Friday, August 31, 2012

Crossing Over

As a part of my work as a teacher, we are required to do professional development several times a year. These workshops vary in content and quality. Sometimes they are technology workshops about how to better utilize Smartboards or software. Lately, there have been several related to curriculum design, mostly focusing on STEM/STEAM. My favorites though focus on inclusiveness and diversity in education. Yesterday, we did a three-hour workshop on majority and minority groups, exploring what it feels like to be in both.

During the workshop, we all (about 60 of us) stood on one side of the room. Then, as a scenario was posed, you crossed the room to the empty side, if the scenario applied to you. Some of them were innocuous, such as "Cross over if you grew up outside of New England." Once you got to the other side, you could choose to give more information about your crossing, or not.

This sounds simple, but it was really emotionally challenging at times. The feeling of standing on the side of the room with fewer or no other people with you was really outside my comfort zone. As we worked through the scenarios, they got more and more personal. Some other interesting ones posed were things like, "Cross if you:
- have been the only one of your culture or race within a workplace
- have ever been targeted by police simply because of who you are
- have ever felt targeted by a stranger because of who you are
- have felt embarrassed to tell people whether you went to college or where you attended
- lost a job opportunity because of something about your background
- have suffered from a life-threatening disease or injury
- are adopted
- been a single parent
- married to someone of another culture or race"

Then it got really interesting. The facilitator asked:
- "Cross over if you have ever had feelings of discrimination or discomfort around the question of why you don't have children, or your plans to do so."

I thought about whether to cross the room for a few seconds. As I quickly had to make the decision whether to "come out" to my colleagues, my inner voice became clear. I had to do it. I had to be honest with myself and stop hiding, even if I had to do it by myself. It was a little scary, but I've learned from personal experience that exposing myself in this way can often open a door to incredible conversation with someone else, who might also be struggling. So, I forced my feet to move into the empty space, with lots and lots of eyes on me. Luckily, as I glanced up, those eyes were full of warmth, support, and a little bit of shock.

Then, I got lucky. Within my school, I'm close with three other women who are either currently or have gone through infertility treatment in the past. One is pregnant, due a month after me (after seeing my RE!) and two are still in treatment. The other woman who is pregnant smiled at me, and then crossed over to stand at my side. The other two still TTC stayed where they were.

A second later, another co-worker came to stand near us, one I hadn't expected. This woman is a teacher I have worked with for several years, and over last year became quite unpredictable with some angry outbursts and general aggression. It suddenly dawned on me why there had been such a change in her personality.

All three of us took the opportunity to speak about why we crossed over. I said that I crossed over because it took us a lot of effort to attain this pregnancy, after years of being asked when I would have children. I spoke to the pain of people assuming that if you are young and married, that children are an assumed inevitability.  My pregnant friend spoke to not only how difficult it was to watch co-workers get pregnant while she was still struggling, but also the guilt of currently being pregnant, knowing people close to you are still struggling. We both ended with how strange it feels to be on the other side.

The third woman spoke too. She talked about how she is unable to have children and watching us be pregnant is very painful for her. Instead of being hurt by her words, I felt tremendous empathy for her. How many times have I been in her shoes? How many times did I wish I could say the exact same thing?

After the workshop, I wrote to her and expressed my support. I gave her a bit more background of my situation and offered to speak to her about her process if she ever wanted to or felt comfortable doing so. About 30 seconds after sending my email, she responded in a really appreciative way. We made a date to take a walk after the first week of school and discuss her situation.

If I've learned nothing else from my infertility experience, it's that if you are willing to make yourself vulnerable and exposed to others, the payoff can be huge. Crossing that room may have been hard for me, but maybe it will make her journey just a teeny, tiny bit easier.

Friday, August 24, 2012

My To-Do Lists have To-Do Lists

I don't know where the summer went. One minute, I was wrapping up end-of-year meetings at school, and the next I'm preparing to return on Monday. Although every summer goes quickly for me, this one really seemed jam packed. Between taking a few small trips, searching for day care, doctor's appointments, projects, tutoring, a week in Maine, and working on some curriculum material, it just flew.

Monday, I'll be back at school. Once again, I'll turn into "Mrs. HRF." It's a little known fact that teachers get just as nervous about the new school year as students do. I always get some nerves during this last week of summer, but this year I'm even more anxious. The truth is, I'm really going to have to dig deep to give my normal 100% at school this fall. Not only am I preoccupied with The Nugget but there will also be two other brand spanking new curriculum initiatives in my classroom, which puts me pretty far out of my comfort zone. After eight years of teaching, I'm having to completely change the way I teach. It's a lot to handle, knowing I'll miss 12 weeks of it. 

The best way I know to handle anxiety is to talk about it and write things down. So, this week, I made a pretty comprehensive Baby To-Do list for KG and I to tackle. Holy crap. By the end, the list is at least 20 items long, including cleaning tasks, nursery prep, appointments, phone calls, and more. Then I realized some items on the list necessitated another list, and a post-it.

What I worry about most is how there is going to be enough of me to go around. Logically, I know KG will help me get through the list of practicalities. He will help me clean out our office, move it to another room, and create a nursery. We will rent a truck and pick up the furniture we are receiving from friends and family. We will scrub this place down before the shower. The carpet will get shampooed. Somehow, by the time this baby arrives, the tedious stuff will happen, even though it feels daunting.

I'm more worried about how to accomplish all that, AND be a good teacher, good wife, good friend, and a prepared mama. Then that snowballs into worrying about how I'm going to handle training a maternity leave sub and going back to work in April, after my leave. There almost isn't room right now to be concerned with things like actual parenting and infant care!

I know a lot of my anxiety is purely the anticipation. Once I start again, I'll have to figure out how to manage it all. KG also made a good point the other day. He said I might need to learn how to be okay with not being able to do everything I did before. I'll need to learn how to say no to certain duties, admit when I'm tired, and get my work ego in check. All true.

Thank goodness, just when I'm near meltdown, The Nugget reminds me of the real priority with a kick, nudge, or push.
PSA: RESOLVE is asking for video submissions for this campaign. I am considering making one, and you should too.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Back from Paradise

I promise there is a blog post in the works. But, since we just got back from Maine, it might take me another day or two.

In the meantime, I am in major post-trip depression, because the week was SO wonderful. If you've never been to Mt. Desert Island, or Acadia National Park, make that happen soon.

Here is a little taste of why I never wanted to come home.

Hodgdon Pond, view from our dock

ideal mode of transportation

Yup, that's a hammock in front of our deck
The Bubbles, near Jordan Pond
 Oh yeah, and I hit 20 weeks. Halfway there. To celebrate, The Nugget started to move and kick.

This is the look of a happy, relaxed woman.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Happy Birthday, My Little Blog

Waiting for Little Feet is officially one year old today.

I don't know if I can accurately articulate the feelings I have about the last year of my life, and how important the blog has become. When I went back to re-read the first post I was trembling, remembering how I felt at that point. By the time I started blogging, we'd been TTC for a year and a half. We had already lost a baby, and I hadn't ovulated in months. My bathroom was filled with ovulation tests. I was ready to throw the stupid basal thermometer out the window, as I figured out how useless it was with PCOS. There were tears, tears, and more tears. I felt lost, worried, and mostly scared. I didn't know if I would ever be pregnant again.

Little did I know about what the next 12 months would hold for us. There was the good, (the very good), the bad, and the ugly.

What I really couldn't conceive of  (no pun intended) in August of 2011 was how much joy was ahead of us, to balance the pain. There were so many days when I was ready to give up and move on to living a life without the torment of infertility treatment. In many ways, I was more prepared for that outcome than our current successful pregnancy. All of that makes me so intensely grateful for this baby and every day I can still call myself pregnant.

Reading blogs provided constant comfort for me then, and still does. I finally got the nerve (with a lot of encouragement from the best husband on earth) to start my own blog, as an outlet and a way to reach out for support. That's exactly what blogging gives to me - way to process all I think about and feel without losing my mind. Every time I post, the wave of relief I feel after pouring my heart out, and the subsequent smiles I get from comments, makes it all better. 

I'm indebted to those of you who continue to stick with me and read my little blog, in the sea of other blogs that are out there. I have been lucky enough to meet some of you, email with many of you, and have received an overwhelming amount of support from you.

Thanks so much for making my blogging life so rich.

Happy Birthday, my little blog.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Future of Medicine aka My Doctor Left Me for Someone Wealthier

I think I've spoken before about my primary care doctor. We'll call him Dr. Wonderful. I have to tell you - I love this man. Even though he is in a huge practice with tons of patients, he has never once rushed me through my appointments. He asks not only about my physical health, but also about how KG and I are doing on an emotional level. He kept up to date on all my infertility treatments (since they sent him reports on every single procedure) and trusted my judgement and instincts about my own care. He even trusts me to self diagnose my annual sinus infections, and call in meds for me, without dragging me in for an appointment. He calls me back within hours every single time I leave him a message. I completely trust him with the ickiest of medical issues and even KG is willing to see him, and he hates going to the doctor. Truly, he (along with my RE and my psychiatrist) set the bar for all of my medical care.

My warmest memory of Dr. W. was the night he found out about my failed fertilization during IVF #1. The man called me at 7:00 pm and spoke to me for a half hour about everything I was feeling and gave his opinion on next steps. He stayed after a day full of patients, just to comfort me. I cried after that call, simply because I felt so completely safe and cared for as his patient. 

Then, on Wednesday, I got a letter from Dr. W. At first, when I saw his name on different letterhead, I just assumed he was switching practices (maybe one closer to my house?!).

Then, came the blow.

He is opening his own practice based on the "concierge" model of care. According to the letter, he would be opening a smaller practice, with much more personalized care, but you had to become a member in order to continue to see him. The annual membership fees would cover such things as longer appointment times, an in-house lab, 24/7 phone access to the doctor, wifi and snacks in the waiting room, and lots of other bells and whistles. Additionally, you also need to continue to pay for regular medical insurance to cover the actual office visits, labs, hospitalizations, etc. The fee is simply to join the practice.

How much could this fee possibly be, you might ask? A few hundred a year? A thousand?


We are talking about $5,000 per year for me and KG. $5,000. A number so completely out of reach for us that it isn't even a remote possibility.

When I read the letter, my stomach sank. I immediately searched the internet and got quite the education about this issue. It's becoming more and more popular for PCPs to do this, to avoid pressure from insurance companies to pack in patients, with more and more paperwork. It's a total win for the doctors. Fewer patients, less red tape, appointments that run on time, and better quality of care. Similarly, for those who can afford it, it's a win for the patient too. I mean who wouldn't want all of that?

But I have to tell you, this makes me feel a little sick inside. Simply because I can't afford this extra fee, I am going to lose out on the care of the best doctor I have ever seen. It feels elitist. It feels exclusive. It feels like I am being shut out of an opportunity because I am not among his wealthiest patients. It feels that way, because it's true.

After the sadness, came anger. It just isn't FAIR. I stomped my feet. I pounded my fists. I called my mom to complain (who said her own PCP did this a year ago, but is only charging $300 per year.) Then I called Dr. W. and left a message to please call me back.

And he did. At the end of a long day seeing patients, he did what he always does: called me back promptly to discuss my concerns. He did so with grace and warmth. He explained his point of view (feels like he can't be the doctor he wants to be in his current practice, never sees his family, etc.) and expressed how much he appreciates me as a patient. I couldn't even stay angry. He's just that sweet.

The problem is, I see Dr. Wonderful *maybe* two or three times a year at this point. Other than infertility and the anxiety/depression issues (both covered by insurance), I have no reason to see him, other than physicals and the occasional sicknesses that come with everyday life. So, there is no way I could ever justify the cost to join the practice. So, I made a last ditch effort and asked him about a sliding scale for his fee. He said that I should call and inquire about it in a couple of months, after the new practice is on its feet. In the meantime, he referred me to another doctor and asked about how the pregnancy is going.

Although I can't stay mad at Dr. W. I am thoroughly freaked out by this trend. I know more and more PCPs are going to start following this model, and it scares the shit out of me. Really, it just means the richest people will get the best care, and the rest of us will have to deal with crowded waiting rooms, wait lists, and appointments that never run on time. Maybe this is the way it has been in America on a smaller scale, but it's becoming obvious that the disparity between the haves and the have-nots is going to affect the medical care of more and more people.

For me, it feels personal. It feels like I've been abandoned. It feels like I have one less person in my corner.

So long, Dr. Wonderful.

Anyone else have a PCP who switched to concierge care?

"Mad World," by Tears for Fears