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priscilla arthus

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Win At Work. Thrive in Motherhood.

When To Tell Your Boss You’re Pregnant If You’re An Ambitious Woman

Personal Development
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Also known as P.A.
Welcome to my blog, The Working Mom Collective (formerly Girl Meets Soul), where I'm on a quest to help the ambitious working mom in a high-stakes career  win at work and thrive in motherhood!
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Hi,   I'm   Priscilla

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You’re pregnant! Yay, congratulations! 🎉🎉

So, when do you tell your boss?

If you’ve been around here a while, you probably know what I’m going to say:

It depends!

If you’re having a normal or even easy pregnancy, you probably have quite a while before you need to say anything.  And if it’s your first baby, you probably won’t even show until well into your second trimester.

However, if you’re high risk, going through fertility treatments, this is a subsequent pregnancy, or any other kind of complication arises, the answer becomes more complicated.

In all instances, it’s understandable you don’t want to sound the alarm too early in case doing so hurts your year’s performance or gives your firm or company the opportunity to act a fool when it comes to benefits.  But you also don’t want to reach out for help too late where your silence actually hurts you in the long run.

Let’s dive into the different scenarios.

The Easy/Uncomplicated Pregnancy

For those of you with pregnancies smoother than a jazz playlist, the safest time to spill the beans is in the second trimester.  It’s not so early that you face a high risk of a miscarriage (and thus have to explain to a million people why you will no longer need leave), but it’s not so late that you’re scrambling because you suddenly realize that you didn’t understand your company’s maternity leave benefits, leaving you zero time to pivot or put in place a Plan B.

Plus, this is the sweet spot to start negotiations if needed or request exceptions/accommodations that might make the rest of your pregnancy or your leave easier (like having work pay for a sweet ergonomic chair that you get to keep even post-pregnancy!).

The Otherwise Complicated Pregnancy

But if your pregnancy journey is a high-stakes thriller, you may want to take a different approach.

The one thing no one told me was that the first trimester can actually be the worst of all trimesters for a woman.  You’re incredibly tired – I once fell asleep standing up! – with no evidence of pregnancy to rely on.  You’re also nauseous, turned off by every smell imaginable, and trying to keep the contents of your stomach down.  All of this while trying to comport yourself at work like nothing is wrong.

And to add fuel to this dumpster fire, you may have complications that require some form of increased rest or even full-blown bed rest.

If you are in this situation, as soon as your doctor indicates that your pregnancy is going to require you to slow down in some form, this might be when you share the news with your boss about any extra support you need.

It could be as simple as requesting a laptop bag that rolls if you’re required not to pick up anything heavier than 5 lbs, or it could be as complicated as figuring out what to do and how you will be covered if you have to go on complete bed rest.

The more severe the pregnancy complication or risk, the sooner you should look for resources and help from work.

The Fertility Treatment Pregnancy

Now, this is a category with its own mind. If you are going through fertility treatments, all bets are off.  You may want to start by seeing how far you can get without anyone ever knowing.  And this is possible with something like a simple IUI (intrauterine insemination).  I use the word “simple” kind of tongue-in-cheek because even IUI can involve medications to stimulate ovulation, affecting your hormones and how you work. But it will involve a good number of monitoring doctor appointments as it is a time-sensitive process.

On the other hand, if you are going through IVF, the mother of fertility treatments, you’re in for a wild ride and even more doctor appointments (I was at the doctor 3- 4 times a week in some months). IVF is not a short process.

Now, there are some tricks to keeping this to yourself, such as asking for the earliest appointment of the day, which is usually before work. But a lot of the time, everyone is making the same request, so the clinics won’t be able to accommodate you each time.  You may be faced with a lot of time “off” from work and, therefore, have to address this with your boss – yes, even before you are pregnant!

In other instances, you may be several cycles deep into IVF, and your doctor has instructed you to keep your stress levels low or reduce your work schedule.  Now, as this blog caters to ambitious working women who are moms or aspiring moms, I think I can assume that you’re in a high-stakes, fast-paced work environment if you’re reading this.

Having to slow down in an environment like this can be tricky on all performance metrics. It can even alter the way your colleagues or management view your commitment to work, depending on how toxic of an environment you find yourself in. So, in situations like these, I typically ask my client what’s most important in this phase of their life. Possibly going through more failed IVF cycles to save face at work? Or increasing your chance of getting pregnant and having a healthy baby?

There are no wrong answers here.

You might have time, the right number of embryos, or unlimited financial resources, and therefore, any cycle failures don’t hit you as hard – whether that’s physically or emotionally.  Or… you might not.

Your answer to this question will determine how early you should speak up and ask for help.

Wrapping Up

Whether you’re a high-risk warrior, are going through IVF boot camp, or you’re the “I’ll-wait-till-I-can’t-zip-my-jeans” kind of person (totally valid btw), the choice of when to reveal you’re pregnant (or trying to get pregnant) is completely up to you once you assess your needs.

As word spreads though, get ready for coworkers’ well-meaning yet bewildering advice. “Eat pickles for breakfast!” Um, thanks? While easy-going pregnancies might have you cheerfully accepting tips, complicated pregnancies might call for a sarcastic eye roll – “Sure, I’ll add it to my list, right under ‘Save the Universe.'”

But as your pregnancy story continues, remember that every journey is different. Whether you went through IVF acrobatics, sailed through pregnancy with ease, or bravely faced high-risk challenges, your workplace world is just a slice of your universe. Your journey is your journey – try to own it, even if you’re sneaking off to puke between meetings.

When did you reveal (or are planning to reveal) your pregnancy to work? And how did it go? Let me know in the comments!

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