I love my job.
I moan about it, but I love it.
I love the joy it brings. I love the challenge it brings. But, most of all, I love helping people change for themselves and for the sake of their children.
There is no feeling quite so wonderful as rehabilitating a child back into their family home.
I’ve always felt this way, even during my darkest moments in the job.
But, sadly, those darker moments have become more frequent since my fertility battle began.
Like most people, I wanted the holy trinity: a good career, a partner to share my life with and a family of my own.
All of these things seemed relatively achievable for me. Especially when, by the time I started trying for a baby, I already had two out of three. Given how many people around me had children without the other two, I thought the hardest tasks were done.
At least that was my thinking.
It turns out making a baby isn’t as simple as I thought.
Or, at least it hasn’t been that simple for me.
The world of social work is a complicated one at the best of times, and getting the work/life balance just right is a struggle for all of us.
But add to these complications the yearning for a child of your own, while working with a service user group that all have them… well, it’s just grim… very very grim.
To make matters even worse, many people in my office are pregnant right now. Add to this my friends and family members bombarding my Facebook news feed with picture of their bumps and babies… it feels like the world is mocking me.
It feels like I’m all alone and missing out.
It feels as though pregnant woman are stalking me and rubbing their fertility in my face.
They aren’t of course… the people who know are sympathetic and sensitive to what I’m going through… but their platitudes and words of empathy don’t change how bitter, sad and angry it makes me feel.
Some days I go to work and hear service users tell me how they ‘didn’t sign up to this’ when I’m undertaking assessments or planning interventions with them. I hear these things and feel like saying “for the love of God, that’s your child! the child you carried for nine months, the child you promised to love eternally, the child who relies on YOU!”.
But of course I don’t say anything. I keep these feelings locked away.
Locked away so hard it feels like a knot in my stomach. A sickness I can’t shake off. A feeling of anger and frustration, the likes of which I have never known before.
It doesn’t help that I’m surrounded by talk of children all day long, with not being a mother evoking both positive and negative comments:
Service users asking “do you have kids of your own?” and, when I tell them I do not, being told that my lack of children makes me unable to truly understand their struggles.
Colleagues jokingly saying that I’m ‘lucky’ not to have any kids.
Multi-agency professionals feeling I should be grateful that I “get to go home to a child free home”.
Difficult team members claiming that I “don’t know what stress is” when I complain of burnout, because I don’t have kids of my own and get to “switch off” when I go home.
Parents of children who have been taken into care shouting “of course you haven’t got kids, you wouldn’t do this job if you did”.
These are things I hear at work every single day.
Words that hurt every part of me.
Words that bring about dark emotions I never even knew I had.
This is my struggle.
The battle I have every morning before I even get out of bed.
Some mornings I wake up knowing that I have to face home visits to families with children, or a multi-agency meeting about an unborn child.
I think of what is to come and I feel like just lying there and hiding away from it all.
But, I do it. I get out of bed and I go to work.
I get up and I go to work to support these families who need me, despite the constant ache in my heart for a family I can call my own.
Being a social worker is hard enough as it is.
But being a social worker with fertility problems makes it all so much harder.
Every Sunday we feature an anonymous blog from a new ‘secret social worker’. Email me via firstname.lastname@example.org if you’ve got a story to share