Four years ago, I considered leaving my role in AdTech sales to work for a start-up. I talked it through with a colleague, and he said, ‘You’re about to get married and want to have a baby; you’ll be looked after here. So why would you want to start somewhere else?’
It was a factor that had played on my mind, especially given most companies have a certain length of service before maternity pay kicks in.
Four years later, I am still part of that company, but sadly I have not yet had a baby I so very long for. However, they have continually supported me through one of the most challenging times of my life to date, both mentally and physically.
The process of trying to conceive.
The NHS will not refer a heterosexual couple for fertility investigations until two years of trying to conceive. That is already 24 months of hopefulness, excitement, followed by letdown and disappointment. Once you have gone to your GP, you are referred to your hospital to start the tests and investigations. There are several tests, and the wait for the results can be long.
At the results appointment, we were told we have ‘unexplained infertility’, which means there is no known reason why we have not been able to conceive naturally.
On the one hand, this made me feel better, and on the other, I was agitated there was nothing to fix! We were told to keep trying for another six months and ring back if we were unsuccessful.
Going into a lockdown whilst furloughed and being isolated from my normal distractions and support networks meant my thoughts were consumed with trying for a baby. I watched each month patiently as people announced their ‘lockdown’ pregnancy news.
At this point, I decided I couldn’t wait for the NHS and thought they had enough of their plates with COVID. So I sought private fertility treatment.
Fertility treatment costs…a lot.
Having the option to go privately is a luxury many cannot afford, so I know I am privileged to have this opportunity. The years I had spent saving earlier on in my sales career have helped. However, when money is attached to trying to conceive, it adds even more pressure to be successful. A single cost of IVF can cost £5000, with some clinics upwards of £20,000.
As most cycles are not successful, this is not a one-off purchase. This also does not factor in the costs of trying different methods beforehand, such as IUI, private appointments and holistic therapies which might help during IVF, including acupuncture, reflexology and therapy.
Learning to be open and honest.
Over time, I have found it easier to be honest and open to my employers due to my fertility journey due to the many ongoing medical appointments.
Initially, I had saved my holiday as I wasn’t aware of any policy in place for me to be allowed time off for fertility appointments. However, having been honest about starting the IVF journey with my manager, she told me not to use my holiday, which I was thankful for.
In June, I had the most wonderful surprise of finding out I had conceived naturally just as we were about to start our first round of IVF. Unfortunately, our excitement was short-lived. I felt something wasn’t right only a few weeks after our positive pregnancy test. It was a week before I could get scanned, and the anguish was unbearable. I had a manager who I felt comfortable telling, and she told me to take a few days off to relax (which, by the way, was impossible!)
At the scan, I was told I had miscarried the baby. I was utterly heartbroken. I was back at work two days later, which I was mentally not ready for. If anyone asked innocently at the start of email/slack or called how I was, I cried and cried. I found it incredibly hard to concentrate in meetings talking about daily tasks when I was grieving so hard about something I felt I couldn’t speak to everyone about — despite 1 in 4 pregnancies ending in miscarriage.
As of October, I have started my first round of IVF. I am now extremely open about it with people I talk to at work. Trying to conceive is already stressful; never mind the stigma that we should keep it to ourselves like a dirty little secret. I need people to be compassionate around me, not judging me for why I rearranged a meeting last minute.
Career or having children: it is not one thing or the other.
Over the last four years, I have managed to really focus on my career pivot to Learning & Development Manager and Career Confidence Coach, despite the highs and lows of trying to conceive.
It still might take us many more years, and it’s not feasible to put my career on hold whilst we try. I wouldn’t want to either, as achieving awesome things in my career acts as a great distraction from thinking about my womb’s ticking time bomb.
I have also changed my career so it is more fulfilling and less stressful, which undoubtedly, must help me be in a better position to have a baby. But, lest we forget, I also need a salary to help pay for the never-ending costs of fertility treatments!
My advice to those wanting to have children.
- Don’t put off going for promotions or changing roles when thinking about conceiving. You never know how long it will take, and being in a position you love and feel empowered will help you.
- Look at your employers’ policies to help guide you or ask your HR team to consider putting policies in place for fertility treatments.
- Save! Save! Save!
- Find your support network at work to talk to, especially when your hormones are going wild.
- Be honest with your manager if possible as the policy is often managers discretion and easier to support you when you’ve been open.
This blog contribution was made by Lucy Shutt-Vine.
Lucy Shutt-Vine is a Global Learning & Development Manager and qualified Careers Confidence Coach. Lucy specialises in training & coaching talent to enable them to become more confident whilst being able to think more strategically and creatively.
Her passion is empowering people to come up with their own solutions and getting people to step out of their comfort zone for greater development. Lucy started in AdTech in 2011 as a grad and moved up the career ladder in sales before transitioning over to Learning and Development 3 years ago. She is also an LMF mentor.
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