I've been reluctant to discuss this part of my professional career, but I used to work at a clinic that addressed unwanted fertility. During my tenure, I participated in many interviews for prospective employees. An applicant for any position; clinician, medical assistant, front desk receptionist, met with many current staff members to demonstrate that he or she was committed to delivering delicate services in a sensitive manner. In particular, I would inform the candidate that he or she could not accept the position merely out of need for a job, but rather out of dedication to the mission. New hires had to attend training sessions, which introduced a new vocabulary of carefully worded terms, and the clinic regularly held workshops for all employees in order to maintain the culture of consideration. I reference this experience only because after reading stories from other bloggers, I'm convinced that these clinics provide more sensitivity training to their staffers than some infertility offices.
Last year, while I experiencing faux implantation cramping during my two week wait and thought my BFP was only days away, I signed up for a CME conference that focused on infertility updates. The conference was four months away, and I had this cocky feeling that I wouldn't really need any extra information for personal reasons by the time the meeting rolled around. I didn't pay close attention to the syllabus before I registered, and thus I didn't notice that all the speakers worked in the same REI practice. It was really awkward as they stroked each others' egos during their lectures.
During lunch, I sat next to a graduate of an REI fellowship who was looking to join this group. I received the impression that she was passed over after her initial interviews, but was getting a second look as their first choice didn't work out. One RE (who is widely published and a nationally recognised speaker -I'm so tempted to name and shame, but I won't) approached her and asked what she has been doing in the 8 months since he first met with her. She began to report that she had a 6 week old son and the RE cut her off, "Wait- you were pregnant when you interviewed with us? Why didn't you mention that? We would have seen that you know what you were doing and we would have hired you on the spot!" I nearly choked as I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Not only was it awkward as he called attention to the fact that she was preliminary rejected, but he knew nothing of her situation. Maybe she had experienced infertility, or maybe this was an 'Oops baby'. I couldn't believe that someone so well renowned in the field of infertility was so ignorant toward one of the subject's most basic components. Naturally, I also began to internalise his comment to mean I obviously don't know what I'm doing.
As AF's arrival has brought us back to the world of group reproduction, I thought I'd reflect on some of my team members. My Favourite medical assistant is one that I think was hired to work with my RE, as she is the newest on staff. She seems a bit green, which carries a degree of freshness; i.e. she hasn't been working in this field long enough to become jaded. She has a bubbly and happy personality, which carries a sense of warmth. She giggles easily and always seems to be smiling. She asked how I was doing on the morning when I learned that my cat A was diagnosed with diabetes, so I shared that news with her. She'll periodically inquire about him. I know it's a rather small practice, and I'm probably the only patient with a diabetic cat; but I still really appreciate that she thinks to query.
There's another medical assistant, who works many Saturdays. My interaction with her was somewhat limited, as somedays my RE would escort me to the room and she would only enter as the chaperone. She would be brief with me when scheduling my follow up appointments, which I found understandable. I was often the last patient to be seen that morning, and I was standing between them and leaving to start the weekend. She wasn't as warm or as cheery as Favourite, just seemingly a bit distant. This all changed after she became my husband's Porn Buddy*. Now, when ever she sees me (even just in passing) she's all smiles and hellos. I guess as she and my husband have viewed porn together, we now share an intimate connection. Inexplicably, I do somehow feel that I've had a three-way with her, more so than with Dr. Somebody that I Used to Know.
Then there is Misery. I cringe a little when I see that she is working with my RE, and I'm sure the feeling is mutual as she always looks particularly annoyed to see me. She simply calls my name and leads me to the room. Never asks how I am doing. Never inquires how my day is going. I'm half tempted to tell her that I've got the whole 'undress from the waist down and cover with the drape' thing down, so she can be spared of any further conversation. She has assisted a few of my procedures and has never engaged in any distracting small talk (something I require of my own medical assistants). Usually, my RE will ask about my work, so I'll try to bring up an interesting case, or grab a cheeky curbside consult for one of my patients. I've noticed that she never even makes eye contact with me to check to see how I'm doing while my RE is navigating through my cervical canal. I think she views her role as simply to be a fly on the wall to ensure that my RE isn't molesting me.
Husband interjected that I shouldn't take her behaviour personally, but I actually hope her distain is unique to me and that she's not so miserable to everyone else. However, I have no evidence to the contrary. I have never even seen this woman smile. Maybe she has struggles in her personal life. Perhaps she is going through a divorce or her teenager is addicted to drugs. Yet, I can't really accept that. As any type of professional, you need to check your personal baggage at the door. I had to be sunny and bright to my newly pregnant patients on the day I discovered I was miscarrying. I've needed to be compassionate to patients struggling with an unplanned BFP hours after my own BFN.
I commented to Co-worker that what seems to irritate me the most, is her general apathy. She doesn't seem to want to be in the office at all and she seems to have no interest in what is going on around her. Case in point, at my last IUI (which I had to attend solo) she offered me a magazine during my 10 minute post coital wait. It was her most considerate gesture to date, but she overlooked the fact that I had a book in my hands. In fact my RE and I discussed my book at the start of my procedure. Co-worker's interpretation: "it's just a j-o-b to her." I thought for a minute what it must be like to do that job. Maybe over the years she had become friendly with patients and experienced their disappointment when treatments failed. Perhaps she had adopted the distant ice queen persona as a form of self preservation. It's easier when you don't let yourself get attached; don't get personal, don't get emotionally involved. It feels reminiscent of Vivian Ward's 'no kissing on the lips' rule in Pretty Woman.
Yet, she knew going into this j-o-b that it would be sensitive and emotional. The full experience of the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. I'm sorry. If you can't get it up to elicit a smile once in a while, then it's time to get out of the game.
*I took a little license with this term. Defined by the BBC Comedy Coupling, a Porn Buddy is a friend (designated in the untimely event of your death) who goes to your house and removes all the pornographic and other sexually related materials before your parents arrive.