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The Fertile Chick: Hospital Appointment… Can I Have Time Off?

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Taking time off work for my numerous hospital appointments. That was one of the biggest struggles for me…and I’ll bet a for whole lot of other women out there, TTC women in particular, especially those who have opted for the assisted reproduction route.

Even before I opted to go assisted, I had a period when I was shopping around for a good, affordable hospital, as I thought my regular Gynaecologist had gotten too expensive for me. In the beginning, I tried to limit these searches to the weekends, but considering I wanted more than a chat with a hospital receptionist, nurse, or (very) junior doctor on duty, I realized that the Specialists that I wanted to see where hardly ever available on weekends. So I had to get creative. My office at the time was located in Victoria Island, so for the hospitals nearby, I scheduled such appointments for my lunch break and, give or take a few minutes, I was able to get away with this, with nary an eyebrow raised. For the hospitals that were far away, I found myself coming up with excuses to either resume late, or close early, to enable me stop by on my way to/from work.

This was all fine and good when I was just checking out the hospitals, but when I started all the investigative treatment proper…hmm, it got tricky. I opted for a hospital in Onikan, which I chose primarily because it was covered by my health insurance. The day I was scheduled for their investigative tests (hormone profiling, uterus scan, etc.), I was scheduled for 9am in the morning and, in my mind, I thought I would be there for 2 hours, tops. So I called in with an excuse. But oh boy! By noon, I was still there, waiting to even start! Long story short, I didn’t leave the place till past 4pm, meaning I had to make up a story for being absent from work that day. And that wasn’t all. I was scheduled for a hysetroscopy a few days later (a procedure in which a small tube is inserted into your vagina, to examine your cervix and inside of your uterus), meaning yet another day off. And this was just investigative oh…we hadn’t even started the treatment proper.

In the end, I wasn’t happy with the general service in that clinic and, cost savings or not, decided to return to my original Gynaecologist. Great..except it meant I would have to repeat these tests again! I was able to get my scans and blood work done on a Saturday…but alas, I was scheduled for yet another hysteroscopy (fun times, right?!), which was to be combined with a laparoscopy (a surgical procedure surgery in which a thin tube is inserted through an incision in the belly, to look at the abdominal female reproductive organs), and as it was to be performed by my doctor himself, who isn’t available on weekends (except for emergencies), I was scheduled to have the procedures on a Tuesday. In this case, I had to take not only that day off, but the day after, for ‘recovery’. And lest I forget, as this hospital is in Lekki Phase 1, it made making a ‘quick dash’ for hospital appointments so much trickier! At first, I tried scheduling my appointments first thing in the morning (8 am). This didn’t work as my doctor hardly every got there for 8! Lunch break appointments also didn’t work, as by the time I would get there for 1pm, because consultations would have started late, the person going in to see the doctor could probably be the 11am person! In the end, I had to settle for evening appointments, wherein I would get there and get comfortable with a good magazine, pending whenever it was my turn. The downer was that I had to close early on such days, and in the investment banking world I was in at the time, it didn’t quite the stellar employee make, having to close at 4, 5pm, a few times a week. But alas, what could I do?!

And then IVF time came. For my first cycle, I was feeling like a penny pincher again, and found myself in an Ikoyi hospital that was offering the service for cheaper. Luckily, my injections were done at home, but I did have to make my way to the hospital a few times a week, for the necessary scans. Okay, let me paint a picture for you. The hospital is off Awolowo Road…and there were a few fuel scarcities in that period. Yep, you guessed it! Traffic galore! With the numerous fuel stations in that area, the roads were almost always on lockdown! My commute alone, to and fro, was at least 90 minutes. And that wasn’t even accounting for wait time in the hospital. It was a mess! I was absent from work for hours at a stretch. It was just ridiculous. By the time my egg retrieval and embryo transfer were approaching, I just took 2 weeks from my annual vacation jeje, as I had run out of stories for my continued absence from work.

That cycle didn’t work, and off I went back to my old doctor, in Lekki Phase 1. He insisted on me getting some of my shots in the hospital, but as they were nurse-administered, I planned my morning commute such that I would get to the hospital by 6.30am in the morning for my injections, and before 8am, I would be back at work, resuming like every other employee. I scheduled my scans for evenings, so my truancy was at a minimum, and when it was time for the egg retrieval and embryo transfer, like the last time, I took my annual leave.

But the struggle was real.

One of my closest friends decided to have her IVF cycle in Ikeja. She and her husband fell in love with a clinic they found there, likening it to hospitals abroad, and were very impressed by the organization of their staff. Which is all fine and good, except she works in Victoria Island…and lives near Ajah. By the time she was neck deep in her cycle, she realized she had made a mistake. Hospital appointments were tricky…and even though she had the luxury of scheduling weekend appointments, the Saturday traffic on the expressway ensured that her whole day was lost each time. But it was a sacrifice she just had to make.

About a month ago, my cousin had an IVF cycle in Abuja. As we were talking on the phone, she told me how she intended to return to work the day of her egg retrieval, and only take the day of her embryo transfer off. I was aghast! I tried to explain to her cramps and soreness that often follow an egg retrieval process…and also how much of a strong proponent I am about bed rest after embryo transfer, but she refused to listen. Thankfully, her doctor ordered her to take at least a week off. But as she is not due for leave yet, she had to come clean to her boss about what it was she was doing. Luckily for her, he was empathetic and he gave her time off.

Which brings me to my next point…the conundrum of whether, or not, to open up to the authorities at work. A lot of times, this might actually be the best thing, as it could save you from telling a lot of lies and tales. If you come clean with your boss, or Human Resources (HR), maybe, just maybe, you might have someone in your corner, ready to defend all the time you might have to take off. For me, this was not an option, as the HR in my organization was notorious for information leaks. Confidential discussions were anything but, and instead became fodder for office gist. It was that bad! If I had told my HR Manager that I was going through IVF, I might as well have written a neon sign to that effect, on the notice board. So, no. It wasn’t an option for me.

But when I got pregnant, I didn’t have a choice. As I was one of those women prone to early bleeds, I opened up, not to my HR Manager, but to my Managing Partner himself. He was thrilled for me, as he knew how long I’d been trying, and was happy to give me all the time off I needed (as I had to be on bed rest for a little while). He also understood my desire for confidentiality…or so I thought. When I returned to work, I noticed a couple of the other Partners looking at my stomach. It was so fleeting, it could easily have been missed. But I didn’t miss it. And I knew my Managing Partner had spilled the tea.

But in that instance, having my pregnancy announced earlier than I wanted was less important than being able to rest and protect that very pregnancy. So when it was time for my hospital appointments, scans, and even when I had to take a couple of days off for my cervical stitch, since it was already news in the public domain, getting time off was easy peasy.

And that brings me to my last point. Antenatal appointments.

In my case, I would only take off a couple of hours to quickly attend, and then return to work. But I know a lot of women who insist on taking the day off. At first, I thought women like this were just taking advantage of their employers, until someone explained to me how long and tedious it can be in some hospitals. Fair enough, but if you have to take a day off every week (or whatever frequency your antenatal appointments are), not to mention the three months you’ll take for maternity leave, one can almost understand why organizations are not too excited about having pregnant employees. My advise is, if you can, try to go back to work after your antenatal appointment. Trust me, it will earn you the goodwill you will need later on.

And let’s not even go into the time off that comes after having kids, what with immunization appointments and all! It’s hard, it’s difficult, but if we can find a way to strike a balance, such that your work doesn’t suffer, there will be less repercussions in the long run. I’m sure that all my truancy in the time leading up to my pregnancy played a role in my being overlooked for a promotion, the year after I had my kids. As angry as I was for not getting promoted when all my peers were, even I had to admit that, truly, I had pushed the envelope on one too many occasions.

In conclusion, my advise is to schedule your appointments in such a way that there is minimal clash with your work schedule. Try your very best to keep your appointments to the weekends, and if this is impossible, then get scheduled for evenings, after work. That way, you avoid one too many overlaps. This is actually the best thing for you…and for your career.

Good luck, TTC ladies! Here’s blowing you all baby dust, and hoping your journey ends soon.

Photo Credit: Michael Emerson | Dreamstime.com

Nicole is a woman in her late 30s, with a passion for all things fertility related. She suffered infertility for the first 3 years of her marriage, and found it extremely isolating. After she had her kids, she started The Fertile Chick (www.thefertilechickonline.com) to create a community and happy-place for all women, in various stages of the fertility journey.

23 Comments

  1. chic we sabi

    February 17, 2017 at 3:41 pm

    true talk….thank you for the information

    • Nicole The Fertile Chick

      February 20, 2017 at 7:13 am

      You’re very welcome, chic :-). Thank you.

  2. Yemisi Wada

    February 17, 2017 at 3:53 pm

    Dear Nicole,
    I’m not a TTC chick but found this article very brilliant and just wanted to say so.

    • Nicole The Fertile Chick

      February 20, 2017 at 7:03 am

      Thank you so much, Ma. I am indeed honored.

  3. Sultana

    February 17, 2017 at 4:03 pm

    Wow! The trials many women go through to be mothers. Kudos to mums and mums to be. It isn’t easy at all. As a government worker its a bit easier for me. While ttc i fixed most appointments for Friday which is basically half-day. Now; for antenatal; before I start showing it’ll be easy to disappear without much attention because I work out of office most days.

    I know people that might have to stop work to avoid unnecessary queries while ttc. Its all a sacrifice either way.

    • Nicole The Fertile Chick

      February 20, 2017 at 7:05 am

      Sultana, you’re so lucky you have such a flexible arrangement! It makes things so much easier. And I’m still so stoked about your BFP, by the way :-). Good luck for the rest of the journey hun xoxo

  4. Mama

    February 17, 2017 at 5:18 pm

    This is so informative. Thank you Nicole. The struggle may be real but the struggle is over!

    • Nicole The Fertile Chick

      February 20, 2017 at 7:05 am

      AMEN to that, Mama! God bless you hun xoxo

  5. ob

    February 17, 2017 at 5:28 pm

    This is really helpful,so also think the best option is to be upfront with ur supervisor or Hr,talking from experience,i never missed a doctor appointment with my wife ,all the pre natal and post natal bcos i was upfront with my boss even though i am an investment banker,you might say i have an understanding boss,but what really helped was my record of never missing work and never late to work and also putting extra time to my work when necessary.
    if you dont have a nice boss ,still be upfront with him/her cos you might soon run out of lies,and truth be told a job that does not want you to be happy having kids is not worth staying with,there should be happiness too outside work,its called work life balance.

    • Nicole The Fertile Chick

      February 20, 2017 at 7:06 am

      You’re very correct, ob! Candour is always the easiest thing…except it gets tricky when this confidentiality is breached.

  6. Gerry

    February 17, 2017 at 7:45 pm

    Very well written. I had the same issue, my hospital was also at Ikoyi, my office at oshodi and home Ikeja. It was really tricky as I didn’t want to constantly take days off, but nothing prepared me for the egg retrieval I was sore up until the embryo transfer so I had to apply for sick leave. For my second cycle, I used a hospital in Ikeja and luckily the gynaecologist was available only in the evenings and weekends and that worked perfectly for me.

    • Nicole The Fertile Chick

      February 20, 2017 at 7:07 am

      I’m glad you found an arrangement that worked, Gerry! That cross-town commute, especially in this our Lagos, is not beans at all!

  7. Mum in waiting

    February 17, 2017 at 8:20 pm

    Oh Nicole,

    I think you wrote this article with me in mind!.

    After TTC for a long while, I endured what I thought was the most excruciating pain I could ever go through. The daily injections in preparation for IVF. Oh my, I cried after each shot. Couldn’t do the injections myself so I had to go to the hospital everyday after work. The inbetween scans required me sneaking out of work every now and then. I either exceeded my lunch time or had to sneak out of work one or two hours earlier. I did this because I couldn’t ask for a couple of hours off work everyday as my employer would demand for an explanation (understandably) but I may as well make a live broadcast!

    I had the injections on my thighs but after 2 weeks, I couldn’t handle them anymore. I tried to have them on my belly once and it hurt so much I had to switch to my bum. I cried everyday, my husband almost made me cancel.

    The injections messed with my head so much I called my mum at 1:00am someday and told her I was suffering from depression. My hormones were everywhere. I cried over everything and for nothing.

    I applied for 2 days off work; one for the egg retrieval and one for the transfer because my doctor told me I would be back at work the next day. Yea right! I couldn’t resume work until 3 days after the retrieval. I was home for 3 days, belly hurt so bad, I was bloated and couldn’t eat solids. I had zero bowel movement, it was crazy. I had to call in sick for the two additional days.

    Now I’m waiting for the day 5 egg transfer which is in some hours.

    I had thought I would have a 3 day egg transfer so applied for time off on day 3. But as it’s now a day 5 transfer, I have to go back to ask for more time off. Hopefully, my line manager doesn’t get too inquisitive. Although, I have made up my mind that whether I get the approval or not, I will be going for the transfer procedure.

    Now about supportive employers, I spoke with my direct line manager (a partner) asking for two days off for “surgery”. He told me to send an email and put HR on copy. When I got back to work after the retrieval, I had everyone stopping at my desk asking why I came back so soon after “my surgery”.

    Now imagine if my email was asking for time off for IVF!

    It’s really hard to strike a balance between being a committed employee and a TTC waiting for IVF. There were days I just didn’t want to get out of my bed or go to work. I was mentally and emotionally drained. Sigh!

    Dashing in between work and the hospital everyday felt like my life had all of a sudden become chaotic while my husband’s life was unscathed. His schedule was intact. Nothing changed for him. At some point, I felt it was unfair. Don’t judge me, blame the hormones ?

    So I do not put myself under pressure to strike a balance. I take each day as it comes. Some days I do good, some, I do bad.

    • Nicole The Fertile Chick

      February 20, 2017 at 7:08 am

      OMG, Mum-in-waiting, I could SO empathize with your story…especially the part where your colleagues were asking about your ‘surgery’. May God deliver some organizations from porous, basket-like HR! Good luck this cycle, babe. I hope it brings your BFP xoxo

    • Nicole The Fertile Chick

      February 20, 2017 at 7:09 am

      Oh, and I SO feel you on the hubby resentment! LOL! I had a(n) (un)healthy dose of that myself 🙂

  8. True That

    February 17, 2017 at 11:28 pm

    Very apt!

    I ttc for 6 years, at first having to leave out the shores of Nigeria I felt going for my appointments were going to be easier and short, oh how I lied..

    The first 1 year I couldn’t be bothered but by the second year I started having doctors appointments, I didn’t want to opt for the ivfs route too soon so I kept going in for all sorts of tests, etc.

    By the 3rd year I had decided by the end of it which will be taking me into the 4th year I will just start with the fertility treatments, in all this by the end of 2nd year I had to stop working. It just wasn’t working, going in for appointments and going back to work, the emotional trauma, roller coasters, hormones, finally getting pregnant, vanishing twins, fibroids, etc.

    *Did I mention traveling twice to another continent to have the procedure done?*

    I have a lovely beautiful girl to show for it, bless God but I havnt gone back to work since that second year.

    I intend starting all over again, going back to school, get a better degree and hit the working scene again.

    I never looked back or regretted my decision for quitting, it was just too much to handle for me personally.

    Ttc is a very lonely and challenging journey, not even your spouse will understand it 100%. May God grant everyone ttc their heart desires..

    • Nicole The Fertile Chick

      February 20, 2017 at 7:11 am

      I’m in awe of you, True That! It takes guts to do what you did. Ultimately, it’s the less complicated option. May the Good Lord bless you with that BFP soon. Good luck hun!

  9. AAsh

    February 19, 2017 at 5:27 pm

    Seems just like yesterday when I was always on Nicole’s blog…..i got lots of vital information that helped me get my desired result; and the support system is on point…GOD bless Nicole, Kemi and all the other ‘sisters’ in that group.

    To the main topic…my boss can’t keep a secret Ooooo…i had to find ways to sneak out during my procedure for scans and appointments; she also didn’t allow me have ante-natal during weekdays…she insisted that I look for an hospital with weekend antenatal services!

    I use this medium to pray for all TTC; May GOD grant your heart desires and bless you all with bundles of joy in JESUS Name.Amen

    • Nicole The Fertile Chick

      February 20, 2017 at 7:13 am

      Aaaaw, this got me emotional…thanks Aash! It always gladdens my heart when members of our community get their happy ending! As for your boss, na wa oh! And a woman for that matter! I wonder why we women can’t just make an attempt to shake off the stereotype of being mean bosses. I hope you were able to find a good hospital in the end. xoxo

  10. AAsh

    February 19, 2017 at 5:28 pm

    *a hospital

  11. Modupe Bakare

    February 21, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    so i saw this online poll today about #Genderpaygap and men started arguing that the gap is a myth and not real at all. I smiled and am like really??? seeing this post now and i just had to commend how nice it is. its best to go to work after ANC clinics but oh my God don’t try using a Government hospital (Which most people opt for because it’s believed they have more specialist attending to you and you pay less for services) The Queue in those place sometimes is awful. But you have to wait,do your thing for the sake of your baby. Trust me you are exhausted by the time you are done. A woman in that kind of situation that opts to take the day off now get a day salary deducted from her pay and you say there is no genderpaygap? Getting pregnant and having a baby is performing a sexual gender role naturally is it not? May God help us. It is simply not easy to get pregnant while working and you are not your own boss.

  12. tina

    February 23, 2017 at 8:36 pm

    good read. I had this issue although still TTC it came to a point where hubby had to ask which is more important work or having a baby. I just had to relax and to not stress but thankfully where I work its mostly ladies so my supervisor was really understanding. May God hear our prayers soon.

    • Mum in waiting

      February 25, 2017 at 6:35 pm

      I am so sorry that you have to choose between work and children. God will answer your prayers

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