I am pregnant. Due on June 21.
The last time I had a baby was not a great moment in the history of gender discrimination in America. For one thing, as soon as I announced I was pregnant, my editor at a business magazine fired me and recommended that I “try writing for women's magazines.”
I also got laid off from my corporate job right before I got pregnant, so I found myself job hunting when I was five months along. No one mentioned the pregnancy in the interviews, (after all, it would be illegal,) but I gave new meaning to “the elephant in the room.” And why, really, would anyone hire a pregnant woman when there surely are other qualified people who would not take maternity leave?
What I learned from that pregnancy was that there is no good time in one's career to get pregnant because there are so many things you cannot control.
But there are some things you can control, and this pregnancy I have tried to do better planning. For one thing, I have set up my life so that I can work at my home while I eat ice cream, and wear maternity pants that look like pajamas. And I thought I was a genius during my book auction when I went from publisher to publisher hiding a three-month pregnancy under a very-hip poncho, selling myself as an author who could get the book written quickly: “By June 1st” I'd say. And the publishers always said, “Great.” No one said, “Why? Are you pregnant?”
I finally told my agent about the pregnancy right before I accepted the winning bid. “I want to make sure I'm not doing anything dishonest by hiding the pregnancy,” I told her.
Before I tell you what my agent said, let me just say that I would never advise anyone to tell a perspective employer about a pregnancy. You are under no legal obligation to disclose this information. And it can only hurt you, so employers are insane to think anyone would disclose until negotiations are done.
That said, more than one woman has written to me that she feels guilty hiding the information. And I have to admit that I had that guilt, too.
But my agent said, “By all means, don't tell anyone yet!” She said, “Congratulations!” and “You have a right to get pregnant and work too!” I loved my agent as much for her reaction to my pregnancy as I did for her selling my book.
Then reality set in. A TV agent wants to represent me, but he can't work with me until I'm not pregnant. He doesn't want to tell me this himself, so my agent tells me.
“In July?” I ask.
“No,” she says, “When you lose the weight.”
I've gained 40 pounds and I'm not even done. And yes, it's my own fault. I admit it. I have not counted a calorie since the second month. But here's my point. Pregnancy is always a problem in a career, no matter where you are, no matter how much you plan.
The best thing I did this time, though, was to get myself into a situation where I would not be fired for being pregnant (yes, it's illegal, but it happens all the time). I also set up my life so that I can take things as slowly as I want to after the pregnancy. (The cost, of course, is that my family is taking a huge financial hit. But at least we have our sanity.)
For those of you who are trying to plan, flexibility is important. The more flexibility you have the better. But it's the kind of thing you have to build into a career way before the day you conceive. Essentially, I have been planning my current pregnancy ever since I got pregnant the first time, three years ago, and saw that starting a plan in the first month is about two years too late.
Pregnancy planning for careerists should begin before you even have a partner, let alone conceive. But most of the women who contact me about pregnancy planning are already pregnant. And to you, I say, the worst thing I ever did was think I could job hunt while I was showing, and the best thing I ever did was buy a poncho.