Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The kindness of strangers

Yesterday was my semi-annual teeth cleaning appointment with my hygienist at the dentist's office. I take good care of my teeth, so I'm one of those sick-o's that enjoy these kinds of appointments - really it's just one more thing I can control in my out of control life.

I had a new hygienist, she was in her early to mid 40's and totally adorable. She was quirky and witty and very talkative (I guess you have to be when you spend hours on end with people who can't talk back!) among the many things she said during my appointment: (now mind you she doesn't know me from atom and had no idea about our struggles)

You poor thing, you don't have a car? How do you do it? You must be very green. (Yes, let's start by pointing out the sweeping generalizations!)

Are you pregnant? We're going to do some x-rays and we want to make sure you're not pregnant before we do those.

Not pregnant ... now that I can do for you.
Are you looking forward to the holidays? (My answer, with tools in mouth, was "Eh, I gwess;") she then responded with "Well that was positively underwhelming!"
Now, you'd think, based on my play-by-play that she's an irritating character, but she really wasn't. It will get more infertility frightening soon ... but this woman has a way of being endearing somehow.

So you're married? Do you have any kids? No, of course not, who would want to schlep kids around without having a car? What are you going to do, drag them around on a train?

I have three kids. Two are exiting college and the other one is very young. I'm looking forward to the holidays because the older ones will do much of the work and the little one really gets to enjoy the time ... holidays are so much better with kids around to appreciate them.

Now, somehow I was in a wonderful frame of mind yesterday. She whipped out a camera at some point during the appointment and somehow I sported a genuine smile in .23 seconds ... like I said, I enjoy these types of appointments - I always get a good report card with these doctors, so I always leave there proud.

Ok, now you have some unprovoked bleeding with this molar, this means that you've got some sort of mouth/tooth infection that you're fighting, here's a tool to help with that.

Thanks for being such a sweetheart getting your teeth cleaned, you were so pleasant, now I have a couple of follow up questions for you, if you don't mind ... have you had any medical changes since we've seen you last? Like any diagnoses or treatments?

I froze. I have never shared my struggle with my dentist's office, I'm kind of new there and I always have funny conversations with the staff I didn't want to kill their Polly buzz. I could answer this question in many ways ... but did I want to share this delicate part of my life with this near-stranger? (You know I do that way too much) or do I let her enjoy her holidays and not tell her my sad story?

The suspense is killing you, isn't it?

So, of course I opted to ruin her Thanksgiving.

No really, I just wanted to make sure they had the information on my chart because I know hormones affect so much in your body. I responded to her "was there a medical change" question by letting her know that they recently changed my diagnosis from diminished ovarian reserve to potentially PCOS! And how do you think she fielded that?
So do you have high FSH?

Score one for the cougar!! (Sorry any older ladies out there reading this, but she really was a cougar) *Roar* ... and her question prompted the telling of my story. I tried to keep it mellow and uneventful (it's kind of hard though with a story as wild as mine).
So have you been having troubles conceiving?

I told her that we do not have trouble getting pregnant, we have trouble staying pregnant, that we've had some miscarriages. I told her that we have many diagnoses that are not in my charts that she might want to include: Rh Negative, Hashimoto's Hypothyroidism, +AntiOvarian Antibodies, Diminished Ovarian Reserve, and of course Habitual Aborter. When I took a breathe from spewing my laundry list of items, I looked up to a crying woman. She was literally crying.
I am so sorry. That is so painful. I can't believe you've had to endure all of that. It always seems like the ones that deserve to have a family - end up struggling with it. I just can't imagine all the pain you've experienced.

I leaned over and rubbed her arm and said, "it's going to be ok". Yes, this is a major complaint from women who share their stories, that they end up consoling people more than people console them - but it was strangely healing. I think it's because I know God is going to do something good in all of this - someway, someday.

Ok, but score one for the seriously compassionate and loving fertile. She never mentioned anything about her own struggles - who knows if she's ever had any. She just completely blew my socks off in her empathy and heartache ... and I'd known her for 40 minutes. If there are any fertiles out there wondering "how do I respond to a woman who's been down this road?" Well, first off God bless you for reading this and secondly God bless you for even asking the question and pondering it and thirdly ... this is how you do it. With heartache and compassion ... it definitely filled my love bucket. I felt like God reached right out to me and wrapped his arms around my hurting heart.
I had no idea you were dealing with all of this, you seem so cheery and pleasant and sweet.

If my real friends were to read her above comment they would laugh, we all know I'm not considered a "nice" person. It must be a God thing :-) She then proceeded to load up my goody bag with many toothbrushes (in pastel colors, mind you, purposefully ... what? in hopes of eliciting the fertility gods? Who knows!) floss, and instruments.
I look forward to seeing you in 6 months ... hopefully with a big belly.
Yeah, she's very sweet, but I thought that on my way out of the last cleaning. Well, see. God only knows, God only knows ... literally! Ha! (I crack myself up!)


  1. I'm so glad that she was so compassionate and understanding. It's hard when people do the opposite and try to offer advice or solutions. It's so much more helpful for someone to just listen and try to understand.

    Happy Thanksgiving, Polly.

  2. Oh Polly, I cried my eyes out when I read this post. It really touched a nerve with me. I have had so many of those painful conversations where you hold it all in and suffer in silence. Your story ends so beautifully with you telling the truth and actually feeling a sense of peace and compassion from a stranger.

    I hope one day you will not have to endure these types of painful day to day encounters and be blessed with teh baby you deserve.

    I hope we all will.

  3. I have cried reading more blogs today than ever before. I think the one thing we crave most is understanding. Because most will never be able to do this, just to have someone care and feel true empathy is the next best thing. What a kind and wonderful woman.

    Polly, you continue to inspire and amaze me with how you handle situations that can sting and cause us so much hurt. You make me want to share more and help people understand what this is like. Thank you for being you.

    Hmmmm, my 6 month cleaning is on 12/10. Thanks for the reminder too. (;

  4. You are braver than me! I went to my dermatologst a few months ago and when the RN asked me if anything had changed health-wise I said no. I'm such a chicken, but I just couldn't bear to get into the whole thing. I'm glad you had a compassionate woman to spill the beans to. Frankly, I'm impressed she even knew to ask about FSH!

    Thanks for the tax advise on my blog! Happy Thanksiging!

  5. Polly - what a lovely post! I have been putting off going for my cleaning for fear of getting into an uncomfortable conversation.

    I wish some more of the fertiles out there would have the same compassion as her.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you, and lets hope what she said comes true - that you do go with with a big belly for your next cleaning! Hugs.

  6. What a touching encounter. It's nice to be able to be honest about your struggles and be met with compassion in someplace other than the blogosphere. I don't think you ruined her holiday. I think you probably made her appreciate her life all the more.

  7. "So, of course I opted to ruin her Thanksgiving."

    I'm impressed w/ her compassion. Sometimes the fertiles surprise me...

    congrats on the good dentist visit!

  8. What a touching visit to the dentist! Its surprising the compassion we find in strangers.

  9. Thanks so much for sharing this...gave me renewed hope in the compassion of fertiles AND renewed hope in the dentist office. See, unlike you, I HATE that place :-).

    I can see how the whole experience would be healing, and I'm glad you got to experience that kind of compassion.

  10. Wait, people don't think you're nice? Which people? What's wrong with them?

    Also, I love your hygienist! So glad you got your love bucket filled. I get all kinds of love at my dentist's office too (I've been going there for 10 years) -- and they're the only people outside my family, close friends, RE's office, and everyone online who know about my IVFs.

  11. Hi Polly,

    I'm surprised the hygenist even knew what FSH was. Most people I encounter (and of course they are uber fertile) have NO CLUE what FSH is or why having an elevated level matters.

    I've had more than a few bad pregnancy chats with the folks about my dentist's office, so now I explicitly told them to note in my file that we will stay clear of the pregnancy topic. If I am pg, I will let them know.

    I salute you for taking the time to share and educate her. I wish I could do that better, but I'm just so damn angry around fertiles.

    Once again, you shine.
    Class act all the way.

    Happy Thanksgiving, dear friend.

    Love, Erin

  12. Thanks for sharing with us Polly and with the hygentist. It is always uplifting to see a fertile truly compassionate for our situation, every once in awhile they surprise me. I feel like us girls can do a lot of good sharing our story, it opens peoples eyes and SOMETIMES makes them realize how blessed and lucky they are. JUST SOMETIMES... then you have those that just don't give a flying poop about your story and take their reprodution for granted. Glad you had a positive experience. Happy Thanksgiving!

  13. Just wanted to wish you a very Happy, peaceful and wonderful Thanksgiving day.

    God's Multitudes of Blessings

    Best wishes,


  14. I'm so glad that you had a good dental experience. It's the little compassion that comes from those you least expect it that sometimes puts more wind in your sails. Hope you had a great turkey day.

  15. It is so pleasant when we come across such people, isn't it? Anyways, good luck to you!

  16. I'm glad that you have a caring hygienist. My hygienist knows about our IF struggles as well. Funny who we tell our stories to, huh? I wish you the best of luck! :)

  17. But did you have any caveties?

    Many hugs and I hope that you continue to find people who understand the pain and can celebrate when it finally ends.

  18. Polly, what a great post. And I also have consoled a number of people to put them at ease as well. It is nice to find someone that has empathy and positive energy.

  19. the part about giving giving you pastel toothbrushes made me chuckle.

  20. Polly-We haven't seen "Four Christmases", but DH came up with the same names on his own. Totally weird and random!

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