Did you know that more babies are born in August and September than any other month? Apparently warm, fuzzy holiday feelings plus cold, long winter nights equal lots of women seeing double--double lines that is--in January. If, like millions of others, you're newly pregnant and wondering how to manage at work (without giving yourself away), read on.
I have 3 kids aged 4 and under. I'm not exaggerating when I say there have been times that felt like I was pregnant for 4 years straight. Like many women these days, I worked all the way through my pregnancies because there was nothing particularly dangerous or difficult about my office job- if you don't count having to forego coffee beforehand and wine after a tough day. Maternity leave comes with the pregnancy territory and I have (mostly) successfully transitioned back into work life when those precious early weeks had passed.
I was curious about how other women managed during those first early weeks because, alas, it's not something we really talk about at work (for many reasons) until later on.
With this in mind, I recently had the opportunity to talk with Julia Beck of It's Working Project. Julia is an expert in developing strategies that help companies retain working parents. Julia and I compared notes on our personal experiences and those shared by friends and clients.
Based on that conversation, here are the top seven things you need to know and do when you're newly pregnant at work.
- Take note of how you're feeling is the first and more important thing to do. Make an immediate plan for how you're going to take care of yourself. You're likely feeling nauseous and tired. Ginger pops and a bit of extra sleep may be in order. One of my girlfriends started investing in loose-fitting work tops. I can only imagine why.
- Track down the person most recently back from maternity leave. Ask her what she wishes she knew and what experiences that are specific to your organization that she'd be willing to share. Treat her to a cup of coffee--she needs it because she's up with an infant all night and you're likely cutting back. It all works out.
- Think proactively about when it feels right to share the news. Telling the world that you're expecting is YOUR news to share--not anyone else's (of course, you can't stop speculation) but no one should be making any announcements but you. Once you know when you're comfortable letting people know set that date on your calendar.
- Share the news on your timeline. There really is no right answer to "when" here. It's what feels right to you. These days, a lot of people wait until the start of the second trimester- some sooner, some later. Whatever date you pick, I'd plan to tackle people in this order: immediate supervisor/manager first--during this conversation, come up with an agreed-upon strategy for sharing the news with your clients (if needed), then you tell your team. It's ideal to share the news in one-on-one or small group conversations. Announcements in big meetings can be awkward.
- Have a conversation with HR. Depending on what you hear from other moms you talk to, you might do this before making the announcement to your boss and team. If there are any systemic issues or rumors of discrimination, it'd be better to understand what the policies are upfront. Hopefully that is not the case. If your perception and the experiences of others indicate that you're likely to be treated fairly, it's fine to have this conversation about the specifics of maternity leave policies and benefits after or at the same time you're telling everyone else.
- Determine for yourself how your pregnancy will impact your ability to travel. In my pregnancies, I was cleared to travel up to 7 months. The airlines will let you go a little longer than that but you obviously need to check with your OB.
- Know that people can't just accept any bit of news without wondering what's next. Anticipate both direct and indirect questions about your plans to return to work. My personal advice--which is ridiculous to give without knowing each of you readers personally--is to keep it simple and say your plan is to come back after the standard maternity leave period. Avoid inviting people to weigh in on the possibilities, benefits, and drawbacks of any particular post-baby arrangement. The exception here is your boss and HR. You'll want to understand the options, determine what feels best for you and your family-to-be and then work towards getting everyone on board. This is sometimes easier said than done and could be a topic unto itself.
Click here for more thoughts on preparing for maternity leave.
Whatever comes next, you know that work and life will be different for a while. As reality sets in, you'll likely feel a whole range of emotions about how a baby is going to impact your career. If you're interested in sharing your story, consider submitting it to the It's Working Project. This is one of Julia's efforts to connect working parents through personal stories. Best of luck.