While my fertility journey was agonizing–multiple rounds of in vitro fertilization (IVF) over the course of two years and three jobs–I knew it wasn’t unique. According to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, women received 255,968 total cycles of IVF in 2017. The treatment is cripplingly expensive, too. You only need to scroll through a few posts on infertility support groups to hear of families applying for a second mortgage, liquidating their retirement funds, or taking out high-interest loans to pay for one more round of treatment (one round of IVF can run between $10,000 to $15,000).
And while fertility coverage has been a talking point in tech, finance, and law to drive up recruitment, less than 20% of professionals were fully covered for IVF in 2017. Not to mention that the logistics can be complicated. Stress, rigid schedules, and managers who won’t or can’t understand the timing of fertility treatments (which can lead to cancelled cycles) can lead to dismal success rates.
Data from FertilityIQ, a patient advocate website, suggests that women working in male-dominated industries such as tech, banking, and the law will have a 60% harder time getting pregnant than their counterparts. LGBTQ couples, too, face stress and stigma when it comes to pursuing fertility treatments and starting a family. Discriminatory coverage, for example, may exclude certain treatments for some same-sex couples.
During my tumultuous year at the startup, I felt constantly pulled in two directions. I wanted professional success. I wanted a child. I was living in an in-between of not being pregnant–yet–and simultaneously stressing about how my future family would be impacted by my job. After all, I’d disclosed that I was getting fertility treatments during the hiring process.
My future employers said they viewed this as a benefit; a way for me to directly connect and empathize with the consumer they were trying to reach. But on my second day on the job, I was asked to shift around some key appointments in order to hit essential shipping deadlines.
After a short time working at that healthcare startup, I was fired. It was a relief. I moved to a smaller tech startup, prioritizing culture above almost all else. While the benefits were typical of a startup (not great) and there was no maternity leave policy, the team and environment were great. Within nine months and one and a half rounds of IVF, I was pregnant. I knew there were multiple reasons for my pregnancy: My rock-star healthcare team of Dr. Jaime Knopman and Dr. Sheeva Talebian at CCRM. A husband who kept me laughing. Luck. But I think an equally key reason was working in a supportive environment where I knew my desire to have a family and excel at my career weren’t mutually exclusive.