8 Strategies For Balancing Work And IVF
If it feels like going through infertility is a full-time job, well that’s because it kind of is. Except instead of getting paid to be injected with hormones, you’re the one paying an exorbitant amount of money for a chance at having a baby.
Fertility treatments and work can both be stress-inducing, which makes going through IVF or IUIs even harder when you already have a full-time gig. Doctors' appointments can be scheduled at inconvenient times, fertility clinics can be far away, and test results can be emotionally crippling, not to mention the medication side effects and procedure recovery time.
At a minimum, fertility treatments are inconvenient. At a maximum, they can hurt and disrupt your entire career. Treatments and tests do NOT fit neatly into that 9-5 life. So, if you have a full-time job that requires you to be in a certain place by a certain time, and NOT be crying, well, that can be extra hard.
Here are some tips for dealing with fertility treatments when you have a full-time job:
1. Consider confiding in your direct manager.
I consider myself to be incredibly lucky in that my direct manager at the time was A) A woman, B) A mom, and C) an understanding, trusting, deeply empathetic soul. So, deciding to tell her about my IVF procedure was a fairly easy decision. I didn’t want her to see me coming in late and interpret it as a sign of slacking off, so I gave her a heads-up in advance and told her that my husband and I were going to be going through IVF. She was incredibly understanding and knowing that she knew I wasn’t slacking was a big relief for me. I knew she had my back. But again, I’m probably the exception.
If you're facing the tough decision of whether or not to tell your boss you're going through fertility treatments, I say go with your gut. If your employer is a parent themselves, they might be more empathetic to your situation. If your job requires you to travel a lot, then giving your manager a heads-up is probably a must to ensure you can actually be in the same state as your partner. This leads me to my next point...
2. Set realistic expectations.
Most people are not super familiar with the physical or emotional toll of fertility treatments. They don’t understand that it requires constant monitoring, blood draws, pharmacy runs, and injections at very specific times. By being as specific as possible with your employer or manager about what your schedule will look like and why you will be able to better cover your bases and there will be fewer surprises on their end. That said, it’s tough to know details far in advance, so make sure you caveat your discussion with that tidbit, too.
3. Keep it vague.
Conversely, if you don’t feel comfortable being completely transparent with your boss, that’s okay, too. Again, it’s important to trust your gut. If your boss is an intense workaholic without much of a life (and without much empathy), then keeping it vague might fly better. If this is the case, simply tell your manager that you’re having a health issue that requires additional testing and that it will affect your availability and work schedule. It’s okay to keep it very high level. They don’t need to know why.
4. Consider taking some time off.
Not everyone has the luxury of having large swaths of PTO (Paid Time Off), but if you believe your fertility treatments will be incredibly distracting and/or physically distressing (rather than just merely inconvenient), then it might be worth taking a week or two off work entirely. This is especially smart if you have a very stressful job. If possible, try taking a short leave of absence. Again, this isn’t an option for everyone, but it could be a great way to relax and focus on yourself and your own health and not be distracted by work commitments.
5. Strategically schedule your appointments (if you can).
When I was going through IVF, I would make a conscious effort to schedule my appointments either very early in the morning or late in the afternoon. I was lucky in that my fertility clinic opened at 7:30 am and would have a few openings at that time, so I could usually sneak into work around 9 am or 9:30 am and just look like I had slept in a smidge. To me, it felt less disruptive to be able to covertly sneak in late or sneak out of the office a bit early. Again, this is not always an option, but it's good to keep in mind.
6. Ask to temporarily change your work hours.
For some, one benefit to the pandemic has been that it has led to a more flexible and remote work schedule. For others, COVID has made work even more stress-inducing. My advice, if you can, would be to see if it's possible to shift your work hours to better accommodate your RE appointments. If your manager knows that it’s a temporary switch, then it could be a good compromise.
7. Go light on the extracurriculars.
The week(s) of your fertility procedures are going to be inherently more stressful. With timed injections and frequent pharmacy runs, try to limit your after-work activities. Try and go to sleep early, relax, or take care of yourself and your partner rather than rush to fitness classes, board meetings, happy hours, or other social events. If it fills your cup, by all means, still do it. If it adds to your stress level, I say skip it and don't look back.
8. Remember what it’s all for.
Whenever I started to feel overwhelmed by my work responsibilities or guilty for coming into work late, I would try to remind myself what it was all for—the chance to be a mom. Finally. After years and years and thousands of dollars, this was it. Reminding myself of the bigger picture helped keep my head in the game during those stressful cycles.
Infertility can feel like a full-time job in and of itself, one that consumes a lot of your time and emotional energy. That's why I recommend creating some sort of a roadmap for dealing with fertility treatments at work. Whether that is confiding in your direct manager, shifting your work hours to accommodate all of your doctors' appointments, or taking some time off, it's so important to set realistic expectations for both yourself and others during this time. You can't pour from an empty cup, so don't forget to take care of yourself first.
Kristyn Hodgdon is the Co-Founder and Chief Community Officer at Rescripted.