Listen, I spend far too much time thinking about (read: obsessing over) the social emotional health of my staff. I check in too often. I will occasionally overstep. I have their backs. I don’t know any other way to be.
As I cleaned up my Drive, I stumbled upon a piece I wrote over ten years ago that, though unpublished and apropos of nothing, helps to bring into focus why I choose to lead the way I do. Ultimately, our humanity in any field, but particularly in education, is what leads us to and makes it nearly impossible to leave each other. We all have “stuff,” and the moment we forget that, we’re doomed.
So here we go. From the fall of 2009:
WTF is IVF? The other side of infertility
I’ve really only been fooled by women twice in my life.
When I turned 21, my mom told me I needed to go to the proctologist for a consult because “you know what happened to your father.” I agreed, begrudgingly, and made my appointment with the Ass-Man. While the first ten minutes would fall under the category of a consult, as my mom had promised, the final five would belong under the more appropriate banner of “exploration.” When the doctor said, rather matter-of-factly, “while you’re here, let’s just have a look,” I’ll never forget the silent arsenal of swear words I unleashed at my mom, no doubt smiling to herself over her duplicitous deception, which ended with some combination of fingers probing my caboose.
The second time I was duped was when my wife talked me into visiting our fertility doctor with her because it would help me understand what she could only loosely translate after each weekly visit. I hadn’t been putting off joining my wife for any particular reason. Besides, she assured me that my presence was really only necessary in cup form during the early stages of the process. Again, I marched dutifully to yet another doctor’s office, still reeling from the last time I was asked to go some fifteen years ago, and again, I was hoodwinked.
What I thought was going to be a routine meet-and-greet, “you’re-the-husband-I-keep-hearing-about” kind of appointment rapidly disintegrated into a “now-that-your-wife-is-in-the-stirrups-do-you-want-to-see-her-ovaries” fright fest. No amount of ER episodes or George Romero films could have prepared me for that legs-up position usually saved for nights when we’ve both had a bit too much to drink.
But that became our life, and as I hopped, skipped, and slid over fertility handbooks, how-tos, and metric equations on a regular basis, I noticed that there really was a dearth of literature about infertility from a man’s perspective. Ironically, the books my wife had wallpapered our house with seemed to borrow titles from their bizarro world counterparts in pornography. In the same way that porn gives us The Boobyguard (nee: The Bodyguard), I woke up to find A Few Good Eggs (nee: A Few Good Men) staring up at me from under our bed. As I thumbed through it, I was met with a cornucopia of now germane phrases and acronyms I once thought reserved for 400 level grad school courses in Anatomy and Physiology.
No longer would my acronymic lexicon be limited to DVD, DVR, and PS3. From then on, I’d have intimate knowledge of any combination of the following: PCO (Polycystic Ovaries, from which my wife suffers), HSG (Hysterosalpingogram, a horrifying procedure featuring an unclogging of the female machinery through the use of dye inserted directly into the uterus), IUI (Intra-Uterine Insemination, the gynecological version of “capture the flag,” which we tried once and then bagged), and COH (Controlled Ovarian Hyper Stimulation, which amounts to Roger Clemens doses of uterine steroid injections meant to get those “few good eggs” ready to party).
If that weren’t enough, my actual vocabulary had been sullied as a result of words like retrieval (what my baseball players do after an overthrow), sample (borrowing old riffs and chord progressions to create, largely, hip-hop jams), and even shot (Jolly Rancher, Lemon Drop, Mind Eraser) morphing into pregnancy specific terms far superior in form and function to their predecessors.
Then came the mother lode of all OB/GYN acronyms, proven to cause a sigh of resignation or a cheer of jubilation, in one fell swoop, depending on the clients to whom it is spoken.
IVF (In Vitro Fertilization).
After our woefully unsuccessful IUI attempt, our doctor breathed this possibility in our general direction, which elicited a distinctly antithetical response from each of us.
Me: So, we still have a shot?
Wife: No, this is it. This is our last shot; then it’s over.
The fact that three letters could cause euphoria and devastation at the same time speaks to the procedure’s awesome power to create life or to forsake it. What once was a perpetual education in science was now a profound and life-altering test of faith…in science.
Almost four years ago, we ventured into our first IVF retrieval and transfer process. One miscarriage and another IVF later, we had our daughter, Abby, a process that took two-and-a-half years.
Finally, my wife and I could add three more letters each to our life’s Pinterest board.
M-O-M and D-A-D.
Never forget the awesome responsibility you have to protect, support, nurture, challenge, and connect with your staff.
Because we all have “stuff.”
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