I started my current job the same day that I started IUI treatments. In my first month I had to have multiple days off, shift changes and generally had to handle the stress of infertility and a new work environment. I just got through it holding myself and my work together but there were days when I would cry on the drive home wondering what the hell I was trying to do. Cut to the second month and things got even worse the same week that I got my period both sides of our family imploded unexpectedly and swiftly. In a weird cosmic event one Sunday I got my period, my brother gave me some shocking news about our parentage and my husband’s brother left his wife and was setting up a bed in our lounge room – later that night believe it or not things took another terrible turn.
The next day I had an important meeting with a client that ended several weeks later in disaster as a result of that meeting. I got through the days biting down on my fear and panic and then got into bed every night in a flood of tears my body stiff and unyielding. I thought I was losing my mind and I was right. I still don’t know why all those events lined up in space and time.
Trying to hold a work life together that is ‘normal’ and professional is inordinately hard when your dealing with infertility – people understand deaths, divorces and illness and can make concessions – but people rarely talk about infertility openly. In the third month I decided to just be open and to tell the truth – it did make work easier but it made delivering the news that the IUI didn’t work much harder. There were times when I thought I was going to throw up with each person I had to tell – in the eloquent words of Peggy Orenstein “sometimes my grief was so intense it made my lungs ache”.
With the prospect of IVF coming up in the new year I am trying to plan for how I am handle it all much better. Here’s what I have come up with so far with some help from my Resolve sisters;
1. Realise that this workplace is just a short moment in time – a place that you go to earn money. Having a child is about your whole life and so much more important. TSself gave me a wonderful tip about writing out my priorities and having them at my desk so when things get tough I know what is most important
2. Set up a meeting with your boss and openly discuss – what is going to happen and when, laying out exactly what kind of flexibility is needed during those times. i.e. no important client meetings when my periods are due. This suggestion was from the wonderful fertilespirit. goldelox20 also says ‘I just had the discussion with my supervisor yesterday. As I expected, it went really well. My advantage is my boss herself had IVF 15 years ago..’ You never know what confiding in someone may reveal.
3. Tell at least one person whether it be your boss or someone you think you can trust you don’t have to spill your guts or go into details. But just having one person who you can tell lessens the burden just a little. nj723 says ‘I’ve been caught crying in my office twice. And they’ve witnessed my crazy mood swings.’ this has happened to me as well but just having one person at work knows why gives me a feeling of comfort. Because maybe when everyone is around the water cooler discussing my craziness I have one person on my side.
4. Take yourself out of the environment – when things get too heavy give yourself permission to just leave. Take a walk, go shopping for 20 minutes, get a juice and sit in the park, feign a head ache and take a mental health afternoon if you can. If there is no one at work who will support you call a friend and talk it through.
5. Take it one moment it at a time – take a breath and give full focus to just the task you are doing let everything else fall away. Keep doing that for each task and before you know it the day will be over.
6. If you hate it leave – I stayed at a job I hated for a far too long because I thought getting pregnant was just around the corner and I didn’t want to start a new job. But after our first session of IUI we went to see the clinic therapist and her advice was very clear. Infertility will break you down so you need to make everything else in your life rock solid, your job, your relationships, your heath, your hobbies if anything else is weak then it just makes the infertility that much harder to face. If you really can’t leave then try to sort out whatever is making you unhappy.
7. Do the best you can – I am a total perfectionist and I hate to get anything wrong so when I make a mistake at work or things go wrong I carry it around and I let it pull me down. I had an amazing lecturer at university who used to say ‘you can only do the best you can with what you have’ and that is exactly what I am going to.
8. Work your hours and only your hours – get there on time, take your lunch break and leave on time. Fertility treatments can be like a part-time job so you need to focus on it and yourself. Your death-bed wish is never going include having worked more.
9. Make your desk a place of peace – I am lucky enough to have my own desk and I have been slowly making it a place of peace. I have a wedding photo, inspiring quotes and art prints. I plan on getting a plant and changing my desk top picture to something beautiful and inspiring every month.
10. If you can plan your workload – the week of my period I am completely crap, I feel so down and rudderless I can barely focus. From now on this is when I am planning my non-thinking work. Merge letters, filing anything that involves a little quite time and not having to deal with anyone stressful.
How do you handle the precarious balancing act that is work and infertility? Leave a comment I would love to hear from you.