Waterloo Counseling

Super-Secret Post
Pertaining to Month 27

As promised, here separately is the account of our private couple’s pre-treatment counseling session.

I was initially excited to have a counseling session as part of the process, thinking it would give us a chance to talk about some stuff with a moderator present. Instead I found the session extremely upsetting, feeling misjudged and misunderstood by someone who took 20 minutes to completely sum me up.

I’m sure my husband, a slightly-less biased observer, would summarize the content of our conversation differently. But this is what I took away from the visit which is really all I can work with given that I don’t have a recording or transcript to pour over and reanalyze.

During a week I was being penetrated by a machine wielded by a different stranger every day, and after waiting 20 minutes in a room plastered with baby pictures and surrounded by pregnant women (a waiting room usually used for routine obstetric ultrasounds), our therapist was deeply concerned at how depressed I looked. Excuse me, but this is a depressing endeavor and if you don’t get that, what have you been doing for the last 17 years or how ridiculously stoic are the other patients?

Thank goodness I knew from my Vancouver support group that my feelings are normal; if it weren’t for them, this counselor would have me convinced I was having an atypical reaction to my situation.

The crowning misunderstanding was her deciding that, since it was really hard to move away from school to Vancouver not knowing anyone there, I must not like change. I pointed out that I was thrilled to move back to Waterloo from Vancouver even though everything changed (not to mention I broke out of inertia to quit my unsatisfying job) and that I was sad before because the move to Vancouver was very isolating. She replied, “But it *was* a change.”

Despite my insistence that the “bank up embryos” scheme from the Vancouver clinic a) was not my idea, and b) not something I was demanding from this clinic, but just asking about, she characterized my clinging to a way to make the IVF a positive AND my feelings of guilt and failure as part of being a perfectionist. OK, I have perfectionistic tendencies, but I have coping mechanisms to keep myself from imposing them on others. Besides, every other resource I’ve seeked out has stated that feelings of guilt and failure are normal, and you are assigning one of my more-negative personality traits (perfectionism) as a catalyst to those feelings, making me think you mean I’m having an atypical response to infertility fueled by my personality.

Or, as I took away from the discussion, it’s my own fault I’m having such a negative response to spending a year in treatment and taking nothing away except a chemical pregnancy.

It was embarrassing having her decide these things about me based on 20 minutes of background, and I was devastated that she thought I was being unreasonable towards others with my coping.

Cherry on top: as we were leaving, one of us said something along the lines of hoping everything working out (she said it could and I said I hope so, or I said I hope it all works out, or something) and she added, “I’m sure it will.” No. No no no no no. No one can be sure this will work out for us, and I wasn’t going to let someone in her position claim it was. I immediately said “Please don’t say that everything will work out.” “But I didn’t,” she said, taken aback. Like I had imagined it. I had to point out that saying “I’m sure it will” to “I hope [it will work out]” IS INDEED SAYING IT WILL WORK OUT. WORDS HAVE MEANING EVEN WHEN THEY ARE A PART OF LITTLE SOCIAL SCRIPTS.

So, still not a fan of therapy.

2 Responses to Waterloo Counseling

  1. Carrie says:

    Ok, that woman was brutal. Get a different therapist. Obviously not helpful in general, and not helpful to you specifically. I can’t imagine what you have been going through and that woman made it all worse for no reason.

    And you are bang on right about calling her on her last comment. I carefully chose my words when responding to students at work to avoid making promises that can’t be kept, even if they are part of a usual social script, or even if my intentions are good. If the decision is out of my control, I don’t say things like “everything will be fine” because I can’t predict the future.

    I hope you can find another support group or someone else to work through everything with in Ottawa. Take care.

    • Kaitlyn says:

      Thanks. We’re trying out the on-staff psychologist at our current clinic — apparently we’re not feeling prejudicial against on-staff support. I wonder if that’s how this counselor stayed on… maybe usually she only handles background information on how the couple operates in a relationship, and doesn’t usually support people’s struggles with the entire process.

      Or maybe it’s just my skewed perspective and I wasn’t ready to look inward and really could handle things better if I had different expectations for myself… but I still wish that had been approached differently.

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