Living well with fertility treatments - People's stories
#2. Informing work, as I will need a flexible schedule
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Introduction - People's stories
All People's stories are written in the 1st person to reinforce their impact.
While anonymity is preserved, all stories are inspired by real facts.
People's stories are examples, to feed you with concrete cases of how the Puzzle has been used. They are not to tell you what to think, or absolute truth: they were created with the intent to illustrate how you can transform your life with the Puzzle.
Each People’s story is presented in the following way:
Part 1. The authentic life experience
Part 2. What that same moment could have been, leveraging the Puzzle
Part 3. Decoding the story through the lens of the Puzzle framework
Part 1 - I don’t want work to know about my fertility treatments
Every morning I get up, and the first idea that comes to my mind is whether I will ever be able to become a Mum.
Then, right after, comes where I stand in my monthly cycle, and whether I need to inject myself with a shot of hormones.
Third thought is to hurry, and get ready for work! Not the best way to start the day relaxed!
But that is nothing compared to the stress I had to deal with, when my fertility doctor called me at work one day, and told me I would have to be with her the next day by 8 in the morning!!
I am working full time and I am busy: my agenda is full of meetings! I can’t just free myself like that!! People count on me! Plus, what is everyone going to think??!! This is not good!!
This call was very stressful to receive, and now I am left with it, in panic. What will I do?! Obviously not going is not an option, but disappointing people I work with neither! I had not told anyone at work I was taking a fertility treatment. I thought I could manage this privately and quietly, on the side!
I gathered myself together and asked my boss for a quick talk in private. I had to tell him. I could not think of any other way out. I had to explain why I would not be here tomorrow morning. It felt like a huge thing to say!
In fairness to him, we do get along very well: he is the best manager I ever had! Very professional, also very funny, very empathetic and very smart! Still, I had not told him about my treatments, primarily because when I mention them I get emotional. So I tend to avoid this discussion, and in particular in the office!
I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to say this right, and had so many conflicting feelings and thoughts! Such as: this is so inappropriate to bring this topic to the workplace. Or I must inform my manager and be strong while doing so, even if I am completely overwhelmed!
As soon as we got into the meeting room, I miserably burst into tears!! Which did not help, as I felt even more stupid and inadequate!! I felt like the walking stereotype of a woman full of hormones. I felt ridiculous to be so emotional, but could not hold it!
Obviously my boss worried, and asked me what was going on. I managed to explain: he listened, and immediately told me this was clearly the priority. No issue for me to be out of the office on the next day. He was very comprehensive and supportive - as I knew he would be!
Yet it was still a big thing for me to bring this part of my life to work. I told him I did not want to be asked how I was, or about progress - as so far there was no progress! Plus I wanted to remain focused on my job, also as it is a nice distraction from this medical part of my life. He understood and remained there for me, only discussing the matter when I brought it up.
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Part 2 - I need support at work, as fertility treatments require a flexible schedule
Every morning I get up, and the first idea that comes to my mind is whether I will ever be able to become a Mum. But before any other idea comes to mind, I take a few minutes to breathe - counting seconds as the air comes in and out. It helps me to relax, so I can start my day with a good vibe! Plus as I count and breathe, I can’t think of something else: it gives me air space!
Still, I was not prepared for the call from my doctor. She told me I had to be with her the next day, by 8 in the morning! I am working full time and I am busy: my agenda is full of meetings! I can’t just free myself like that!!
I was panicking in the open space.
Acknowledging it was good news because it meant the treatments were getting serious. But that was far from enough to come me down!
I went to the restrooms to have some privacy. I asked myself what I needed, and plenty of requests came back! Give myself a hug, have a little time off, be strong… So I started in order: I gave myself a hug and felt better. I told myself I was having a quiet moment right now, and there was no rush. I also made sure I was breathing more deeply, while comforting myself. I could feel my stress coming down to a manageable level. I decided to have a little chat with my Ego: it had not failed to protect me. This was not the end of the world: I would find a way to be at the hospital tomorrow. Nothing terribly wrong would result from it.
Plus how would I know how my boss or my colleagues would react? I am not in their heads. And why would this lead them to talk in my back, or even worse: change their professional opinion of me? Although I could not help stress, there was objectively no good reason why any of these scenarios would happen!
I soon felt good enough to leave the restrooms, and asked my boss for a quick talk in private, as I had come to the conclusion I had to tell him. It still felt like a huge thing to say, but I knew it was the right thing to do. I also wanted him to know that I remained committed to work as always, but that I was also a person with a personal life and constraints coming with it.
I still had so many conflicting feelings and thoughts, that as soon as we got into the meeting room, I started crying. Still, as I had taken this moment to comfort myself before, I was able to stop the tears quite quickly; and managed to explain to him the situation. I also shared my fear that this would play negatively on my career, as I was afraid he would think babies would be all my life, and work would become just a side hobby.
That made him laugh!! This was never a concern he had: he was very happy with my work until now, and me becoming a parent would not change that! He reminded me that he also had kids, and that it did not prevent him from working - as do most parents! So why would he think otherwise of me!? He was very comprehensive and supportive - and I knew he would be!
I felt so relieved to have told him, and to hear his reaction! I no longer had to hide this part of my life, and I was supported in my personal project by work too. It felt really good.
I decided to tell a few more people I trusted in the office, and asked them to remain discreet. I also told them I was afraid to cry if they would ask me about it out of the blue. They were all very comprehensive, and supported me in such an empathetic and elegant manner that it did help me a lot. I realized how much I polluted and stressed myself keeping all this for me. All these ideas I initially had in mind about how people would react: none of them ended up being true!
Part 3 - The Puzzle decoder
Let's decode this People's story with the lens of the Puzzle pieces.
Wanting to keep professional and personal lives separate comes from a good intent - such as to protect my career, or to be distracted from the pressure of having a child. Yet, this logic forgets that while the environment is different (office versus home), I am one person.
For some personalities, it works. For others, pretending that some parts of myself only exist during some hours of the day can be narrowing who I am.
I need to decide what suits me. While it is easy to be fully myself when everything goes well, it does take courage to connect both words when difficulties arise. I can hand pick whom I share with. It also requires a professional environment that can hear what I am going through.
It is also neither helpful nor true to fall into the stereotype that women only care about their children. That as soon as I will become a Mum, then work will no longer matter. When I fear that wanting a child could backfire in the office, ask myself whether I am sure? Am I 100% sure everyone will react that way? Aren't some of my managers also parents themselves? I do not know what people think until I have spoken to them. Plus I will be surprised how many people are exposed to fertility treatments, directly or indirectly - through friends or family.
Last, take one day after the other: for the time being, I have no child and I do have a job. Except when I need time to dedicate to the medical appointments, I am the same professional and valued employee as I was before all this started. Nothing has changed at work.
And if one day I become a Mum, then that day I will figure out how to organize myself so I can both combine having a child and working - if this is what I want. One problem at a time: I do not need to figure it all out now. Buy myself time, and live the present as it is.
Realizing when I am tense, and being able to relax my body then, does help.
When I anticipate a stressful meeting, I can take a few minutes before to physically relax. Imagine a bubble around me: stretch my legs and arms, and imagine touching the edge of my bubble. I am inside a safe zone. I should try anything that suits me to help release the physical tension, as my body will keep the memory of it as I walk more relaxed into the meeting room.
And if I end up crying, so be it. I am no machine, and this is not an easy topic to disclose. Tears are also another way to physically release tension.
Or, if I prefer, I could first send the information in writing, then talk about it.
There is no perfect answer: trust I will find the best way for myself, and in the context of my work environment.
When my day starts with stress and the journey continues with panic and fear, there is little chance that I am enjoying life!
No doubt that the treatments and not knowing what the future will be puts me in a very stressful situation. Still, when I take a step back: I am doing all this to be happy with a child. But why wait to have the child to be happy?! Am I sure I cannot be happy without waiting? Am I really 100% sure?!
Does the process “have to” be so stressful?
When I add pressure on myself, I anticipate catastrophes. No one will view me as professional any more. For instance, wanting a child will disqualify me for a promotion. …. Really??
If this was about someone else, what would I think?
Then why would other people think this about me?!
This is my Ego polluting myself: none of this is real, nor realistic. It could happen, but it is not happening right now. This is a speculation. My Ego is trying to protect me , preparing me for the worst…. except that none of this exists but in my head. There is no need to prepare myself for something that may not happen - because while I do so, I cannot enjoy all that is happening and that is good around me.
And if anyone makes an inappropriate comment, then I can leverage my Ego to protect myself effectively! In such a case, I am allowed and legitimate to be angry and push back!
Look around me in the office and see which position women with kids have. Read articles about women CEOs. Join women’s associations. See for myself that I can be a great Mum and have a career.
Also read about women who did not have children - wanted or unwanted. See for myself whether their lives are terrible. See whether everything ended for them, or they made something of their lives despite not having a child? Has any of these women had a career? And how did they fulfill themselves on a personal basis?
Witness that there are many ways to be fulfilled. It is not only about work if you have no child. Or similarly, it is not only about home if you have one! There are nuances in everything: I will find my own balance.
Also, whether it is work, a child, friends, a partner… no one has the power to make me happy but myself. Happiness comes from inside: no one else can trigger it, as no one else but I, is inside of me! I will not suddenly be well because I have a child: this kid does not have such power over me. Only I do. So do not wait: start to be well today!