Friday, December 7, 2007

Worst. Christmas Party. Ever.

Wow -- I was flattered to be mentioned by the Stirrup Queen herself in her Friday blog roundup for my recent post about being busy.

In the same post, Mel mentioned Julie's blog at Redbook, and her recent post about coping with pregnancy announcements. It was fun (well, maybe more like horrifying in some cases) to read some of the comments that followed, with people chiming in with their own Worst Pregnancy Announcement Story.

My absolute Worst Pregnancy Announcement Story forms part of the story of my Worst. Christmas Party. Ever. Not this year's party (which will be next week). This was almost exactly nine years ago, just before Christmas 1998.

As background, earlier that year, I was pregnant for the first and only time in my life (pre-infertility treatments, but after 2.5 years of ttc ourselves), at the same time as another woman from a different area of my department. She was due in mid-October, I was due in mid-November. We did not know each other well, but bonded by comparing notes whenever we ran into each other in the hallway or the photocopy room, and went to lunch and shopped for maternity clothes together a few times. My daughter was stillborn in August when I was six months along, and I returned to work a week before she departed on maternity leave in October. She had a girl (of course).

I slogged my way through the madness of year end (at a time when I kept thinking I should have been on leave myself, enjoying my new baby), and found myself really looking forward to kicking back with my colleagues & enjoying myself at the office Christmas party, which was being held at a downtown bar. I had barely been there a half hour when who walks in but the new mom -- AND her baby! Of course, all the women immediately flocked around the little pink bundle in her arms.

To say I was stunned would be an understatement. (Infertility & loss considerations totally aside, I was amazed that anyone would want to haul a two-month-old baby all the way downtown to a noisy, smoky (non-smoking laws not yet enacted for bars) in the dead of winter. All I could think was that she really must have been dying to get out of the house.) I felt like I had just been sucker punched in the gut. Somehow I managed to squeak out a few words of congratulations to the new mom. She could barely look me in the face. It was a horribly awkward moment for both of us.

Another co-worker/friend, whom I'd become close to post-loss after she approached me with her sympathy & told me about her own ttc struggles (& who had seen the look on my face), came over to me and said, "Oh my gosh, we should have told you she was coming." I said, "Oh, you think??" -- excused myself & headed for the washroom, where I spent the next half hour locked in a cubicle, sobbing. I know several people saw me go, & the emotional state I was in. Nobody came to comfort me or find out if I was OK. What an absolute nightmare.

After awhile, I pulled myself together, splashed some cold water on my face, repaired my makeup and returned to the party -- staying on the opposite side of the room from the new mom and baby! -- and tried to think about what to do next. I did NOT want to stay -- the party had totally lost any appeal for me -- but my husband was at his own Christmas party, and (pre-cellphone days) we had agreed to meet at the train station and head home together around 9 o'clock. It was still only about 6:30. How to make a graceful exit? And what to do until 9 p.m.?

Just then, my boss announced she was leaving. I said, "I'll walk with you to the train station" & got my coat. As we left and trudged along the snowy sidewalk, I said to her, "Well, that was awkward." She said, "What?" and I said, "(New mom coworker) showing up with the baby." She said, "Oh Lori, there's going to be a lot more babies." And proceeded to tell me that not just one, not just two, but THREE other women in the department had just announced their pregnancies earlier that day!

I don't remember much more about that evening. I just couldn't believe that I was going to have to spend the next seven months or so working alongside THREE happily pregnant women. I still had two hours to kill before meeting dh. I bought a bottle of water & the latest issue of People magazine, & sat numbly reading the same two paragraphs over and over while train after train rumbled in and out of the station.

In the year that followed (1999), seven MORE women in my office got pregnant, for a grand total of 10 pregnancies in 12 months. Of course, all 10 had healthy babies (which they then proceeded to parade in & out of the office). And of course, there have been many more in the years since then. In the 21 years that I've been with this department, mine is still one of the very few loss stories (at least, that I know about).

Needless to say, I have never felt quite the same about the Christmas party (or office parties in general) since then.

12 comments:

  1. Who could blame you for lacking the love for holiday parties. I can't believe she brought the baby knowing you would be there. I also can't believe no one had the sense to warn you. Worse yet that none of them followed you to the bathroom for support. I wonder if they know how horrible that was for you. Probably not, right?

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  2. Yep, that would be an awful Christmas party. I'm sorry. There are some insensitive people out there, aren't there? Sigh....

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  3. OH MY GOD! I thought it was bad when I started reading but it just kept getting worse and worse. I'm amazed you survived. I'm thinking they would have required a straight jacket for me. Wow. Definitely worst Christmas party ever.

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  4. That is incredibly indescribably painful. I can't imagine how they can be so thoughtless, clueless, and unempathetic. do you still work with these morons? I sure hope not.

    Andie

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  5. Hi Loribeth,

    I was just surfing the net and stumbled across your blog. My baby boy was born at 22 weeks this past May. He died a few hours after birth. We have also suffered 2 miscarriages. When I was pregnant there were 4 other women in my department who were also. Of course they all got their babies. The one that was due 2 weeks after my baby was supposed to be born, came back to work today. Her little girl is nearly 3 months old. It hurts like hell having to listen to her describe how tired she is and listen to everyone comment on how fantastic she looks. The other 2 women brought their babies into work and I was actually called into the tearoom by someone else to "come look at the babies". I just took off and found a spot to cry and cry. People just don't understand what it is like. To be a mother and to have your child die is something that you can never get over. It's been a bad day for me. I know I'm green with envy about her baby girl and it's probably wrong to be jealous. Thanks for sharing, it makes me realise that its ok to have these feelings and I'm not the only one. Thank you.

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  6. http://southcitysadie.typepad.com/Monday, December 10, 2007 9:47:00 AM

    Holy crap. How awful. That's the kind of painful memory that stays with you forever.

    At my book club holiday party last year, a woman who hadn't been to club all year showed up with her 5-week-old daughter (who had an awesome literary icon name, damn it) and then proceeded to breastfeed her at the party. I could hear the little suckling and mewing sounds beneath the blanket. Most of the other members are middle aged or older, so the fuss over this baby was tremendous and of the grandmotherly type. A friend who is my age and is herself is the child of IF -- she was born after 8 years of TTC, and her twin sister died at birth -- made sure that I was OK and kept my wine glass filled. My hands were too shaky. It really helped to have her by my side. I'm sorry you were so completely alone.

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  7. Why are people so clueless? It makes me sad that no one came to check on you. Being aware of others feelings is a pretty basic skill, come on!!

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  8. Oh, god, what a horrible night.....The worst part of your story was thinking of you in that cubicle, with no one giving a damn.....I understand that people often don't know what to say or how to repond to others' grief, but to do absolutely Nothing when someone is in such obvious pain is just inexcusable. I'm so very sorry you had to deal with that alone.

    I can't help but send some *hugs*

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  9. Aww! thank you all so much for the sympathy. I probably should reinforce that this WAS nine years ago. Andie, there are still a few people around who would have been there (the boss I walked to the train station with, for one), but turnover being what it is, most of my present co-workers probably have no idea that I was ever pregnant, let alone went through a stillbirth.

    The fact that I rarely attend office parties anymore, though, is testimony to the lingering effects of that night. (Although aging probably has a lot to do with it too, lol.)

    Green Apple Cat, welcome & (((hugs))). And Ellen, so glad you had a friend who understands looking out for you.

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  10. Holy shit...that is the Xmas party from hell. I can't imagine the insensitivity. Thank you so much for sharing--I know I'm not the only one!

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  11. That is awful. I can relate to the pain you feel. They are in another world and can never even imagine how it must feel.

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