Returning to the Office During Your Fertility Journey
If you are embarked on a fertility journey, or are about to, returning to the office may make your journey more complicated.
• You will have less flexibility, so scheduling in-person appointments with your physician or clinic will now have to be coordinated with your office and commuting hours.
• Time away from the office may mean you will have to confide your journey with HR or a supervisor, though you may have wanted to be private about your fertility issues.
• You may have to notify team workers that you will be away from the office at times, inviting unwelcome questions and, if you confide in them, unwanted advice.
• If you already have a child at home, you will be juggling even more schedules.
• You may worry more about exposure to the Covid-19 virus just when you want to be strong and healthy for IUI, IVF, or third party procedures.
But there are also many up-sides to a return to the office during your fertility journey:
• According to a 2020 Pew Poll of more than 10 thousand Americans, almost half of all workers say they feel more motivated to focus on work when they are in the office than at home and work can be an important and healthy distraction during a fertility journey. Instead of just worrying, watching, and waiting for results, you can interact with others on projects and counteract some journey frustrations with job successes.
• According to this same poll, Americans in the age group most often interested in building a family (ages 18 to 49) are more likely than their older counterparts to say they feel worn out by the amount of time they spend on Zoom and other video platforms at home and find relief from that tedium when they are in the office again. That relief can translate into more energy for their fertility journey and for daily life in general.
• A Harvard Business Review article by Dr. Art Markman points out that if you are on-boarding, supervising, or teaching others, you will be more efficient in the office than remotely. What I have seen is that such interaction can increase your sense of control, just when your fertility journey may be lowering that sense of control. It can also remind you that you are valuable, effective, and defined by more than your fertility issues!
• Dr. Markman also points out that sharing a physical workplace enables moments of serendipity. “You might bump into a colleague while thinking about a problem, grab a cup of coffee, and ask a question that leads to a new solution.” To me that suggests that working from home may mean the opposite possibility - endless opportunities for moments of anxiety, ruminating and awfulizing because we know we can catch up with work anytime.
• According to my patients, the best part of returning to the office is they can build a support team of those who offer humor, sympathy, or encouragement and who are not intrusive relatives or gossip-prone personal friends.
So how to make the best of returning to the office during your fertility journey?
1. Practice self-care
Did you know that time spent traveling, like commuting to work or driving to a store, dropped from about 1.2 hours per day to 47 minutes per day while we were working from home during the pandemic? According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, most Americans used that extra time doing things they enjoy. Don’t give up that self-care time if you are in fertility treatment when you return to the office. Make self-care a priority, not a reward after a difficult day at the office or disappointing result during treatment. Watch a comedy, do a puzzle, take a long bath, learn some magic tricks, get a back rub, do progressive relaxation, hum, stretch, pray, sing. They all reduce stress. Self-care will help you move forward in treatment and last for the long run.
2. Practice mindfulness
If you catch yourself re-living the past (all the ‘should have’, ‘would have’, and ‘could have’s) or catch yourself living the future (all the ‘what if’s), bring yourself back to the present, to the ‘here and now”. It’s the only moment that is real and it’s the only time you truly have control. Choose to spend this moment breathing as if you are resting and optimistic about your treatment and focus on the immediate colors, sounds, and sensations around you and your brain will respond by turning off its ‘high alert’ vigilance and turning on its relaxation response.
3. Practice optimism
We are wired for survival – that means anticipating trouble and danger. We have to practice gratitude, optimism, and patience. Learn about all the paths in a fertility journey, from IUI to IVF, ovum or sperm donation, surrogacy, and adoption. Remind yourself every day that if you want to parent, there’s always a way.