Amanda Warsavsky, Creator of That Pencil Skirt
Amanda Warsavsky is the Founder of the workwear and lifestyle blog, That Pencil Skirt (@thatpencilskirt) and a Vice President at Alliance Bernstein. Amanda started her career at the J.P. Morgan Private Bank as an advisor focusing on managing wealth for professionals in the fashion and retail space. While at J.P. Morgan, Amanda felt frustrated by the lack of bloggers focusing on everyday style for working women and struggled to find inspiration. From that, Amanda successfully launched That Pencil Skirt.
After a struggle with infertility for almost two years, Amanda became pregnant with her daughter, Scarlett, who is now 1! As someone who experienced both IVF and miscarriage, Amanda is passionate about spreading awareness around infertility and has published many articles around her experience dealing with it while working a 9-5 job. We asked Amanda to share the best tips and tricks she learned for managing the many doctors appointments necessary for IVF, along with demands of an intense job.
by CHLOE. X Robyn X Kindbody have joined forces this May to make sure no one feels left out on Mother’s Day. If you want to hear more from Amanda and other like-minded women, tune into our Instagram and check out our calendar of (free) events for Beyond Mother’s Day.
Going through IVF is really challenging. Going through IVF while managing a career adds a level of complexity to it. It’s not necessarily worse – just complicated. IVF is demanding: physically, emotionally and from a time management perspective. Even though one IVF cycle is typically “only” one month, it often happens after months of other all-consuming treatments. Many women also have to do multiple egg retrievals, which drags out the process even more. This process impacted my career in a few different ways:
1. I had doctor appointments multiple times a week so spent more time than usual away from my desk.
2. I was having anxiety and not sleeping well
3. My focus was not on point.
… and of course, this happened in a year I was up for promotion.
On top of that, I spent a lot of emotional effort figuring out if I should tell my boss. And if yes, when and how! I thought to myself, if my boss knew what I was going through, she’ll understand why I’ve been coming into the office a little later than usual and why I would disappear occasionally and sneak out for phone calls. On the flip side, I couldn’t help but wonder if this would effect my promotion. Would by boss then realize that I’m trying to get pregnant and would be out for maternity leave (hopefully) the following year? I feel like corporate America has been high alert since the recent feminist movement and although I know companies aren’t allowed to have a bias like that – how could they not?
There is no right or wrong on how to handle it, but I wouldn’t recommend doing what I did.
I spent almost a year lying to my boss, my teammates and even my work friends about what was going on. I came up with the craziest excuses – my apartment had a pipe burst and a perpetual water problem, I had to go for weekly blood tests for bad allergies… etc. I’m not a very good liar. Months in, I finally told my boss – which was a huge relief. Here’s how the conversation went:
“I’m dealing with a personal issue that I think you should know about”
“What is it? is everything okay?”
“Yes, everything is perfectly fine but I am undergoing IVF so I hope that explains why I’ve been gone more than usual. This job is still very important to me and I don’t want it to come off otherwise”
“OMG you are! Well, SURPRISE! I’m actually pregnant!”
Suffice it to say, my boss was very understanding. Stopping the lies checked one box permanently off my to-do list, which was a win. Although I definitely did not handle things perfectly, here is what I learned:
When you are deciding which doctor to use for fertility, in addition to asking the basic questions like do you cover insurance? What is your success rate? Find out what time the clinic opens and what the wait schedule is like. I had the advantage (or disadvantage, depending how you look at it!) of seeing three different fertility doctors and they all operated very differently. If you are undergoing IVF, you could be at the doctor multiple times as week. Finding a place that is conveniently located with minimal wait times will take a lot of stress off your back. I went to one facility that did not take insurance and had blood work begin every morning at 8am. I wound up waiting there most mornings for an hour. Not a great day to start your morning – especially when you are then slapped with a huge bill. I then ultimately switched to a doctor that took insurance and did not take appointments for blood work OR monitoring. When I heard this I was very nervous. However, they opened every morning at 7am and operated on a first come first serve basis. I would show up at 6:50 on the dot and never waited more than 15 minutes. Once I switched, I actually received a ton of stress and was getting to the office even earlier than I normally would have.
You can’t do it all! And that’s okay. If you feel like you have too much on your plate, you might. In fact, this is excellent practice for motherhood and something I am still trying to figure out. Whether this means dropping something (like that book club you belong to where you never finish the book!) or pushing out your schedule (maybe make plans 2 nights of the week instead of 4) it is so important to separate what HAS to get done from what you WANT to get done. If you’re trying to get promoted, or if work is important to you, recognize that and prioritize work over things that can be pushed out.
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
I love working out. When I was going through IVF, I had to put a break on it (I likely have a form of PCOS and had risk of my ovaries flipping from being overly stimulated) but find something else that makes you feel good. For me, it was spending a lot of time cooking healthy meals. The first few months I entered fertility treatment, I stopped drinking, but I love wine! My doctor ultimately said that I was being crazy and it was more than fine to have a glass or two of wine whenever you want. Make yourself feel as “normal” as possible. If your work friends are going for a happy hour – JOIN THEM! And have a drink.
Especially in the office, find someone you can confide in. If you have a close work friend, thats a great place to start. If you don’t try HR. There were days I got annoying phone calls and had to leave to take a walk to clear my head. It would have been so much more helpful if I had a good support system in the office rather than having to wait to get home at the end of the day to talk to my husband.
YOU NEED TO C.Y.A. If you only listen to one thing I tell you – THIS IS THE ONE. Yes, talking to colleagues, HR, or your boss about fertility treatments can be super awkward. BUT – the alternative of people thinking you are slacking off is a lot worse. If you don’t trust your boss – go to HR. It is so important that people at your firm know what is going on particularly if you are in and out for doctor’s appointments. For me, I did not let IVF interfere with my work product and worked ten times harder on tougher days to ensure that. However, ESPECIALLY at a large firm – optics matter. If people tell you they don’t, they’re lying. I personally wish they didn’t but trust me… your boss, your colleague, and the guy up for that promotion competing with you all notice when you are away. Harsh.. but true, so it is really important for senior people to be aware that you’re not slacking off.
APPRECIATE THE CHAOS
At the end of the day, despite the complexities, I feel really lucky that I had an intense career to fall back on when I was going through IVF because it was the best distraction. For me, it would have been a lot worse if I was home – or bored – through all of it. The biggest challenge of IVF is time. You wake up every morning counting the days of your cycle, counting down to your next blood tests, waiting to hear test results, waiting to talk a pregnancy test. The waiting game is BRUTAL. Staying busy is literally the only way to combat this. Yes, I felt stressed. Yes, I felt like I had too much on my plate, but I felt immensely lucky to have a place to go every day that kept me focused on something else.