Leading with Heart: Supporting an Employee Struggling with Infertility

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infertility at work

When you’re struggling to get pregnant, it can be isolating, emotional, shameful, and just really hard.  It’s almost impossible to prevent it from impacting every area of your life, especially work. In addition to the emotional toll that TTC (trying to conceive) can take on a woman, the ability to function on all four cylinders at work (never mind the logistical challenges with ultrasounds, blood work, procedures, etc.) is also a struggle.  However, some of us are lucky to work for a leader who can lean in with us as we struggle through one of the hardest times in our lives.

When I first got married, my boss was one of the many who would say, “When you have a baby…” or “You have nothing to worry about, you’re so healthy.”  In passing one day, I let her know that I had another doctor’s appointment. She paused and said, “Is it what I think it is?” I responded, “No, it’s the opposite.”  I knew her pretty well – there was no way I was going to lob that vague comment out there without a deeper conversation. I wholeheartedly trusted this woman, so I took a deep breath and tearfully explained to her that I didn’t think I could have a baby.

In one of the darkest years of my life she provided a little light.

I don’t quite remember what happened next, but it probably involved tears (we cried a lot that year). I’m paraphrasing, but she said something to the effect of, “Do what you have to do. I’m here to support you.”  She could’ve focused the conversation on the impact to my work or my time off, adding more weight to my already heavy shoulders, but she didn’t. She led with heart instead. In one of the darkest years of my life, she provided a little light.

She journeyed with me as we navigated disappointment after disappointment.  She was empathetic, compassionate, and vulnerable, often sharing her own experiences. That’s not to say she didn’t hold me accountable – she 100% did.  I felt even more responsible for my work because of this.  I connected more to her, our purpose as a team, and the work that we do each and every day.  At the end of that chapter, she was one of the first to know we were pregnant…and we cried again.

I know first-hand how devastating infertility can be.  I can’t imagine how much harder it would have been without the support of my boss.  Now a leader myself, I strive to follow the lessons I learned from her during that time. Through empathy and compassion comes trust and connection.  My goal is to always show up for my team, lean into challenges, and lead with heart, just like her.

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Lauren lives in RI with her husband Paul, their son Lucas, and their two fur babies Nico & Rory. After graduating with a degree in Criminal Justice, she moved to Washington, DC to work in government, eventually landing in learning and development. After almost 8 years in DC, she moved home to her beloved little state where she could say “wicked” and be understood, celebrate a Patriots victory, and have donuts and coffee milk whenever she wanted. She currently works in HR focusing on internal communication, employee engagement and employer branding. She is a super planner learning to be more flexible; a working mama seeking balance; and a woman who has decided that being perfectly imperfect is enough and wants other women to feel the same.