Scene: Sitting in a research presentation meeting, trying to absorb the new demographic profile of our “target viewer” at the TV network at which I work, I am totally paying attention…to the fetus tumbling around inside my uterus. I love my job, but being pregnant at work is more than a minor distraction. There is so much discussion about on-ramping for moms returning to work after maternity leave. I wasn’t afforded this luxury, but companies like Etsy are offering really human-friendly accommodations for new parents (in that specific case, 8 weeks of leave immediately following birth and 18 more that can be spread out over two years).
What’s missing from the conversation, though, is how pregnancy affects work, and vice versa. We only hear about the negative on that topic, getting us riled up about UPS workers being discriminated against for being pregnant. The physical aspects of pregnancy are what everyone on the job can see, but there are the invisible emotional and psychological aspects we’re dealing with that might affect how we feel about work. I couldn’t just shut off my expectant mom brain during business hours.
The notion of being a working parent kicks off way before the baby is born. Here are nine thoughts — one for every month? I know, I'm so cute — I had at work when I was pregnant:
"What To Name The Baby."
I may look like I’m jotting down notes, but I’m actually coming up with a list of baby names that are cool, without being too trendy or weird, which is actually really hard. So it's not like I'm not working.
"I Am Amazing."
Success on the job comes and goes, and some of it is way beyond my control (how did I know our network general manager is adverse to using the acronym “TV” in sales material?). But here I am, brainstorming copy lines for a new campaign and simultaneously growing a human being who might one day lead our nation to ultimate greatness. Yeah, pregnancy can be a power trip.
"Is This Shirt Too Tight?"
My boobs grew a significant amount basically overnight in my first trimester. Like, I’m wearing a button-down shirt in the morning, and by 3 p.m., the fabric is stretching across my chest, Incredible Hulk-style. Even the sweater I keep at the office to ward off its sub-zero climate is pushing maximum capacity. (Moms-to-be should be excused from office dress codes, in my opinion.)
"Now Everyone Knows I Had Sex."
It’s not a shocker, but there is something about the physical manifestation of pregnancy that has me feeling everyone else is thinking about the sex I must have had to get this way, even if IVF was a possible method. Maybe that’s a lot of people think pregnant women are sexy; we literally appear to be amenable to having sex. Either way, having such undeniable evidence that I most likely had sex at least once can feel weirdly vulnerable.
"They Can’t Guilt Me Into Hitting Happy Hour."
Oh, sweet relief.
"Can They See My Stomach Move?"
It must be pretty freaky to witness my rollicking belly from across the conference table.
"Please Don't Notice I Have No Shoes On."
Swollen feet + pregnant in July = flip-flops under my desk.
"Do They Think I’m Slacking?"
While I am fortunate to work at a place that values results from my work, as opposed to actual hours spent at my desk, I couldn’t help but feel I was “cheating” by cutting my days short to take care of my pregnancy needs. With the monthly doctor visits, prenatal screenings, and a few long lunches to pick up maternity clothes, I was not pulling straight 9-to-5 workdays during my pregnancy.
But my work was getting done, no quality suffered, and when co-workers had to take time for their own personal matters, I totally understood and offered my support. Not everyone is lucky to work at a place that recognizes its employees have lives outside the office. But I’m glad business are (all too slowly) coming around to the idea of a work-life “fit.” for those with kids, and without.
"I Have To Pee Again."
I mean, it’s been at least 10 minutes since I’ve waddled to the bathroom.