In an attempt to not get sacked, avoid confusing the entire universe, or piss off every colleague I have, I did in fact tell my boss I was doing IVF. She and I worked out an arrangement by which I work extra hours on some days to cover for my absences on others, so I could attend all my monitoring appointments without enfrettlement. She also agreed that I could take a week’s leave at relatively short notice to cover the uncertainty of when exactly retrieval day was going to be (as soon as I know the date, I let her know, and she uses her status as High and Mighty Boss Lady to OK it in the face of the protocol-obsessed drones in office management. Hah! Hahaha HAH!).
So far so truly excellent.
However, Boss Lady said to me she’d never dealt with this sort of thing before, so she was going to check protocol with HR. Ooooooookay. On the other hand, HR had been truly excellent about my continuous health issues and regular monthly days off and working-from-home episodes.
HR announced they had no protocol or policy about IVF, and could we have a meeting to discuss it? Boss Lady promptly went into supportive overdrive and so, with our lists of notes, she and I met with HR’s representative just this very afternoon.
We established that the Powers That Be agree that working extra hours to cover time off later in the week is exactly what we should be doing, and that I am entitled to a couple of appointments as genuine ‘medical’ paid time off, which is nice, unexpectedly so even. We also established that I am not entitled to any paid sick leave for retrieval or recovery therefrom, as that is an elective procedure (fair enough, but why then allow some paid medical leave for monitoring, you fruit-loops?). But I am allowed paid sick leave if I develop OHSS, because, and I quote, ‘if you went rock-climbing and fell off and broke your leg, you’d get sick leave for that, even though you chose to go rock-climbing in the first place.’ I nodded, thoughtfully. Even weirder, once the embryo has been implanted (‘transferred,’ I muttered), I get treated as ‘pregnant’ and am allowed all monitoring appointments as paid maternity care, even though I might not actually be pregnant. Basically, Pregnant Until Proven Otherwise.
It’s a lot, a lot, more than you’d get in the private sector. I need to focus on that.
HR’s representative at one point fairly early on in the conversation tried to explain the policy by describing IVF as being a ‘cosmetic’ procedure. I said, ‘you mean, an elective procedure.’
‘Oh, yes,’ she replied, ‘Elective, like cosmetic dentistry or something!’
I gasped, I think audibly, because Boss Lady shot me a concerned look and immediately dove in to change the subject. ‘Perhaps May should tell us a bit more about what the procedure involves?’ So I did a quick, idiot-friendly 101 on IVF, replacing ‘Needles up the cooter!’ with ‘minor surgical procedure’ and ‘dildo-cam’ with ‘ultrasound scan’.
HR’s representative then went on to talk some more about the rationale behind leave versus paid sickness absence, and, I kid you not, repeated the word ‘cosmetic’ to describe IVF several more times. And I felt deeply weird, because on the one hand, HR are being reasonable and good natured about it all and she was making suggestions about taking more work-from-home days if I needed them after retrieval and didn’t want to use all my leave on it, and wishing me luck, and so forth, and on the other hand, cosmetic? Are you fucking kidding me?
I didn’t say anything more about it at the time. I actually felt myself shutting down with a clang, emotionally. As we were leaving, Boss Lady told me not to worry about any of it and concentrate on ‘what’s important’, meaning the IVF cycle, bless her. I think she could definitely tell something had derailed.
I went back to my desk and wrote increasingly vituperative emails to my Deleted folder for the rest of the afternoon.
Cosmetic? The hell, woman?
It already seems to me bad e-fucking-nough that I should have to discuss the dates of my menstrual cycle with half-a-dozen Goddamn colleagues every sodding month. And now I have to discuss my reproductive plans. And be judged on them. And have some gurning twatweasel jobsworth patronise me about doing a ‘cosmetic’ procedure – what does she think a child is, a fucking handbag? – for which I have to be (Universe, you must be shitting me) grateful because they’re allowing me to dick my schedule about so much to make it all work. Cosmetic, she called it.
Every other woman they’ve dealt with could have got knocked up by screwing a berk in a pub car park. She could’ve insouciantly fucked her way through the entire student population and have no more idea of who the father was than an alley-cat. She could’ve lied about being on the pill or poked holes in all her condoms with a pin. But she won’t have to sit there and have to be grateful to some undereducated bureaucrat make witlessly judge remarks about her reproductive decisions. No. Other, fertile, ‘normal’ women get to make their decisions about how and when to have a child in perfect privacy, and there are laws and policies in place by the motherfucking dozen to protect them from judgement or discrimination. They don’t have to ask their boss’s permission to go screw their partner.
I don’t think this can even be seen as an ‘elective’ procedure. I have had nine miscarriages. I am in agony every month. I have a pretty serious health problem, which HR sodding well knows all about, preventing me from conceiving the nice private nunya way. Why is it ‘elective’ for me to then have to undergo an expensive, invasive, painful and undignified procedure, publicly, to even so much as have a tiny microscopic fucking chance at having a child? How is this comparable to getting my fucking teeth whitened? Did I ask for this? Did I choose it? Can you show me the fucking paperwork where I signed up for this? How is it fair to wank on about this being ‘cosmetic’ (bitch. Bitch bitch bitch), when other people can ‘choose’ to get drunk and forget their diaphragm in total, sanctioned, privacy?
Stupid, thoughtless, careless, judgemental little bitch. That is all.