By A Friend of Ours
This woman is by far one of the most incredible people I’ve ever met. She is whip smart, self assured, and truly compassionate. She is passionate about her job and works her ass off for what she believes in. Her kids couldn’t have gotten a better role model. She writes about finding out she was pregnant after accepting a new job.
I have always known that I would be a mother. It was never even a question. As I grew older, navigating high school, college, then graduate school, there were a lot of changes to my visions of my future- career, location, partner- but the thought of children always remained a constant. As part of a large but close family, I always had younger cousins to play with, then a younger sister when I was 14 years old. Due to the large age gap, I got a glimpse of what parenting was like without having to deal with the worst parts, like sleepless nights and discipline. I got to play, everything from Barbies to coloring to dress up. I got to snuggle, and read books, and rock while singing lullabies. I got to share experiences, from first movies (Hercules) to first Broadway show (The Lion King). I couldn’t imagine a life without that.
At the same time, I started on a career path about which I was truly passionate. I started college with an eye toward medical school. I majored in biochemistry, and enjoyed my extremely science-heavy coursework. One of my electives my freshman year was a women’s studies course, and I decided to pursue a minor in women’s studies. A course on women and violence led me to volunteer as a rape crisis counselor. I started working in a pediatric emergency room while in college, and I discovered that as much as I liked working with the kids, I really didn’t want the lifestyle that went along with being a doctor. My volunteer work had given me a window into how science could help law enforcement to make a difference in people’s lives, and I entered a graduate program in forensic science. My first job involved processing rape kits, looking for scientific evidence to support a woman’s story that she was assaulted. Having been present for the collection of a number of these kits as a volunteer, I never lost sight of the fact that there was a person waiting for these results, hoping that they could bring some measure of closure. Forensics was never just a job for me- it was a way to help, even in some small way, to make the world a little better.
I was promoted, and shortly after, had my first child. I was promoted to a supervisory role, and had a second child. As a government employee, I had a decent work-life balance, with the exception of an extremely long commute. As time went on, the workplace environment changed for the worse, and I left that laboratory to be the manager of a department for a private forensic laboratory. The job was an opportunity for significant professional growth that I would not have otherwise had. I had the opportunity to set laboratory policy, to be involved with research, to meet with leaders in the field, and to learn more about cutting edge technology in my field. However, while this role was great for me professionally, it was harder for me personally. My commute was still extremely long, but now I was also expected to travel several times a year to conferences and trainings. When a job opportunity presented itself that was closer to home, a step up in position, and had no travel requirements, I figured it couldn’t hurt to interview, even though I was happy where I was. I interviewed and then put it to the back of my mind.
Two months later, I found out I was pregnant again. The next day, I got the job offer. Then started the argument with myself in my head. They picked me because they felt I was the best person for the job, so it shouldn’t matter that I would be taking a few months off in the grand scheme of things. There is never a guarantee that an employee won’t be out for an extended period of time- people get into car accidents or have heart attacks or are diagnosed with cancer. At least I could plan my absence. It’s not supposed to matter. It is none of their business. I could still lose the baby. It won’t impact my ability to do my job. IT SHOULDN’T MATTER.
It is mind-boggling that the US is the only industrialized country where women have this problem. For women to contribute equally to society, to share our gifts and perspective and talent, we need to be able to decide what our personal life will be without having to worry about being fired, reprimanded, or penalized for choosing to have children. Everywhere else in the world, countries have figured out that it is best for society to have women not need to choose between a job that they love and a family. Women get enough time to recover from a major physical event, to establish a bond with their children, and to return to work happier and be more productive. It is appalling that those that govern in this country see an unpaid leave of 12 weeks as generous, when it doesn’t rise to the level of sufficient.
For women to contribute equally to society, to share our gifts and perspective and talent, we need to be able to decide what our personal life will be without having to worry about being fired, reprimanded, or penalized for choosing to have children.
So what did I do? I accepted the offer without telling them. My starting date was set for 6 weeks later. The week before I was supposed to start, I ended up in the ER with heavy bleeding. After hours of waiting, I was finally taken to ultrasound and saw the little bean jumping like crazy with a strong heartbeat. I started the job and worked my hardest from day one to prove that they had made the right choice. One month after I started, in one of the most terrifying professional moments I have experienced, I had to sit down and tell my bosses that I was pregnant. I was afraid that I would be fired, or not given sufficient leave, as I would only be there about 6 months before my maternity leave. Thankfully, my company was wonderful. They gave me the standard leave, even though I wasn’t entitled to it. I was lucky- but it shouldn’t have to rely on luck.