It was as awkward and uncomfortable as I expected it to be. At 15 weeks, I figured it was time to spill the beans. Even though my boss may have ignored my rampant weight gain, eventually he’d figure out that my growing stomach wasn’t just due to age and binging on carbs.
So I told him. In our regular meeting, I knew I had to find the time to bring it up. There’s never a good time. I thought of starting the meeting with “I’m pregnant,” but he started talking about a different topic immediately so I had to wait until he asked his standard question “how are you?” —
“I’m pregnant” doesn’t seem to be a natural response to how or you, so I improvised a bit and said “well, I have some… exciting news.” I almost hoped I wouldn’t have to say the actual words, but as he looked at me figuring it out, I dropped it, as confidently as I could. “I’m pregnant.”
For a boss, he knows me fairly well. He’s met my husband before and I’ve worked for him previously. I didn’t know how he’d react, but I didn’t think it would be all that surprised. He seemed surprised.
I felt bad. I felt bad because I’m so new at this job and he has a lot of pressure and a small team and here I am saying I’m going to be out for 6 or more weeks this year.
His immediate reaction, which concerned me despite it’s sincerity, was “don’t be stressed.” It was an interesting reaction. He repeated it a few times, which started to concern me, since it make me feel like he was worried I was unable to handle my current workload, or that he’d take away projects he deemed stressful in order to help me. There were no further suggestions on how to not be stressed, other than to not be.
The rest of the meeting felt cursed by the unveiling of my looming motherhood. A discussion of my one hire I’m working on quickly turned to — maybe you should hire someone more senior, who can fill in for you when you are out… which, I understand, but it also was a reminder that I’ll be easily replaced when I’m on maternity leave, even if my job doesn’t disappear – they’ll hire someone better at this job than I am, and then how long will I actually have a job?
I tried to discuss my maternity leave plans briefly, but that did not go well. I tried to explain how due to my not being at the company for only one year, I could only take 6 weeks, and HR said I could not use vacation time to extend this, but then I could take another 12 weeks once I hit my year (some paid and some unpaid, but I didn’t bring that up since that part doesn’t impact him.) I know his head was spinning and he’s not the type who has the patience to listen about such issues (to be fair to him, he’s a super senior exec, and this is what one would expect with a super senior exec.)
Six hours after telling my boss I’m pregnant, I received a note saying to hold on my hire. The communication was that there is some sort of hiring freeze (unclear if that hiring freeze impacted my headcount only) and that was that. Maybe it’s just crazy timing but it sure felt like he left that meeting, spent a few hours quite concerned, and decided he has to hire someone much more senior and that I cannot hire the junior person we had planned to join my “team.”
I still haven’t told my coworkers — it seems like such an odd thing to tell to ANYONE at work, or family, even. Because telling anyone you’re pregnant is basically, in the same two words, saying “I had sex” — which is a total normal, healthy, human thing – but not something I want to be discussing with my coworkers, boss, or parents. I wish I could just have the baby and let’s all not think about how that happened.
On top of all of this, I’m still a complete mess at my job. It’s kind of funny/sad that when I left my last role at a startup, my boss told me I should go to a larger company to focus on one thing that I can do well. I went to a larger company and my role is a bit more focused, but it’s still a bit all over the place. I feel like there’s no clear path towards success, only an ongoing hope that my contributions are enough to deem my position worthy of keeping. And now that I’m pregnant I can still get get laid off or let go for poor performance. I might be less likely to get let go, but it’s still quite possible.
“Don’t be stressed,” is hard to be, when I know I’m so new to the job and I have so much proving myself to do — my role is the type that’s just easy to get rid of – it’s not a must have, as every contribution I provide is of value only after I’ve contributed it, and then my value is only the potential of what I can create in the future. Every day, I’m on pins and needles hoping I’ll be enough.
I spoke to a friend of mine, a young single mother, in a very different situation. She’s a wonderful woman who, until she had a child, was fairly stable albeit not wealthy. Her role in a medical field paid well enough to afford her to pay back educational bills on time and a small mortgage on a house in a lower-cost area of the country. Then, she met a guy, got pregnant, left the guy, ended up realizing all that matters right now is her child, quit her full time job, moved to a cheaper rental unit (and rented out her house), and reduced her payments on her loans in order to spend more time with her child. And, for her, that seems to be the right choice. She feels happy with it. She said she’s putting off her career for now.
I can’t really put off my career for now. I mean, I can, but I don’t feel like I can. First of all, my value is based on my last role and tenure in that position. If I had a stable job history that would be one thing, but I really need this job, at least two years of this job — if not a few years more — to get any job in the future. I’m not exaggerating – trying to find a position prior to this one was painful to say the least. I wasn’t qualified for anything – or I seemed overqualified for the things I was actually qualified for – and under-qualified for the things people opted to call me about. This job was a godsend, and even though it’s challenging, I’m so fortunate to have it. I can’t lose it. I can’t take time off. Even now I’m questioning whether I want to take any more than the six weeks of disability… maybe I’ll change my mind when baby is here, but I have to go back for a month anyway before I’m eligible before more time off…
It would be helpful to have a reasonable maternity leave policy in the country, but we don’t have that. I’m stressed because I have no idea if I can maintain this job for the next two years through the birth of my first child — but I know, in lieu of a mass layoff that I happen to be caught up in that’s clearly non-performance related, I have to.
At this point, I don’t want to bring up the pregnancy thing again at work at all. Maybe I’ll just let the team spread rumors until someone straight out asks me. I’ll plan to work until my due date or maybe a week or two before, if I can’t drive myself to the office. I’ll do my best. I’ll show that I can work through this pregnancy, that I’m not stressed, that everything is just fine. I know I won’t be just fine, but my objective is to ensure that no one knows.