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.
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.