WATCH: 'It's the last taboo, women are calling in sick after suffering miscarriages'
"When we share things like this, there is massive healing in it."
Ireland has long been described as an island of storytellers. We freely share the stories of our past and recount the episodes of history and hardships that made us stronger. Despite this, we still seem to struggle with telling the stories that affect us most... our own.
One in six women or couples in this country will face fertility challenges in their lifetime, with something that happens so regularly why is there a culture of secrecy in the workplace? Why are women afraid of speaking out and gaining support from the place we spend most of our time as adults?
Lisa Finnegan is a HR director with LinkedIn in Dublin, she's suffered three miscarriages and has recently shared her story in the hopes of starting a conversation and helping others.
Watch our full interview with Lisa below:
Lisa and her husband delved into the process of having a family "with all the confidence of youth". A year later with no pregnancy, they decided to seek out a specialist and believed it would be a "few blood tests" and nothing more.
What they were about to learn would alter their future forever:
"Nothing was happening, we went to a fertility specialist and they recommended that we try IVF. It was a huge shock, but we started the process and although it was a rough ride we were determined to see it through. We had our egg transfer and I came back with a positive pregnancy test, we triumphed and it was amazing! I told all of my friends and family and then unfortunately I miscarried before my third month. It was gut-wrenching and definitely not something that I expected to ever have to go through."
Lisa explained that having suffered her first miscarriage she didn't feel that she could tell her employer and she returned to work the next day. Having one failed attempt the couple were determined to save enough money and try again. The second attempt brought similarly heartbreaking results:
"There was a very similar outcome, another miscarriage. Then we took a little break from it and I actually conceived naturally. I thought 'This is it, this is the one' and again, a very similar story I miscarried and it was at that third miscarriage point that I recognised my mental health was really suffering. I couldn't focus in work and my smile was faltering."
It was after the third miscarriage that Lisa summoned up the courage to tell her manager, it was by no means an easy conversation and they both agreed Lisa needed time to focus on what happened.
Not an easy thing to talk about, but hoping this helps even one person going through something similar ❤️ https://t.co/vEHKPlaf0J
— Lisa Finnegan (@thelisafinnegan) October 11, 2019
Research recently carried out by LinkedIn revealed that only half (55%) of women who suffered a miscarriage told their employer, and nearly two thirds (65%) of Irish professionals would not discuss fertility issues openly with their manager.
Lisa reflected on what kept her from speaking out, on the one hand, it was to do with her own professional ambition she worried that if her bosses learned she was trying for a baby they would instantly 'write her out', on the other hand Lisa explained there was a deeper reason for her silence:
"I felt like a bit of a failure and I think it's taken me a long time to recognise that. I had always worked hard I had always been able to get whatever I wanted if I worked hard enough and this was the first thing that I had put my mind to do that hadn't worked out. I ate what they told me to eat, I drank what they told me to drink, I took the hormones they told me to take and I still couldn't get what I wanted and what I wanted more than anything was a baby, I genuinely felt like a failure."
In terms of attitudes towards pregnancy and fertility in general in the workplace, the research carried out found almost three quarters (73%) of professionals think that workers who do not have children enjoy better career success. So, did Lisa feel the need to share what was happening in her personal life with her colleagues and what was their reaction?
"I confided in one, maybe two people at the time and it was purely because you feel like you're about to burst with sadness or emotions and there were definite times when I was at my desk with tears running down my face, again it was that failure piece, and everyone around me seemed to be having children and conceiving absolutely no problem and it's only later on in life that I realised it's not that easy for everybody and we all make assumptions about other people's journeys and it's really important that we don't do that."
Since moving to LinkedIn and sharing her story Lisa says a weight has been lifted, her company are bringing in policies and they're calling for employers across the country to break the taboo in their own organisations and discuss fertility issues at work to help normalise this commonplace issue.
Although LinkedIn is one company making moves to normalise these issues it's by no means the norm. Over half (55%) of Irish professionals said that their employer did not have HR policies in place to help staff having difficulties trying for a baby. So what advice would Lisa have for those who feel like they're not in a position to speak out?
"The message is, find somebody you can talk to... I think if you're coming to work and are really struggling every single day there is a lot of healing in actually sharing these types of challenges, you'd be surprised at how many people are going through it. And then the more we talk about it the more we can change the way this is actually viewed."
We can't presume to know what an individual or family are going through in their personal lives, as Lisa says "people should not have to talk about this if they don't want to, but it's about creating an environment where they can"
You can read Lisa's original LinkedIn post here and join the conversation by using #FertilityAtWork.