I discovered I was not the only one sharing their pregnancy news on the early side because of fears over the virus. While I’ve (thankfully) been working from home for years, many women I spoke to were focused on telling their employers early to ensure they weren’t exposing themselves to others at their workplaces, especially if their employers had been slow to act on setting people up to telework. “I had a major event going on at work that meant a lot of interfacing with organizational leadership and doing a lot of hands-on work, so I thought that disclosing my pregnancy early would be kind of a distraction. Originally I planned to wait until 20 weeks or so, maybe a little bit longer,” says Amanda*, who lives in the Washington D.C. area and is currently 15 weeks along with her second child. “And then everything started changing. In the course of a week we went from like, ‘oh, [the virus] is not a big deal’ to canceling the event. With that in mind, I laid it all out for my boss. I laid it all out for HR. I said, ‘This is not the timing that I had in mind, but I am concerned about this,” she says. Amanda’s supervisors moved her to a telework schedule, though the rest of her office was not yet on one. A few days later, she found out someone in her office had a confirmed exposure. “One of my supervisors sent me an email saying ‘I’m really glad you told us this last week and that you weren’t here this week.’ It ended up being good foresight,” she says.
Concerns about her workplace were also the reason JennieV, who is 14 weeks pregnant in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, told her managers at Western Carolina University a bit earlier than she intended. “I got approval to transition to remote work because of my pregnancy before the UNC system [where I work] mandated telework,” she says. “We only went public a little early—still, I wasn’t out of my first trimester yet. I’m so glad we did though—I had no way to anticipate the system-wide response was coming, and felt like I needed to do something,” she explains. “They were more supportive than I anticipated.”
Laura, in Atlantic Canada, seized an unexpected moment when she was 10 weeks pregnant to tell her supervisor, even though she’d planned to wait until she was out of her first trimester as well. “We had an ‘all hands on deck’ briefing [about the virus] for the entire building and they actually called out [special accomodations for] ‘immunocompromised or pregnant people’ even though Canada [hasn’t] classified us pregnant ladies as a vulnerable population. So after that, I asked for a private meeting with my direct boss,” she says. “I spit out ‘so, this isn’t when I wanted to tell you, but given the current situation… I’m 10 weeks pregnant. We are very excited but also a bit anxious. And I know my job is more difficult to work from home, but I’d like to focus on some of that paperwork that always gets pushed to the backburner.’ His response was ‘well first off… congratulations! But frankly, you should not be here right now.’ I am now indefinitely work-from-home. It was a huge and immediate accommodation. My job is very much an on-site job, but they’ve allowed me to focus on a smaller portion of my role for the foreseeable future. I’m very lucky that it turned out this smoothly.”
Samantha, who lives in Florida and is 9 weeks pregnant, felt a bit conflicted about telling some people before the recommended 12 weeks about her high-risk pregnancy, even though she believes disclosing early is important for her safety. “Especially since it’s a high-risk pregnancy, it’s still the first trimester and now there’s a pandemic to consider, I’ve been trying to reiterate to those we’ve told that it’s still early and we’re in a state of cautious optimism,” she says. She told close friends and family between five and seven weeks and her supervisor at work just shy of eight weeks, though she is still trying to keep the news limited in her extended family. “The people we’ve told are all people who we would be open with in a worst case scenario. I’m relieved that now I can talk to my close family and friends, especially women who’ve gone through pregnancy. It’s been helpful to talk about all of the usual pregnancy concerns along with the added layer of COVID-19. And I’m relieved that now my supervisor will have a better understanding of why I might be hesitant to work in the office over the next few weeks or might seem to be even more cautious with social distancing than others,” she says.