Pregnancy, Maternity Leave And The Fear

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It’s exactly a year since I left my job as editor of the women’s magazine Irish Tatler (I know because I am getting those anniversary pings from LinkedIn). It was a job I had for five years and one I thought I’d never be able to parent alongside – then I had my first baby in 2013. It was not an easy gig to hold as a mum, but with great support from my team and partner (yep, still not married) I managed to hang in there and do, I think an okay job.

Faced with the prospect of my second child coming along, I just couldn’t see how I could manage two kids under three with a role that mind and time sucked most of me; I just couldn’t figure how it would work. Time to look around, but hey, I’m pregnant, so no one is going to touch me. Or at least that was my thinking. Then the perfect thing came up, editing Cara magazine, a beautiful title with a more considered pace and less emphasis on the personality of the editor.

I’ve no intention of going for the job, but a chance meeting with a colleague (who doesn’t know I’m pregnant) encourages me to take the leap. I apply for it and get called for the interview. At this point, I’m eight weeks pregnant and thanks to my first pregnancy (and a massive craving for Haribo in the first trimester) I am feeling, and looking, quite pregnant already. So I wear Spanx to the first meeting – not, I’m sure, medically approved.

I get to a second interview. I am now just around the 12-week mark. And so the dilemma arises: Do I now share my baby news, risking colouring any prospect of being employed, or do I keep shtum, as I am legally entitled to do, and let them hire me on merits alone. A quick Googling will back a myriad of advice. Tell them, don’t tell them – don’t move jobs!

I decide to tell. I just can’t deal with any potential negative fallout from not giving them the information in advance of making their decision. But I’m pretty sure as to how it’s going to go down. I picture myself in the room having dropped the ‘bumpshell’ and the whirring sound of tumbleweed blowing through the room. Game over. End of the line.

I’m also in the strange situation of having told almost no one that I’m pregnant; I’m about to turn 40, so I’ve been wary of jinxing it. Yet I’m about to share this very personal news with veritable strangers. Not how I pictured my first disclosure. So it comes to the end of the interview. How do you actually segue into the pregnancy conversation? That point in the interview where they ask, “Any questions for us?” “Yes,” blah, blah on this and that, “Also, I’m pregnant.” Just what every employer wants to hear.

But to my amazement, I still got the job. They even had a whole plan figured out for my maternity leave. A year later and things have moved on again. Three months into my maternity leave, I popped into the office to show off the newbie, and remind myself that I used to do other things outside of wiping bums and cleaning. I walked out with the opportunity to go for a promotion, and five months into my maternity leave, was made Editorial Director of the publishing company.

The moral of the story being, don’t call into work when you are on maternity leave, and don’t underestimate yourself and the people you work with, and work for. As women, we so easily write ourselves off, be it through motherhood, or age, or just a general lack of belief in our abilities to make it. I felt the fear putting myself out there, but I’m glad I did it anyway. My hope is that other women feel it and do it anyway too. You never know what might happen.

By Jessie Collins


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