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Going back to work

Posted May 12 2009 6:16pm
I accepted a new position today. I will be starting July 5th. It's not so great to be going back to work, but infertility treatments don't pay for themselves.

Like many women dealing with infertility, my career has taken a backseat to trying to conceive. For me the two seem so intricately tied together that going back to work feels like another defeat, another loss of infertility.

Let me explain.

Almost exactly 3 years ago, when I was 3 months pregnant with Ernest, my mother bought a small business. Her dream was that all four of her daughter would come and work in a family business. At the time I was trying to figure out how to maintain some income while having more flexibility as a mother. It seemed like a perfect match. I told my employer that I was going to quit after the baby was born. Three months later, when our son was born and subsequently died, I went ahead with my plans. After all, I got pregnant relatively quickly after moving to IUI and I would get pregnant again.

I started working with my family less than a month after Ernest died. It was all kinds of stressful. I had been warned about the stresses of working with family, but (just like infertility) I thought, "that won't happen to me." Not only was it difficult working with people who knew all the right buttons to push, my family was unable to support me in my grief. At the best of times they just couldn't understand. At one point my mother told me that perhaps it was good that my son died because it would make me more humble. Another time I announced that I was going to take a vacation and spend a week with my husband. I said that I was still very sad and needed to get away for awhile. The response, "Why are you sad?" Umm . . . maybe because our son died less than four months ago? The son that was conceived after two years of infertility?

Eventually my sister announced that she was pregnant with number two. It was heartbreaking for me, but I was happy for her. I continued trying to make it work mostly because I dreaded going back to work for someone else where I couldn't step out for a good cry when I needed to. Some months came and went. More months where we failed to conceive. It became increasingly difficult to ignore my sister's pregnancy. She tried to minimize it and I know it wasn't easy for her. Finally the stress of working long hours with family and the grief of our loss compounded with the "little deaths" each month when we failed to conceive was too much. I walked out and never looked back.

With my husband's blessing, I decided to take the summer off. I quietly hoped that I would get pregnant soon and be a stay at home mom. Maybe I wouldn't need to go back to work for a few years.

This was not to be. After two failed IVF's and tens of thousands of medical expenses, I went back to work full time last fall. The work didn't sound perfect, but it seemed like it would be a good work environment and there were only a few other women - none who looked pregnant. I was a little worried about dealing with it emotionally because I was still crying a lot, but I figured it was time to move on.

It was the first day on the job, they took the new hires (me included) along with the rest of our team out to lunch. On the far side of the table from me, one of the ladies lamented that she couldn't have her usual favorite sandwich because it had brie cheese in it. Only someone who has dealt with infertility would be hyper-aware enough to not only hear the comment, but correctly interpret it to mean only one thing - she was pregnant. My first thought was, "Fuck me." I must be over reacting. Sadly, no. Soon the conversation turned to morning sickness, forbidden foods and finally potential baby names. That was just more than I could take. Picking out baby names while we were in labor was a very bittersweet experience for us. Mostly bitter with very little sweet. I excused myself and went into the bathroom and cried.

After lunch I discovered that this company of about 40 or so employees (and only a handful of women) was going to have a Halloween event the next day. I was welcome to dress up and bring any small children I may have to work in the afternoon. The person was excitingly telling me how they would parade the children from room to room and hand out candy. She herself was bring her two children and they were going to be soooo cute, etc. etc.

I went home and sobbed. How was I going to survive this? I needed the money to pay for infertility treatments. I hadn't had a real job in over a year, who else would hire me? So the next day - my second day on the job - I took my boss aside and told him about our infertility struggles and that I just couldn't be there when the kids came through. I offered to make the time up another day. Surprisingly, he said that he understood and said not to worry about the time.

I dodged that one, but time proved that there were many other events that triggered grief. Mostly it was working around this woman who got pregnant easily and all the pregnancy talk that followed her around. The job also proved to be more boring than I expected so it was difficult to get my mind off of trying to conceive. It really was not my cup of tea. I kept telling myself they I would soon be pregnant and I would quit when the baby was born. A few weeks on the job and I was already counting down to when I could quit. At the same time, I was terrified that we would not get pregnant and that I would have to survive the pregnant lady giving birth and all that goes along with it.

Fortunately, a small blessing occurred. Despite my insistence during both interviews that I was willing to work more than 40 hours, but less than 45 on a regular basis, it became increasingly clear that they expected 50-60 hours regularly. This was all happening just as IVF #3 was gearing up. I was already on BCP's and feeling the emotional effects. I went to my manager and reiterated what I said in the interview and that I was willing to continue to work hard, reminded them that they seemed to value my quality of work but I was not willing to work that kind of hours. If that was not ok with them, then we needed to part ways.

The next day was the suppression check for my IVF. I had a disappointing number of antral follicles and a potential cyst. It was difficult to go to work after that. Thankfully, my employer told me that the arrangement would not work for them and that I was being let go. I remember thinking, "I don't have to come back tomorrow! I don't have to come back tomorrow!"

I am so glad that I was not there when the pregnant lady had her baby because, of course, IVF #3 was a complete failure. We decided to jump right into IVF #4. I would get a temporary job after we got pregnant just to get a little extra income until the baby was born.

Well, that plan didn't exactly work out either because IVF #4 was a bust too.

So . . . back to looking for work . . . sort of. My heart just wasn't into it. I was grieving this new loss, re grieving the old losses and trying to come to terms with the idea of donor eggs. In an effort to feel less guilty about not working while continuing to accumulate debt from our infertility treatments, I half heartedly applied for a job in my field.

That was June 14th. I had three interviews and a job offer in the span of 9 working days. So, I am going back to work, ready or not. I hope I will like it, because this time I don't think I could convince myself that I will get pregnant any time in the near future and therefor have a reason to quit. Or at the very least, be so thrilled with the prospect of being a mom that the job just won't matter that much.

I think I may actually like this one. I don't have the red flags I had when I accepted the last job. There are only 5 people in the office and only one other woman who does not appear to be pregnant (I'll keep you posted on this one). I will also be working with people more so I will have less time in my own head. The only down side is that my "office" is about an 8' x 10' closet with no windows. I am a little worried about that, but Brad has assured me that I will decorate it and make it a more friendly environment.

One other thing. Two of the people I spoke to raved about the benefits. "They pay 100% of just about everything! Just a $10 co payment" I wonder what "almost everything" means . . . Could they cover infertility expenses? The company is based out of Ontario, Canada, a province with some mandated infertility coverage and there are also offices in New York which I believe also has some mandates for infertility coverage. So here I am hoping - just like I hope that I am pregnant even when I know it is impossible - that I will get a $12,000 bonus once my benefits kick in.

We will see . . .
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