Making the decision to tell or not to tell your employer about your upcoming IVF treatment is a very personal decision. Do you want to share the details of your personal life, can you organise your work around your doctors appointments, do you have a friendly relationship with your boss?
My personal experience was not a success
When I was embarking on my first IVF cycle, I decided to wing it at work. I tried to make scan appointments as early as 6:30, I worked late to make up my hours, I made excuses about being late or having to disappear in the middle of the day.
In hindsight, it was complicated and my stress levels were way too high. I was trying to function normally with no one at work knowing what I was up to.
For our first embryo transfer, I took 2 weeks' holiday and I'm glad I did because I needed the rest.
My next IVF cycles followed in the same way. My intuition was telling me that my employer didn't need to know about my fertility treatment. So I was running from the lab to my scans to my doctor's and feeling exhausted.
For the egg retrieval and transfer, I would take vacation time and then go back to work, popping in progesterone pessaries in the office loos when my afternoon alarm went off.
Opening up those dreaded <5 emails at the office were some of my worst experiences. That I chose not to share with colleagues to avoid gossip.
2.5 years in, I decided to be transparent because I was at the end of my rope. I attempted a face-to-face discussion with my boss - my eyes filled up immediately - but he felt too uncomfortable to engage in any conversation about how we could manage my absences.
I was shocked and disappointed and knew I'd done right to trust my instincts for as long as I did.
Things obviously couldn't carry on the way that they had, I knew that.
So, should you tell your work about your IVF?
Well, it depends on the company and the kind of work you do
On one hand:
- Your boss may be incredibly supportive and understanding. Your boss may even know someone who went through IVF or may have gone through IVF themselves.
- Alternatively, you may be able to work flexible hours.
- Or maybe your work doesn't depend on anyone else so you can rework your schedule without having to explain.
- You may possibly choose to manage on your vacation time, as long as your boss doesn't need your vacation dates 2 months in advance.
- You may confide in a few colleagues and manage your workload between you.
- Or you may work for a super evolved company that has had training in supporting employees going through IVF (does that really exist?).
That said, companies sometimes want your IVF schedule, which of course is non-existant
On the other hand:
- Maybe you will be able to negotiate an extended leave of absence.
- Maybe you will choose to leave your job entirely.
- Perhaps you will get really good at telling little white lies.
- You may decide to hold off on telling your boss for the time being.
- You might tell your boss and wish you hadn't.
- Or you may know for a fact that your company will not be supportive of your absences and may even pass you up for that promotion.
If you're unsure, take your time
See how the land lies and play it by ear. But most importantly, check in with how you are doing and what you need.
I know that we don't all have the luxury of giving up our jobs or paying for multiple rounds of IVF, but finding some kind of IVF-work-life balance could help if you're in it for the long haul like me.