How to survive pregnancy in the office

Some people sail through pregnancy, others barely keep afloat. How do you negotiate all the potential problems? Working mums has some tips.

You’re pregnant. You’re happy. You think everyone around you will be happy too. Think again. Your manager and colleagues might not be quite as happy as they look. How do you get through the next few months and keep everyone on your side?
1. Plan carefully when you are going to tell your manager. Do not let the news out in a burst of enthusiasm. Most people tend to leave it till after the first 12 weeks because of the risk of early miscarriage. Obviously the first 12 weeks are when you feel the most lousy so you may have to hide sudden bouts of nausea in the middle of meetings or find excuses for highly emotional responses to requests to do some filing. This is not a good time to have an appraisal…
2. Do not respond to light cajoling by colleagues about being able to put your feet up, etc, etc, by overworking. This is a classic female response, but harden your heart and just keep on keeping on. Reply to any jibe about taking it easy with a detailed discussion of what is going on inside your body. Watch your colleagues turn green and move away.
3. You will become invisible as a woman overnight. Get used to this. From now on in, you will gradually disappear until even you have forgotten who you are.
4. As the pregnancy progresses you will not only get bigger and, hence, find it more uncomfortable sitting behind a desk or sitting for any protracted amount of time, but you will also start experiencing being pummelled from the inside out, generally in the middle of important meetings. Try not to shout ‘ow!’ very loudly in inappropriate lulls in the conversation as no-one else will have a clue what is going on, unless you have on a very tight item of clothing and the baby is kicking very, very hard in which case your colleagues might be the ones to jump first. Try and train the baby to do dramatic kicks like this only when certain really boring subjects come up, eg, budgets. Everyone will thank you for the distraction.
5. After the initial nausea and the supposed blooming period, you will start to feel very, very tired. Try to give yourself regular breaks, if only to walk round the office. You may experience problems with walking – this can be particularly nasty if your hips start to soften up a little bit earlier than necessary for the baby to come out. This can be solved by not walking. This, however, has the drawback of meaning you get backache and feel drowsy [see earlier]. As you are not allowed [m]any artificial stimulants or drugs, try and keep awake by listening to some sort of hard rock programme on your i-pod. This may have the added drawback of encouraging the baby to kick in time with the music. Luckily for you, despite the leg problem you will increasingly find yourself needing to go to the toilet so you will have to crawl or drag your way there. Go for the full dramatic crawl movement in extremis in order to dredge every ounce of sympathy from colleagues. After all, you deserve it. Alternatively, do what most women do and pretend nothing much is really happening and you are able to function absolutely normally.
6. On public transport, huff and puff a lot and stick your belly out. This will probably have absolutely no effect on fellow passengers who will be buried in their newspapers. If you feel faint, get off the train at the next stop. If you faint, no-one will probably notice anyway or they will assume you are drunk.
7. You may not have been told about the side effects of pregnancy. In fact, it is unlikely first time around that anyone will have mentioned much about pregnancy at all. All female work colleagues with experience of pregnancy will try to reassure you that it is all going to be okay and that the baby could pop out in half an hour. They are lying, but it is best to try and go along with them because the alternative is that you probe a little deeper and find out the horrible truth. There are what are called "minor" problems of pregnancy which include everything from constipation to leg cramps to varicose veins. Some of these may sound minor, but constant leg cramp can keep you up half the night and mean you are even more cranky the next day. Hide this in the office by wearing dark glasses and keeping very silent. It will give you an air of mystery. Perhaps. If the cramps come during the day, volunteer to do the tea run. That way you get to walk the cramp out and seem very helpful and caring.
8. You are absolutely entitled to attend ante-natal meetings and, if you’re very lucky, there will be a long waiting list and you will only get to work by lunchtime. Of course, this will mean you have to do a whole day’s work in half a day, but this is very good practice for if you go part-time after you have the baby. The added bonus then will be that you only get paid part-time wages.
9. Remember to talk to your manager about flexible working before you sail off into the sunset, even if you are not sure what you will want when you have the baby [it is impossible to say with any certainty in any event]. At least then you will have some idea of the options available. There is a high possibility that you will want flexible working anyway, if not straight away when you are still clinging onto the vestiges of your former life then later on when you abandon any pretence that you have not been radically changed by the whole baby business. Also, know your maternity rights.
10. Leave with a flourish. This does not extend to having the baby on the premises in the middle of the leaving party, although at least it would mean no-one will forget you. You will probably be given lots of babygros which your child will outgrow two days after they are born. Keep them in the wrapping and pass them on to the next pregnant colleague, kind of like the bouquet at a wedding. Be very nice in your leaving speech [you will be the only person not drinking, but do not take advantage of this. There is bound to be someone who is not as drunk as they look]. Make sure you keep in touch with the office during your maternity leave as this will help when you go back, even if it is only to catch up on gossip. Ensure that the pictures you send of the baby after the birth have you fully clothed. Good luck.

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