The dilemma This week I found out I’m pregnant. I had been told it would be “next to impossible” to conceive because of a fertility disorder, so in a way this is a mini miracle and I’m overjoyed. However, last week I started a new job at the multinational tech company I work for. It’s the career opportunity of a lifetime, but I’m dreading their reaction – if I can’t plan a pregnancy how can I manage this project? If I take six months’ leave I miss a lot of the work I was actually hired to do. Do I pull a Marissa Myer and go back to work after two weeks? How do I break the news to my boss? Help!
Mariella replies Congratulations! Despite all your associated concerns let’s first recognise what amazing news this is. Many women who’ve been given a similar diagnosis will be beside themselves with envy at your good fortune, so it’s important you allow yourself a moment’s celebration. We’re complicated creatures and that’s never more apparent than in the face of happy news. Seconds after we’ve experienced that initial surge of happiness we’re worrying, conjuring issues where they don’t exist or bringing to the foreground background problems and concerns.
An inconvenient baby – is there any other sort? There’s a popular misnomer in this modern world, backed up by the sort of improvements in science and medicine that can and often do alter fates for the better, that we are the ones in control. It’s an infectious concept, despite clear evidence that, most of the time, it’s not the case.
I was thinking the other day of a male friend who told me about a decade ago that he would never marry or have children. He was a debauched and troubled bachelor, but is now happily married with a small child he dotes on and to all intents and purposes is an entirely different human being. But that’s the rub, he’s not a different person – just not as in control of his emotions and choices as he once liked to believe. There is little rationality involved in the romantic choices we make and none at all when it comes to our feelings for our children.
If we all waited for the right time to become parents there’d be a significant drop in global population. Faced with bringing new life into the world and all the emotional, financial and practical changes it involves, who in their right mind would walk that path willingly? Much of what makes us an incredibly unique species is our ability to adapt, change and very often surprise ourselves with what we are and aren’t capable of.
Having a baby and giving your best to your new job definitely aren’t opposing ambitions. We all approach parenthood differently, and there are as many women who are grateful for a job to go to as there are for whom the workplace loses its allure. For many, including myself, it becomes not only a refuge but also an essential lifeline to preserving a part of their personality that isn’t exercised in the duties of domesticity.
It’s not just super-successful businesswomen who return to work fast. The notion of extended maternity leave is a modern concept and a privileged one. Many women across the globe, along with many millions more men, don’t have the luxury of immersing themselves in the early years of the children they create. What was once the preserve of the idle classes has become an expectation in the developed world. Yet in places where bringing in a wage, or growing crops, can be the difference between life and death, they manage perfectly well to raise children while being gainfully employed, not least because the alternative option is unavailable. It would be marvelous to live in a society where the insane wealth of the super rich was channelled into giving each and every human being the same basic opportunities, including the time they’d like to devote to raising their young.
Until you’ve reached the magical 12-week mark, much remains uncertain, so news of your pregnancy should be shared only among your closest circle. After that you can choose the moment to inform your bosses and begin to consider how things may pan out after your child is born. Returning to work two weeks after you’ve given birth may be a bit of a challenge, but three months is perfectly achievable. The great thing nowadays is that you can make up your mind when you are better equipped to do so – which, with hormones racing around your body and all sorts of physical changes occurring, probably isn’t now.
Most importantly you must savour these early days of incubation. It may be your only pregnancy and you should enjoy every moment. Once your baby is born you’ll be the same person you are today, only perhaps either more driven to achieve for your child’s sake or less driven to achieve because you have eyes only for your offspring. Part of the fun is finding out. For now, relax, let nature take its course and go with the flow of your blossoming body.