When I got pregnant with my daughter, I was managing a fitness center and teaching Pilates. It was a fun job that combined two things I really enjoyed: fitness and business. I honestly loved going in to work everyday. However, once I found out I was pregnant, there was one small problem, and it wasn’t the problem you’re imagining. I actually wasn’t concerned about the physical aspects of my job with my growing abdomen. As it turns out, I taught Pilates up until my sixth month. I was concerned because my paychecks had started bouncing and I knew that the owner of the gym was in financial trouble. As a soon-to-be mom, I felt uncomfortable working in an unstable situation when I would have a dependent on the way.
So I set off to find a new job, weeks after discovering that I was carrying a child. Honestly, at the time, it just didn’t occur to me that I should tell my prospective employers that I was pregnant. I didn’t have any complications. There was no reason that I wouldn’t be able to work up til my due date and return to work in a timely manner. At that time, I didn’t think that having a baby should matter, one way or another, to my professional life. In many ways, I still don’t.
Therefore, I interviewed at multiple places, entertained offers, and settled on a job without ever mentioning that I was pregnant. In fact, I wasn’t telling anyone aside from my family about my situation at that moment. I accepted a job as the manager of a spa and salon. I liked that my hours would be more flexible. I would work one day on the weekend, when I had free childcare, and save a little on my weekly daycare costs. None of the companies that I had interviewed with had paid maternity leave policies, so that didn’t weight on my decision. All in all, the situation seemed great.
Then, roughly two months after I started work, I realized that I needed to let my employer know. I was through my first trimester. I was to the point where most people start sharing the news. Soon I would be showing, and the whole thing would be hard to ignore. I scheduled a time to have lunch with the owner and give her my news.
I was completely unprepared for her reaction. She sputtered a little and her eyes got wide. It was like she was in disbelief. “Well how much time are you going to want?” “What are your plans for after the baby?” And most of all, “Why didn’t you tell me before you were hired?”
I wanted to respond, “Because it shouldn’t have mattered when I was hired. It wasn’t your business at that point in time.” Instead I sat back and tried to calm myself down. I could already feel my cheeks flushing and I hate feeling emotional in public, a problem pregnant women deal with a lot. I tried to quietly explain, “When I interviewed, I had just found out the news. It was still very new and I wasn’t telling anyone at that point. I wasn’t trying to hide the information from you, it simply wasn’t something that I was talking about then. My pregnancy will not have any impact on my work. I’ll take off the time I need, most likely a month, and I’ll be back to work after that time.”
Looking back, I can’t say that I regret the decision that I made that time. My boss was angry, but she did not fire me. She couldn’t have, legally speaking. She calmed down as my pregnancy progressed and I continued to show up, day after day, growing belly and all. In the end, she even threw me a baby shower.
A woman legally does not have to disclose her pregnancy during an interview. Companies are not allowed to discriminate against pregnant women, though discrimination is difficult to prove. As far as I’m concerned, the contents of your uterus are your business until you choose to disclose them.