Sunday, November 12, 2006

Nora almost sounds like Moron

So, there I was. Sitting in the "Inner Sanctum" waiting room during my recent RE appointment. I was feeling somewhat smug, I now realize. The hubris of good news was taking hold of me.

Somewhere in my rose-colored brain, I vaguely conjured up my recent post about waiting room etiquette. Or perhaps I was prompted in this recollection by the bubbly woman sitting close by waiting to see the doctor as well. Let's call her "Nora." In a subtle, split-second decision, a decision borne of some kind of instinctual "read" or intuitive understanding of this woman, I struck up a conversation. It quickly became apparent that she was only too happy to share any and all information about herself with anyone who had ears.

Being where we were, doing what we were, the discussion inevitably focused on where we both were in the process. Another woman came to join us, and she, too, seemed comfortable revealing her situation. Nora philibustered most of the conversation. What I learned in a very short time: Nora is remarried and at age 41 wants to have another baby with the man whose eleven-year-old she adopted, in addition to her own 17- and 19-year-old children, but her "hallways" are blocked and her husband just got shipped to Korea (North? South? she didn't seem to recognize the need to differentiate. I know it's South, because they don't seem to like us too much in the North.) so they have his sperm frozen and she is just waiting and wondering what is taking so long and let's just get on with this already.

I was assuming IVF. But I dared not ask for fear of another truckload of information spilling onto my rose-colored highway.

The other woman was quieter, but explained that she was doing IUI, and so far no success, but still hopeful.

I, of course, had the pleasure of trying not to sound too cheerful when I stated that I had a gestational sac and a yolk sac.

If you can picture it, Nora was the type who kept talking and repeating her favorite phrases and interrupting her story to giggle at herself, making it somewhat hard to actually care what she was saying because she obviously didn't care if she was making herself understood or making a connection with us. But I humored her with a lot of smiles and nodding of my head, because I am very, very good at that. The second woman felt much more real to me, but with Nora droning on, and being in the Inner Sanctum, I just didn't press it. In fact, I started to regret reaching out in the first place.

At this point, the RE we were all waiting to see escorted another woman to the Inner Sanctum. I didn't get a good look at her, as she sat right next to me. However, Nora immediately began consoling her, and catching a quick glance, it was clear that this woman had gotten some very bad news.

So I sat there trying to decide what to do. With four of us in the room, I didn't want to invade this woman's privacy. Nora said some rote things like "We're all here for you," or something similar. I felt that Nora was being bold and maybe even courageous to break the silence to comfort this woman.

That's where I was wrong.

The room fell silent for a bit, but Nora kept talking about her own situation (frozen sperm, husband in Korea). I bargained with myself that when given the proper moment, alone with just this woman, I would reach out to her. After all, she was alone in receiving her news, whatever it was. But, again, I did not want to add to her discomfort by cornering her. The best I could think to do was to hunt down a pack of tissues from a nurse and bring them to her.

By the time I got back with the tissues, Nora had done the cornering for all of us. I never heard what was going on with the woman, but after a pause, Nora said (and I'm paraphrasing here, but I know you'll get the gist of it):

"What you need to do is just relax. I find that most people just stress out too much and if you just relax and don't worry about it..."

And my eyes started bulging and my head began shaking from side to side and I said, "Don't say that."

And Nora, without missing a beat, continued on. "No really, you can't stress out, you need to just relax and it will happen."

And that is where I failed myself and this woman. Instead of the myriad insightful and cutting remarks that I could have made, my defense of this woman (and all of us who are outraged when we hear that SHIT) boiled down to: "Yeah, but to say that to someone who's just gotten bad news? I mean, that's the worst thing you can say, because how is someone supposed to relax when they've just gotten bad news."

And Nora agreed and quieted down for a moment (after thinking about defending herself yet again) and then murmured, "that's why we all have to just relax."

Holy Christ. I can't tell you how disappointed I was in myself. I had really wanted to reach out to this woman and help her in her suffering. Instead, when face-to-face with the "You're just stressing yourself out" lecture, I panicked and mumbled incoherently and worried about a show-down because, let's face it, I'm just plain more experienced at nodding and smiling.

As if this wasn't all enough, Nora (which you may now realize is short for Ignoramus) started pulling out clips from her "Best of IVF" monologue, like a fertility-tourette's patient. "My sisters keep teasing me that I'm going to end up with four babies! Four babies!" Pause. Shift in her seat. "I say, I don't care if I have four babies! I'll give one to each of them!"


Finally, the RE showed up and escorted the grieving woman to the reception area, where I overheard him talking about her having a D&E and getting the results, etc. He also gave her a big hug goodbye.

It was my turn next, and when I went in to talk with him, he admitted to being shaken.

"I can't handle the miscarriages," he said. "The infertility stuff I can deal with (meaning, performing IUI and IVF), but not knowing why a woman just makes me crazy." He seemed so sincere, but I wasn't sure if it was the scientist in him or the humanist talking.

Then, as he walked me out of his office after our consult, he gave me a big hug, and it occurred to me then that he needed it more than he was offering it. I told him to have a better day.

I went home both pleased with myself (for the vigorous pregnancy) and also very disappointed (for my utter lack of courage). And it has been on my mind ever since.


At 8:33 AM, Blogger Kathy McC said...

Oh.My.God. I can't believe she couldn't just shut her mouth. I can't believe you didn't slap her upside the head.

But I am glad you didn't. Unfortunately, Nora is probably one of many assholes that we (and that poor woman) will encounter who just don't get it. I don't think anything you could have said would have gotten through her thick skull.

I am sure that poor woman who had the miscarriage probably knows that you were trying to get Nora to shut up without making a scene. What you said was fine. And I am sure she probably appreciated it.

There are just too many morons in this world...

At 12:49 PM, Blogger Alice said...

Try not to feel too inadequate about your response to the woman suffering a miscarriage. Rarely does anyone say the right thing--and here, from my point of view, is the right thing, "I'm sorry, that's awful." For the most part, people try to make you feel better by attempting to diminish the gravity of the situation, but there is no diminishing it--to the person going through it, it is a death.

At 9:26 PM, Blogger theoneliner said...

don't be so hard on least you said something and its hard to know how to react in an instant. you don't wanna go around jumpin' on people like some hot head anyway.
i'm sure she got your drift.
you're still my hero. ; )

At 9:27 PM, Blogger theoneliner said...'re RE...what a sweetie.

At 9:27 PM, Blogger nuttychemist said...

Thanks for the comment the other day and congrats on the pregnancy.

There needs to be a pause button in conversations so you can be like did that person really say that and be able to come up with a response that you won't beat yourself up over later on. I think most of the time people just take you by surprise.

I'm sure the lady having a miscarriage appreciated your attempt at getting nora to shut up.

At 9:28 PM, Blogger theoneliner said...

i meant "your" RE.

hey, i'm really making your comment count go up...

At 3:37 AM, Blogger Kath said...

Aw, jeez, Casey, that Nora takes the cake. So we REALLY have to have a huge instruction sheet, complete with skulls and crossbones, taped to the door of REs' offices? Or do we need airport-like announcements about not leaving your inner sociopath unattended? Can't we even expect decency from our own sisters? WOW that makes me furious.

You did good, Casey, as did the doc. What a sweetheart.

At 10:49 AM, Blogger Erin said...

I swear, there should be an instructional pamphlet of things to say and not to say in the RE's office. Or to any infertile, anywhere. What an absolute idiot she was. You could have kept hammering home the point that relaxing isn't going to do anything whatsoever, and she never would have gotten it.



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