If it feels like going through infertility is a full-time job, well that’s because it kindddd of is…except instead of getting paid to be injected with hormones, you’re the one doing the paying.
Other than that, they’re pretty similar: time-intensive, disruptive and stress-inducing.
Which makes going through fertility treatments even harder when you already have a full-time job. Appointments can be at inconvenient times, clinics can be far away, test results can be emotionally crippling and sometimes you’re on wonky pain meds or recovering from invasive procedures.
At a minimum, it’s distracting and inconvenient. At a maximum, it 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 at 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 procedures when you have a full-time job.*
- Consider confiding in your direct manager – I consider myself to be incredibly lucky in that my direct manager 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 and it would affect the next few weeks with weird appointments, etc. She was incredibly understanding and (to my knowledge) didn’t tell any higher ups. Knowing that she knew I wasn’t slacking was a big stress relief for me. I knew she had my back. But again, I’m probably the exception. 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/sperm. Which leads me to my next point…
- Set expectations – Most people are not super familiar with the physical or emotional toll of fertility treatments (lucky ducks). 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’ll be able to better cover your bases and there will be less 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.
- Keep it vague – Conversely, if you don’t feel comfortable being completely transparent with your boss, that’s ok 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 ok to keep it very high-level. They don’t need to know why.
- Consider taking 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 you and your own health and not be distracted by work commitments.
- Strategically schedule your screenings – When I was going through IVF, I’d 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 7:30am and would have a few openings at that time, so I could usually sneak into work around 9am or 9:30am and just look like I’d slept in a smidge. But 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 good to keep in mind.
- Ask to temporarily nudge your work hours – Again, this isn’t an option for everyone and every job, but if it’s possible to slide your work hours from 9–5 to 10-6 or 8-4 to better make your RE appointments, then recommend that to your manager. If they know it’s only for a couple weeks, then it might be a good compromise.
- Go light on the extracurriculars – The week(s) of your fertility treatments are going to be inherently more stressful. With timed injections and frequent pharmacy runs, try to limit your after-work activities. Better to just try and go to sleep early, relax, or take care of you and your partner rather than rush to fitness classes, board meetings, happy hours or other social events.
- Remember what it’s all for – Whenever I started to feel overwhelmed by my work responsibilities or guilty for coming into work late, I’d 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.
What are some other good tips for going through fertility treatments when you also work full-time?
*Of course the big caveat with this advice is that everything depends on your unique situation. For instance, if you work odd hours, are a school teacher or have a very travel-heavy job, then many of these tips might be whack. Apologies in advance!