When your headteacher calls during egg collection

Teacher Suzy (not her real name) shares her story.

My husband and I married in the summer of 2017, excited to start the next chapter of our lives together. We spent the first year “being married” and enjoying all that life had to offer and both knew that we would then start trying for a family. Looking back we were both naive to how things could be and assumed that once we started trying for a baby one would come along within a matter of months; this did not happen.

Having been off the pill for almost 15 months we decided we should speak to our GP, at this point we also shared our concerns with our parents to ensure that whatever the road ahead looked like for us we had support. For anyone in the same situation I cannot recommend enough having someone outside of your relationship to offload to as the road gets bumpy.

We both had all the relevant tests and everything came back as normal and we were told we would be referred to the fertility clinic. We heard nothing for over 6 months. In the meantime we were fortunate enough to be able to go privately. We did 3 rounds of Clomid and still nothing. The regular trips to the clinic (almost an hour from home) were becoming difficult to keep hidden from work. There is no flexible diary in teaching, 30 students expect you to be there 5 lessons a day, 5 days a week as do the staff around you.

We were then told IVF was our best option. Given the regular hospital appointments needed and the fact that egg collection meant a couple of days rest I spoke to my (male) headteacher at this point. As a family man himself he recognised the importance of what we were doing and was hugely supportive. Whilst this did take the pressure off in terms of appointments, it didn’t change the fact that the days were still very long, fast paced and even eating and drinking enough of the right things was a challenge, let alone the crash when the holidays arrived. We had two failed transfers over the next couple of months and then a change of headship.

I was Deputy Headteacher with accountability for safeguarding, behaviour and attendance. A role that carried a lot of responsibility 24 hours a day. We then went through a second egg collection, and again I told the new (male) Headteacher what was going on. Within minutes of coming out of theatre I had 6 missed calls from him, the one person who knew where I was. At this point I knew the support wasn’t there and things were going to be different. I muddled through 2 further transfers- nothing.

The stress of the world of teaching and education on top of trying to manage fertility treatment (a full time job in itself!) was too much. I wasn’t the person I had been before, my whole life revolved around IVF and work. Something had to change.

I was then offered a job in a new school by my old, supportive Headteacher which I took. He knew that we would be continuing with IVF and both himself and the deputy headteacher who I didn’t know were incredible. Time off wasn’t a problem and I was to “take it easy” on my returns from transfer. Whilst this was offered the reality of a very challenging secondary school where all hands were to the deck made this very hard. My fifth transfer worked, we were over the moon however 7 weeks later we heard the dreaded words “there isn’t a heartbeat”. This hit hard. The summer holidays arrived shortly after and my husband and I spent long evenings chatting about what the future may look like. He wanted the old me back, we both wanted a family and the decision was made that I would step away from teaching. I was tired of the long days, the lack of desire to do anything outside of work and wanted to find my sparkle again. Again I recognise here that I am hugely lucky, and will be forever grateful to my husband and family for offering me the support to step away without anything at this stage to go to. I resigned.

Two weeks later (in a bit of a rush- that’s another story!) we did the transfer of our final embryo. I was pregnant. The anxiety of what had gone before made work too much and I was signed off to work from home for my remaining weeks. School worked alongside me on this despite the challenges this gave them and then I was done. I took two months off and found another job using my skill set, working from home and away from the classroom and I’m now 26 weeks pregnant. The only thing I changed this time was resigning, stepping away and putting myself and my husband before anything else.

To anyone undergoing fertility treatment in school whether the school are unsupportive or not I would recommend taking time to think about your goals. What is it you want to achieve most? Teaching will always be there, good teachers will always be needed and the option to step back to the classroom wont ever go away. But there is life beyond the corridors and classrooms that is slower paced, more flexible and your skills are hugely transferrable. Do I regret taking so long to reach this point? No. I loved what I did, I met amazing staff and students. Staff who are still rooting for me and walking right beside us on this journey. It took a real leap of faith, one which I’m still yet to land until our baby is here but for the first time in a long time hope is outweighing fear and that’s a lovely place to be.