At 13 weeks pregnant, I was told I would be laid off in 4 weeks.
That was a day before this picture was taken. I had just arrived in the Bay Area, coincidentally, for an in-person work retreat. I’d decided to come a few days early so I could spend the weekend with my best friend. We had a beautiful, adventure-filled weekend planned out with time in the mountains and the beach on the books. It was going to be a great time of celebration — of friendship, of spring, and of my special news. Instead, the fun we did still have was overshadowed by looming unemployment.
Planning for a child is the most vulnerable and possibly craziest life step to take. We knew that we wanted children; I knew I didn’t want to be having babies beyond my mid-30s. I had shared my feelings with Gonza that I wanted my first by 30. We’d decided that we would go for it in 2022 or 2023, depending how things played out.
On Gonza’s birthday, back in early November of 2021, a little sentimental and perhaps the tiniest bit drunk, he said the words that would start us on this path. “I think it’s time to have a baby”. Minds reeling, we started discussing how we could make it work. We felt secure in our jobs; I’d been employed over 2 years with good performance reviews, and Gonza was thriving in a full time teaching role at a local school. We’d been in one city for over a year, the longest we’d stayed anywhere since moving from Ecuador. We had built up a bit of savings and though daycare is wildly expensive, we could pay for it living more frugally. We had family nearby for support, and we weren’t getting any younger.
Of course there were reasons not to take the plunge…for me, mainly that we haven’t traveled as much as I had dreamed and planned for. Covid took away the opportunities to safely travel abroad; the risk of getting stuck covid-positive in a foreign country was one that concerned me. Add to that the fact that Gonza has Ecuadorian citizenship and does not have the same freedom to travel visa free to many countries, and our options were further limited.
Nonetheless, we decided the next day to take the steps to make it possible to get pregnant and set things in motion. I got my positive test on December 23, right in time for a special Christmas secret.
The day and the day after we found out! Not pictured: urgent care visit shortly after the snow day (at 4 am on Christmas morning)…
We had planned out all the details: we were hoping for an early September baby so we could theoretically go to Ecuador for both early summer vacation and the winter holidays. We knew my job offered 12 weeks fully paid parental leave. We knew Gonza staying at his job meant he’d be eligible for 12 weeks partially paid paternity leave through Washington state. It was all working out. We began to plan for a house; at the start of the year, we dove into the loan pre-approval process and were one week out from being ready to make an offer when everything screeched to a halt.
Getting the news that I would not just be unemployed, but unemployed while entering my second trimester of pregnancy and attempting to purchase a home was the biggest shock. I had really just settled into a marketing role, and had decided that marketing was where I wanted to be professionally. I was leaning in to learning about the field, loving the opportunity to think critically and write persuasively — it seemed like the most natural fit for me, even though I somewhat stumbled into it. And less than a year into the new role, it was no longer an option for me.
Instead of enjoying the warmer approaching spring days and getting outside, instead of excitement about the new life growing inside me, I was unbelievably stressed. I couldn’t focus on anything but the fact that I needed to find a job to provide for my family, and the feelings of how unfair it was that this was the precise moment everything had to go up in flames. It felt like there couldn’t have been a worse time.
I spent the next ~8 weeks feverishly applying for jobs. Countless hours spent pouring over cover letters, thinking through relevant experiences and the stories I could tell about them, connecting with people through my networks, and preparing assignments and presenting them to interview panels. And all the while, not even knowing what types of parental leave might be available to me should I get a job offer.
Job searching while pregnant and soon to be unemployed is an experience unlike any other. You’re not only thinking about normal important things like the type of job, the company itself, the compensation package, and the team you’re interviewing with.
You’re also counting the weeks of your pregnancy creeping by and wondering at what point starting a new job would be crushingly difficult. Wondering how many weeks or months you’d need on the job to be able to prove your worth to the company before leave, so they hold your role for you. You’re thinking about switching health insurance and wondering what coverage is like. You’re scared to mention pregnancy out of fear of discrimination, but also scared of sinking so much time into a rigorous application process with no visibility into the benefits available. There is so much to unpack about this experience and how it brings light to the way in which pregnant women or even women who hope to have children suffer professionally — whether it’s being laid off while pregnant and struggling to find a job, or the fact that the US is the only developed country that offers no federal paid leave for mothers, or the fact that women have to think carefully about career moves because you don’t want to be ineligible for benefits or have a more expensive healthcare plan when you know you are wanting a baby — but that is for another time. Suffice to say that the way society treats pregnant women in this country is pretty depressing.
Anyhow, this period was some of the most stressful ~8 weeks of my life. A sobering reminder that nothing is predictable, that the best laid plans are far from infallible.
Meanwhile, life continued on as usual. The world doesn’t stop just because your life is in pieces. I visited my best friend in NYC and took an interview from her living room. I attended a bachelorette party. I went to Boston for a work event. We halted our house hunt and waited.
After nearly two months of uncertainty, two possibilities materialized the same week: a new job at another ed tech company, in marketing, or the option to stay on at my current company in a non-marketing capacity. In the end, I chose to stay on with my company in a different role simply because I wanted the stability and fully paid maternity leave I was eligible for. The same day I signed the offer, I booked our babymoon to Hawaii on credit card points and didn’t look back.
I’m learning early on that it’s true what is said about parenthood — which is that all decisions shift in consideration of the child. My child is not yet here, but the calculus is already different. My career ambitions are taking a back seat to my priority to spend as much time with my child post-birth as I can, because I know in the grand scheme of my life, this is what matters most right now. I can always course correct my career, but I won’t be able to redo the first few months of my child’s life. While it was a bitter pill to swallow for a moment that I could not simultaneously pursue my career ambitions while preparing for my child, I quickly refocused my energies on knowing that I’m taking the right path given the circumstances. I have pivoted before and can pivot again. And who knows? I’m optimistically wondering if maybe I’ll enjoy my new role even more than marketing. It’s certainly possible.
Things are settling down a bit now, and I’m back to planning for the future and thinking about my goals and dreams again. My world will look so different in just a few months, and I know priorities will continue to shift, but one thing I don’t imagine changing is my desire to explore the world — my corner of it and beyond. The dream of traveling more remains, but it will just look a little different. I’m already thinking about where we could go for our first trip with baby, hopefully during Gonza’s leave. I’m imagining showing our child the world and experiencing all the wonder alongside them. Maybe it will be really hard, or maybe it will be the most incredible way to travel, or maybe it will be a little of both. I’m eager to experience the journey.