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WOMEN: GENDER DIVERSITY AND EQUALITY


Advocating at work for women experiencing fertility challenges

By Chrissy Healey, Senior Manager, Travel Industry, Accenture Consulting, Dallas

LinkedIn

Have you had a once in a lifetime meal experience? It might be pear and gorgonzola tortellini in Florence, moussaka in Santorini or flan with sea salt caramel at your favorite local Spanish restaurant. For me, those meals were memorable, but the best meal of my life was at Panda Express, down the street from my husband’s office one afternoon more than four years ago. We had received the call—the unbelievable call—so different from the previous five years of calls. I was pregnant. We shared that meal with tears of disbelief and joy. My husband bought our growing child a stuffed panda bear. It was a defining and unexpected life moment in the most mundane of places

My husband and I married in our early 20s. Friends at the time expected us to have multiple kids before we were 30. But, we were young and driven–grad school, the DINK (double income, no kids) lifestyle, achieving in our careers and having fun doing it. Several years went by, and we decided we wanted to have kids. Because that’s how it works. You decide. Then you’re pregnant. Then you have one/many perfect kid(s). Voila!

A few years went by. We mentioned our desire to have children to friends and always received helpful advice: “You should go on a vacation. You’re nervous about it. Just relax.” People really mean well, don’t they?

Finally, a couple of seemingly ordinary experiences—a conversation with my pastor’s wife, the gift from a long-time friend of a book depicting a woman’s personal fertility story—led me to self-advocate and go to a fertility doctor. This doctor visit was one of the first times in which I realized I was beyond blessed. My company, Accenture, offers amazing fertility benefits as part of our healthcare package. Fertility treatments can cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, a real financial struggle in the midst of feeling like the lone barren person on the planet.

Once begun, fertility treatments and procedures are constant and demanding. They are typically cycle-dependent, failing to fit neatly in your one-hour window between meetings. Nevertheless, I was determined that my work performance would not slip—hiring high performers is what makes Accenture great.

“It is possible to succeed at work and survive a sometimes hopeless fertility process.”
My determination, solid teamwork and trust from leadership that the job would be done right, provided me with the flexibility I needed to be both a fertility patient and a manager. I worked countless hours on bed rest and received shots in cars, stadiums and hotel rooms. Few coworkers knew. Those who did know prayed, lending an ear after procedures failed and hope waned.
And that leads us to that mundane moment at a Chinese chain restaurant in Dallas—Panda Express. A mundane moment that became a defining life moment, just like many since: The first time my oldest daughter ate pumpkin pancakes, the time I heard her count our twin babies when we brought them home from the hospital (“one, two, oh goodness—lot of babies!”), and the trip to the beach together where the three of them walked hand in hand and played together in the sand. In all those moments that seemed ordinary, I long to wrap the me from five years ago into the experience, to expose her to the joy and hope in her, in our future.
Those moments drove me to my passion of encouraging others who are experiencing infertility. The knowledge I gained—that it is possible to succeed at work and survive a sometimes hopeless fertility process—made me participate in the creation of a fertility, foster and adoption network within my company. This way, others have a place to go to ask questions, to ensure prayers are said on their behalf, and to gain supporters who know what it is like to balance a challenging career and a challenging life experience. After years of pain, mundane moments can light a spark. How will you see an ordinary moment as a chance to encourage another woman and possibly change her life?
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