A few months ago, I found out I was pregnant. My entire world changed quite drastically and quickly – in a positive way, of course.
Let’s rewind a bit. I was six weeks pregnant when I was on a video conference call and someone asked me when I planned on having children. Yes, people really ask these things. I have no idea what look I gave them, but everyone immediately started laughing. They probably figured my native reaction meant that I wasn’t planning on having kids for a long time.
As a woman around the age of thirty with a Facebook account, I constantly see engagement, marriage and baby announcements all over my newsfeed. It’s natural for us to celebrate these big life moments with our friends and family, as they are always eager to see what awaits us in the next stage of life.
But for some reason, this celebration doesn’t always carry over from our personal lives to our professional lives and that got me thinking…
Why don’t we celebrate being pregnant with everyone, not just our close family and friends? Why is it hard to talk about?
Planning for the future
When my husband and I first started talking about growing our family from two to three, I had a myriad of questions about life as a future pregnant CEO. And even though I have both friends and family who have been pregnant and brought life into the world, I didn’t know what it would mean for my business.
Would I still be able to run my company?
Would I still be able to make sales?
Service clients? Run payroll?
I was heading down an unknown road.
We’re only now starting to hear stories about women in business being pregnant and running a company at the same time. But it’s traditionally been an unspoken part of the entrepreneurship journey.
Another thing you also don’t typically hear is pregnant women telling non-pregnant people about the true hardships about these crazy changes happening to your body, all while still trying to maintain a certain level of decorum in the workplace.
Luckily, I’ve been able to do both and I’m here to tell you that you can too. But it will require some degree of change. I’ll start by noting that everyone’s pregnancy symptoms are different.
Initial pregnancy observations as a CEO
The first three months as a pregnant person are so hard. It doesn’t matter if you’re like me with “light” symptoms and “only” tired, or if you’re like some of my friends who needed to be hospitalized for dehydration because their morning sickness was so intense. Regardless of what degree of symptoms you have, your first trimester is a huge adjustment.
When I worked for Microsoft, we had a yoga room with blackout curtains that was affectionately known as the napping room. Looking back, I now think this was actually for pregnant women.
Those first three months of pregnancy are like walking around with a flu, but instead of getting time off and using sick days, women are expected to keep the news to themselves, with the fear that something might “go wrong.” Because of this, women are feeling terrible, exhausted, and maybe even forgetting things (aka pregnancy brain).
On top of that, women are likely not even showing yet during the first trimester or talking about being pregnant so this doesn’t offer any type of explanation as to why they’re rushing to the bathroom every 45 minutes. P.S: Yes, I literally have had to go to the bathroom after every conference call.
We talk a lot about maternity leave after the baby comes, but the truth is that growing that baby is hard work. I’m still working and growing my company everyday. Women can do both, it just requires flexibility and adjustment. And as an employer, it’s important to recognize the difficulties that often come with being pregnant – especially if you’re a male. It’s also important to pay close attention when women are in the awful first trimester. During the first trimester, many women will not want to share the news with the whole office so keeping the door open for privacy is important when communicating with your employees.
Changing the “pregnancy stigma”
Here’s the thing: I went into this thinking that the nine months of my pregnancy were going to be the most productive working time I’d ever had.
I had so many plans of what I would accomplish, how I would set up schedules for my team when I take maternity leave or, more likely, when I’m messaging them with crazy sleep-deprived ideas at 3am…
But the truth is that I don’t have control over my life in the same way anymore. And I’ll probably never get it back. And that’s okay. So, I adjusted and moved forward with my new life. I told my team early to explain why I was suddenly offline at 2pm every day (it was nap time) and also explained why I was eating on every call. Pregnancy cravings! I found contractors to fill in for any work possible. And if you’re reading this as a client, don’t worry. We have plans in place for my future maternity leave. In short, I adjusted my deadlines and gave in to the chaos of early pregnancy, instead of trying to fight it.
What this means for my business
This doesn’t mean I’m not working hard or that my business isn’t growing. It just means that I have to be flexible about my expectations and create realistic goals for myself and others along the way.
So, if you’re an employer, think about the environment you’re creating. If you want to keep women around as long-term employees (which you should; we’re great!), you need to do more than just have a parental leave plan in place. You need to create a culture where it’s okay to balance your work and personal life together, no matter what that means at the time.
How did you balance working + pregnancy?
If you’re a woman in business and have children, how did you balance working and pregnancy? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below. Let’s all do our part to make this a more talked about topic in the workplace!