A few weeks ago I was at my desk, waiting for my next patient to be ready. Some staff members had gathered around Co-worker to ask about her upcoming ultrasound. "So, you're really not going to find out their genders?" "How are you going to shop?" "What about decorating the nursery?" I looked at the exam room door, hoping my medical assistant would emerge. Nothing yet. I checked my in-box and saw that I had a phone message from a patient looking for the results of her recent STI testing. She had been involved with her current boyfriend for a few months and they both wanted to be tested before having sex without condoms. Unless there is a time sensitive issue, I don't usually return any calls while I have patients scheduled, as I don't want to get stuck on the phone and keep someone with an appointment waiting. This is the type of the message that I would have sent to my medical assistant to relay the news of her negative results, or I would have notified her by email. "I can't believe you're not going to find out what you're having!" Another medical assistant had joined the crowd around Co-worker's desk. Still no signs of activity from the exam room. I picked up the phone and called the patient with her results so I could drown out the peanut gallery. I reviewed every test that was done with her and asked if she had any questions. "No, thank you so much for calling me back!" she hung up the phone and probably went to go bang her boyfriend latex free.
A few days later I came out of the break room with my lunch bag and started to head toward my desk. Again, there was a crowd around Co-worker's desk and as I walked past her, I saw that she was online shopping for maternity scrubs. I kept on walking and went to one of the designated quiet rooms, where I could shut the door and be free of the pregnancy related talk. I made a note to myself to return to the quiet rooms during lunch, not only to make it seem like this is a usual routine for me, but also because I accomplished a lot while I was in seclusion.
This morning, before the patient schedules started, another colleague commented to Co-worker, "You're looking so pregnant! It's awesome!!" he gushed. I surveyed my schedule for the week and tried to ignore the background noise. "Oh, you don't know what you've having! That's so old school and so cool! What have you picked out for names?" I couldn't take it any longer, so I got up from my desk and walked away. I headed to the bathroom, but soon saw that it was occupied. My next option was to seek refuge in the supply closet. After waiting a few minutes, I decided to pick up my favourite set of cervical dilators that I would need for a difficult endometrial biopsy later that week. I carried the instruments back to my desk with a sense of purpose, just in case it seemed obvious that I had vacated the room due to the focus on Co-worker's pregnancy. I need to realise that my avoidance is only apparent to me; to everyone else, I am the invisible infertile who has faded into the background.
My reactions seem bizarre even to me, as I don't want any attention if I do become pregnant. I'd be mortified if someone commented about how pregnant I looked and I would die before I let anyone help me shop for maternity clothes. I'm not jealous of the recognition devoted to Co-worker, even if she hadn't dealt with infertility, she still totally deserves the spotlight. It's just that hearing everyone talk about her pregnancy reminds me that I'm not pregnant and may never be, and it feels especially sour as we could have been pregnant at the same time. I remembered when I was only five minutes pregnant and she was dealing with hyperstumulated ovaries and what she thought was a failed IUI cycle. A rather aloof male colleague told her "when you're holding your baby, it will all feel worth the struggle." My beta was only 344 at that time, but that comment still made me cringe. It was always going to be awkward for one of us.