Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Exposure risk

I made a decision to keep my health issues private when it comes to work.  I had confided in very few people at work or networking of why I would be absent for a while.

Now I have been back to work a month since the surgery.

It would be an understatement if I said everything was fine.  On the first day back, I knew very well that there were at least two very much pregnant co-workers. I knew there was a baby shower soon during the  same week.  I knew there would be families bringing their babies.  How funny, how one hurts while avoiding pits and holes of announcements and invites to baby showers, ducking behind the corners when spying a hint of a woman waddling with a belly ahead, and slapping a fake smile on while co-workers ask you, "Have you seen T's baby yet?  Here is her photo..."

A hazard for women who deal with infertility, or become childless not by choice.  Ain't kidding here.  (Oh, the pun there!)

"Maybe it could be easier if you have told them...?"   I could have...but why for?

* I value my privacy when it comes to work.
* I don't want to see sympathy in their eyes, it's hard enough to walk around without seeing someone looking at you with sadness- that'd make me cry at the drop of a hat.
* Very few people have awareness about emotional effects of infertility, even less childlessness.  So basically, one could harm even with good intentions.  So I'd prefer not to explain over and over across work/time.

Recently a co-worker just had her baby.  I'm truly blessed with that co-worker since she had been exposed to infertility/ childlessness of someone she is familiar with in the past. So that contributed to her awareness on how to work with me, especially with her baby bump out to here. It also helped that I knew of her pregnancy long before I found out I couldn't have children. No surprises here, no shocking heart-attacks, no icy numbness.  Anyway, I knew she would be gone soon once the child was born, and I dreaded the unavoidable outcome.

"Is the baby born yet?"
"Isn't it so exciting? The baby is cute!"
"Have you seen the photos?"
"Let me show you..."

Now, it's not about the co-worker, it's not about her baby.  What it is about reminders of what I had lost.  What I cannot have or experience out of my own body.  My body failing its natural capability to reproduce and that's what is pushed upon me, re-opening my wounds repeatedly.  My phantom womb cramping in ice.

I could explain to co-workers not to share their pregnancies or their babies, but I feel we should not ask them to censor what they want to share (through email, meetings, breaks, etc) and they are very much a family within where we work together.  All I can do at this time is to excuse myself and keep my distance with an apologetic smile, before ducking into my office to get another tissue out of the tissue box.

If this sound familiar to you, you're not alone.  WE are all ships on the stormy waves.

Now.... I admit I'm tempted to pull out the ruler and say "All right, class...pay attention" and explain about emotional affects related to infertility, and of possible responses of women, from struggling with infertility (with medical interventions) to childlessness, by choice or not by choice.  Grief and loss, stages and how it apply to infertility and childlessness and of how to support someone going through that. Yes, sir...

Perhaps, I will- someday but not now. I need to keep all my energy to myself at this time.  It's emotionally exhausting these days.


  1. "I need to keep all my energy to myself at this time." I totally understand that, and applaud you for recognising this.

    Like you I didn't tell anyone at work about my IF. I worked mainly with men, and I think they assumed that because I didn't tell them, it was probably "women's problems." I was happy to run with that - when they asked why I had been off work for my ectopic pregnancy, I just said "you'd run a mile if I told you." One guy persisted, and I just made it clear he wasn't getting any information, changed the subject, and that was that. Mostly they asked "if I was getting better or winning (before the Charlie Sheen connotations)" which I appreciated. It made work a place where I didn't have to explain myself, and when I didn't have to do that, I didn't risk being in tears. Which I would have hated, especially in front of men!

  2. You know, these things are really hard to discuss at work. I worked at an ad agency at the time I was diagnosed w/cancer and had to have my hysterectomy. It was basically a terrible place to work - real meat grinder of a place. Anyway, because I had accounts that would need watching while I was out for my surgery, I had to talk to my co-workers about it. I guess I was given the option to tell them why I needed to have surgery, but in the end I chose to tell them why.

    I am not sure most of them really got it beyond "Cancer". I don't regret telling them and people were really helpful around work, but it wasn't like I got a lot of support out of it either. So, it just felt like people had a lot of pity for me.

    I think it is fine for you not to tell them or want to talk to them about it. I like to keep that stuff to myself at work. I agree, keep your energy to yourself for now. Sure, one day, you can discuss. I have become more open about it. Like, when annoying co-workers say to me "Any plans for kids?" I just say "I can't have children" now, which took me a while to come to.

    Take care of you first, and give yourself time.