TTW: Trying To Work

I’m starting to think that the hardest thing I’ve done in my 12-year advertising career has been to successfully conceal my reproductive issues.

In fact, it may just be my greatest career accomplishment. At least, of the last year. And that’s saying something, because this last year has been a busy one, career-wise. For the majority of it, I was running creative efforts for a massive sports brand, traveling most weeks, working most weekends, not sleeping most nights, wanting to pull my hair out.

Then came a newer, calmer, 8-to-5 job offer, and I seized it. But with that change came the challenges of starting fresh, of needing to prove my worth, and of waiting the appropriate amount of time before pissing anybody off.

Not exactly easy when you’re ducking out for doctor’s appointments and blood tests left and right.

Working in an industry full of mostly men doesn’t make things any easier. I feel the need to tell them something. That there’s a reason that I have to leave suddenly, almost in tears, to go and see a doctor right this minute. That there’s a reason that when I’m supposed to be talking about that project we’re working on, I can do nothing but stare helplessly at my phone, waiting for a nurse to call me back with test results.

But how or where would I even start? No, I know that for me, personally, telling co-workers what’s going on is not an option. Partly because of the whole mostly-men thing. But also because I’m a private person with a great big vat full of private worries that I like to keep covered with saran wrap.

I worry that they worry about me. I worry that they don’t care enough to worry about me. I worry that I’ll be pegged as unreliable or overly emotional. I worry that I am actually being unreliable or overly emotional. I worry that maybe someone else would handle it all better.

However, before I started acupuncture with The Dragon Lady, I knew I had to say something. Not a lot. But something. After all, it would require me to leave work for two appointments a week for the entire foreseeable future.

So I sent a short email to my two male team-members, vaguely explaining that I was dealing with a small medical issue that would require a couple of doctors appointments every week, and thanking them in advance for understanding.

Enough said, I thought.

Two weeks went by where nobody said a word as I mysteriously disappeared for a couple of hours here and there.

But then I realized that they assumed my “medical issue” was that I was pregnant. I caught one of them looking surprised when I reached for a beer during an office happy hour.

I’m pretty sure they’re expecting me to drop the “I’m pregnant!” bomb any day now.

If only.

Our creative and open office space poses another set of problems. There are no walls of any kind. Which means finding a private place where I can hold phone calls discussing the color of my recent vaginal spotting is pretty much impossible. The nurses that call me regularly have gotten used to me telling them to hold while I breathlessly race out to the parking garage and then whisper as if hidden within the description of my cervical discharge is the secret code to the world’s nuclear weapons.

The biggest scare came one day when I was trying to covertly scan and fax medical forms littered with the words Fertility and Reproductive Medicine. All was going well until the printer portion of the printer/scanner combo jammed and a small group gathered around to try and figure out the issue. Suddenly, my world started moving in slow-mo. I was certain everyone’s eyes were piercing my upside-down pages, their x-ray vision super powers suddenly activated, and that they could see every single thing on the pages still slowly being fed through the top scanner.

This was it, I was sure: the end of my professional life as I knew it. Years of meetings in which they all called me “Reproductive Medicine Girl” and drew pictures of broken ovaries flashed before my eyes. I’d have to resign immediately and find a job where I could hide in a dark room and quietly take all my hormone supplements in peace until the world ended or I successfully became pregnant – whichever came first.

Fortunately, my professional life did not end that day. The scanner finished and I was able to quickly grab the stack of papers without blowing my cover. The only thing my co-workers likely deduced was that scanning stacks of paper makes me a flustered hot mess.

It all makes me wonder. How do people do this? How does one successfully hide such a personal yet all-consuming matter all day everyday in a place where projects and thinking and deadlines are supposed to be the all-consuming things? How do people remain productive and engaged despite this massive other unresolved thing filling up their minds? How do they make brain space for it all? And, most importantly, I wonder, have team members had to hide this sort of thing around me?

If so, bravo to them. Not only should I have been more sensitive, I should have lobbied for their promotions.

Because TTW while having problems TTC takes some serious HFS. Holy Fucking Skill.

9 thoughts on “TTW: Trying To Work

  1. I know some people have ‘come out’ in their work environment where they are surrounded by men. The men didn’t want to hear much about ‘women problems’ so it was like a free pass. Over share once and they won’t ask again. Lol. There are probably lots of men that do understand too though, given how many infertiles there are. Me personally? I have women for clients and I work solo. I have slowly ‘come out’ to some of them. Some have guessed. But I prefer to keep it to a minimum. I’m introverted and private.

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  2. Do you remember the Celia Foote’s character from the Help? And how Minnie thought she was a drunk but she was just drinking a special tonic to try and ward off miscarriages and she kept it all to herself? Too bad Celia didn’t have a blog. I think she would have found a lot of sisterhood that way.

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  3. I identify with this post so much. It’s so hard trying to hide doctor’s appointments and having covert phone calls with nurses, pharmacy, insurance, and everyone in between. I wish fertility clinics were a little more accommodating – I realize doctors want to work 9-5, but just think how wonderful it would be if we could come to appointments after hours or get phone calls when we’re not in the office…

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    1. Totally agree. In fact, I think that is a stellar business idea: an after-hours fertility clinic. I’m in if you are. And then we’ll just need to find people with actual medical experience.

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  4. I work IN a medical office as a nurse so I came out long ago about my infertility issues. They would have figured it out soon anyways. I am thankful I don’t have to hide and stress about all my appointments but at the same time now I’m “that poor nurse that can’t get pregnant”. It really is a no win.
    Love the blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Moira. I imagine being a nurse poses a whole different set of issues. Sometimes I wish there were a handbook for how to deal with these situations. And we could follow it like how we try and follow the furniture building instructions from Ikea.

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  5. I have the same problem as you: also a open workspace where you have to duck into a non used common room to discuss failed IUI’s on the phone. My workspace is actually filled with women who have babies. I told a few but I regret it now; They don’t know how to handle it. On the other hand, I have one collegue who backs me up when I’m late because of a treatment. I think you need a few collegues who know so they can help you cover it up but I would never tell my boss or another collegue who I don’t know if I can trust her.

    good luck!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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