took a deep breath and just dove in headfirst. 

"Are you here for blood work or an ultrasound?" I asked.

She didn't speak English.

So I just smiled. A genuine, smile that said both “this sucks, doesn’t it?” and “you’ve got this, girl.”

And she smiled back. A smile that said both “this is so awkward,” and “this is really great…really important.”

That weird, seemingly insignificant interaction changed me. I decided that I was going to begin a personal mission to light up the waiting room. To smile. To gulp down my fear and insecurity and maybe even say something to somebody. To make eye contact with other men and women who are struggling through this journey like I am.

So how many of you want to join the movement? It’s a humble, scary, little movement, but it’s a movement nonetheless. A movement towards making infertility clinic waiting rooms warmer and more friendly. A movement about deciding that advocacy starts by learning how to look one another in the eye and offer a gentle smile, a kind hello, an unspoken commitment to be the lady with the limp.




42 comments:

  1. I would totally start up a conversation with you in the waiting room! :) I remember all too well the awkwardness sitting in that room. Looking at something on your phone, only briefly looking up to see what others are doing - are they looking at you, are they reading, crying, just numb? I would be very open to passing the time by sharing my story with someone else. Good for you!

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    1. I love your courage! You're like, "Oh yeah! I would totally do that!" I would love to chat with you in a waiting room...or anywhere else for that matter. (-:

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  2. The same things run through my mind in the waiting room! You're right, it's way different than a normal clinic, and it felt strange to me that everyone was there for the same purpose in a world that I had felt so lonely. It also gave me great comfort. I don't know that I could ever start up a conversation, because I'm quite timid and wouldn't do that under other circumstances, but I have certainly learned to appreciate connecting with others and sharing stories.

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    1. It really is different than a normal clinic...way different. So sorry that you too have had to experience this loneliness.

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  3. I sit and wonder about all the other women in the waiting room as well. Wondering what their story is. Knowing, that it's probably so much like mine, and how sad that makes me, especially because I know that we won't ever "speak"...but I also know that the women with my story, are my biggest support. So maybe next time I'm in the waiting room, I'll think of you and at least share a smile.

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    1. A smile would be GREAT. I think even a smile makes a big impact.

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  4. I've had those moments, sitting in the waiting room and no one is talking. It's amazing how alone you can feel in a room of other women who all want the same thing. Thank you for having the courage to talk to someone! I will try to the next time I'm there.

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    1. Good for you! Go for it and let me know what happens. (-:

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  5. Once again, I adore this post SO SO SO much. Such a great idea! I will be doing this if I ever end up back in a RE office again!

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    1. Yay! Thanks for joining the movement, Josey!

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  6. Just connecting with other people and acknowledging them is so foreign these days because of technology, I think this is just what we all need. We need to stop and have that interaction with others just like you are suggesting :) This was so great to read, thank you!

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    1. So true...it's not just the RE's office that lacks connection.

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  7. "Light up the waiting room"!! What a great movement to start!!! I admire you!

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    1. As always, thanks so much Caroline!

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  8. I absolutely love this post. Particularly with the marathon analogy. That at the end of the day, it's the ones who are running this race that have the ability to impact us the most. This is so true on so many levels.

    And bravo on finding the courage to reach out in the waiting room. It can be so hard sometimes, but the image of a room filled with people commiserating about their experiences brings a smile to my face.

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    1. You're so right when you say, "It's the ones running the race that have the ability to impact us the most." Nicely put.

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  9. I loved this when you first posted it and I love it still. It's not going to change infertility, or how we're treated by the rest of the world, but it can change how we behave and interact with each other, and I think that is so important. We can't just be a community on the internet, we've got to be there for each other in real life too. And to think that the other woman in the room may not have an online community, she may not go to support meetings, we might be the only infertile person she talks to. It's going to take a lot of courage, but I LOVE this!

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    1. I felt kind of silly reposting it but I felt it fit the "join the movement" theme. And you're so right - all of us here have each other but lots of women don't blog at all. I can't imagine having to go through all of this without the blogging community (even though I did it without blogging the first time around).

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  10. I love this post, Em! I love how we all are nervous to do this, but everyone in that waiting room is probably wanting to connect with another person there. Maybe when I go back I need to take the plunge and put myself out there.

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    1. Well, if you see me there, then we can chat with each other. I look for you every time. (-:

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  11. I loved this post before, and I love it again! Everything you wrote is so true. I am a chatter, and being in the RE waiting room kills me because I so badly just want to share stories and encouragement, and no one seems interested in doing that. It's like we all sign an agreement when starting with the RE that we won't talk with anyone in the waiting room - it feels like a "rule."

    Good for you for speaking up! If we go back for a third baby, I will speak up too! I mean - why not?!?!?! I'm willing to tell my story to anyone who will listen or ask (even strangers), so why am I so scared to talk to someone in the waiting room who I KNOW is going through something very similar? It's crazy!

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    1. You're right. It really does feel like a rule. Hmmm...I wonder what other "rules" there are in infertility. Sounds like an idea for a blog post!

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  12. Loved this post the first time and still love it now. I think it is awesome that you got up the courage to talk and hope this encourages more people to do the same! :)

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    1. It would be kind of cool if that happened, wouldn't it?

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  13. Em, I absolutely loved this post and your idea for starting a movement. Beautifully written! You go, girl.

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    1. Thanks for the encouragement Jessah! I really appreciate your kind words.

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  14. I was in tears reading this post (again) because you put into words so beautifully what I'm guessing most of us feel in the fertility waiting room. I've always wondered about everyone else sitting in the room. Sometimes I smile to myself when a man gets called back, because I'm pretty sure what he's going to be doing. I'm sorry, I know that's pretty immature, but I can't help it! I have found myself wanting to make conversation with these other people as well. Why is it so easy for us to talk about in the blogging community, but we are embarrassed or keep to ourselves in that waiting room face to face. I would LOVE to meet and talk to you in the clinic. Why couldn't that be the gal sitting there with me? Em, I admire you so much for stepping out of the box and actually attempting a conversation. I really do wish I could meet you in real life. I know we would get along very well :)

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    1. I can just picture you in the waiting room, smiling to yourself. (-: At my clinic, they have a whole separate waiting room for the andrology lab. I think my husband appreciated that.

      I would LOVE to meet you (and so many more of my blogging friends) in real life. It would be a real dream come true.

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  15. I just found your blog from another blogger (Suzanne). I've spent the last hour reading over different posts. I've been in tears (both happy and sad) most of the time. I love your writing, stregth, and desire to be a voice for the infertility family. I look forward to following you.

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    1. Welcome Darcy! Sorry to make you cry but I'm glad you're following me! I'm following you too now! Looking forward to witnessing your journey!

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  16. Wow...you just put into words exactly what so many of us feel. Thank you for this post! I actually struck up a conversation with a girl who i had seen before as we were walking to the building. Something about the waiting room is so intimidating. Once we started that conversation outside, it was easier to keep talking inside. I don't get it though! I am usually smiling to myself because it seems so funny for everyone to be staring at the floor or our phones when we are all there for the same reason. I am all for us supporting each other!!

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    1. Isn't it weird how it's less intimidating to speak to someone outside the office? I started talking to someone in the elevator the other day and it was WAY easier.

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  17. Awesome! Though I am on "the other side" now and don't spend time in fertility clinic waiting rooms, I remember vividly the year (2007) I spent a lot of time in them and often thought about talking with others sitting around me. I believe a handful of times I did talk to others who were there, but more often than not we kept to ourselves. What a great idea and movement to advocate for! :)

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    1. Thanks Kathy! I'm glad this post resonated with you!

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  18. Great post. I'm glad I'm not the only one looking around the waiting room, thinking what is her story?

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    1. You're definitely not alone. That's for sure.

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  19. Oh my goodness, my eyes filled with tears as I read this post, both for the waiting room and race stories. I started running as a relief from my infertility, so beautiful to hear this two stories intertwined! I always made it a point to try to talk to someone every time. I met some of the most beautiful woman that way! I still bump into a couple of them every once in a while! Love connecting with you and your blog!

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    1. I love that you "joined the movement" before it was even a movement!! (-: How cool that you put yourself out there like that! Good for you. Glad to hear that it has been a positive thing in your life.

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  20. Em! You are so awesome and really have a way with words!!! I of course was tearing up reading this post... and of course, it's so true. I completely agree with you that it's weird in these waiting rooms... no one talks to each other and everyone seems sad (although I can't blame them.) I am guilty of sitting in a chair and passing the time browsing through Pinterest on my iPhone. I have to say that I am lucky that the clinic I go to in my town is amazing - the receptionist is literally the sweetest lady ever and so are the phlebotomists. They all know me by name (which is probably a bad thing proving that I am in there all too often) but it's still a nice feeling to have that interaction. You are right though, I haven't really had that with any fellow patients. I did talk to a lady once when we were having blood draws next to each other... she started by saying that the needles don't even hurt anymore because you are so used to it by now - I joined her in conversation by agreeing wholeheartedly and adding that this totally sucks. She giggled and that was it - it was still nice to talk to someone though. I am definitely going to continue to do that though! Thanks for this post!! xoxox

    babystepsinbabymaking.blogspot.com

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    1. You are too kind, Jillian! Good for you for reaching out and breaking the silence!

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  21. Great post! I can completely relate!

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    1. Thanks Jenn! Glad you stopped by!

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