Balancing work and reproductive medicine
April 4, 2018 6:33 AM   Subscribe

I am just getting started with treatment for infertility (related more to being in my 40s than to any specific disorder). I have an office job with a lot of time-sensitive projects. How to balance the need for time off, and explain to my colleagues without awkwardness?

My husband and I (both early 40s, married last year) have just started seeing doctors to find out if we'll be able to have a child and if so what we need to do to accomplish it. Various appointments/treatments etc. mostly have to be done on weekdays (balancing my husband's work schedule with mine), and require taking half-days off from my job.

I work in a small team with a lot of time-sensitive projects, and the ones I handle are either only doable by me or require imposing a lot on another similarly busy colleague. My problems are twofold: a) how to cope with actually being out of the office oftener than is ideal, in terms of getting the work done and not inconveniencing my colleagues,
and b) how to explain the situation? My co-workers are good people and will understand if I tell them the facts, or refrain from pressing for details if I just say "personal reasons," but I'm hesitant to say "infertility treatments" because of the awkwardness involved if no baby eventually appears, especially since my closest colleague is a new father.

Any suggestions from people who have been there would be appreciated.
(Additional information: a) The office has flex-time, so I can take half-days off here and there without causing problems in terms of PTO etc. if I make up the hours elsewhere. b) My husband and I would like a child but are also okay with not having one if we're not able to, so I'm fortunate that the emotional stress level is comparatively low. Still.)

Many thanks.
posted by huimangm to Health & Fitness (5 answers total)
 
As for how to explain the situation: "Thanks for bearing with me as I get some medical stuff sorted out." Full stop, no more details. If they press you for details, wave them off with "oh, you know, just health stuff." Keep deferring, keep it light. People will stop asking.
posted by juniperesque at 6:54 AM on April 4, 2018 [10 favorites]


I went with something along the lines of “I’m going through some non-invasive medical investigations and need a bit of flexibility for a few weeks. I don’t foresee a massive impact except maybe project X where I thought maybe Jane could take my place at the meeting?” I had this conversation with my manager, my HR and closest colleagues.

My team is small, close, and not rude so they responded with a very swift “Oh of course, no problem. I hope everything is all right?” And I just casually said “ Oh yeah, thanks for asking, nothing major. So about project X...”

Everyone has been very kind and understanding and not intrusive so I feel very lucky. At the most intensive part I needed a half day off for 3 days in one week but I knew it was happening at least two weeks before and could manage the work around it, either finishing things off at home or scheduling around things.
posted by like_neon at 6:58 AM on April 4, 2018 [6 favorites]


If things do work out and you find yourself pregnant, the reality is that it will involve a lot more time off than this. As a working mom of two littles, I’ve had to carve out a lot more flexibility in my position to make it work. This involved cross-training colleagues so my work isn’t neglected if I’m out with a sick child or at a doctors appointment, planning and completing time sensitive work in advance, asking for more opportunities to work from home when necessary, and even things like switching meetings to conference calls so that I could pump at my desk. I used to feel guilty about needing these accommodations, but now that this has become part of my organization’s culture it’s become a lot easier for everyone to take care of their own health (or their kids or their aging parents) and has really been a net positive.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 7:26 AM on April 4, 2018 [4 favorites]


I said "I have a chronic medical condition that does not affect my job at all but it is bothersome to me. My doctor has recommended a series of treatments that will require me to go to his office often over the period of the next few weeks". My supervisor was savvy enough not to ask, but if he had I would have said "Thank you so much for being concerned about me, but it's personal and I don't feel comfortable discussing it".

You are not the only person at your job who may have medical needs, so don't feel guilty about it. It's not your fault if your coworkers are busy. Be present and focused when you are at work, do your best to stay in communication *before* you leave the office (but don't be one of those people who are answering work emails while you're at the doctor's office - your focus needs to be right where you are at that moment). It is the business' responsibility to have a contingency plan. You may need to help them form it, but you don't need to feel guilty if they can't get their end straight. You are allowed to take time off to deal with your personal life. Full stop.
posted by vignettist at 8:13 AM on April 4, 2018 [4 favorites]


Thank you one and all; much appreciated. In the event I mentioned what I was doing while talking with my colleague, related to his new baby; I said I was looking forward to seeing how it went but wouldn't be shattered if I didn't end up pregnant, and he, a no-drama type, took it in stride. With other people I will probably adopt the approach recommended here. The logistical difficulties just have to be handled as they arise... (For the record, my company is pretty good (given this country) about pregnancy and child-raising accommodations, and if I do make it that far I will have no hesitation about taking leave. It's just the emotional and practical Schroedinger's-baby situation of in/fertility treatments that is confusing...)
Many thanks again.
posted by huimangm at 7:40 AM on April 6, 2018


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