Such irony. Spending almost 15 years doing everything I could to avoid getting pregnant, and then trying for years with no luck.
I know that I am still relatively lucky in life, and am very grateful for all I have, and I’m certainly not the only person with fertility challenges. It is obvious from the packed waiting rooms at the IVF clinic, as well as the number of my own friends who have been in the same boat. But I still find it tough at times.
To start with, I was actually quite positive about the prospect of going through IVF. After all, our fertility challenges were on my partner’s side, and I was fit and healthy and ‘only’ 35. So this whole thing would be a piece of cake, right?
We were kicking off the process in January and I could already envisage a really different Christmas with a little bubba around the house. Things were looking up.
That was until we realised the medication wasn’t working on me. A failed round. And topping it off, there was some tough stuff going on at work. It was when this double whammy hit that I was so glad I had been open with my boss about what was going on. The understanding and support, both emotionally and practically in terms of work flexibility, was so important. I don’t know how I would have gotten through without it.
Anyway, fast forwarding a couple of months and we had a bit more luck second time around. I was basically an egg farm. We were able to freeze a few embryos and I was pregnant with the very embryo transferred. Things were up again, at least for a short while. Unfortunately, things weren’t right and the baby’s heart stopped just shy of ten weeks. This was our reality for the majority of a year, and I really wished that I had planned that winter holiday. But it was not over yet for us, and in that sense I know I am lucky.
We are all different, and situations unique—but for anyone about to embark on IVF and juggling it with a busy job and the rest of your life, here is what I have learnt so far:
- Look after yourself and use your sick leave when you need to. The physical and emotional aspects of IVF medication are real.
- Do your research, and try to talk to someone who has gone through IVF before your first appointment. It will help you to think about the questions to ask your doctor and to make informed choices.
- Invest time in yourself and the relationships around you. If you have a partner, talk as much as you can and try to remember it can be tough for them too.
- Share with your boss and/or selected work colleagues what you’re going through if you feel you can. Most people are understanding and supportive, and appointments and other side effects can be unpredictable and hard to hide!
- Be aware that when you open up, people generally want to share back—whether it be their own story or sister/cousin/friend. So tell them up front if you don’t want to hear this.
- Don’t feel the need to justify where you are going and what you are doing to all of your colleagues if you don’t want. “I can’t make that meeting,” or “I can’t do that shift” is all you need to say. You don’t need to tell them why.
- Think about what time of day is best for your appointments, and book them for that time. It can be tough to go back and face colleagues/customers/work if the news hasn’t been great.
- Don’t worry about what colleagues are thinking when you’re absent for chunks of time. Unless you’re in a very small team environment, they probably won’t even notice.
- Your doctor will explain you can go about your normal day including returning to work after an embryo transfer. This may medically be the case, but it’s an important day, so take the day off if you can, and relax.
- Consider who your support network is beyond your partner as you might need different types of support.
- Think about what else you want and need in your life and try not to put it all on hold for IVF—timelines are unpredictable. Plan the holiday, and change it if you need to at a later stage.
- It’s clichéd and often easier to say than do, but try to reduce other stressors in your life. Take time off work if you need to.
- Do the things that you enjoy, and invest in yourself. Have you always wanted to learn how to paint and never done it? Do it.
- If you are going through a tough time, try not to make any life-changing decisions in the heat of the moment. A bit of time and perspective can make a huge difference.
- Be ready for anything, and remain hopeful for the best.
The author of this story wishes to remain anonymous.