When he told me his wife was pregnant the first thought that came to my mind was the thought that always comes to my mind in these situations, “It will be OK. You will be able to survive the showers, cards, and birth because by the time that baby is born you will be pregnant.” At the time my first IVF cycle had just been cancelled. I was bruised, but not beaten. I was still full of hope.
There has been one other pregnancy in my group, but I was insulated by a supervisor. I did not need to arrange a temp for maternity leave. I was not in charge of preparing a baby shower. I could be a bystander. This time I could not. This was one of my direct reports.
I have always found comfort in work. Sure there have been days I have not been as engaged as I otherwise would have been. There have been days that I have not added much value. But generally work is a refuge, a reason to get dressed each day. Work keeps me busy. Work helps me think about something other than my infertility. But this time it wasn’t so.
It was the Monday morning after my third IVF cycle was cancelled, the cycle where I made it to retrieval, but failed to make viable embryos. He came to tell me that he needed to have the following week off because his wife was to be induced. I couldn’t even fake excitement for him. I listened, marked it in my calendar, and nonverbally made it clear that I didn’t want more details. I felt badly that I couldn’t mirror his excitement, but I was just trying to hold it together.
A week earlier I had received my annual performance review. Surprisingly I had been given good marks, except in one area. I am to work on having a more positive image with my team. I am to be more accessible to them. I am to be more empathetic and caring. All good things, all things I agree with, and all things that seem impossible to do right now when I really just want to be left alone.
He was my first test after my performance review and I failed. I did not arrange a baby shower (Even though this is his second child, my office is very into celebrating life events). I did not arrange a card to send around to be signed by the team. I did not ask him to update me when the baby was born which led to a painful week of people stopping by my desk asking, “Do we have a baby?” to which I responded, “I don’t know.”
Yesterday I tried to absolve myself of my sins. I purchased a card and a generous gift. Reading the cards I almost started crying and found myself wishing that they made baby cards that were blank inside. My gift came in certificate form because I couldn’t face the little clothes and baby accessories. I’m only human after all…