The last time I told an employer that I was pregnant, it was not a pleasant experience. It was a bad experience actually, that led to further bad experiences and set off a chain of events over which I had no control. Fifteen weeks into my second pregnancy I have still not told my current employer that I am expecting, even though I now work for a completely different company.
I have no logical reason to think that that I would treated unfairly by my current employer. In fact, rationally everything points towards a professional and appropriate response. The company I work for have an actual HR Department and I have a legal contract of employment. They have a procedures and protocol handbook on all work related issues including pregnancy and maternity leave, which is very thorough. I am also working in a much more positive environment, it is literally the most unbitchiest place on Earth. In almost six months, I’ve hardly heard anyone say a bad word about anyone. I’ve certainly never heard anyone being slagged off or gossiped about. It just doesn’t happen because it’s not the tone set by management. For me, it’s been incredibly refreshing.
Legally speaking of course, I don’t have to disclose my pregnancy to my employer until I’m around 25 weeks (Sunday before due date & count back 15 weeks), but I don’t plan on waiting that long. For starters I already have a bump which for the first ten weeks hid itself nicely behind my layers of fat but by now is protruding quite obviously. Secondly, I rather like being pregnant – well from the second trimester onwards anyway and I want to enjoy it.
So why haven’t I told them I’m pregnant?
I haven’t told them because of my irrational fear of history repeating itself. Through some mis-guided loyalty (which was never re-paid) I ended up telling my previous employer about my first pregnancy at 9 weeks. I told my Manager because I was so ill, so bad with it that I’d taken more days sick than was usual for me.
His first response was – “ Really? Was it planned? You don’t seem the type!”.
Yes you are correct, this guy was a dick.
I made it expressively clear that I didn’t want him telling anyone. I was incredibly clear with him about it. I wasn’t ready to share, I wasn’t sure, things weren’t right and aside from all that – it was my bloody decision. I owned the right to tell other people about my pregnancy.
Well I thought I did.
Within one week everybody knew, because he couldn’t help himself. He just had to tell one or two people – maybe more and those people loved to gossip. I’ve worked for some pretty interesting characters over the years but this guy will always been my benchmark. He was the Don of Shit-Management and the King of Being a Crappy Person. He masqueraded as your friend but was in truth much more Mussolini than a mate.
Information was like gold in that place, if you knew something – anything, it gave those in the know a false sense of importance. No matter what it was, no matter how personal or private. No matter how someone else might get hurt.
A few months previously, I remember being told by four different sources all on the same day – that one of our colleagues was gay. That so-and-so had come out to his Manager as a homosexual and that he in fact had a secret husband that no one knew about.
But where had this ‘secret’come from, how had it filtered down to the masses? From his Manager, that’s who. From the person he chose to trust with his personal information. From the person he thought he could trust to deal with it professionally and appropriately and not to start a fire storm of gossip about his sexual preferences.
He lost his right to disclose his homosexuality, just as I did with my pregnancy.
A fortnight later, two colleagues stood outside my office door and had one of the most staged conversations I think I’ve ever bore witness too. One colleague, whose child was now a pre-schooler pondered aloud to another as to what she would do with her cot, her playmat and her fucking Bug-a-Boo. She wanted to sell it but alas, she didn’t know anyone who was having a baby. Did anyone know anyone who was pregnant? Anyone? Anyone at all? Their conversation went on for ten minutes and was clearly meant for my ears and for the benefit of the room.
I got up and shut my door. Their conversation immediately stopped. What a strange coincidence.
That same week I was approached by my Manager in the corridor and told that, apparently everyone knew I was pregnant and that I ought to “just tell everyone officially because it was getting a bit awkward for him”.
It was getting a bit awkward for him.
I was just 12 weeks, we hadn’t even had that first scan.
A lot went on after that and I’ve written about the sexual discrimination I experienced in that work place as a result of being pregnant before. But I’ll never forget what he said to me a few weeks after I returned from maternity leave the following year.
He began as nice as ever, asking me how I was and how I enjoyed being a Mum. He asked if it had put me off having any more children in the future. I made a lame joke about having enough to do with one but who knows what could happen in the future. He didn’t laugh, he looked straight at me and very loudly pronounced “Well yes of course, you had a very difficult pregnancy, we could all tell how hard it was for you and that you were struggling.”
At the time, I made some muffled, embarrassed response and turned back to my work.
What I should have said was this:
I didn’t have a difficult pregnancy, I had few complications and really enjoyed it. What I did have was a difficult time at work during my pregnancy as a result of your sexually discriminative behaviour. What I did have was constant stress and fear over my job, as a result of your piss poor management. What I did have was a strained relationship with a lot of my colleagues because you opted to make me the subject of office gossip and then acted like it was all my fault. What I did have two days after going on maternity leave, was dangerously high blood pressure and a week long stay in hospital linked up to a fetal monitoring machine. Which I entirely attribute to the state you and senior management got me into, from the moment you found out I was pregnant until the moment I left. So go suck my dick, you pathetic excuse for a human being.
That’s definitely what I should have said.
But I didn’t.
And so I am going to tell my current employer that I’m pregnant this week. I’m going to tell the HR Manager and then I’m going to bore some of my colleagues with it. I’m going to choose to believe that not all work environments are sexually discriminative. I’m going to choose to believe the best in people. And if for some reason, it doesn’t work out that way I’m going to choose to fight my corner and not allow myself to be bullied.
Because quite frankly, it’s 2017 and we’ve all had enough of all this shit now.
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