This is another post inspired by my most recent trip to the fertility clinic. I imagine that no matter where in the world you are, your fertility waiting room is similar to mine. If not, I’d be interested to hear your story.
So there my husband and I sit. We have selected two chairs that are the appropriate distance away from the other couples (or singles) in the room. Heaven forbid we would sit close enough to them that we could easily make eye contact or smile at each other. Never mind the idea of actually talking (gasp!).
The infertility waiting room is a quiet place. The silence is unnerving. We are all there for the same reason and are facing similar challenges. Shouldn’t that bond us together? Fellow soldiers in the infertility battle? You’d think so, but no. So, my husband and I elect to keep to ourselves, taking a cue from the other people in the room. Whispering quietly so that no one else can hear our infertility conversations.
Being the type that is constantly observing other peoples’ behaviour, I can’t help but scan the room in an effort to surmise the stories of my fellow infertiles. I see one couple filling out their personal information on a clip board, looking somewhat excited. Ahh, this must be their first appointment. I can’t quite decide whether I feel happy or sad for them. I feel happy for them because they haven’t yet been through the wringer, but also sad because they have the wringer yet to face. I remember that place. They have no idea what they are in for.
Some couples look young, some older. I often wonder whether the older couples have been on the infertility road for a long time or if they started trying later in life. I also notice quite a few women there on their own. I often guess that they are there for an ultrasound or some other test, but that it is not the big day of insemination/implantation. Usually the men folk (or female partner if you are talking about a lesbian couple) show up for those big events. I also notice the men who whisk pass to the back room. I can only guess that they are there to provide a “deposit”. I imagine they feel somewhat embarrassed, and I feel bad for them.
This last visit I caught sight of a new breed in the infertility waiting room. A svelte, stylish couple came off the elevator carrying their to-go coffee cups. They had a different vibe to them than all the other people that came walking into the room. They stood taller, prouder, and more confident. It seemed as if they owned the room. And then I noticed it – the bouquet of flowers the man carried. It had a balloon in it that said “thank you”. So that is what successful fertility treatment looks like.
My mind raced as I watched them walk in to the reception area and back out again after they had dropped off their token of appreciation. What did they think the effect of their presence was on the rest of us? Did they think us infertilies didn’t notice that they were different from all the rest of us? Did they think that those that did notice would be inspired? Disheartened? And did the other infertiles in fact notice what the couple came in for? If so, how did it make them feel?
I wasn’t quite sure how I felt seeing them. I think the dominant emotion was jealousy. They just seemed so smug and happy. They probably thought that their presence would provide comfort for us infertiles, but it didn’t do that for me.
I would have loved to lean over and ask the woman next to me if she saw that couple’s “thank you” balloon and have a chat about it. But of course, I didn’t.
I am curious what others think about the silence in the waiting room. Is it a good thing or a bad thing? It’s not like people normally go around sharing their stories in Doctors waiting rooms (e.g. “Hello complete stranger, let me tell you about the rash I have on my big toe”). But somehow it seems like it should be different with infertility. As blogger and author Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos puts it, we are the “silent sorority” (http://blog.silentsorority.com/). Shouldn’t we be able to talk to each other and share stories? Wouldn’t it help with the feelings of isolation?
I remember waiting to go in for my HSG test (in a more general waiting area separate from the infertility section) and having a conversation with another woman there, also waiting for an HSG. She ended up telling me her whole infertility story. She gave me some good advice too! I left that conversation feeling more knowledgeable and less alone. Isn’t that a good thing?
So, maybe next time we are waiting for my name to be called, I will lean over and start a conversation with a fellow infertile. I will just be prepared for the possibility that they will find me to be terribly inappropriate and recoil in disgust. But hey, maybe they’ll be happy to chat with someone else who is fighting their battle and it will make their load feel a little bit lighter. At least that day.