Do you ever find yourself wondering if others might silently suffer from infertility? I'll admit it. I do.
Infertility is the secret club that no one willingly signs up for yet it's The Club that one in eight couples unfortunately are a member of. If a member get's a hunch that someone else might be a member too, they find themselves silently screaming in their direction "I'm a part of The Club too. You're not alone!" At least I do that. It's kind of a weird phenomena.
I've spent the last two days in all-day meetings for work. A colleague of mine whom I have worked with for a few years (we will call him Jerry) flew into town to attend these meetings. Jerry is a really nice guy and I've got to know him on a somewhat personal level while working at my current job. He's been married for a few years, talks about his pets a lot, and I would guess he is in his mid thirties. I've always wondered if he might be part of The Club. But it's one of those questions you'd never ask outright.
Also attending this meeting was a colleague of mine whom we will call Shannon. Shannon talks about her children all of the time. I mean ALL of the time. Every single conversation, work-related or not, is always turned into something about her kids. And it's usually a complaint. We all know someone like her, right? She complains about how much her kids drain her bank account and how little sleep she gets because of them. She complains about how she never has time for herself and even jokes about why she chose to become a mom to begin with. As someone who has gone to great lengths to try to become a mother, it's nauseating for me to hear her talk like this. And yes, I have responded with some quirky rebuttals to shut her complaining down a few times and have some good stories to tell about that. But I'll save those stories for another time. ;-)
At a break from yesterday's meeting, I was sitting across the conference table from Shannon and Jerry. I heard Shannon turn to Jerry and ask the question "So... do you and your wife have kids?"
Ugh. The room went silent. At least it did in my head.
Jerry replied sheepishly "No. Not yet."
Then the next words out of Shannon's mouth were...
"Do you want one of mine? I have three. I could give you two and still have one too many! HA HA HA!"
You're a total riot, Shannon! Not. Jerry wasn't laughing. And I know I wasn't laughing either.
My gut reaction was to to fly across the table like an episode of Jerry Springer. I wanted to scream "Don't you know to never say this kind of thing to an infertile?" I found myself angry and hurting for Jerry and the imaginary infertility my whacked-out brain had inflicted upon him. I found myself very protective of him in the off-chance he might be a member of The Club. And it surprised me how much emotion I was feeling using Jerry as a filter. I knew I wasn't in a position to actually say anything to Shannon, but it didn't sit well with me for the rest of the day.
Later that night we were visiting Kevin's mom in the hospital. She had been suffering from nausea for the past few days and was having a hard time eating because of it. Her nurse came in the room to check on her so I asked her if she had anything for the nausea. The nurse cheerfully agreed to get Kevin's mom some medication and turned to leave the room, when out of the blue Kevin's mom turns and asks "Have you ever been pregnant before?"
My heart stopped. Oh my gosh. What was this nurse going to say to this personal and abrupt question? The nurse glanced down at the floor as she answered "No, I haven't." I looked at the nurse's ring finger and sure enough, there was a wedding band on it (as though that somehow validated my thinking that she was infertile.) Kevin's mom proceeded to describe how miserable her nausea was during her two pregnancies and described some of the hardships she endured while pregnant. Of course Kevin's mom did not mean anything harmful by her words, but I had a really hard time listening any further. All I could think about was how this nurse might also be in The Club and how blindsided she may have felt by that question.
As the nurse left the room, I irrationally wanted to chase after her and scream "I'm infertile too! I'm in The Club! You're not alone!" I weirdly wanted to give this stranger a hug.
Yeah, I know this is just crazy talk. But you know what's funny? Kevin told me later that night that he also wondered the same thing and cringed inside just the way I had. We were probably projecting our pain and current circumstance onto this nurse just as I had likely done with Jerry earlier in the day.
But what if I'm not crazy? Could us members of The Club actually have a form of infertile-radar? Since one in eight couples suffers from infertility, I'd have to be right about other members at least part of the time. Part of me wishes I could somehow know for certain so we could secretly hold hands and share a big hug.
But the logical side of me thinks knows that this kind of thought process is probably my subconscious longing for a hug myself.
Well, after my work meetings yesterday, Jerry and I got to talking for a while at my desk. As the conversation turned to our personal lives and families, I boldly mentioned that Kevin and I were likely going to be adopting in 2014.
Jerry paused with a look of disbelief and said "No way. We're adopting too! We just started our home study!"
It turns out Jerry is a long-time member of The Club after all.