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How infertility treatments alter career paths

Updated: Apr 25, 2023

I have been very open about how my journey to motherhood was long, costly and very different than I ever anticipated. But what I never expected was how my career would seemingly implode when I began the IVF process.

Being a mother has been the most rewarding role I've ever had, and I love being a mom. I'm lucky enough to be expecting my second IVF miracle baby after years and years of heartache. It's already really stressful to figure out family planning as an ambitious woman, without the added concern that it's now completely out of your control. So many brave women share about the ins and outs of the treatments themselves, but my focus is always tied to careers and how we can better adapt our workplaces for those who are in the middle of this journey.

When I first started IVF I knew of only one friend who had undergone infertility treatments, and I had no clue how I was going to tell my boss. I'd recently been promoted to be the only female and youngest Vice President at my growing company. I felt like I'd reached the peak of my career, and the absolute lowest point of my personal life.

I googled and couldn't find anyone talking about how they handled giving themselves shots at work or telling their managers what was going on. My boss wasn't supportive, my job was impacting my results (I'm sure the stress of my job is one of the reasons my first IVF cycle left us with no embryos) and it ended up making more sense for me to move on from the company. With that in mind, I've made it part of my mission to share about how infertility and career ambitions intersect and how we can better support our coworkers going through these insanely stressful treatments. Did you know that fertility treatments have been proven to be as stressful as undergoing cancer treatments?

With this week being National Infertility Awareness week, I wanted to share how the women in my circle changed and adapted after finding out they'd have to undergo IVF in order to have a family.

Here's one friend who ended up having to quit her job because it was too much to go through treatments and work full time. After finding out her first embryo transfer didn't work, she knew she had to focus on her family more than her career:

"When I started IVF I was working as an elementary school teacher. I remember using recess and lunch breaks to do shots and suppositories. It was so hard to manage both. I decided to do my transfer during Christmas break so I didn’t have to miss work. We found out Christmas Eve that my first transfer failed. I was devastated. I was so sad that it didn’t work, but probably more depressed that I would have to start the process all over again. I knew right then I just couldn’t juggle work and IVF again. I even wondered if the stress of working had to do with my failed transfer. I finished my year out as a teacher and started my second transfer that following summer. I was beyond thrilled when I got the news it worked and we were pregnant!

Knowing myself and how I handle stress it was the right decision for me to quit to focus on starting my family. I knew down the road I could return to work if I wanted to. We have seasons of life and that time was the season of family."

I have loved hearing that things have changed since I first started treatments several years ago, including this friend who felt way more supported by her company and manager:

"A couple of months before starting the IVF process, my leaders were already expressing their support. Along the journey they have asked how they can take things off of my plate so that working while going through IVF was not a stress for me. When discussing what my week of transfer would look like with my direct leader, I mentioned that the days following I was going to minimize meetings to help reduce stress. My leader insisted that I take the days off completely. He even insisted that he take the meetings that I had previously scheduled so that I didn’t have to reschedule them. When expressing my gratitude, he told me “at the end of the day, this is all that matters (family).”

I’ve learned more and more how true that principle is. Family is the greatest gift, and nothing to take for granted. My job is a great way for me to learn, grow, develop, and provide. But the family that I will create will last forever. So I appreciate the opportunity that I have to do my shots and pills before starting a work day. I give myself grace when I need to pause to rest during the day because my body and mind is going through so much. I love my job, and I love my company, but I will always love and prioritize my husband and future baby. I am deeply grateful for a company that helps to remind me of that, and encourages me to do so."

Wouldn't it be amazing if all employers responded this way? I'm so glad that things are changing. Another friend felt that changing industries and careers is what led her to make family planning a priority. She knows now she couldn't have made it through IVF without the support of her new company:

"About a year before we began the IVF process, I had entered into a completely new chapter of my career… After spending over a decade in journalism, I made the transition into Public Relations. Thanks to some pretty incredible benefits my new company offered me, along with supportive management who trust and have confidence in my work to a degree I have never experienced before… I felt like we could take the leap and begin the IVF journey. Quite frankly, I finally felt capable of handling all of the emotions that come along with infertility. The stress and anxiety that overwhelmed me daily thanks to the news cycle no longer controlled me. I was so much more capable! It was time!

Although my new job never knew I was doing IVF because it was something I’d been very private about, it was their leadership and workplace culture that allowed me to finally do it—even without their knowledge. I realize now I never would have been able to do IVF successfully while working in news. It took me switching industries to make IVF and ultimately, growing my family, a priority.

It’s not to say that my new job isn’t stressful. It is still 24/7 and deadline-oriented. And I love it because I will always thrive on work. The difference is the support I have now from my team and management. I’m the closest now to achieving work-life balance than I ever have been and although it’s totally new territory for me, I’m learning to embrace it all! I can’t wait to embrace a little one too. Soon enough!"

I love seeing these adaptations and how many more companies are treating infertility like the disease that it is! Treatments should be covered by insurance just like any other health issue.

If you or a friend are in the thick of figuring out how to balance infertility and your career, I hope you know you're not alone. Feel free to message or email me and I will support you however I can. Women are so strong and deserve to be able to add value in many ways; their life, their companies and in their families.

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