I’ve been experiencing a lot of difficulty at my job. I’ve worked at the same place for almost three years, but many transitions have been occurring since July 2015. I began my first faculty position, the college of medicine where I work was purchased by a corporation, and they built and transferred me to a new clinic funded by the state’s behavioral health authority. I could make this into a long, long post, but suffice it to say that none of these transitions have gone smoothly.
And, of course… July 2015 also happened to be when I had my very first embryo transfer. My very first negative pregnancy test occurred during the same week that two family members were hospitalized for severe, chronic health conditions, a rock destroyed my car window, my pre-teen stepdaughter almost got stranded in another state, and my husband was laid off in an incredibly traumatic manner by the same corporation for which I remain somewhat reluctantly employed. One single week. It felt as though the horrible life events would never stop.
In a way, this made my negative test just one more awful event in the veritable onslaught. It was mercifully difficult to focus too much on it amongst the whirlwind of emergencies.
Luckily, though the effects of some of that week’s crises have persisted, they’ve become less acute and surprising. However, the problems I’ve experienced at my new job have just gone on and on and on – it seems that there’s a new hindrance, frustration, catch-22 bureaucratic nightmare, illogical policy, and crushing incompetence revealed with each passing day. Being a professor has been my dream job for almost 15 years, and it feels like as soon as I achieved it, what had been my vision of the future instantly became a boot stamping on a human face – forever. (If you picked up on that allusion, I really really like you, possibly to the level of a crush).
What does this have to do with infertility? Well, amongst all of this, I have been juggling the logistics, secrets, disclosures, pain, joy, fascination, finances, loss and discouragement of undergoing multiple assisted reproductive treatments. Sometimes I question how I can possibly not be depressed, and sometimes I wonder if I actually am and just don’t realize it. You’d think I, of all people, would know depression when I see it. I’m a psychologist, for one, and I’ve also personally experienced it multiple times in the past. I really don’t feel like this is it, though. It’s a trite cliche, but in a way I really do feel stronger for it. Not so much because of the events, but because I haven’t completely given up and I haven’t completely shut down. I think that’s all I can really ask of myself.
I worry about my job stress and how it might affect my current cycle. I lost all of my PTO when I was sold from a university to a corporation, and due to various circumstances (such as the corporation not having paid holidays) I’ve had to use my PTO almost as quickly as I’ve accumulated it. I wring my hands about how I’ll blithely carry out my plan for this cycle, which was to take off the day of the transfer, the day after the transfer, and the day of my pregnancy test. Imagine showing up at work and getting a phone call saying “I’m so sorry” after months of daily injections, tens of thousands of dollars, painful medical procedures, and so much desire for the that phone call to begin with a “congratulations.” The first time, I stayed at work the whole day. The second time, I stuck around for an hour and then decided that this counted as “sick.”
I’m also concerned that I have unpaid maternity leave. I’m getting ahead of myself, there, but I really don’t see how that’s sustainable and I worry that I’ll have to go back to work pretty quickly – and not be able to spend much time with the baby I tried so hard to have. It’s a complete travesty. There’s no other way to say it. Unpaid maternity leave – or, as in many workplaces, no maternity leave – is abusive. That’s a hostile workplace, if I ever heard of one.
But, getting to the dubious positives of this situation. I’ve been experiencing so much stress, dissatisfaction, and occasional outright despair about how the foot on which my career – the one I longed for almost as much as I long for a child – has started off. What’s the good part? The IVF. The damn twice-failed IVF treatments, and the one underway, have so far been the beacon that I’ve followed during these difficult times. It’s a process that I’m still, somehow, inexplicably excited about. Every day, every shot, every pill, I’m getting closer to the next embryo transfer and, I can only hope, my first “congratulations.” I’m excited to see what happens with a new donor. The unpredictability of obtaining fresh eggs from a donor vs. purchasing ready-made frozen eggs is a little scary, for sure. She could end up backing out, she could end up not passing her CDC tests for STIs, she could be a carrier for a genetic disorder that my husband also carries, she could produce few or no eggs. On the other hand, it may be a boon. And she’s somewhere out there in our town, working and going to college, and slogging through the same sort of process I am. Pills, shots, tests, interviews, psychological screenings, ultrasounds, stirrups and anesthesia. And she’s doing all of that just for me and my husband! It’s a new experience, a change in the game, and I really believe it can still work.