Or…What in the world is that thing in your office.
Pregnancy is such an odd time in a woman’s life. She’s stuck in an “in-between” stage, she’s a mother, but there is nothing she can really mother yet. There is another human inside of her (seriously, think about that for a minute, if the wonder of it doesn’t elicit a pause maybe the sheer engineering of it might) and the physical changes that come along with that. People feel the necessity to make remarks that would otherwise be considered so incredibly rude and ask intensely personal, pointed questions. It’s no wonder women of yesteryear hid their status under hoop skirts, smocks and tent-like dresses or they spent the last months of their pregnancies in confinement.
Surviving pregnancy in an office environment takes a delicate balance of tact, ignorance, humor and grace. It’s not necessarily an easy experience, but I’ve rounded up a few things to make it much more enjoyable.
Please, for the love of all that is beautiful in the world, don’t announce your pregnancy on social media before letting your superiors know. Even if you don’t have anyone you work with on social media, word travels fast, especially in small towns and within certain career fields. Personally, I let our HR guy know the week I found out I was pregnant in case I had another miscarriage. I needed him to know ahead of time in the event that I needed to miss work for a few days. I told a few friends I trusted to keep it secret a few weeks later and told my boss when I was 10 weeks and the rest of the firm within a few days of that. The big Facebook announcement happened the same day I made my announcement at the firm. It worked out very well for me and I will probably go the same route with any future pregnancies.
Figure out your company’s sick leave/maternity leave policy early. I learned I needed to have a week of sick time or vacation time saved if I wanted to be paid before my FMLA kicked in, so I was stingy with taking time off for appointments. It’s important to find out as much as you can, as early as you can so that you have eight months to plan instead of eight weeks or worse, eight days. Get all the paperwork you can completed at the beginning of your third trimester or as early as your HR department allows. In case of an early delivery, you don’t want to be filling out more paperwork than you have to. I actually forgot to have my doctor sign off on it so I was making multiple trips into town with a newborn in tow – not an ideal situation.
Since we are talking about being out of the office: find a day and time that works well with your schedule and make an appointment at the same time for each, if you can. I learned that morning were not a good time for the OB I was seeing in the first half of my pregnancy, she was super busy and there was always a pretty significant wait. After tweaking the time over an appointment or two, I learned that late Wednesday afternoons were the best time to schedule an appointment. The office was quiet, I got in to see her quickly and often I was the last appointment of the day – so I got more face time with the doctor. Find what works for you, as well. I liked to schedule appointments where I either went in before work or left work early to see the doctor. Be mindful of how many hours of leave you take. It’s so easy to call in during the first trimester, I was so tired, I was nauseous and I just didn’t want to be at work – but I knew that I had many doctor’s appointments (14 to be exact) and the week of unpaid leave at the beginning of my FMLA time.
Staying comfortable while at work is the key to having an enjoyable pregnancy. Find clothes that fit properly, are comfortable to wear all day and (hopefully) cute. I purchased a striped maternity dress from Motherhood (see above) around week 20 and wore it at least once a week for the remainder of my pregnancy – it was super comfortable and it made the oppressive late-summer heat of Louisiana a little more bearable. Some people say buy a few expensive pieces that will last from one pregnancy to next, but I bought things that were less expensive because there is no telling which season I’ll be pregnant in (or how much weight I’ll gain) next time so that really cute pair of expensive maternity pants may or may not fit, might be out of style or might not be warm enough next time. Investing in a exercise ball chair was the best decision I made the whole time I was pregnant. My hips started hurting early in the second trimester and sitting at work was nearly unbearable at the end of the day. Enter Amazon deal of the day for a exercise ball chair…my hips, core and butt never felt better. Additionally, get up and take a stroll a few times an hour, it helps prevent stiffness and keep the blood flowing to your feet (this is a good time for all the time, not just pregnancy).
Most importantly, have a sense of humor about your body and pregnancy. The last few weeks my belly was the topic of many break room conversations. My co-workers would ask questions that normally one would consider obscene, but in all honesty, they were just excited for me and to meet my baby. I knew going into those last weeks questions about my body’s “progression” would start cropping up and I was fully prepared to deal with it. You will hear horror stories of epidurals go awry, nightmare c-sections and tears that required surgeries and physical therapy to fix – tune it out. Smile and say “that’s interesting,” and let it go out the other ear. You don’t need that negativity rolling around in your head leading up to the birth of your child. And if all else fails, create a countdown calendar. Crossing off each day felt like a victory in itself.
Pregnancy in an office can be an awkward, annoying and uncomfortable experience, but it doesn’t have to suck.