You know what’s fun? Experiencing the highest of highs and one of the lowest of lows all within a 24-hour period. Then, in between those two events, sandwich in a 14-hour international flight and an additional two hours sitting alone in an airport immigration office and you have an itinerary for one memorable day.
That was me on June 5th – the day my husband and I learned we were expecting our first child. It was also the day I was lost my job.
If you know me, you know that work is very important to me. I am an extremely driven person, usually tackling multiple major life things at once (hello owning a business and doing my master’s degree at the same time, or the time I took a full-time job while in my third year of undergrad). I derive a lot of positivity and self-worth from my career so not working – in the few times I have been in that situation in my life – tends to be a very difficult experience for me.
Long before taking this particular job, Jeremy and I were trying to conceive and I remember thinking to myself, “I am either going to get a job or I am going to get pregnant.” Not that it had to be one or the other, that was just the way I was feeling at that time. When I did get the job, I figured that was the right path for me – that we would wait a little longer for our baby. So as I rode the subway home from the airport on June 5th and got the news about my job, I couldn’t help but see the irony in the whole situation. The universe can do wonders with timing, can’t it?
But, let’s back this story up a bit so I can give some context.
For the first time ever, I decided to take a job as a contract employee. The reason I did this is because the company it was with was extremely reputable and one of the top brands in the world so I figured this was my way in. The role was okay – not exactly my passion, but again, I figured it would be a good way to get in, gain experience, meet people, and then determine my next move. I wanted to take my time to try on this company just as I am sure they wanted to try me on, so the contract thing seemed appropriate. It wasn’t a short contract. It was to last into 2018, so I felt comfortable going in knowing I would be on board for a good amount of time.
About a month into my time there, I went on a vacation. It was pre-planned and they knew about it when I was hired. As a contractor, you don’t get paid time off, so a vacation really meant no contact with work. While that may sound glorious, it’s a little nerve-wracking to be so new in a job and completely out of touch for 10 days. Anyway, as vacation came to an end and we prepared to head back home, I got a text from my staffing firm saying they needed to talk to me urgently. I was confused and suddenly extremely nervous. My husband tried to reassure me that nothing was wrong, but I knew in my gut something wasn’t right. Because we were traveling, I had to sit with that ominous text for the entire 14-hour flight home. They wouldn’t say anything over text, but wanted to connect on the phone when I landed.
So, after I sat through an additional two hours in immigration once I landed (always a joyful experience entering this country as a working non-citizen), I called my staffing firm and they dropped the bomb: I was being let go and was told not to return to the office at all. I was shocked. I literally had been there a month, which is barely enough time to get your footing in a new job, but I felt I had put in a lot of energy in the time I was there and had started to make real progress in my role. I had received the most positive feedback from my boss – a feedback loop which is mandatory and weekly when you start out in a contract role – so I just didn’t understand where this was coming from. On top of that, I was told not to contact my boss or anyone else at the company and to direct any questions through my staffing firm – questions they answered vaguely and without compassion.
No one from the company itself sent me a message or called, not even my boss. No “I’m really sorry about this …” or “I wish you the best of luck”. Nothing. Silence. I even had to orchestrate the most awkward returning of my desk items, because I literally was let go with a desk full of my personal things and instructions to not return.
So there I sat, on the subway, my head swirling in shock – in shock because I was let go (which has never happened to me before), the shock of how disrespected I felt, and the shock of knowing through this whole thing, I was expecting a child with now no idea what I was going to do for work. I mean, who would hire a pregnant woman?
To be honest with you, I’ve waited a long time to write this. I’ve thought about it every single day since then and have gone through a series of emotions: anger (still am), disappointment, disbelief, joy (I mean, a baby!) and I never wanted to write something that would come off as resentful (though, I admit I am) or privileged (because, people lose their jobs all the time). But, this is an extremely difficult situation for me because at this particular time in my life I am craving some degree of stability in my professional life while I navigate this entirely new experience taking place in my personal life. Someone can only take so much, right?
So, here we are. I started applying for jobs a few days later and have been on this weird journey of trying to figure out if/when I should tell potential employers I am pregnant. I received one offer and sincere interest from two separate companies that just were not the right fit for someone expecting a child in six months. The one that offered me the role, I never told them about the pregnancy and the second, they said it wouldn’t be a deterrent for them, so I am not saying they discriminated against me. I am just saying the roles and locations of the companies just didn’t make sense for me at this phase of my life. I had one interview for a freelance contract role (which sounded flexible and great as an option) and the second I told her I was expecting, I immediately felt a shift in her tone and she couldn’t wait to get off the phone.
It’s been two months now and I am still feeling heartbroken about the whole situation. I want to work, I know I am more than capable of it and do not – and would never – see pregnancy as a handicap. I want to work until the birth of my child and then return a little while after the baby is born. I hate that I have to navigate the politics of disclosing it in interviews and fear that discrimination does truly exist, especially in such a competitive market like the Bay Area.
But, nevertheless, I continue forward with another interview in 30 minutes – one I am really hopeful and excited about. The only thing I can do is put myself forward as the best possible candidate and then navigate each situation as best as I can while staying true to myself as someone who is open and honest and worthy of a great opportunity.