Honest: How to manage IVF and work – Jaz Rabadia

We were so fortunate to be able to talk to Jaz about managing IVF and Work. She talked so openly and honestly about her journey through IVF, how she managed a demanding and senior career throughout the process.

Jaz Rabadia MBE was recognised in the Queen’s 2016 New Years Honours for services to sustainability in the energy management sector and promoting diversity in STEM. She was the youngest person in the UK to be awarded the Energy Institute’s Chartered Energy Manager status and she now serves on their council. Best of all, she’s now a Mum!

Talk to us a little bit about the history of your journey

I’ve always been an ambitious career woman and I always knew the time was coming where we would want to have a family, but I didn’t think that it wouldn’t be out of my control. It soon became apparent that having a baby wasn’t going to be that easy after all, and that the natural route may not be an option for us. Failure was not something I was used to, and it was quite difficult because I felt as if my body was failing me.

How did you cope with all of this and work?

At work I was a very different person during this time and those closest to me spotted that something was wrong. It was hard leaving what I was going through at the door. There were always constant reminders that I wasn’t pregnant, pregnancy announcements or someone coming in with their new baby. It was hard to put what I was going through to one side and focus on the day job.

It was a long process. It took three years to get the result we always wanted; eventually work became a welcome distraction and I set myself targets to divert myself from what was going on.

The really difficult thing is that the calendar is such a huge part of the IVF process. My whole life was on an Outlook calendar; dates were crucial, and I would always try to use my IVF calendar to plan work and meetings around it. I knew I had one of the biggest meetings of my life on the day my period was due. I was certain I was pregnant. I wasn’t, I was so overcome with the fact that it hadn’t happened, but I had to get on with the day job. Work was a constant reminder of what the date was, which was so difficult given the constant monitoring of your cycle during the process.

IVF is very private process but is hard to keep to yourself because of all the appointments and the time needed off work. It was a very difficult conversation to have. I thought if I let slip that I want to have a baby, there goes an opportunity to go up the career ladder. Even though I knew my work environment wasn’t really like that.

The conversation with my manager was fairly frank. In fact I think he had cottoned on, I was a married woman in my 30s. There was one day in particular I was actually pregnant, but I started bleeding, and I had to immediately leave the office. Having a male manager did help in some ways, he was understanding but didn’t want all the details he just wanted to know I was ok. There was almost an unspoken understanding about what was going on.

I followed up with an email to say, following the incident earlier this year, I will need to have a series of hospital appointments but I will be sure to make the time up for my absence from the office. I didn’t ask for permission, I was frank about needing time off and offered a solution. I do think it helped that I am quite senior in the business and that my time in the office is quite fluid. I can see how this could be quite challenging if you are in a junior role.

My employers are quite flexible when it comes to an employee’s well-being. In total I took off five full working days from the business, I was quite frank that sometimes I would need time off at short notice. I had a confidant at work which helped me to survive the whole journey, even just being able to air my thoughts and emotions on a walk at lunch time was a massive help.

I had gotten used to the cycle of excitement and disappointment, it just became part and parcel of the journey. I was very conscious when I did fall pregnant of what my future would look like, because I was in prime position in my career, but also at the prime time to start a family. I thought I was going to be able to have my cake and eat it, but now having experienced it I totally understand why there aren’t more female CEOs. It’s very obvious that there is something stopping women from climbing the ladder.

How did you manage your return to work?

I returned after eight months, which some would consider early. It just felt like there was the opportunity to earn again and so it didn’t make sense to us as a family to not make the most of that. Plus now I had another driver in life. I decided to go back to work and returned doing three days a week for four months using accrued annual leave; it was a great way to help me transition back into work.

I also did the maximum number of Keeping In Touch (KIT) days. Some were phone conversations, informal or more formal meetings. It doesn’t have to be you and your baby going into the office, my manager even came to my house for one. The more I kept in touch the easier it was for me and the easier it was for management to integrate me back into the business.

Just before I went off on maternity leave there were four of us that were pregnant around the same time and one lady was a returning mum. We had set up a group to share experiences and advice. We actually called a meeting with our HR and had a very open conversation about how the experience could be improved. We were able to change the way in which the company approached women going on maternity leave.

For example, the company released certain benefits that you could opt into but that could only be done at a certain point in the year. If you happened to be on maternity leave during this time then you would be almost frozen out because you may not have received the email on time. So, we recommended that a personal email address be used for this type of communication, so that new mums wouldn’t miss out. We came up with five points of how we could make the maternity experience better. As a group we maintained contact throughout, and that was another way of keeping in touch. Overall, I learnt how proactive one’s maternity experience can be. and how coming together with peers and colleagues can really have a positive impact on ones maternity experience and career as w working mother. 

Learn more about Jaz’s journey on her site. Read all about her thoughts here – From being a Partner to a Parent and eight transferable skills she masters in her eight months of maternity leave.