I dislike that pregnancy forces me to bring my personal life into the office. I don't have pictures of my kids on my desk, I am vague when curious patients ask where I live and on Monday mornings I never volunteer my weekend activities to the staff.
But this pregnant belly, no matter how discreetly swathed in muted professional clothes, begs comment from everybody.
* * *
A patient comes to see me for follow-up after a miscarriage. I am acutely aware of how difficult it might be for her to see her doctor pregnant.
As I call her from the waiting room I feel that I am flaunting my fertility. I will my belly to shrink down a little, to look less jaunty, but her gaze is fixed on it as she approaches. She grabs my arm, looks at me earnestly, and says, "I'm happy for you. I really am." And I can tell - she really is - and I am moved by her graciousness.
* * *
I'm signing off results, standing in the reception area with my Sharpie fineliner in hand and a stack of cream-coloured files in front of me. One of the secretaries swivels around in her chair. "Hi, Mama!" she exclaims. I look up briefly, say hello, and slide the next chart towards me.
She looks me up and down and beams. "When I was pregnant with my first . . . " she begins, and I only half-listen as I methodically sign off hemoglobin levels and ultrasound reports.
I snap to attention, though, when I hear, "You've even got a bit of a booty now, eh?" I turn to look at her, and my expression must have some level of fierceness to it because she quickly amends, "Only a very small one, though," and turns hastily back to her keyboard.
* * *
I have lunch with a colleague in town for a conference, a forty-something man with no children, and he asks what benefits I receive as a member of our provincial medical association. I list them: CME funds, malpractice insurance, an RRSP program, maternity leave benefits --
He interrupts me. "Why should others pay for your lifestyle choice?" he asks bitterly. He gives a short diatribe on the injustices borne by childless men. I try to interject but give up when he complains about having to pay taxes for neighbourhood schools which don't benefit him directly.
"If you get a leave to have a baby, I should get paid leave to take a water-colour painting course," he concludes.
A few days later he swings by my office. He sets a steaming coffee on my desk and offers, "You can have as many children as you want, Martina."