For those of you who haven’t read my last two posts about navigating pregnancy while transitioning back to academia, let me give you a quick recap. In February of this year, after a year of let downs and heartache, I discovered I was finally pregnant. A week later I was asked to interview for my dream job. The interview happened while I was 6 weeks pregnant and projectile vomiting in between meetings with faculty members. Somehow I still got the job – only nobody knew I was pregnant.
Those of you who have had to announce to friends and family that you miscarried, you know that announcing when it happens again can be a very emotionally complicated process. Since this journey had not been an easy one, I was not prepared to share this information with anyone until everything seemed like it was going as planned. So I went through negotiations, detailed my start-up package, and started arranging class duties for fall just like normal. Of course in the back of my mind was the fact that my due date was literally the same day as my midterm would be scheduled. But all the advice I was given was to keep my cards close to my chest until the papers were signed and it was official. Of course it’s illegal to rescind an offer because the candidate is pregnant but that doesn’t mean other reasons couldn’t be found.
The 9 week ultrasound came around and I was fully expecting disappointing news. That nothing was there. This was another blighted ovum. We’d have to try again. What we actually saw was a little jelly bean. Or a gummy bear. Whatever it looked like, it sure didn’t look like a pre-human, but the ultrasound tech said the next one would look very different. Talk about the understatement of the century. At 13 weeks, a mere month later, it was clear that this time would be different. All the tests and needle sticks suggested this would be a healthy pregnancy. So we decided it was time to tell people – that included my brand new department head.
Now, I have read some horror stories about this exact scenario. We are all very aware of the double standards women are held to when it comes to “balancing work and family life”. A lot of people still expect that, once a woman has a child, she will cease to be productive in a professional capacity. Having known my new department head for a total of an hour long meeting during my interview and a few phones calls during negotiations, I had zero clue of how this would go.
I’m a fairly no-nonsense person so the phone call went something like this…
Him: Hey! Great to hear from you. Is everything alright?
Me: Yeah everything’s great. Um, I don’t really know how to segue into this so I’ll just say it – I’m pregnant.
This is the moment at which my heart fully descended into the basement. Then came the shock of my lifetime.
Him: Well that’s great! How exciting! That is the coolest thing you and your husband will ever do – unless you decide to have another one! We will do everything we can to support you. Just let me know anything you need from me.
Fast forward two days and he has someone to cover the second half of my fall class and has things in place for maternity leave – even though I will not qualify for FMLA through the university. I don’t often use the phrase “best case scenario” but that’s what this was. I couldn’t have imagined a more positive response to that announcement. I fully expected hesitant congratulations followed my badgering to receive any information on resources and probably needing to take out some disability policy to cover my salary. Not to mention the general change in attitude and supportiveness afterwards. This process has given me hope that there are good departments out there and apparently I found one of them.