It's sad that in 2017, we're still at a place where pregnancy can be so profoundly misunderstood and stigmatized in the workplace that it can be made to be a source of embarrassment, annoyance, or even a personal liability. I asked women to share the most discouraging thing they heard from their employer while pregnant and, you guys, I am genuinely proud some of these women are not writing to me from prison. I don't even know what I'd do if I heard some of this crap.
Actually, I probably do know what I would do: groan, feel discouraged, and deal with it, just like a lot of them did. Just like millions of pregnant women do every day, because it's easy to feel alone when you're the one pregnant person in your office. However, hopefully seeing that so many other people have been in your shoes can help give you the courage to stand up for yourself, or go to HR and demand the equal treatment and respect you deserve.
If you're not there yet though, no judgment. There are a lot of reasons people do not speak out against suboptimal (or even illegal) treatment at work: needing a job (I mean, especially when you have a baby on the way, come on now), not wanting to create a tense or uncomfortable work environment, feeling as though you'll experience some form of retribution for speaking up. But even if this list doesn't inspire you to advocate for yourself, I hope it at least provides some comfort in knowing you're not alone. (Of course, realizing there are others like you is usually the first step in speaking up and then rising up and then PREGNANT LADY REVOLUTION! It will be glorious, but with no heavy lifting roller coasters.)
"When I told my employer I was pregnant, their first response was to cancel my health insurance. I taught at a small private school, and since they had fewer than 50 employees and I had been working there for less than a full calendar year, the federal workplace protections didn't apply to me. Luckily, my state offered universal Medicaid coverage to all pregnant women and infants for the first year of life. Needless to say, I did not return to teaching at that school after my daughter was born, since they had made it very clear just how much they valued me as a teacher and as a human being."
"My higher up supervisor called me into her office. She told me it wasn't practical to want to be home with my baby and I should focus more on work as my job should come first. I put my notice in about a month later."
[Writer's note: technically this happened just after Heidi's baby was born, but seriously?!]
Just the constant talk of account transition (i.e. transitioning them away from me) 'you know, in prep for maternity leave.'
"I was told that I should watch what I ate so that I could make sure I would be back to a 'normal size' when I came back to work. I also had 'joking' comments made any time I got fast food or sweets. Someone brought in doughnuts and my boss called down the hall to our department, 'better get in there quick, Hannah's headed for the doughnuts!' I was also told that mothers lose some of their intelligence when they come back, no exceptions."
"Oh. We didn't think you were coming back. You've been replaced. But if you want to share the paycheck with said new person you can come back too."
[Writer's note: like Hannah's story, Kate's story technically took place after pregnancy, but it's so horrible it deserves to be shared.]
I don't even know where to start. I even sued one of them for the crap they put me through.
"My supervisor mooed every time I walked by his office. He mooed. And then he got all wounded when HR talked to him, like I was the one who had been offensive and inappropriate."
"'How soon do you think you'll be back to work?' [This was] Upon notifying my boss at the time I was pregnant at 12 weeks. I also received an email five weeks [after giving birth] asking when I'd be returning when it was set that I'd be out for 12 weeks."
It wasn't, like, terrible or anything, but it just seemed like all my co-workers — male, female, senior, junior — felt totally free to ask me intimate details about my pregnancy and delivery plans. Sorry: I really don't want to discuss placenta encapsulation with you, Garrett in Marketing who I've never talked to before...
"It was a small office with mostly 50-60+ year old women who had opinions on everything from my weight gain to my plan to [give] birth out of the hospital. They all made sure to tell me I wouldn't be able to make it without an epidural, and also that there was no way I would return after my maternity leave. So yeah, it was a very positive environment for 9 months."
"'Oh this means you'll have many more doctors appointments, and if you're out for long stretches, you'll need to take [them] as PTO time' ... from the company that subsequently fired me (layoff) while I was on maternity leave."