Why should you care about infertility as:
A Business Professional
A Business Owner
Many of you have seen my journey through infertility this week in celebration of National Infertility Awareness Week (#niaw2021), but are wondering – why should I care?
Think about this: 1 in 8 (#1in8) couples in the US go through infertility.
That means more than likely someone you know is going through it or has gone through it.
Now imagine that it is someone who works for you or works with you. They are probably scared to death to bring it up to you. Why?
Because more often than not we try to compartmentalize our personal and professional lives.
It’s not possible – especially when you are going through something as big as infertility.
The person you know may just not be shining as bright as they used to be. She may escape to the bathroom more frequently than before and come back with fresh makeup on to mask the tears. He might snap at things more frequently or make rash decisions at work.
It is clouding their day no matter how brave they try to be or how much they try to hide it. It lingers over everything that they do.
So, why does it matter to you?
Because these are the moments where you and your company can stand for your employees or you can be a support to a peer.
Look at your infertility coverage. Most couples won’t be able to complete a round of treatment with the coverage currently offered. That means they are paying out of pocket to build their family. And that cost is a significant financial burden.
Create a supportive space. Not just for infertility but all the things that can cause trauma in a life. Life happens and sometimes that impacts our job whether we want it to or not.
Make your office a supportive space. Truly supportive. You might think you already have, but I challenge you to think over the last year and answer these questions: When did someone show compassion at work? When did I give compassion? When was the last time someone told me something sensitive? How frequently are we exhibiting compassion for each other?
Give Permission. Give permission to the person going through infertility to tell you as much or as little as they need, even if that means they want to go through graphic details. They are in the middle of a traumatic experience and need to know who they can tell anything and everything too.
And no friends aren’t the only ones that can give support or should give support. When you get called to tell you that your not pregnant or that your numbers aren’t good, where are you? You are 99.9% of the time at work. And guess what – so are your friends. Give permission to be the person someone goes to at work that they can lean on or cry on.
Give Space. On the flip side of permission, give space. To grieve the process. They may just need an hour. They may need a lunch. They may need a day. They may need a bit more compassion on some days than other days.
And no, this doesn’t mean that you can’t give them work to do. Just maybe consider whether it’s reasonable to give them something that is “urgent”. Can you give it to someone else instead for this one time?
It does mean don’t ask details about what is happening with their journey. They need space to process.
Ask what they need. Yes, this is the last one on the list, but it is the most important one on the list. Ask them what they need. Do they want you to just know they are going through this and not talk about it again? Do they want you to support them and how? Do they want you to ask questions about it? Each person and couple wants support in different ways from different people. Some people I told everything too. Others I just wanted to know. Others I wanted them to ask me. You know what made it the easiest for all of us – we talked about what it looked like.
When you put this all together how does a conversation look when someone tells you they are going through infertility. Simple, say:
I am here for you. How do you need to be supported? Do you want me to ask you how things are going? Or wait for you to tell me? No matter what the answer is, you have my permission to talk to me about this whenever you need with as much detail as you need. I will hold our conversations in confidence.
And let them talk.