I mentioned that part of my stress during the last several weeks involved work. Aside from the initial problem that had me sitting in human resources, I got wind of the fact that my “medical condition” had come up in discussions toward the need for some type of resolution. Actually, the comment — which I received through a super-reliable source — essentially alluded to my “oversensitivity, likely a result of (my) medical condition.”
I’m a lot of things, but sensitive probably isn’t at the top of the list. Incorrect characteristic aside, I was nine kinds of ticked off. Yes, nine.
I was outraged at the lack of understanding, at the blanket application of what “undergoing infertility treatments” means. I was livid at the seeming sexism that drove the conversation. The belittling of a legitimate work concern because of my “medical condition” had me seeing red.
Post-rage — even though I’m still on the same drugs progesterone and estradiol, mind you (told you it wasn’t the drugs) — I remember that anger tends to be a secondary emotion. I’m ready to admit now that more than anything, my feelings were hurt.
Understanding the value of personal authenticity to myself and others, I try to live a fairly transparent life. Despite what my writings suggest, I’m not an open book. I’m more like a library offering. Through conversation and revelation of the type of person you are, in a way you can’t explain with words, you’re filling out an application for a library card. The way you fill out the paperwork gives me insight into what version of the book you can check out. Regardless of whether you get “Goodnight, Moon,” “Charlotte’s Web,” “Are You There, God? It’s Me Margaret,” “Fight Club” or “The Sun Also Rises,” you’re still getting the real me with all my quirks.
I was a small child for my age and would get questioning looks when I’d attempt to check out library books that looked well beyond my literary capacity. Eventually, though, some librarian would decide it was OK for a 12-year-old to read John Jakes’ “North and South” and let me have the book.
That’s how I felt when I said in a meeting that the work situation needed to be in the hands of someone with the authority to deal with it. Not only was that kind of power above my pay grade, I have other things I’m focused on, I said. “For example, my husband and I are undergoing fertility treatments.” At that point, injections and ultrasounds were normal to me. I said “undergoing fertility treatments” like people say, “We’re moving” or “Our car broke down.” It is a condition of life, a normal condition of life like anything else that sucks and requires a coming to terms. After you reach the terms, it is what it is: life. And I decided the person I’d spoken to was in a position to handle that. I was wrong.
Having my life used against me felt like a sucker punch to the gut. The irony was that such a twist of words never would’ve been used to describe a woman battling her way through cancer. What is it about infertility that makes that kind of marginalization OK?
I still haven’t figured that out; I did however address what I’d heard. Despite broad deliverance from tearing people down with my words, I had not forgotten how to border on intimidating. I’m a little person; it takes a little of that sometimes. But really, it was the use of the words “illegal, if not, then unethical,” a reference to the employee handbook and prayers that began with “God, go before me …” that seemed to have an impact.
The abundance of ignorance regarding infertility perpetuates the embarrassment that many of us feel in the need to utilize advanced reproductive technology. It keeps us silent and hidden and unnecessarily distant from the support we need. To break that cycle, we’ve got one option (and I stole this from Jeff Bridges in “The Contender”). It’s simple: Don’t be embarrassed.