Putting one foot in front of the other during infertility
No, I was not quitting my job nor was I awaiting a stern tongue-lashing. The management team was heading to my boss’ boss’ palatial vacation home in Mont Tremblant. The excursion had been booked for several weeks; we were going to do some team building exercises and hold strategy meetings in between luxuriating at the spa and/or skiing. We were due to take off in 2 short days but I learned the day before that my 14-week-gestational unborn baby would likely not survive. This was going to be my/our second loss. I needed to inform him that I couldn’t attend the trip.
My plan was to walk into his office, sit down, make small talk, let him know that I was dealing with an unforeseen family matter, apologize for having to pull out of the trip at the last minute and end by offering to reimburse him for my travel expenses. Keep calm and carry on was to be my mantra on that day. I was confident that I could/would stick to my script. I’ve encountered numerous pivot-worthy scenarios during my career as a salesperson. For example, I’ve had clients begin conversations by firing my agency/technology (and by association me) only to have them end with allocating additional budget to test a new product. Given my history of turning bad news into good, I believed that I could act in the third person and convey my message in a calm and rational manner.
Now, you may be asking yourself, “Why didn’t she just tell her immediate boss that she couldn’t go on the company trip?” That is a very logical question. The CEO was a quirky person and tricky to navigate. This annual trip was extremely important to him. I conveyed a little of what was going on with me to my manager and he merely said, “You better tell him yourself.”
On more than one occasion, I had the misfortune of observing this man, the CEO, lose his cool on clients; some of whom were spending millions of dollars with his company. Seemingly minor infractions could provoke this executive to go into tirades where he would spew vicious and crude relationship-ending rhetoric. His volcanic reactions could erupt spontaneously in what had moments before been a harmonious interlude between friends but now foes.
Later that afternoon, I noticed the BIG boss was alone in his office. I politely/quietly knocked on his door and asked, "May I have a moment?" He casually waved me in and said with a smile, “What’s up?” I sat down, took a deep breath and that’s when the unthinkable happened. Upon exhale I hastily blurted, “I am really sorry but I can’t go to Mon Tremblant this weekend. I just found out that I am going to have another miscarriage but I am not sure when and I don’t want to be away when it happens!”
Oh don’t worry, it gets worse…
As I was making the declaration, I burst into a guttural sob that started in my throat but quickly moved throughout my whole body. Who in the World knows what he, the man who held the keys to my career—at least during my tenure at his company, could comprehend from the gibberish falling out of mouth. I was having a difficult time catching my breath much less controlling my facial gestures. I grasped onto the chair and stared into my lap.
(Why are you holding you hands over your ears and closing one eye? Oh, because you are extremely mortified for me? Yes, I understand. As I recall this moment in time, I really wish I could erase it but alas I cannot.)
Finally, when I was able to gather some semblance of control over my emotions/body, I looked up at him through blurry eyes. Shockingly, he looked very serene and casually said, “Well, congratulations on getting pregnant!” I let out sort of a snort/laugh while I used the back of my hand to try to whisk away the tears and mucus that were on/around my face.
He was aware of our previous loss given it happened while I was working for him and later into the pregnancy. During our therapy session/meeting, he shared that he and his wife had also suffered through losses and he empathized completely.
I was very surprised by his candor and compassion. I was having a tough time reconciling the fact that the man sitting in front of me could have ever been his alter ego.
The only thing that I recall going according to plan during that conversation was that I offered to reimburse him for my travel. He told me not to worry about it then abruptly stood up and simply said, “Thanks!” I took his lead and said the same to him.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that in between what was to be my second loss, our basement had flooded several times. During that upheaval, I was forced to take some unexpected days off to deal with the remediation. In my opinion, this man, my ultimate employer, had put up with a lot of Denise drama and was likely growing tired of the soap opera that had become my life. I fully expected him to say something like, “It seems like you’ve been through a lot lately. I think it makes sense for us to amicably part ways.”
As I jetted out of his office, a shiver traveled down my spine because let’s be honest, that exchange was beyond awkward. I was embarrassed, to say the least. On the other hand, I appreciated that this powerful and intimidating man had chosen to offer kindness in lieu of frustration.
That weekend I waited for the inevitable to happen but it never did. Our baby’s heartbeat finally stopped a week later. My doctor was hoping I would miscarry on my own to avoid surgery. In doing so, I came down with what they believed was Sepsis. I was admitted into the hospital and had an emergency D&C while being given loads and loads of IV antibiotics.
One of the trickiest things about struggling to have a family is putting one foot in front of the other while we try to carry on with our daily lives. Our minds and spirits become enormously frayed while we are tasked with holding down a job, nurturing a partnership/marriage, running a household, keeping up with our friends and maybe even raising other children. Personally, I found it nearly impossible to keep going while I was facing the very real possibility that I may never get to be a mother. Getting dressed and even brushing my teeth felt more like working out. Infertility is scary as hell.
Lean on your loved ones for support. People will surprise you; they may even have more patience and tolerance than you ever thought possible.