Just when you had your career goals on target, that promotion within your grasp, and a firm handle on the rocket ship that is your career, disaster strikes: two little lines on a home pregnancy test.
Perhaps you thought that taking care of an infant was permanently in your rearview mirror, or you didn’t include parenthood in your plans at all. Nevertheless, there you are in the bathroom, staring at your unplanned future.
Meredith, at the age of 39, thought she had thrown out her baby gear for good. As a lawyer and senior corporate counsel to a medical device manufacturer, she had major career goals. She already had two children, ages seven and 10, and loved to travel. “Within the last couple years we were really enjoying the freedom that comes with having older kids, and had been able to travel internationally.”
After taking time away from an active legal practice to teach part time while her kids grew up, Meredith had just returned to work in the spring of 2016. She was ready to dig into a challenging career with a new company.
The positive pregnancy test caught her by surprise.
“We were shocked when we found out. I had an IUD placed after our second child's birth seven years earlier and never had any problems. The IUD was still in place when they confirmed the pregnancy so this really was totally unexpected.” Pregnancy with an IUD isn’t common but it is possible, and because it increases your odds for an ectopic pregnancy, it can be worrisome. Although they both felt that it was meant to be, they still had a hard time coming to terms with it—particularly Meredith’s husband. “We were in a good place as a family and both of us professionally and we knew it would be disruptive,” Meredith said.
Meredith and her husband went through a sort of grieving process. They had to come to terms with just how drastically life had suddenly changed for them. “it was hard for my husband and I as we didn't feel the same way about the pregnancy at the same ti” As for her advice to others going through this, she says to “talk about how you're feeling right from the start and accept each other's feelings that day as they change a lot.” And rightly so. There were huge questions about her career, their finances, and even the health of their unborn baby.
Because of her age and the way the placenta had formed, Meredith had to be monitored frequently for signs of premature labor and to verify that her baby continued to grow normally. These tests, called fetal non-stress tests, gradually increase in frequency throughout a woman’s pregnancy.
Luckily for Meredith, her employer was understanding and flexible. She was given ample paid leave, took an additional four weeks unpaid, and negotiated the ability to return to work part time. She was grateful to be in a position where she could afford to work part time.
In addition to taking time off, she also adjusted her career goals. “Before the pregnancy I was getting some pressure at work to take on a more senior role in the legal department. I wasn't really interested in the position anyway so adding a baby to the mix made it even easier for me to stay in my current position. I've been back at work for about three months and love the balance I have.'”
Meredith also put a support structure in place for when she returned back to work. Meredith and her husband were fortunate enough to hire two nannies to help out after her daughter was born: one for big kid activities and one for the baby. Between that and help around the house like cleaning and lawn service, her paycheck ends up going towards household maintenance. “But, it is worth it in order to maintain the balance we were used to before having a third, both as a family and for me as a professional.” Her mother, a retired school teacher, was also able to fill in the gaps so she could travel or attend evening business engagements.
In the end, Meredith has more job satisfaction than now than before her third child was even in the picture. Her life, she says, is rich, and she has been able to strike a great balance between family and career.
An unplanned pregnancy can sometimes throw a monkey wrench in the meticulously oiled wheelworks of your career. Change is hard—for everyone. But by working closely with your employer, putting support structures in place, and surrendering to reality, hopefully you can enjoy the newest addition to your family.
**Editors' note: We recognize that not everyone enjoys nearly the same privledges as the woman in the above story, from access to paid leave (something only 13% of private sector U.S. women currently have) to affording ample child care to having relatives nearby. For more information about parental leave and rights at large, please visit our maternity leave guide.
Hilary is a freelance journalist, small business owner, and mother of two. She loves to write about everything from business to parenting, sleep disorders and stress. Coffee is her friend. You can follow her on Twitter @TypewriterHil.