Going through infertility treatments in itself can become very lonely. It can dominate our quality of life, cause us to lose and gain friends, and can cause us to question who we are as women. Add a full-time job and existing motherhood to the mix and things just got a lot more complicated.
One thing I have learned recently is that going through infertility treatments as a mom is tougher for me than when I was conceiving my first born. It took many rounds of treatments to conceive our daughter, but we were lucky that it happened within one year, from early diagnosis to conception. My husband and I have been trying to expand our family of three to a family of four over the course of nearly two years now. In the meantime, I have been working full time and mothering our only child. Over the past year, we entered back into treatments. It’s so much harder than it was the first time, aside from the fact that it’s taking twice the time and higher doses of meds to get close to achieving pregnancy a second time. It’s harder because my daughter is at an age (turns 4 in March) where she is intrigued with babies and often asks if she has a brother or sister, or if she ever will. This is so hard, folks. So incredibly hard.
It isn’t just her being inquisitive that makes things so hard—it’s also other people. I quite often get asked (both in my personal life and at work) when we “plan” on having another baby, or comments such as “She’s almost 4? It’s time for another one!”, or the ever famous, “Don’t wait too long or they won’t be close friends.” These things make conceiving #2 way harder, more emotional, more draining than when we tried for our first child, especially when I have to look at my daughter as potentially being an only child. That, my friends, is not what I planned. There is nothing wrong with single-child families or families who feel more comfortable with just one, that’s fine! For us? We greatly desire more oh so much.
Infertility while working full time can be daunting. Infertility while working full time and mothering a child is exhausting. I know I am emotional from the meds, and that I may not be as patient as usual. My daughter is at an age where pushing my limits is the “in” thing to do. Sometimes it makes me second guess my ability to mother more than one child and I ask myself, “what in the world am I thinking?!” as I pop back another dose of meds. I love her age but it has proven way more difficult to handle infertility treatments as she gets older. I thought it would get easier, but it’s quite the opposite.
So how do I deal with all this as a mom in the workplace? All those doctor’s appointments have to start raising red flags, right? I have a few people who have asked me this and my answer is simple: “I tell what I need to tell and keep the rest to myself.” I work with an awesome team full of respectful people. No one asks and I only tell what I feel comfortable telling. I am lucky in the sense that I have flexibility with my job, so as long as the work gets done and the hours get in somehow, whether in the office or after hours at home, then everything is fine.
So how do I deal mentally? The truth is sometimes I just don’t. I find that I have to check out. Sometimes my version of checking out is trying to stay as busy as possible so the days go by faster between appointments. I put my headphones in and dive into work. Sometimes I check out by working from home for a day. I do this when I am feeling exceptionally emotional. It gives me a chance to cry if I need to without having to excuse myself to the bathroom. Sometimes I check out by simply taking a mental health day. We all need a few more of those in our lives, am I right? I recently took one of those mental health days and it was very therapeutic. I took the opportunity to destroy—ahem—reorganize the kitchen cabinets and pantry. Loud music playing, a task at hand, nothing could shake my world that day.
When it comes to giving advice to other women facing infertility who are working mothers: Do not beat yourself up. Do not allow this to dominate your quality of life. I am guilty of this more than most, I confess, and I have to remind myself regularly that I just have to take one day at a time. You know your limits. Keep in mind that sick and vacation days at work are available for you to take, not just pile up and go to waste. Use them if you need to, and honestly, you don’t have to give a reason unless you want to.
Find an outlet. For me, blogging is my outlet. At first, it was hard for me to talk about the journey once again, especially not knowing who was reading it, but I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t care. People ask more inappropriate questions when they don’t know better, so I have honestly found that blogging and people reading it has helped the situation considerably. If that means for you to just talk openly about it, go for it. Whatever you do, find an outlet.
Finally, remember to take extra time with your existing child(ren). As much as we long for a +1 in this house, I have to hold onto hope that we’ll only be a family of three for a little longer. I need to spend extra time with her now while she has my undivided attention.
If you’re a working mom and battling infertility, how to you balance your work and current phase of motherhood?