Work, Pregnancy, and Complications

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What to do when work is complicated, your pregnancy is complicated, and life just feels complicated. PSP members share their advice and experiences about navigating their employer, emotions, and the law.

woman-rain-14411

As the original poster writes:

"Hello all - first time writing to this group, and fairly new to PSP. I'm expecting a baby boy. I'm writing for some advice regarding baby and work.
This is my first pregnancy and me and my partner are super excited. With that said, it was an unplanned pregnancy - and my usual self is very career driven person working a ton in NYC like many of us do. I work a lot and am serious about my career. It was hard for a long time coming to terms with the pregnancy and trying to juggle that and a job transition right around the time I was deciding what to do.
With many pregnancy complications and unknowns, I decided to not disclose this to a new job I started in March. I recently told HR and my manager about a month ago and noted my complications. My job demands a lot of travel and a lot of activity and I received notice from my doctor yesterday that I need to be on 2 week bedrest due to cervical insufficiency. I had a big Houston trip for next week where I am leading a bunch of projects and now I cannot go.
Long story short - I'm having feelings of guilt, incompetency, etc. - when I share these feelings with people, they remind me it's just a job and what comes first is your health and the baby. I think a lot of the stress is because it's a high level job and I haven't been there for a year yet. Any thoughts or advice from anyone who has been in this situation? I fear losing my job, or people feeling I can't do my job - I know my thoughts are probably far from the truth plus pregnancy hormones making me super emotional - but I could use some words of wisdom
- what are the laws around a workplace and the way they treat or need to accommodate pregnant women?
- what should I fear, what should I not fear?
- what can I do to protect myself
- what are my rights?
Also, FWIW I work at one of the really large corporate companies - I'm sure they've dealt w/ a lot of this, but it's all just new for me."

 

Replies:

 

"I think there are two separate issues. At this point the real issue seems to just be anxiety from going hard all the time at your career to having to take other priorities into account. Trust me I understand. I was about to get on a plane to receive an award when I was 6-7 months pregnant with my first when my obgyn called and told me to go home to bed rest. I thought then it was the end of the world but 11 years later it is nothing.
Regarding the other issue - legal rights etc. Not sure you need to worry about it and doesn't sound like your employer has done anything egregious. So maybe google an article or two but I would not worry about it unless there is something real. We can all find problems if we look for them but why not expect the best from people. I work in [a big corporation] as well and I feel the sector mostly handles these situations very fairly. There can be exceptions but again why worry till something is not right.”

 

“First of all congratulations! I had some employer related issues during my pregnancy. They are now resolved, but I did need to involve a lawyer.
There are a few links out there [poster included them, below] for what you should know, but the long short of it is that you have the right to request "reasonable accommodations" related to your pregnancy. Medical issues fall under that category, just keep relating it back to the pregnancy and provide medical documentation if need be to protect yourself. Write everything down that strikes you as off, bcc or forward all emails regarding your pregnancy to a personal email just in case. If you really think things are turning, involve a lawyer. You can not be fired for making requests due to your pregnancy. How long you have been employed there does now matter, and to make you feel better you should know I was only at my job for three days before complications arose and the law landed on my side.
I know it's hard to stay out of the fear category with everything new going on, there is so much unknown. Women have to work so much harder to prove themselves, and that is not fair! From your description of yourself it sounds like you are a hard worker. Just be sure to forgive yourself and take breaks if you need it for your health. Pregnancy and parenthood are humbling, so ask for the help and accommodations if you need it. Don't be afraid to make these requests out of fear for your job, because the laws and NYC err on your side. You definitely made the right choice in not disclosing your pregnancy during your interview, because it's really none of their business!"

 

Here is a fact sheet on the law in NYC (Pregnant Workers Fairness Act).  It's a pdf you can download.
This is an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to delegate and to manage projects and teams. Maybe thinking of it that way will help?
FWIW I was hired at 8 months pregnant and took mat leave after a month on the job. I went back to work without any problems, but unfortunately there was turnover in management and the job ended up not being what i had expected. I was there about a year. With my second child, I was downsized towards the end of my mat leave due to merger/acquisition and across-the-board layoffs. I used my situation to negotiate for a bit better severance package.
I'm sorry for the stress and complications. Good luck with everything.”

 

"First, congrats on your new job, and on your pregnancy! Not giving legal advice here, but the quick and dirty on pregnancy accommodation in NYC is that an employer must provide reasonable accommodation for pregnancy related conditions the same way they would for any other temporary disability. The NYC Human Rights Commission has some good info on their website. A good way to approach the idea of "reasonable accommodation" is to think about the core requirements of your job, and how you can do them taking your physical limitations into account. If it's just two weeks of bedrest, it should be easy. If it's longer term, you need to think of bigger picture solutions (remote work, etc), or as a last resort you may need to take short term disability leave at a later date.  While this all seems very overwhelming now, it is a temporary phase, and once the baby arrives you'll be able to get work on steadier footing. Wishing you good health for the remainder of your pregnancy. Hang in there!"

 

"Sorry to hear you are facing these concerns at such a moment of your life. Your mind seems to be planning for the worst imaginable outcome. You are right, this must be the nature's way of protecting the baby! (I shared similar sentiments when pregnant, went down a paranoid trail of thought and blew a small potential risk into a big and heavy fear that weighed on my mind for months, never encountered it in reality).  I work in investment banking and it is next to impossible to fire a terrible administrative assistant (took us half a year), let alone a pregnant woman :)) 
Maternity leave is combined with disability for a reason, you are in an altered physical state now. And it's impossible to separate your current performance on the job from the effects of your (complicated) pregnancy. No employment lawyer will want to deal with that. 
A few things I would do to restore the peace of mind: 
- Share your concerns with HR, head-on! with acknowledgement they sound irrational to you, yet cannot help but cause you a certain amount of stress. You will most likely be re-assured that everything is just fine. 
- Make yourself available to colleagues to the extent possible (e.g. if you cannot travel, videochat; make it on a few calls outside business hours if needed, etc). It will not go unnoticed that you are (a) pregnant (b) making an effort; 
- ask for feedback from trusted sources. If you have a good relationship with your manager, ask him to comment on your performance and point out areas of concern any time.
If you work with other teams closely, call a meeting and discuss the ways your work will be handled in the next few months (they may have suggestions that are suitable to you too). Simply being proactive will put you in control of your own fears and the entire situation.  And yes, this is just a job. Once you see your beautiful baby, you will have absolutely no doubt that he is the only thing that truly matters. Take good care of yourself and your little one (boys are the best!!).
I am confident you will still have a job after the delivery."

 

"That's a really hard spot to be in but you shouldn't feel guilty. We've all had to make adjustments to our expectations of our career when becoming a mom. So many things are changing! I don't have any personal advice, but I thought you'd find this comforting. My sister in law got a new job about a month before she gave birth and then due to complications with recovery had to take 3 months of sick leave and then another month later the same year. She is such a strong woman who knew her rights, advocates for herself, and communicated well with work and she's still in the same position 2 years later :-) you'll find a way to make it work out."

 

"I strongly recommend you contact A Better Balance  at 212-430-5982 to talk through the details of their situation. 
They can talk to you about how to talk to your bosses and ask for the accommodations you need without endangering your job.  You can also look up basic information about your rights and how to talk to your boss too.  (They have info by state.) 
The basic answer though is that due to the work of ABB and others, NYC now has a pregnancy accommodation law that requires your employer to provide  you with reasonable accommodations. 
These accommodations can include allowing you to take time off from work completely due to pregnancy complications, allowing you to work from home, etc.  Your employer is prohibited from firing you due to your request for these accommodations.  While employers legally cannot fire you because you are pregnancy,  unfortunately employers do discriminate against pregnancy women. 
I have represented numerous women in media who were fired while on maternity leave or soon after they returned from leave.  The culture of these companies is often one where you are expected to work 24-7 so there are often few women with young children.  And even if you do continue to work at the same level as before your pregnancy, you may be discriminated against because you are perceived as taking your job less seriously due to stereotypes about mothers. 
This stereotyping is illegal under federal, state, and local law, and you have remedies if they discriminate against you. 
But ideally you won't be discriminated against.  To reduce the likelihood of discrimination and retaliation against you, ABB or another lawyer can work with you to make sure the accommodations you request are framed in a manner that would be considered reasonable. 
For example, a letter from your doctor should say you need two weeks off and not initially ask for unlimited time off.  If you need more than two weeks off, then you should get a new letter then asking for that time.  If you cannot work at all during that time, you may want to request that your time off be counted as protected leave time under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). If you can work while on bed rest, you want to make that clear.  It then would not be time off but instead an accommodation to work from home.  These are just a few examples, and advise must be tailored to your individual situation so please do not take action just based on my email. 
Call ABB or another lawyer who specializes in employment law.  And while it is difficult, it is possible to balance a high powered job and kids.  I have two boys (age 5 and 9) and work at a very demanding job.  The key is getting help at home from others and adjusting your work so that it isn't 24-7. 
Before kids I worked late at the office regularly.  Now I usually leave at 5 or 5:30, but I work after the kids go to bed on a "third" shift."

 

Related reading on Park Slope Parents

Know Your Rights Resources: Pregnancy, Breastfeeding and Beyond

 

Important note from PSP

Disclaimer: this post has been written for educational purposes only by Park Slope Parents and was not meant to be legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice or be relied upon. The post may contain errors, inaccuracies and/or omissions. You should always consult an attorney admitted to practice in your jurisdiction for specific advice.