Monday, 24 January 2011

Telling The Boss (Again)

On thing that has made the whole infertility thing a lot less stressful than it could have been is my work.  Specifically how flexible my boss has been about my appointments.

My boss was one of the first people I told about my infertility. I tell that tale here.

We’d worked together for years and were friends as well as colleagues, and he trusted me. So if I needed to go off early for an appointment he’d let me. Or if I had to have an extra half hour for my lunch break to get some blood done it wasn’t a big deal – I’d make up the time.  Equally I didn’t take the piss – if I knew that I was going to be off for a full half a day, I’d take it as holiday.

Notice the past tense.

In September my boss left for a new job, new town, new husband.

He had been the only person at work who knew about infertility – the flexibility wasn’t a company policy but done on an individual basis between us.

By November, just as fertility things were kicking off again, I had a new boss.

I decided that I wasn’t going to tell him about our infertility immediately.  I’d wait until he’d got to know and trust me (and not chalk me down as someone who would be off for womb inspections every five minute and therefore unreliable).

However, that was before I had the a pre-operation appointment scheduled for the 23 of December, booked to clash with  an important meeting. A meeting that had been in the diary since he started. A meeting that couldn’t be moved unless I had A Very Good Reason. I had one, but just telling him that wouldn’t be enough.

So I came clean.

The fact that he has a 6 year old and 4 year old child gave me a bit of hope that he would be sympathetic regarding my procreative hopes.

I even, for a moment allowed myself to indulge in a minor fantasy.  After all, with 1 in 6 couples experiencing infertility maybe he too had gone through this prior to his kids being born. His weak attempt at humour when I told him about IVF; "Maybe you'll have triplets!" swiftly convinced me that wasn't the case.

(And can you imagine what our meetings was like with both of us resorting to inappropriate "Oh my God I didn't really say that out loud did I?" jokes? I even, at one point, reassured him that the husband was fine so I wasn't going to have to resort to a sperm donation.

From him.

My boss.

Who I'd known, at this point, for less than a month.

Please tell me I'm not the only one who does this kind of thing.)

At first I was concerned that he’d see me as a liability, someone who isn’t committed to their job. So I spelled it out to him, I told him I was committed to my job and that I would do all I could to arrange my work round this, but I was clear if something has to give this baby-business is my priority.

He took it well. And in retrospect why not? Now at he knows that at the very least I’m going to be hanging around for another 10 months. I’m not about to hand in my notice and leave him, the new boy, in the lurch. He also knows that I am going to do my best not to take the piss, not for me sick days because I feel a bit under the weather – my sick days are too precious to waste on a cough or cold.

As noted previously, infertiles make very reliable employees.

I remember one of my best friends saying how nervous she had felt telling her male boss that she was pregnant.  She felt that whilst she was saying those words her boss was actually hearing "I have had a lot of sex."

And I also got the distinct impression during my clinical explanation of how I would be in late if I had scans and I couldn't exactly predict how long each phase would last and when things like the egg retrieval and transfer would take place I might as well be saying "I will have more foreign items stuffed up my vagina in the next couple of months than your kids have in their toy box - think on that, Big boy, think on that."

It went well but that doesn't detract from the fact that it is very, very awkward talking about your lady bits to a man you’ve known for less than a month and who isn’t a medical professional.


  1. No - you most certainly are not the only one who does that kind of thing - but I think it is a very British trait - here in the land of the Germans, it would never happen. Unthinkable.
    Well done for flying the flag for Great British irony in a sticky moment..once again!

  2. I have sort of told my boss but been very vague. I find it very awkward.
    I am dreading telling my boss if I am pregnant as I will be the third girl in 3 months!

  3. No one's boss wants to hear that stuff...they just want you to show up on time, do the workload of six, stay 3 hours late but never ask for overtime pay, and drop dead when your salary reaches a high level, so they don't have to pay you or give you a pension.

    Hope the new boss is flexible...

  4. i hope he gives you the support you need during this cycle. i took the cowards way out and just said "i'm not dying, but i am having an important medical procedure, the timing of which all depends on my reaction to the medications i take leading up to it". i left it at that and let him think it was something worse (in terms of health) than it was. he walked on eggshells around me after that. sucka (him, not YOU) :o)

  5. If I have to talk about sperm with my boss (who is female) I will spontaneously combust. It was utterly, absolutely, awful enough trying to tell her what adenomyosis is and she was beautifully kind and understanding about it (and, bless her, she persists in referring to it as 'your condition').

    This - "I will have more foreign items stuffed up my vagina in the next couple of months than your kids have in their toy box - think on that, Big boy, think on that." - this made me laugh out very loud indeed.

    Fingers crossed. Very crossed. Mucho crossed.

  6. Glad to hear that the new boss was understanding of everything, even if he didn't realllly understand. What a relief too that he seems pretty supportive and willing to be flexible with you! BEST of luck this go round, you are in my thoughts!

  7. You are brave telling your boss at all. I always just made up lies about dentist appts, dr appts, cable repair, vet visit, etc. etc.

  8. I am with boss if female and luckily her cousin went through 5 cycles of IVF, so she has some empathy. She also knows I bust my butt at work and my quality has never swayed. However, it is still uncomfortable and I had to talk to our HR guy as well to arrange some days off and well, that was weird. He is young and very cool, but still. I am glad he is really does make the biggest difference even if all the 'worry' doesn't go away.

  9. Ha! Oh dear, how mortifying. Poor WFI.

    I think we can call this a Syndrome. In our last adoption meeting, the group was forewarned that we'd be asked about our sex life in assessments. One brave soul piped up to ask why exactly was that important? Then her husband blurted out: Actually, we have loads of sex! LOADS! But we call it making LOVE! We make LOVE ALL THE TIME!

    We all laughed our heads off.

  10. Glad your new boss has taken what you've said on board, although maybe not in the way you'd hoped. If there's one thing we IFs know it's that most people don't understand - and how could they!

    My boss is female and when I told her I was having treatment she said "That means you could be off this time next year. SHIT!" followed by "Not that I don't want it to work for you..."

    She doesn't mean any harm and I do believe she wants it to work! Plus, she bought me a lovely Lulu Guinness bag last week as she knew my ICSI cycle wasn't going well. That's her way to show me that she cares.

  11. Sounds like you've handled it as best you could. And as long as you are upfront and open, your boss shouldn't have a problem.

  12. Love your comment about the toys for the big boy to think about!

    I'm wondering how to tell my new boss this. Who is female and childless (I think by choice but of course I don't know)... somehow this is all awkward. But we have a sort of friendly relationship, and doing treatments without telling her doesn't seem right either, even apart from the fact that I'm not a good liar. Phew.

  13. This kind of sounds like a scene out of a movie--the new boss, the uncomfortable jokes.

    I'm glad it went fairly well. It sucks when we have to let our bosses in on our personal lady junk business.

  14. I never told my bosses anything. Too too mortifying. But then all my scans were at dawn so no one was ever any the wiser. Retrieval etc was a "minor op". I never believed any of the take the whole 2 weeks off lying on your back stuff so got away with three days sick max per cycle.

    Fingers firmly crossed for you.

  15. I thought about telling my boss this go-round, but he's famous for drawing charts for everything, so I decided I just couldn't handle a ghant chart with boxes and arrows. I'll just be mysterious. So far, so good.

    And, whew! Glad that you (or NHS) is finally moving forward on the cycle!

  16. Urgh, I totally understand. I think I've had about all the awkward conversations around infertility (and then surprising fertility) possible with my long suffering single, 'man's man' type boss.

    First I reduced my hours and had to request a slightly different role when I was on clomid as I was supposed to be on the road 3-4 days a week, not condusive to the many scans needed at times that suited the clinic and not my job. Then I had lots of mysterious time off for trips to London, egg retrievals, bed rest etc and presented him with a "fertility leave" form that I found in the depths of our HR intranet which I'm sure he believed I'd created myself as he's never seen one before. Then after my successful pregnancy and extended maternity leave of 15 months I come back to work pregnanct again - "surprise, boss!" (well I thought I was infertile, how was I supposed to know having a baby seems to have fixed things....) and a request to work 2 days a week for the mere four months I'd be back for before pocketing my next lot of maternity leave and pay. I'm sure I'm down as one of their most committed employees!
    Hoorah again for the imminent ivf cycle by the way, I'm glad you had the need to have the awkward conversation as it means things are moving forward!

  17. It is so very awkward. Telling my male supervisor why I was taking medical leave was excruciating. He was understanding but still. At one point, I realized that we were both whispering. As if the subject matter were just too ribald for polite company:)

    I had to laugh at the description of your conversation, though. You were channeling Miranda, eh? (Which, by the way has been one of the only thing that elevates me from this mosh pit of grimness...thanks for that suggestion).


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