Stay tuned for future posts on returning to work, making your workplace more family friendly, and becoming pregnant whilst self-employed.
Navigating pregnancy at work can be intimidating. Here are a few pointers to help set you (and your workplace) up for success.
1. Plan your announcement
Whom will you tell first, and when? What questions do you think you'll be asked? You may not have thought about parental leave yet, but someone is about to ask you. Talk to your partner and consider your response ahead of time.
Be prepared to work with your employer to help them understand your needs, especially if you're their first pregnant employee. And even if people are getting pregnant all the time, there'll always be someone who's not sure how to react or who says the wrong thing. Remember, you don't have share anything overly personal; if you're asked "how long have you known?" or "was it planned?" simply change the subject or make light of it and move on.
2. Consider the practical...
Need to leave early for doctor's appointments? Feeling nauseated by your officemate's stinky lunch? No one will know what's up unless you tell them, which can make the first few weeks especially hard (as most people opt to keep the news to themselves early on).
Speak up when the time comes. Be prepared to ask for things that may feel uncomfortable. Even if you're in a female-dominated environment, not everyone who's had kids will have experienced the same prenatal symptoms as you or have had the same needs.
3. Get comfortable
This could be as simple as upending an empty wastebasket to support your tired legs - or as sensitive as asking your boss if you can sit down all day where previously you'd always been standing. In the grand scheme of your life, a one-off uncomfortable conversation is a drop in the ocean compared to getting through a pregnancy with the necessary physical and mental support. Try to carve out what you need - and note any red flags about your employer along the way. For example, if they won't allow you an extra bathroom break or two now, they may be less than understanding if your baby gets sick further down the line.
4. Know your rights
A good workplace will accommodate your needs without hesitation. But some won't, and some companies simply won't be able to.
A few basic protections have to be provided by all employers by law. If it comes to it, talk to a lawyer to find out what's legal, what's not, and what's a gray area. Remember, it's illegal to be fired simply for being pregnant. (And on a human level, it helps to remember that everyone had to be born once...)
5. Talk to others
If you work with other people who've had kids and feel comfortable asking them questions, go for it. Seek out other mothers and fathers recently returned from leave and ask them what they found helpful, and what they might have done differently. Everyone's a little different, too - some people will say they couldn't wait to come back to work, others that their leave was too short. Ask them why they say that. You may not have the same experience, but you can learn from theirs.
6. Plan your leave
It's tempting to offer up more than you might later be able to deliver. "I'll be checking email every day" feels like a simple promise, but ask any parent how draining and busy those early months are and you'll soon change your mind. You don't yet know what you don't know. Take care not to overcommit.
You might want to try part-time work or delay your return (or even come back early) - but don't assume. Try to keep your options open as far as possible - you know your employer better than this blog post does. If they're accommodating and family friendly, you can likely be more upfront and demanding about your post-leave needs and ideas.
And you never know, your boss might prefer to extend your leave and have you return 4 days per week than lose you altogether. Try to feel it out.
7. Talk to your partner. And talk to them again.
If you're going through pregnancy and parenthood alone, try to plan out how you'll be supported - whether that means nanny, daycare, sitters, family close-by, or a strong network of friends - even before your leave ends. You'll be glad you did.
If you have a partner, talk to them about pretty much everything and involve them in doctor's visits, infant CPR classes, birth plans, and the rest - as far as is possible. As the person carrying the baby, you're probably adjusting to the very idea of parenthood a little quicker than they are, so make sure they're a close partner from the start.
When baby arrives, you're a baby-raising team. And it's never too early to start planning that "second shift". For example, your partner comes home from work exhausted and you're physically and mentally drained from a day of carrying/feeding/changing baby. But dinner needs to be cooked and baby needs to be rocked to sleep. What's your plan? Even if you don't have all the answers, try to establish as equal a setup as possible from early on. Aside from breast feeding, there's nothing a man can't do to be an equal co-parent. And when you return to work - or even if you don't - you'll be glad to have a true partner.
Anything you'd add or change? Talk to us. We're @pencilorink on all the social channels.