I once made the mistake of referring to my upcoming maternity leave as vacation, right there in the middle of the newsroom. In my defense, I had spent the previous day at a Hillary Clinton rally, during her 2016 presidential bid. It was an all-day outdoor event, with temperatures in the 80s. I was 9 months pregnant and the hot Florida sun was not sitting well with baby-to-be. Shout out to the Secret Service for taking pity on me and my hobbit sized swollen feet. They escorted me to a private bathroom no less than half a dozen times that day (insert repeated pat downs here). I felt very important knowing the door was flanked by two armed guards yet at the same time, it was a bit awkward in that “it’s so quiet you can hear a pin drop, please don’t fart” kind of way. TMI? Sorry but you know how that last month of pregnancy can be!
So there I was the next day at work, joking around with my photographer about looking forward to maternity leave. While I was completely aware I would face many sleepless nights caring for a new born, the prospect of putting some space between me and the daily grind was so close, I could almost taste it. The working moms within earshot however, did not agree with my word choice.
“It’s not a vacation! Just you wait!”
“You’ll be sorry you said that soon enough!”
I offered up some quick apologies. After all, what did I know? This was my first child and I had no real idea of what obstacles I was about to face. In retrospect though, maybe I shouldn’t have been so quick to take back my words. This job can be tough. In fact, many women who work outdoors or spend their days in a company vehicle with a (usually) male counterpart, experience pregnancy in an entirely different way than those who work inside an office (see Secret Service anecdote above for bathroom availability). I’m certainly not saying one job is harder than the other. Oh no. I could never take on some of the responsibilities those colleagues of mine have. But at the same time, I AM saying one type of job may be harder on a pregnant body. We
The thing that may surprise some of you is I happened to have a couple of notes from my doctor, ordering me to stay at my desk that final month. However, they remained tucked inside my top drawer, never to be turned into HR. Despite surgery to remove a tumor (and one lucky ovary!) halfway through my pregnancy, followed by the uncomfortable realization that my 5’1″ frame was carrying around what would be a 10lbs, 10oz baby, I worked past my due date. You could say my reasoning was one part work ethic and one part “I am woman, here me roar!” Throw in a dash of fear and the recipe for foolishness was complete. Maybe it was more than a dash. I think many working mothers, or women contemplating having children while climbing the career ladder, can relate. There is this underlying worry of falling behind or being replaced. No matter how supportive your company is or how much experience you have under your belt, it’s always there…lurking. For the lone male reading this, let me take a stab at the opposite of mansplaining: does the name Wally Pipp ring a bell? As baseball legend has it, the Yankees first baseman sat out a game due to a headache. “I took the most expensive aspirin in history,” Pipp is rumored to have said years later. That’s because his replacement that day was the one and only Lou Gehrig and the rest, as they say, is history.
In the end, I wasn’t “Pipped.” Instead, I returned to work after maternity leave and picked right up where I left off. Well, as much as a person can after a life changing event rearranges your priorities from top to bottom. But that is a whole other blog post! THIS one is about a career woman looking forward to
vacation maternity leave in a way only a working mother-to-be can understand. And while it was far from a tropical retreat in the sand n’ surf, time away from the job to focus on motherhood was peaceful in its own right. I’m looking forward to that leave once again with baby number two on the way. But this time around, those doctor’s notes won’t sit in my desk drawer. Mama knows better now…and my body has earned it.