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Working during IVF

The decision to start IVF is rarely an easy one for most people. And for women who are working during this time, it can feel like a daunting season. I wanted to share some tips for self care for working during IVF. These were thinks that I learned while trying to conceive and working a full time job in hopes that I might help someone else going through this experience.

Two disclosures before I get started:

Seek information from professional medical experts

It will be tempting to look online for information related to IVF. That’s how you ended up on my blog, right? I’ll give you the advice my nursing team gave me – stay off the internet when doing fertility research. My nursing team encouraged me to come to them for any questions and to stay off of the internet when it came to questions related to my medical care, my physician’s treatment plan, and specifics related to improving my fertility. For the most part, I did that. But the temptation is strong to read about other women’s stories or learn what worked for them.

Here’s what happened to me – I never felt reassured by my online searches. For every success story, there is a story that doesn’t have a happy ending. What’s more, you don’t have the full picture of someone’s medical history or unique circumstances to understand why their team decided on one course of action instead of the one that your team is leaning toward.

I left having more questions than I did answers. Instead, I looked for tips and tricks to make it through my cycles. But when it came to understanding my IVF treatment plan, I trusted my doctors and stayed away from general blogs. When I wanted to look online for information, I went to accounts run by fertility experts.

These are my favorite fertility experts

Trust your medical team

Medicine is both an art and a science. So what one doctor might prescribe could be different from another doctor. And one protocol that a fertility specialist might choose could be different from what another doctor might choose. It doesn’t make it wrong or right, it’s just a different way of tackling the same issue.

I decided early on to put my whole trust in my doctor and her treatment plan. This means I avoided doing my own research because when I started to read about different protocols and procedures, it increased my stress levels and I left with more questions than answers. And, I knew that I didn’t have the medical training to put what I read into context. So, I chose to trust the teams that went to school to specialize in infertility.

Prioritize your mental health

I’m bordering on giving second hand medical advice with what I’m about to say. I was told by my fertility doctor that the only thing that was proven to improve my odds of a successful IVF experience was to reduce stress, stay positive, and prioritize my mental health. I remember laughing with her as she said it.

That advice sounds like a cruel joke when you’re going through an IVF cycle. Your body is pumping with hormones. You’re going through a stressful life event. And, you are desperately wanting something to happen that you have little to no control over.

But I focused on what she told me to do. IVF is stressful and working during IVF is a very difficult season. I got help when I needed it. I took medication to help with my anxiety. And I made sure to find things to do to keep my mind off of my treatment that were fun for me: eating really good food, enjoying great wine, going on a vacation with my husband, visiting with friends, and exercising. If prioritizing my mental health was the only thing I could control, I did everything that I could to ace that part of my treatment.

Slow down during your season of IVF

If you are working during IVF, slow down as much as you can. Clear your calendar of any nonessential travel, extra curricular activities, and social engagements. Inevitably, IVF will fall on the busiest season of your career. You’re starting a new job and were promoted to a new manager position. A client needs you to start traveling a couple of weeks out of the month. The family has a huge vacation planned. You’re graduating with your MBA. It’s the law of IVF scheduling that things get busier.

So, as much as you can, create white space in your calendar. What is white space? It’s free time that allows you to just “be” without any obligations. You can meditate, walk, knit, or do anything that’s mindless for a bit.

There is little good that comes from the pandemic but it has reduced our commitments outside of the home. If you feel tired, block your calendar for a 1 hour break and take a nap, meditate, or rest your body. Say no to social engagements. Take it easy running errands and doing non-essential chores. Working during IVF will feel like a lot but you can do it. Make sure you’re slowing down as much as you can.

Consider telling your manager and team

The decision to tell your manager and team will be a very personal one. And, what is right for one person may not be the best decision for another. I didn’t tell my manager about my IVF cycles until my second egg retrieval. Initially I thought that my first cycle would be enough so one instance of a last minute day off would be all I would need. Unfortunately my first egg retrieval failed with no viable embryos.

When I realized that I was going to need to consider one to two more cycles, I decided to tell my manager. It was easier to bring her into the unpredictability of needing time off than it was for me to try and come up with vague reasons that I needed to suddenly take a couple of days off. This is a very personal decision and I do not believe there is a one size fits all solution to this.

Here’s why I did it.

I trusted my manager (a mother who filled her office with photos of her children) to be supportive of my need to take time off for IVF. After telling my manager, she was incredibly empathetic and I appreciated having her support.

By telling my manager, it took an enormous amount of pressure off me to overcompensate for being out of the office. It helped me not feel the added stress of wondering what my manager thought of me skipping out on a launch at the last minute. She knew it was important and we could plan resources during that time. We were able to better plan for my schedule.

My company offers a generous amount of sick/medical time off. I wanted to take advantage of that benefit and by telling my manager, I was able to log my days as sick leave and not vacation time.

Stock your freezer

In the month leading up to your cycle start date, try and stock up on foods that can be easily prepared for you and your family. I appreciated pulling these out of the freezer and eating when I needed a quick bite or when I just didn’t feel like putting in the effort to cook a meal from scratch. I made some of my favorite comfort foods and stocked my freezer with Daily Harvest smoothies (use my referral code for $25 off: RE-K5SSSS6).

Whatever you decide to prepare, having a stocked freezer and pantry will help ease the burden of meal planning while working during IVF.

Some of my favorite foods to freeze

Outsource as much as you can

As much as you are able, outsource your day. Schedule grocery delivery, have a friend pick up your kids from school, plan for extra childcare, order in, give your partner more of the daily tasks to do at home. Make your life as easy as possible for these few weeks that you are working during IVF. Maybe you can’t control the launch that you’re leading at work, but you can make other parts of your life easier so that you can focus on what’s important during this season.

Confide in people you trust

I chose to be moderately open about what I was going through with friends, family, and coworkers. Confiding in friends and family members is a personal decision. For me, sharing what I was going through made it easier to tend to myself while staying a part of my friend groups. If I needed to cancel plans, have them meet me at my house, or make changes to our activities, they were there to support me. In addition, the love I received during this time was incredibly special. People sent me cards, delivered flowers, ordered meals, and stayed by my side as we went through our treatment. I’m grateful for those who stepped up to support us during this time.

Lean on your partner

I’ve told this story many times on my Instagram page, @_thecabro. In graduate school for my counseling-psychology program, one of our marriage and family therapy professors told us that you don’t want to marry the person who makes you laugh. You want to marry the person you can go to hell and back with. Anyone can make you laugh but not everyone will stay when things get tough.

My husband was exactly the person I needed to be with me during this time. He cared for me, took on more tasks around the house, ordered my favorite takeout, helped give me my shots, listened to me when I agonized over our failed cycles, and so much more. There were times when I wanted to make sure I was doing my fair share around the house. But, my fair share was putting my body through IVF. This is not the time for the household load to be equal. Lean on your partner while working during IVF.

I hope that these tips help bring you some clarity and peace as you consider working during IVF. I have another blog posts that might be helpful during this time – How to feel good when working and parenting from home. Best of luck to you.

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