Blog about having premature ovarian failure and trying donor IVF with my sister's eggs

If we fall pregnant with one of our eight embryos, our baby will most likely be born next year, in the Year of the Dragon. But in the process I am using up all my annual leave and wonder if I should have been taking time off work as sick leave instead?

I was born in the year of the Rooster and my husband is a Snake according to Chinese astrology. And this year is our Year of the Baby.

We began the process in February when my darling sister came to Australia from New Zealand to donate her eggs. Since then we have tried to get pregnant with the resulting eight embryos.  In the process I have used up all my annual leave for days when I have had embryo transfers, appointments at the hospital etc.

It suddenly dawned on me the other day that I have been a bit dimwitted in my approach to taking leave over the ‘trying to conceive’ process.

Surely I should have taken my leave as sick leave? On the days I have had off, I have spent them at the hospital and then gone home to bed. I have had a ‘medical procedure’ and had to pay for a hospital bed (even though I didn’t lie on it but that’s another story I’ll bore you about another time). I haven’t exactly been jet setting around the globe having a fab time, much less a holiday.

So I broached the subject with my boss and asked her if she would consider converting some of my annual leave taken into sick leave. She looked at me astonished, saying she couldn’t believe I was asking the question. She said that if she wanted to get some plastic surgery, she wouldn’t expect to be able to take it as sick leave. I said that trying to have a baby was a bit different to having plastic surgery, to which she replied: “Well you’re not dying of cancer are you? So your treatment is elective so therefore it’s not appropriate to claim time of work as sick leave.”

I was equally astonished at her reaction and asked her if she knew that infertility was classified as a disease? I also said that I had to follow this course of treatment to be able to have a baby and that while my life isn’t threatened, it is my ONLY option to have a baby. I finally said that I had been honest with her about my need to have IVF and could instead have kept it quiet, and claimed the sick leave, saying that I was having a medical procedure each time.

We eyeballed each other a bit and then she visibly softened (probably because she could see I had tears in my eyes).  She admitted it was something she hadn’t thought about before (granting sick leave for IVF treatment). She is the head of HR at our company, at which only 2% of employees are women. She said would consult with other managers and get their views on it before drafting up some kind of position/policy for all our employees, including me.

I’m interested to know what others do on the days you have your embryo transfers/hospital appointments/etc. Do you take your leave from work as sick or annual leave? Am I being unreasonable to want this?

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Comments on: "Sick leave or holiday leave for IVF treatment?" (11)

  1. OMG!!! I am livid!!! I am seriously so angry at her I want to cry for you. How could another woman treat you so harshly! There are so many things that people use sick leave for that is not life threatening – getting cavities filled, other prenatal visits, getting warts removed, bunion surgery, mental health visits, etc, etc!!! You are so not in the wrong at all!!!!!

  2. I took holiday. But then I have a very generous holiday allowance so I find it hard to take it all anyway. But, I think your bosses comparison to cosmetic surgery is outrageous, and I hope that on reflection she realises that too. Tell me, does she have children?

    • Yes, she has three kids. She is one of those women who have literally had it all ie: career and family but I think it has sometimes come at a cost to her family as she has often put them second fiddle to her career.

  3. I was trying to comment on your story earlier today from my phone, but I’m not sure that it ever actually was submitted.

    I was soooo outraged and livid when I first read your post. I was so angry at her reaction that I almost felt like I could cry out of frustration for you! I think that you are not out of line at all to ask that you be able to use your sick time!!!! I’m so glad that you were able to think fast enough to educate her a bit that infertility is an actual disease. It is just so upsetting how insensitive other woman can be on the topic! Fertility treatments are not at all the same as plastic surgery! I hope that they allow you to use the sick time!!!!!

    • Thank you for being outraged for me! It made me feel quite vindicated! I am still waiting to hear the outcome of what our policy will be at my work (once they’ve come to a position) but am in the meantime looking at the legalities of taking leave for IVF in Australia, as there may be legal obligations on behalf of my employer. I’ll keep you posted.

  4. SICK LEAVE! You are not asking too much. I have heard these stories from other women and it disgusts me. Fortunately my boss never questioned it. I have taken sick leave when my father has been in the hospital and sick leave for my IVF. And sick leave for my ectopic which was the result of my IVF. If it’s medical, I take sick leave. And I pity the person who tells me I can’t. Long ago I took sick leave for a surgery I had. It was foot surgery. It was technically an elective surgery. You might also want to tell your boss that there are plenty of surgeries that are technically considered “elective” that are not plastic surgery but to alleviate pain or something. I doubt your boss would question using sick leave for those.

    • Yes, it has really really disappointed me. I am now looking into finding out what our state and federal governments legislate for here in Australia. I think it is ridiculous and I’m feeling really pissed off about it.

  5. yep, you would get sick leave for an elective hip replacement or hysterectomy or fibroid removal or gall bladder removal.

    I also read recently (and am really crap at finding things I read 3 months ago!) about the similarity in stress levels between people with infertility and people with cancer. these things affect us on every.single. level, and although we’re not dying of cancer (although don’t we have an increased risk to cancers of cervix or ovaries or breast – can’t remember which but probably ALL of them, if we do not carry children). I could only find this link http://infertility.about.com/od/copingwithinfertility/u/copingstress.htm but hey, one of the best things for managing stress is a great holiday, and how the hell can you do that if you’ve used up all your annual leave on health issues??!!

    Thanks for dropping by my blog and commenting. No worries about not introducing yourself etc,I do that all the time on comments, dash in and out! All good!

    • Hi thanks also for your reply. It makes me feel REALLY cross about the way my boss has interpreted my want/need to have IVF. It makes it sound like it’s something frivolous when in actual fact it’s my only option if I want to have kids.

      I think your point about what happens to our health if we don’t bear babies (increased risk of breast cancer in particular) is a very interesting one. Plus of course the stress under which we are put through being infertile which means even more we need our hols – very good points.

      I am going to be asking the Australian Human Rights Commission about this one. Do you, or anyone reading this blog have any advice about next steps in terms of getting things looked at/changed in our legislation, so that IVF is recognised as something that people can rightfully claim sick leave for?

      • Get yourself a medical certificate from your fertitilty specialist for any time you want to have off. End of story then as it’s not up to your boss to decide then if she wants to give you the time off as sick leave. Your contract I imagine is standard and states that if you have a medical cerfificate, you can take sick leave up to your leave allowance per year. This means it’s not discretionary for your boss to have her personal opinion on the treatment you are having for your condition. Your boss is an idiot, but remember that people who don’t experience infertility have NO idea how hard it is and see it as a choice. She would be upset to know how much her behaviour hurt you if she really understood. You can also chat to your clinic as they often get asked questions like this all the time as she won’t be the first to have no idea how to deal with IVF absences 🙂

        Goodluck, may the IVF force be with you! Mum of two IVF kids

  6. thank you – this is really helpful advice.

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