Monday, January 17, 2005


An Infertile's Rough Guide to having a Meltdown in the Workplace:

Step One: Attend a work team meeting in a crowded venue. Make sure that this meeting is held at the busiest time of day, with lots of high-up officials and other colleagues floating around. Make sure you sit yourself in a prominent location, say, at a table in the middle of the room.

Step Two: While waiting for meeting to begin, start eating muffin and drinking coffee. Try not to fret about whether too much caffeine might or might not affect your ability to get pregnant.

Step Three: Make space at table for first arrival, heavily pregnant colleague. Discuss while waiting for others what her maternity leave arrangements are going to be.

Step Four: Make space for second arrival, a colleague with two small kids. Discuss how she may have to be off work tomorrow because child is unwell.

Step Five: Make space for team leader, who finally arrives. As she sits down, team leader announces she has some news.

Step Six: Hear word "news", and suddenly find that hand holding coffee cup is shaking uncontrollably.

Step Seven: In the midst of squeals of delight from fellow colleagues at "news", find yourself bursting into raw, wet, wracking sobs, right there at the table. Bear in mind you are not a person who cries very often, and certainly not ever at work.

Step Eight: Sob hysterically for about five minutes. Gulp through tears that of course you are delighted for her, but you're finding it hard because everybody else is getting pregnant and no matter what you do, YOU CANNOT GET PREGNANT.

Step Nine: Realise you maybe vocalised that last part just a little bit louder than you had intended.

Step Ten: Despite eviscerating pain around heart, try to pull self together slightly. Crack weak joke about how "cathartic" that was. Try to paste numb smile on face as colleagues dispense further well-meaning assvice about "ovarian inhibition", and how you really just need to relax. As they remind you that really, young babies can be a real pain to look after, and maybe if you had one, you wouldn't find it was what you wanted after all.

Step Eleven: Obviously the fact that you have stopped crying means you're OK now, so colleagues can move on to discussing team leader's pregnancy. Has she had a 20 week ultrasound scan? No, they don't do those at the local hospital but you can pay to get one done privately. It costs £150, though. Gnaw upon now-shredded muffin, thinking bitterly of the £500 you spent on the HSG test. The thousands of ££ that the IUIs and IVF might end up costing you.

Step Twelve: Meeting over, stop off in ladies' room, to check damage to face. Wonder who let the panda into the ladies' room. Realise panda is you. Realise that from now on, you need to use the waterproof mascara every day.

Step Thirteen: Sit at desk and stare vacantly into space. Breathe. In through the nose, out through the mouth is usually good. Repeat, in through nose, out through mouth.

Step Fourteen: Speak to other sympathetic colleague who notices your fugue state. Explain meltdown. Feel slightly better when she understands problem. Feel better still when she offers you chocolate. Eat chocolate and then feel hysterical all over again.

Step Fifteen: Send emergency e-mail to blog friend who sends supportive message.

Step Sixteen: Remember, and take comfort from the fact that you are not alone. You are not alone.

[**Editor's end note: Comments very welcome as always but I'd really appreciate it if you didn't write harsh things about the aforementioned colleagues. They are, despite lacking certain insights into how it feels to be in my shoes, really good and kind people. And it's not even about them. ]


At 9:03 PM, Blogger Orodemniades said...

Step Seventeen: Remember to bring Uzi to next woork meeting.

At 9:06 PM, Blogger The Barrenness said...

Hope your day improves. Thinking of you.

At 9:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh Mare. I am so sorry you had to go through this today. I know perhaps that seems like a pat answer, but it is so difficult for us when we are "ambushed" like that. In some ways, I wish all of my beautiful blog friends and myself could just live in a vacuum or somehow be protected from this kind of experience. Life already has given us a more difficult path but coupled with the "good news" we hear all the time about other people, it's enough to send us into the proverbial infertile tailspin/meltdown. Wish I could have been there to give you a hug.


At 10:04 PM, Blogger Anna H. said...

Dear Mare,

So, so sorry about such a horrible day.

Sending much love across the world to you... you are not alone.


At 10:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know exactly how you fact, I lost it when my bf told me she was newly pg. Bawled like crazy, called my mom and cried to her, called the dh and cried to him too. BF didn't get it...still doesn't. Know that those of us out here in blogland "get it" and you are not alone.


At 10:11 PM, Blogger Suz said...

Even though an ambush can come from anywhere, there are days that I'm thankful I work from home . I'm so sorry that you had to go through the work breakdown; I know how it feels when the facade shatters and the bottom drops out. Please, have some more chocolate and know that you are indeed not alone.

At 10:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, sweetie. I'm sorry. That just plain sucks.

- getupgrrl

At 10:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Sorry dear, losing it at work, yup done that before. You are most definitely not alone. If you'd like I can make you some oatmeal cookies.
Bindweed Heights

At 11:00 PM, Blogger lobster girl said...

Sweet Mare. I'm sorry. Some times the pain just can't be kept inside and it's just going to make an appearance. Even at work. Glad your friend with the chocolate was there. Wish there were more like her.

At 11:05 PM, Blogger amyesq said...

Oh Mare. I emailed you but I forgot to say that I also had a major breakdown like that when I found out my unmarried little sister was "oops" PG with the frist grandkid. I THREW stuff. I mean who does that? Seriously, if nothing flew across the room you are sooo far ahead of the game...

At 12:49 AM, Blogger Soper said...

Hey, I've done the meltdown thing at LEAST fifty times. Welcome to my madness.

Was it at least a GOOD muffin?

At 12:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So sorry for your pain, Mare. That pain just escapes sometimes and bowls you over like a enormous wave, doesn't it? It pretty much blows.

You're in my thoughts.


At 1:11 AM, Blogger JJ said...

I'm so happy I was able to be there for you. It's marginally easier when we know people understand. I wish I could have picked you up from work and whisked you off into a chocolate induced coma. I wish my comfort was of the "over a bottle of wine" variety. My heart was with you all day long.

At 2:10 AM, Blogger DeadBug said...

I've had the workplace meltdowns myself, but I have to say you managed it with exceptional flair.

What a rotten setting for the infertile--a table full of the pregnant and the recently pregnant. Sounds like the makings for a hellish baby shower, not a work meeting.


At 2:14 AM, Blogger Lala said...

Mare: One of these days we are going to have a drinking party!! And we will look back and laugh. Just not today.
We love you and we'd all like to hug you big time.

At 3:36 AM, Blogger Janet said...

wishing that was all theoretical and it didn't really happen to you. so sorry that it did.

many breakdowns at work myself, I know from which you speak.

if I knew how to bake, I would send you something yummy, as it is, I suck in the kitchen, so instead can I be corny and send you a hug instead?

wishing and hoping for better days ahead.

At 3:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh that is just not fair. (Understatement of the century?) Reminds me of the Christmas party at work at which the just-stopping-by-even-though-she's-on-maternity-leave colleague made an appearance and every last soul in the office hovered six inches from my office door cooing over the sweet thing for half an hour. I was literally trapped! Came down with a mysterious migraine and left for the day. But yours actually does sound a bit more cathartic. Not that it becomes "ok" after a good cry. Not yet, anyway.

Anyway, I'm just really really sorry. Please know that you are beloved on this earth (a la grrl's post).


At 6:39 AM, Blogger bj said...


So sorry -- and, you know, I'm the one who didn't like the "right stuff analogy" but I so get it. I'm not infertile, but I still hate the self-congratulatory way in which people announce this particular news. No one ever starts a meeting that way and then announces that they've bought a new house.


At 10:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have read your blogs (and found them amusing/inspiring/sad) for a while now but never made any comments. I feel I should comment on this one though. Its so difficult to stay in control all the time. I have been TTC for 12 months, so have only just reached the "officially infertile" stage. Despite having two colleages from a team of five who both had a baby last year and ask me almost on a weekly basis when I am going have a baby and whether I want one, I have managed to dodge all questions with a smile and a flippant comment followed by a rapid change of subject. Its only a matter of time before my facade cracks, and they ask me on a bad day.

I told my sister about my situation at the weekend, although I am not someone who discusses such things easily, and for some odd reason started an argument after which I burst into tears and confessed all. My sister however not only was very understanding, but also works in the perfect office for an infertile (unlike me, and obviously you too). For a start most of them are single, and organising speed dating events, the one married woman is sadly going through a divorce, staggers in drunk at lunchtimes and appears not to care any more, then there have been 3/4 people going through IVF. My sister said she would hear them on the phone in tears and guess that was the reason, before they would tell her one day over lunch. But anyway, my sister managed to lift my spirits at least for the afternoon by telling me that of all of her friends/colleagues who have gone through infertility problems/IVF, and spent lunchtimes crying on her shoulder, ALL of them have gone on to have children. Its just that sadly it takes some people more money/time and effort than others.

Don't feel alone. Now that your colleagues know about your situation it should hopefully be easier, and a great release of pressure.

Also - and this is another point, you don't know what's around the next corner. Have you ever read "Ethel and Ernest" by Raymond Briggs? Its a lovely cartoon strip book he wrote/drew about the lives of his parents and dedicated to them. There's a touching scene in which Ernest asks why they have a picture of a baby above their bed.

I don't want to offend anyone with this mail, I just want to say that there are a great many couples, and there always have been who take longer, sometimes much longer than a year or two to get pregnant. They go through great stress and worry but they get there in the end.

So I am hoping that happens to all of us. All the best Mare. Keep your pecker up!

At 10:48 AM, Blogger TofuSal said...

Oh dear, you poor thing - reading this made me fill up with tears for you.

The avoidance of such things makes me glad I work with a bunch of Japanese blokes & no women; but it doesn't stop the bombardment of bumps that accost me around each corner everytime I pop out in my lunch hour. (The record was 9 one day last summer, but the worst was when I ended up pressed against one in a lift.)

This is the third January in which I have thought about work "well at least I won't be here by Christmas". Let's hope it comes true for all of us left-behinds this year....

It's hard; be kind to yourself.

Sara in London xxx

At 2:14 PM, Blogger E. said...

Oh my G-d, Mare, what a nightmare. You're so right -- everytime any female announces that she has "news," it's like an anvil immediately materializes right over my head. I wish I were there so I could make you toast with butter and honey, and some tea. Love you.

At 2:47 PM, Blogger sweetisu said...

That totally blows. I'm so sorry.

Step Seventeen: This day is not to be repeated in any remote manner.

At 3:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read this and remembered, vividly, why and how I quit my job. All at once it was just too difficult to hear the intimate details from almost-friends without divulging my own. And you just can't "share" another miscarriage over lunch like you can an expected baby. At least, I couldn't.

So I just went home.

I am not offering that as a solution, just letting you know that I know how painful this must have been for you and I am sorry. We should talk. I'll email you.

Julia S.

At 4:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, Mare. Really sorry.
Love you lots and lots. And you're right... you are not alone.

At 4:56 PM, Blogger Jen said...

Oh, shit, sweetie. I'm so sorry. If you're like me (and in this respect I suspect that you are), it's the utter lack of control that's so alarming--that if you're someone who normally manages the "stiff upper lip," the descent into uncontrolled public emotion is really frightening. Yet another example of how infertility causes you to say or do things you'd have thought unimaginable in the past.

I'm so impressed by how you've survived as long and as well as you have, given your lack of an office with a door. Without a door, all of my many office crying fits would be public.

Hugs, sweetie. So sorry you had to go through that crap.

At 6:24 PM, Blogger Toni said...

So sorry you had to go through those steps. Thinking of you....

At 7:09 PM, Blogger April said...

Just wanted to say I'm thinking of you.

You are not alone. We're here.

At 9:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry, what a crappy day. I'm thinking of you.

No, you're very much not alone.

This is why the only way I would agree to go back to work is to not work in a traditional office environment, but in a private home. It's just me and one other 60 year old employee -- a very safe environment from pregnancy announcements. I was just melting down too often before and it's one of the reasons I quit work.

Take care of yourself.


At 12:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shit. That really, REALLY sounds like a nightmare. I'm sorry for your terrible, awful, no-good day. I think most of us have been there. Love, Heidi (lost and finding)

At 1:33 AM, Blogger NSR said...

Ugh. I'm sorry to hear of your bad day. I hope you are feeling better. You are definitely not alone.

At 1:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so sorry. I think that is one of the things being infertile taught me - that one person's good news can be the last thing someone else needs to hear.

Crying at work is the worst -- especially when you don't see it coming.

If I could send you some chocolate I would...


At 6:32 AM, Blogger Kristin said...

I am so sorry. A friend just told me that if she lived close enough, we would drink champagne and eat choclate whenever the shitfest began. I wish I lived close enough to do that for you.

At 2:32 PM, Blogger Cricket said...

I'm so there.

I hope this gives them a positive glimpse into all that is you.

I got ambushed this week - my ex's new wife. He divorced me less than 2 yrs ago, declaring, "No pregnancy!" I was robbed.

This stuff sucks.


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