Making Time for Fertility Treatment When You’re a Teacher

IVF-Life UK has launched Time for Teachers to encourage people in education who are planning fertility treatment in the summer holidays to think about having their first consultation in June  rather than late July.  This may give them the chance of completing treatment before returning to school in September.  Read how former teacher Katie reflects on the benefits of treatment during the holidays, to minimise stress and maximise the chance of success.

Soon after my husband and I were married we got pregnant, naturally. We weren’t particularly trying, but were still in the honeymoon period, relaxed and living a stress-free life. I was a primary school teacher in a great school and my husband a director of his own company. Life was good and we were over the moon to find out we were expecting.

But fast forward four weeks . . . a heart-breaking miscarriage.

No one can prepare you for the loss and grief that you feel. I suddenly realised I was desperate to have a baby. It’s OK, I thought – it happened so easily for us, we will get pregnant again soon and have fun trying. Six months went by, a year, then two years . . . nothing.

Why me? Why us?

This had a profound impact on me. It felt like everyone around me was getting pregnant. It hurt. Why not me? I became insular, reclusive almost. I didn’t want to see anyone and face the questions. I didn’t want to talk about it. My husband and I both still grieving, shared the same emotions. It was us, just us, no one else understood.

After three years of trying and still nothing, I eventually went to my GP who referred me to the fertility clinic based at my local hospital. For the first time in a long time I felt positive about things. I was going to get ‘fixed’ and have a baby. But making appointments was tricky, I didn’t want anyone at school to know, so I just had to say: “I have a hospital appointment,” and luckily no questions were asked. To begin with anyway . . .

After investigations and then Clomid (to no avail) we quite quickly decided that IVF would be the best route for us. There was no explanation for why we didn’t conceive again after the miscarriage and I wanted to get started with it as soon as possible.

In hindsight, the timing probably wasn’t great as it was the start of a new term in school and I didn’t think about the appointments I would need and time off for the egg collection and embryo transfer.

Confiding in colleagues

I knew that I would have to confide in my headteacher and a couple of my colleagues who I worked closely alongside. My colleagues were great, very supportive and it was honestly good to speak to them and help them understand why my spark had disappeared in the previous months. I should have spoken to them sooner.

But my headteacher had a slightly different reaction – I was surprised at the lack of empathy and support that was offered and was told quite abruptly that appointments should be made in my own time or any time off would have to be unpaid. I was unsure of my rights and how best to take care of myself in this situation. I didn’t want to have to talk to the governors about this private, personal matter to me. So I accepted this and took the time off when I needed to as unpaid leave.

My first cycle of IVF, although I was excited by it, left me mentally and emotionally exhausted. The unfamiliarity of it all, the rushing between school and clinic for specific appointment times, the hormone injections involved, recovery times, the phone calls, all whilst trying to remain professional in school teaching a class of 28 four and five year olds certainly took its toll.

Heartbreak – again

At precisely the moment when my class and I should have been planning our Harvest Festival, I was crumpled on my bathroom floor clutching my third negative pregnancy test of the day. The IVF had failed. I had called in to work ‘sick’ that morning, not knowing how I could face the 28 children coming through my classroom door.  

I was very, very angry. Heartbroken.

IVF is an unbelievably stressful process. It’s an emotional, mental, and physical rollercoaster ride with few highs and lots of interminable lows. I am guessing many teachers know that; thousands of women undertake IVF every year so some of those must be in the teaching profession.  

After this first failed attempt, I felt that for the next go, things would have to change. I couldn’t give my all to my class whilst going through the processes, I didn’t want to have to explain to anyone why I needed yet more time off. We decided to leave it for a while and hope that we would be able to schedule it around school holidays. That way, I wouldn’t have to rush around, take calls when I was supposed to be teaching, take time off unpaid, or explain to anyone what I was doing.

A new approach

I started going to acupuncture, I loved these sessions. They helped me to relax and it felt like I was talking to a therapist; I had such positive energy. My husband and I also managed to squeeze in a weekend away, we literally forgot about everything, just enjoyed ourselves and took the time to reconnect. No talk of babies, IVF, egg collecting. It was lovely to just be us again.  

Then before we knew it, it was the school holidays! I was so relaxed, full of positivity. I had time for the appointments, I could get to them for whatever time was needed, which can be so important during the IVF cycle. I could rest up after the egg collection, and more importantly, after the embryo transfer. I had no worries about getting back to my class, or who was going to cover the class for me. The experience compared to the first cycle was completely different.

We had an embryo transferred at the end of July and then we waited . . . and waited . . . and waited. And then we got our positive pregnancy test! For self-preservation purposes, we did not allow ourselves to get excited.

We heard the first heart beats at six weeks. We were still not ready to get excited.

Then I started bleeding, not just a little, but a heavy bleed. IVF-Life UK booked me in for an internal scan straight away. And against all the odds, there was our little bean, wriggling around, heart beat as strong as ever. The bleed was caused from a pocket of blood that had built up in my uterus. Oh the relief! I will never, ever forget that day.   

We had a baby boy, born at 36 weeks. A beautiful, healthy baby boy.

Infertility is a hard battle for anyone, but I will say that I found it extremely hard as a teacher. Working so hard for other people’s children, when you are faced with the possibility of never having your own, is a heartbreaking reality to enter every day. I really benefitted from using my time wisely during the school holidays . . . I honestly believe that this helped me to finally become a mummy.  

Time for Teachers

IVF-Life UK understands the time restraints on teachers and wants to help them plan their treatment schedule so they have the very best chance of a positive outcome.  Making ‘time for teachers’ will hopefully remove some of the stress for them, which is a key part of successful treatment.

The clinic is making additional priority first visit consultation appointments for people in education, including teachers, lecturers, pre-school providers, and teaching assistants, during the June half-term, and in later afternoon appointments, before the school year ends in July.

In addition, teachers can receive a free 15-minute mini-consultation before any first visit consultation.  To register, visit the website and complete this form.