In my opinion, all pregnant women should have the option of lying there and growing a baby while someone caters to their every need for their entire pregnancy. However, seeing as we can't even get paid maternity leave in this country, working while pregnant is a necessity for many women. I'm sure it's a breeze for a lucky few, but most pregnant ladies need an assist and that's where colleagues come in. Not everyone is supportive, which makes us all the more grateful for the things great coworkers do for pregnant women.
I was enjoying year 13 as an elementary school teacher when I found out I was pregnant. I had a miserable pregnancy, so there were definitely moments when I just wanted to give up and quit. Like the time a parent called to complain that I'd missed too many days (I used five and a half sick days in my first trimester due to severe nausea and vomiting). Financially, we probably could have made it work, but I needed to work the rest of the year to be vested in my retirement plan, so I stuck it out until a week before my due date. Fortunately, I worked with some pretty amazing people, from my boss to my third grade team to the teachers down the hall.
There are plenty of stories of sh*tty coworkers saying or doing sh*tty things, so let's take the time to celebrate (and gently suggest) the ways awesome colleagues support pregnant women in the workplace.
They Cover For You
It's going to happen. You're going to have to duck out of a meeting to puke or leave early for an ultrasound, and you'll need someone to cover for you. Caring coworkers will say, "Go. I'll take care of this." My team and principal all took over my class for me at some point so I could get to a prenatal appointment. They even supervised my class during an assembly so I could take a nap in the teacher's lounge.
Everyone really came through for me the morning I got rear-ended 14 weeks into my pregnancy. I was semi-hysterical and wasn't going to make it to school in time. My co-teachers prepared to divide my class and each take half until I could get there and even encouraged me to go get Starbucks and settle down. Later that morning, another teacher offered to use her planning period to take my kids so I could relax.
They Understand "Pregnancy Brain"
"Momnesia" is a real thing. It's not that your growing baby is leaching your IQ points, it's that progesterone is a sedative that affects your ability to focus. It doesn't help that you're constantly tired, either. At work, this can manifest itself as forgetting meetings, thinking you replied to an email when you didn't, or losing an important document.
I've always been a go-getter. Former colleagues called me "Hurricane Kimmie" (for my energy) and "Helium Hand" (for volunteering for everything). When I suddenly couldn't be "on" all the time, my team was understanding. That doesn't mean they resisted some gentle teasing, especially when I walked into their rooms and couldn't remember what I was there for.
They Forgive Tardiness
There will be lots of reasons you might be late to work due to pregnancy: morning sickness, a terrible night's sleep, a glucose test that went longer than expected. I'm not saying you can use your "delicate condition" as an excuse for frequent tardiness. However, if it happens occasionally, it's nice if your colleagues don't send you on a guilt trip. After all, it's not always under your control.
My third grade team basically gave me a 10 minute window for our Monday morning meetings. They'd work in their rooms until I staggered in, and then we'd get down to business.
They Bring Snacks To Meetings
Many women find that eating frequently throughout the day can stave off nausea. Later in pregnancy, we often just want to eat all the things. Either way, the way to the expectant mom's heart may well be her stomach, so pass her that granola bar! It just might help her get through that never-ending PowerPoint.
One of my co-teachers would bring doughnuts to meetings. At a training during my early pregnancy, she gathered all the hard candies from the other tables to help with my queasiness.
They Let You Raid Their Food Stash
You don't know hangry if you've never been pregnant hangry. Supportive coworkers will offer mama the bag of almonds in their purse, the orange on their desk, or some chocolate from their candy drawer (I know you have one). Outstanding co-workers will know mom's aversions and not offer, or worse, eat a hard-boiled egg in front of her.
I'm guessing most workplaces have a communal refrigerator, but it's common in schools for teachers to have their own mini-fridges. I always knew that if I got in a pinch (I got migraines in my second trimester and could alleviate it with a little bit of Coke), I could head next door and help myself.
They Don't Ask You To Take On Extra Duties
Pregnant women don't need to be on another committee or attend an out-of-town conference. They can if they want to, but a caring colleague will offer to go in their stead.
I actually had a not-so-great coworker ask me to translate a document into Spanish for him after I was already on maternity leave. For free. Most people were much more considerate. When it was our turn to provide breakfast at the staff meeting, my teammates did it on their own.
They Get Excited
When you're in the throes of pregnancy woes, it can be hard to be enthusiastic about what really is wonderful news. It's nice for others to remind you of your precious blessing and assure you that it's worth it.
Announcing my pregnancy to the staff was an incredibly positive experience (minus the one "That was fast" comment). I got hugs and congratulations and enjoyed being the center of attention.
It's nice to work with veteran moms who have been through what you're currently experiencing. They'll ask how you're feeling and rub your back. New moms can also help you navigate maternity leave, which with all the rules and paperwork, can be really confusing.
When I shared that my third graders were referring to my desk as the "splash zone," the teacher next door told me she walked around with a barf bowl while teaching when she was pregnant with her first.
They Throw You An Awesome Baby Shower
This is definitely not obligatory, and some women may not even want one. However, I did. Bless their hearts, my fellow teachers threw me a baby shower less than one year after my bridal shower. It was absolutely lovely. My friend even made me a watermelon baby buggy fruit extravaganza. After years of buying gifts for and attending work showers, it was pretty cool to have my "turn."
They Support Your Replacement
When you work on a cohesive team, it can be difficult to bring an outsider into the fold. They're going to have lots of questions, and once you have a newborn on your hands, they won't be asking you (or you won't be answering). It's reassuring to know that they, and the projects you care about, are in good hands.
Not everyone gets someone to take over for them, but in my profession, you can't leave 25 students to fend for themselves. I loved my long-term substitute, and I felt fine leaving my classroom and kids in her care, especially knowing that my squad had her back.
I left teaching when my baby was born, and I don't regret it. But I do miss the people who made that difficult period easier. They taught me a lot about being a great coworker, and I hope I get the chance to pay it forward.