Balancing Work and Infertility Treatment

I have been mostly open with my colleagues about the infertility treatment that we are facing.  I told a small number about the three IUIs, but in preparation for IVF I decided I needed to tell a few more of my colleagues in my team.  In fact, my team gave me a gift card for a nice restaurant as a I was about to take four days of sick leave for the Egg retrieval and embryo transfer for our first round of IVF.  But it’s not something that everyone is comfortable  initiating a conversation about it all with me.  They don’t know where the line is, so I try to  be open about it as much as possible and help them to feel comfortable asking me whatever questions they may have.

This ‘open’ approach has mostly worked in my favour; but that doesn’t mean it has been easy.  It is coming up to almost a year of treatment and my boss has known about my appointments and treatment for the majority of that time.  He has been accommodating, caring and supportive to my needs.  But ultimately, it doesn’t matter how supportive your peers and bosses are, there is the issue of the work that still needs to be done.

I feel unreliable, I feel flaky, I feel selfish and I hate not being flexible. I feel like the weak link in the team.  I hate that it is almost impossible to plan long term projects and work travel – a key part of my job.  I feel helpless, sometimes I feel useless.  I try to compensate by being overly proactive in areas that don’t require long term planning; I try to over achieve on short term goals and tasks.  But ultimately this impacts my career.  I feel like I have taken a career break. 

Juggling work with infertility treatment requires meticulous planning – and yet what are you told when it comes to IVF treatment?  Always expect the unexpected.  So planning for the unexpected becomes an overly stressful burden to your sanity.

For me, the first time we went through IVF it was a quiet time of year for us – August.  Many of my colleagues were on their summer holidays, so all was good.  This time around we are expecting to start stimulation in the New Year.  Things start to get a whole lot busier at work at this time of year.  I have already had to say no to travelling to Europe in January because it is likely my egg retrieval will be in that week.  Not attending this meeting in Europe may impact my involvement in the project overall.  Or simply just add another layer of stress even if I do pick it up afterwards from playing catch-up.

Then, there is the added problem of being physically at work; suffering from pain and tiredness as a result of the hormones and your body coping with the side effects of the drugs.  I tried to hide the pain.  I must have gone to the toilets about 25 times a day to hide.  Sometimes I just spent 5 minutes sitting there taking a timeout.  And it wasn’t just the physical pain, the emotional strain plays a part in all this too.  Simply put, the infertility treatment has also affected my mental focus on doing a good job.  For example, I was not satisfied with my output around the time of the IVF (I had a deliverable due just before the start of the IVF cycle – this was a terrible terrible idea!), although I know I am very self-critical and set high bars for myself – no one has actually complained about my work thus far.  I just hope that is because what I delivered was satisfactory, and not because people were afraid to upset me!!!

I just hate this.

And I am lucky that I do not have to lie to my colleagues.  I cannot imagine having that added pressure of guilt and keeping up with lies in addition to the stress of the treatment itself.  Some people need to keep their treatment a secret either for job protection or it is within their nature to keep family life private.

So what have I learned?  Second time around, I will schedule in a combination of annual leave and sick leave into my diary for the start of stimulation.  Fortunately it’s a new year of leave, so I will be able to do this this time around.  Who knows what would happen if we have to do IVF all over again after this round.  But this time, I’m going to try to focus on the treatment rather than juggling it with work.

Maybe I’ll take up some knitting or do some oil painting to keep me occupied.  I’m going to need to find something to keep my mind busy!!!


As for the long term impact on my career, well, I will just have to not worry too much about it just now.  Maybe if we get to summer next year and still no pregnancy, how I feel about my career is going to really influence my decisions about what we do next.

13 thoughts on “Balancing Work and Infertility Treatment

  1. workingwomensivf says:

    The work/infertility battle is a real struggle, I completed 4 stim cycles and 7 transfers this year while working in a high pressure role so I understand the pressure. Luckily travel is not a big a part of my role as it is yours which does relieve some of the pressure. I only told my boss which made it tricky at times and in some ways I wish like you I had had the courage to tell my coworkers as I am sure they would have supported me as yours truly do you. It sounds like you have a good plan for this time round to help you manage the balance but also make sure you cut yourself some slack.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. My Perfect Breakdown says:

    I really appreciate this post because I think so many of us go through this. I know for me it got so bad that I ended up quitting my job because I couldn’t do everything and I was petrified of the potential consequences to my career long term. Its funny though, now looking back, in a weird way rpl gave me the reluctant ability to put myself first even through my fears of being a flaky employee and being less then the ideal employee. And now leaving my job and taking a career break has resulted in the best career change ever. So, I guess what I’m saying is keep doing what your doing because you really have no idea what will happen with your career and you might just be surprised when your career doesn’t actually suffer long term.

    Liked by 3 people

    • thegreatpuddingclubhunt says:

      I know sometimes it’s important to take a step ‘back’ to take a step forward. I’m just not sure at what point one takes that step ‘back’ or how to recognise that point…..and also to remember to look back as well to see how far I’ve come (or not as maybe my case might be!)


  3. notpregnantinrezza says:

    I relate to this so much. I hate not being good at my job and seeming flakey through no fault of my own. It feels so unfair sometimes. Anyway, I basically mean to say you are not alone with this and it’s really crappy. Sounds like you’ve got a good plan with taking leave. Fingers crossed for you that Dec/Jan is the one and you don’t have to go through this for too much longer!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Disorderly Love says:

    I think this is a great post with a very good point. I’ve experienced this issue with both grad school (mildly class wise), as well as in my practicum placement….& it’s incredibly stressful!!! As if infertility NEEDS to be more stressful, right??? lol

    Liked by 1 person

  5. 30yr old nothing says:

    I feel huge guilt. My first cycle my boss was very accommodating and knew what we were doing and monitoring didn’t interfere with work and. The fact that I’m only 3 months into this new job is stressing me out. My boss has been great without knowing anything and he seems fine about me missing 30 minutes for appointments but it remains to be seen how much work I’ll be missing. It sounds like you have good thing going at work but I understand the guilt.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. tidleone says:

    This is a great post. It’s really difficult to balance work and fertility treatment. I feel exactly the same, I’m know for being a grafter and it sucks that when you go through the treatment it completely wipes you out and you have to let your normally exceptionally high standards drop, just so that you can stay afloat.

    I’m still struggling with the idea of relinquishing my head of year responsibility because I worry about the impact in my career but I also know that this role is really stressful especially on top of the workload of actually teaching.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thegreatpuddingclubhunt says:

      Wow that is such a tough dilemma you have 😦 I do wonder about the whole taking a step back to take a step forward thing that I commented to MPB above, but it is so hard to do just that. I’m not really sure how to take it or when to take it. It just kind of sucks that we have decisions like that to make through no fault of our own.


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