Rule #1 of the fertility doctor: No eye contact allowed in the waiting room
The first thing I noticed when I started going to the fertility doctor were the sheer amount of women in the waiting room of all ages and from all walks of life. It was honestly comforting. I thought, “It’s not just me!”
The second thing I noticed was that no one looked up from their phones or made eye contact with one another. Every time I had an appointment I would try to smile at the other women in the waiting room and start a friendly conversation. It almost never worked, and it was incredibly frustrating. At that time, I was at the beginning of my fertility journey, confused, isolated, and starving for someone to explain to me how things worked. I thought maybe these women could offer me the support I needed since they were going through it too, but it never seemed like they were interested in chatting, especially not at 7 am.
Looking back, I don’t blame them. But I still wonder sometimes, why is it that in the one place where you can find others going through a similar experience as you, no one takes advantage of this? In a room full of people going through the same heart-wrenching and isolating process, wouldn’t you want to meet and exchange phone numbers with others? I know I did. Moreover, why don’t fertility clinics offer meet-and-greets or support groups for patients going through infertility?
Part of me knows the reason why, and it's because everyone’s story is so different. Age, egg quality, and finances all play a part. I've said it before, but infertility is not a one-size-fits-all process. I’m sure every person in every fertility clinic waiting room is tempted to reach out to the others there for help and support. But what if the girl with the smiling face in the corner is already 5 weeks pregnant? That would be devastating. What if another one is full of hope on her first IUI cycle and you’re already jaded as you embark on your second IVF cycle? What if one already has kids at home, and this is just a run-of-the-mill frozen embryo transfer for her, meanwhile you're not sure if you'll ever be a mother? When it already seems like everyone around you is getting pregnant, I understand why these women wouldn’t want to have to face comparing their infertility journeys to others' on top of that.
Still, I’ve seen it work the other way as well. There was one time in my year of fertility doctor’s appointments where a woman started chatting with just about everyone in the waiting room. She had recently started the process and obviously had no idea about the unspoken waiting room rules. Everyone in the waiting room started chatting, and as a result I made a friend who I still text to this day. We’ve been such an invaluable source of support for one another that I can’t help but think of all of the other women I could have connected with had one of us just made eye contact or exchanged friendly conversation one morning.
So, next time you’re in the waiting room at your fertility clinic, give the other women in the room a smile or a nod. Who knows, they might just smile back!