This blog addresses various emotional aspects of experiencing infertility. It is written by a clinical psychologist who specializes in infertility counseling. Thank you for reading, and best of luck with your journey!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The RE's waiting room: a world unto itself?

During my eleven on-and-off years as an infertility patient, I logged an impressive number of hours in the waiting room of various infertility clinics, and I have a confession to make:  although I appeared to be calmly reading a magazine and minding my own business, I really wasn't.  Instead, I was watching, listening, and observing everything that went on with the staff of the clinic and the other clients.  And boy, did I see and hear a lot  of interesting things!   Of course many of the things were what you would expect; couples arguing, other clients in various stages of happiness or distress, and the occasional awkward meeting of two acquaintances, both obviously wanting to keep their treatment private, who were now forced to interact.  As interesting as those events were to a nosy nelly like myself, for me the most fascinating occurrences were the subtle looks and interactions between patients.

For instance, when I first began infertility treatment, I was in my very early thirties, and at the time, I looked much younger than my age (unfortunately, I do not have this problem anymore).  On numerous occasions, if a woman in her late 30's or 40's was in the waiting room with me, she would surreptitiously give me the once over, and then start looking really annoyed.  Once, a fellow patient started asking me questions about where I was from and if I went to school, and if I lived with my parents, which all seemed very strange, until it hit me--she thought I was an egg donor! The irony of that situation is that despite my relative youth, my underachieving ovaries were what had me sitting in that waiting room in the first place.  These looks and questions were a little upsetting to me--I kept thinking, "Here we all are in a difficult situation, and we are still making assumptions and being competitive?  Is no place sacred?"

One another occasion, I was in the waiting room during an IVF cycle, and there were a bunch of women who obviously knew each other and lived close to each other. It was as if my RE had offered a discount to their city block.  Apparently they all lived near the RE too, and they were having boastful conversations  for about how many times they had run into Dr. X at the Starbucks, the gym, the grocery store, jockeying for position about who knew him the best.  For his part, I heard Dr. X tell the nurses that this was obviously a waiting room full of his patients, as opposed to the patients of his partners, because his patients were clearly the most friendly and attractive.  Again, I found myself being irritated and annoyed. 

As for me, I spent a lot of the time in the waiting room feeling like the most infertile person in the world.  In my darker days, as someone would walk in, I would find myself thinking that she would get pregnant before me.  My clinic had us sign in with chart numbers that were sequential, and thus I could see that I always had the lowest number--hence I had been going there the longest. 

I'm curious to know about the waiting room experiences of others.  What was your most intresting experience or observation?  And do you have any suggestions about how clinics could make their waiting rooms more comfortable?

Thank you so much for reading for your comments, and if you ever have a question or suggestion, don't hesitate to email me at lisarouff@gmail.com.


  1. I hate the waiting room!

    The occasion that takes the cake for me - I had had an 11something appointment that was not full of such great news. I came out of the back and into the waiting room around noon, and there was a large crowd of pregnant women, setting up for a baby shower for one of the employees.

    I mean, really? In an RE's office we can't at least make sure all the patients are out first?

  2. I think chair configuration is important. I hate when the chairs are all facing forward like a classroom, where all who are waiting are pointed right at the check in desk. Hardly a private situation and although people pretend they are reading or looking at their phones...I can feel ten pairs of eyes all over me. Also, loathe when the RE counter is empty (lunch hour or meeting calls the desk clerk away) and a sign is propped up directing RE patients next door to the OB office. Especially fun when one is carrying a giant container of donor sperm. Gack.

  3. Great post! I do find myself judging people in the waiting room (especially when they plop down next to me, on the cell phone, exclaiming, "No mom, I can't today. I'm getting blood drawn today for some estro... whatever.") I did have a rather boisterous woman start asking me if I was "doing them shots" and if it was making me "have them hot flashes" one time. While it caught me off guard at first, it was really refreshing! I'd like to be more open to others in the waiting room (those that don't come in with kids in tow), but I think part of me is afraid to hear their stories. I'm afraid I'll start comparing myself to them, I guess.

  4. I was just writing about this on my blog actually... As much as I hate the chaos of the NHS clinic where we're having treatment I do really love looking around and seeing all the different kinds of people in there - huge spread of ages (though probably more late 30s/early 40s women), many languages, kinds of dress.

  5. Once I was in our clinic's waiting room and there was a sensationalist story of the morning TV show about women waiting too long to start a family and resorting to IVF - the usual rubbish. Weirdly, no-one acknowledged it, we all just stared at our magazines and iPhones.

  6. I always hated when there were children or babies in the waiting room. I always wished there was a policy as a respect to the sensitivity of other patients that your children not attend your visits.

    I also struggled with infertility for over a decade and found myself either curious or judging others in the various waiting rooms I sat in. I also wondered how everyone in there was affording treatment, like if insurance was covering or if it was a huge burden financially. Just my curiosity as I was likely trying to relate to the other patients without actually talking to them.

    I usually gave a crooked, yet empathetic smile to those I made eye contact with. As if to say, I feel your pain- I'm in the same boat.