Thursday, 26 December 2013

The Smallest Gesture

A few years ago I saw a patient "Martha" for a routine OB visit. Without going into any specific details, I noticed that something didn't look right on her ultrasound and I called in a colleague to confirm my findings. Martha was already in tears when we re-entered the room. I held Martha's hand as my colleague moved the ultrasound wand over her abdomen. She looked at me and nodded and I felt Martha's grip tighten.

Martha was pregnant again about 6 or 7 months later. At the end of her visit, I asked if she had any intentions to delay announcing her pregnancy this time around.
"We told everyone as soon as we had a positive pregnancy test." she replied "We figured that we are going to need all the love and support from family and friends that we can get, and we need it right away!"
I smiled. Her energy was absolutely uplifting.
"You know, I'll never forget what you did for me that day."
"I can only imagine how hard it must be to come back and see me. I would understand if you wanted to see someone else to avoid bringing back any memories."
"No. I was referring to when you held my hand while the other doctor was doing the ultrasound."
"Oh Martha! I had just delivered the worst possible news to you. I felt so helpless. It seemed like it was the least I could do..."
"It meant the world to me at that moment" she replied.
Thus, I learned never to underestimate the power of even the smallest gesture.

Myrtle and I chatted on the phone over Thanksgiving weekend and she asked how things were "health-wise." I didn't want to tell her that I was barely pregnant, so I explained that we would be resuming treatments in the new year, after taking a break due to the holidays. I knew that if the pregnancy were successful, she would figure out that I was withholding the news. After learning that we were non-viable, I realised that my lie had become a self fulfilling prophecy, and I considered not telling her about this miscarriage. The next day, she texted asking for Christmas gift ideas. I wrote back with instructions not to bother; we didn't want or need anything at this time. Then I felt badly about giving such a pissy reply, and perhaps because I am an idiot, I informed her about my second miscarriage. "I'm so sorry" she wrote back and let me know that she'd be available to talk later if I wanted. "Was this a natural conception or IVF?" she inquired.

I chose not to reply. A week later, I phoned her on her birthday. The conversation swung to Husband's trip east and she asked me if I was making the trek as well.
"No. Not this year."
"Awww. Why not?"
"Well, Connecticut in the middle of winter is not an ideal destination..."
"Any other reasons?" she hinted.
"It's just not practical with everything we have going on." I admitted.
"So, we didn't establish this earlier, was this a natural conception or because of IVF?"
"It really doesn't matter. The outcome is the same." Apparently this detail was important to her.
"Yes, it was an IVF pregnancy."
"Oh, I didn't know you had started that process."
"This was our first IVF cycle and we'll do another one in February (this was easier than explaining the process of a FET)." I briefly described how I couldn't let myself even accept the idea of the pregnancy, as I feared this could happen again. Although she hadn't asked about him, "It's really hitting Husband hard." I informed her. "Today he learned that a guy from University, who could be described as emotionally unstable at best, just had a kid, and another old hockey teammate is expecting his fourth. We started joking that if Logic procreates, then we'll engage in a mutual suicide pact."

[Background] Logic (his nickname in real life) was the flatmate of one of Husband's hockey friends. A rather unattractive and socially awkward bloke, the guys pitied him a bit and would sometimes include him in some social events. He lost his virginity in his mid 20s when he visited a brothel during a trip to Amsterdam, and probably hasn't been laid since. Now as an adult in his early 40s, he lives alone and participates in multiple fantasy cricket leagues. He'll occasionally travel with an organised group to watch some cricket tournaments, but he's never been in a relationship and I don't think he's even tried to date anyone. I've often wondered if he has a form of Asperger's syndrome.

"Well, look at Propeller-head and Olivia. They got married and have two kids."

[Background] Propeller-head (also his nickname in real life, as he reminded Myrtle of the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where Calvin wears a multi-coloured beanine with a propeller on top) was a work colleague who persistently pursued Myrtle. After exhausting the usual lines, "I don't date people from work," "I like you only as a friend," "It's not you, it's me..." she decided that the only way to stop his advances was to set him up with someone else. She called up Olivia, a gawky, socially awkward girl from our high school class (think Amy Farrah-Fowler from The Big Bang Theory) who was still living at home with her mother in her late 20s, to see if she was interested in being set up with Propeller-head. Myrtle made reservations at a nice restaurant in town, and I accompanied her on this introductory date. We ducked out before dessert and they started dating and became engaged a year later.

"So, what's your point?" I asked
"That there's a lid for every pot." she gleefully replied
"Myrtle.... Not helping."

"What a fun time was that double date -NOT!" she continued, not getting the hint to change the conversation.
"Well, Karma certainly rewarded you for your matchmaking efforts." I commented, thinking that Karma seems to be overlooking the fact that I assisted with that date.
"Absolutely! Isn't that right Bay-bee?" she asked her husband who was in earshot.
"Go back to enjoying your evening. Happy Birthday." Click.

I know it's so hard to find any words that can provide any comfort in the setting of devastating news. Many bloggers will comment that there are no words that can be said, yet merely acknowledging someone's pain and anguish speaks volumes. Words often seem so small and inadequate, but their power cannot be underestimated.

Thinking of you...
Sending you a hug...
I'm outraged by the unfairness of it all..
I hope you find some answers...
Take care of yourself...
RPL sucks...

'Thank you' seems so inefficient to express my appreciation for all the love and support I've received from my fellow bloggers. I never imagined I could develop such an intimate relationship with people who only know me through my written words. All your words mean the world to me.

Especially, as I've not received much sympathy from my friend of over thirty years...


  1. I know she's your friend, but I really hate Myrtle right about now. Like, a lot. Hugs and big internet kisses to you for having to deal with that wanker. (See, I know Brit-slang too !)

    1. I think what really gets to me is that I know how devistated she would be if this were happening to her, and she's reacting as if I just told her that I lost my iphone. Like waiting to do an FET is on par with needing to re-enter all of your contacts...

  2. I think some people are incapable of true empathy and others are so afraid of saying the wrong thing that they can't even acknowledge what has happened. I'm glad that you are finding support, even if it is within the anonymous confines of the blogosphere. There is so much to say but few words to convey it. I hope the worst of the storm has passed...

  3. So much about infertility is hard - one of the hardest for me was learning about my friends and then losing most of them. I just couldn't believe some peoples' reactions (or the lack of reaction completely) to my story or to my repeated failures. It hurt so much, and it still does. I commend you for sticking with your friend - I ditched most of mine. And it's something that shreds me to pieces most every day.

    Still thinking of you my friend... xoxo

  4. Thinking of you. I admire your strength and commitment to your friendships! I know that people without infertility always think they have the BEST advice! UGH! I am thinking of you! And PS. THANK you for the Christmas card!! I hope you liked your gift ;-)

  5. Some people are so self absorbed it is mind boggling. I have never met you and I cried for you. I know nothing I can say can make it better but know that I "get". It's not fair! I seriously hope that this next round is the one for you. I have hope.

  6. It reminds me of my best friend for almost 30 years. I told her about IVF and all the struggles. She hasn't asked me much about it. So I don't even bother telling her the details anymore. Friendships change. But some people just don't have that kind of empathy needed to offer comfort to others in need. Sounds like Myrtle is one of them. Hugs to you friend. Hope February brings you good news.

  7. It's really hard when the people you thought would be (needed to be) the most supportive let you down. I am sorry you are dealing with this!

  8. Myrtle just keeps taking the cake with each additional idiotic episode doesn't she? It's just not fair you are in a position to explain the letdowns to her. Clearly, you have a good heart. You've been there for so many people in their times of trial. You deserve your break. It's your turn! I really feel like you are entering a leg of this journey when all you'll want to do is quit, but if you keep going you WILL experience success. I can just feel it coming!!!

  9. Oh Myrtle... Karma might be coming back to her in not such a nice way.

    I've come to realize some people just don't get that not everyone is fertile or on their own timetable. Or that infertility is as common as it is. And even when they are informed, there's no guarantee they'll know how to react, act, relate, respond, etc. That is one reason I am so thankful for this online community - we all get it and can support each other when others cannot.

    Hugs to you!

  10. It's so kind and thoughtful, what you did for Martha.

    Myrtle reminds me of my MIL - wanting to know all the gory details, but still always managing to make painful comments. At least MIL genuinely cares (with Myrtle I'm never quite sure), but that doesn't take away the pain. I'm so sorry you have to deal with her on top of everything else. Take good care of yourself - I hope the break will help.

  11. I have been catching up on your blog. God, I am so sorry. For losing your baby and for those hurtful comments from someone who should be there for you. I'm so sorry. It's been 6 months since my miscarriage and I am still grieving it. Sending you hugs.

  12. It really is amazing, the friendships and support we all have found from this blogging community. I have no doubt that we would be real life friends. I think you are amazing. You are such a strong woman and so dedicated to the people in your life. Hugs to you Jane.