I had just started a brand new job at a start-up company here in Reykjavik. The last thing I wanted to do was to have to sit down with my boss and tell him "I am pregnant". Being a career woman, working has always been important to me and giving 100% was always my aim. Starting out and trying to prove my worth in the company, with this news, was difficult for me.
Of course I was happy to be pregnant, blessed with this chid but I couldn't help feeling judged, as if I was cheating the company in some way. Time is kind of against you as you will start to have off days and suffer with pregnancy symptoms, it becomes hard to hide it. You're tired, you might feel sick, your stomach starts to bloat (a lot), you struggle to fit into your 'work wardrobe' - it get tricky.
I had a 3 month trial period and was already 6 weeks pregnant when I started. Luckily I didn't have too many pregnancy symptoms so nothing was a clear give away. After my week 12 scan I decided to request a meeting with my boss to share the news. I don't believe he would have let me go because of the pregnancy, it's actually illegal here in Iceland to do this, however I was scared as he would find any reason to let me go within the trial period.
So I wanted to share some advice with you, in case you are in this position and about to tell your boss.
Prepare To Share
Before telling my boss, Ingimar and I looked into Maternity and Paternity rights here in Iceland so we would know what length of leave to plan for and the financial situation to expect.
You might feel really nervous or super excited to finally share your news at work. I worried that I'd be seen differently, I had just started this job after all and was serious about working, up for the challenge, but couldn't help feeling like I was letting them down somehow. We planned out what I wanted to say so I was ready for the meeting.
Pick Your Timing
There's no set rule on when you should announce your pregnancy but check your contract in case there's a time you should inform your boss by. However, depending on where you are in the world, there might be a rule on this so check with whoever would have this info; HR, Union, etc.
Here in Iceland every job is attached to a union so I called them up to discuss my situation and get some advice. Unfortunately I was never able to get through to anyone to discuss my rights within the union or as a worker here in Iceland. I figured I should share the news around the 12 week mark, once we had our scan. That way I wouldn't feel guilty sharing the news with friends and family, especially as Iceland is such a small place, and I could also post it on facebook - especially as my boss had sent me the awkward friend request.
If you think it's becoming obvious due to pregnancy symptoms; you're heading to the loo one too many times or you're just way more tired, bloated or missing early morning meetings because of morning sickness, then tell before they get suspicious. Don't feel guilty. You also need to think ahead, tell them before your body does because from the day that you 'pop', there's no way of really hiding that beautiful bump.
Try to help out the projects timeline by planning cover or suggestions in the event of your maternity starting before a projects end. Give your team a heads up to help plan around it. Your absence, no matter how short it might be, will effect everyone - your team, colleague, manager, clients, etc.
Book A Meeting
Try to tell your line manager first as they are typically your direct boss. It might be a good idea to call a meeting and have someone from HR there as they will need to know. Make sure to avoid any situation where someone above you finds out from the office gossip.
I asked my boss for a meeting in a private meeting room and explained my situation. Knowing I was new and still in my trial period, it was hard to actually sit down with my boss and share the news but once I did, I was glad he knew. It was out of my hands and all I had to do now was my job.
What To Say
You are about to share some wonderful news and it should be positive, happy and filled with congratulations. However, in the real world, this might not be the case. You boss might be difficult so prepare yourself and know what you're going to say. Give them no option but to be happy for you. If you find this very awkward then the less you say, the better. All you need to do is say "I am pregnant" and you've told them your news, done.
Reassure your boss that you enjoy your job and will work as hard as you can, that you will help with cover and any handover, and that you have every intention of returning after your maternity leave. Be clear on your intentions, give a sense of security that you are coming back and still interesting in your role.
What NOT To Say
Don't go into the meeting and offload your nerves and anxieties, this can be hard though. It's best not to start out with an apology or focus on the negative; "I know this is terrible timing but...", "I don't want this to effect my career...", or compare and point out the other woman in the company who are also pregnant. All this does is fill your boss with negativity and worry about staffing. This can effect the way they respond to your news so go in there and give them no option but to be happy for you.
Continue After The News
After I had shared the news, I made sure to continue to work to the same standard I had before sharing the news. I felt that it was important for me to show the company that I valued my job, my role in the company and that I respected them.
When someone learns that you are pregnant, often a lot of stereotypes are triggers in their mind. It's sad but it's true. Sometimes bosses, male or female, don't select a working mother for a challenging project and this is something I have always been worried about. You miss getting to go to that client meeting or are now not seen as equally important on a team.
Instead, use this time and your news to break down these assumptions or to face them before they even start. Talk to the people that personally effect your role in the company and therefore your career. If you are clear and open about your news, this will help put a stop to any potential office gossip.
After telling my boss, I then shared the news with my close colleague who hadn't guessed, though said it all made sense now. I started working in November so within a few weeks we had our office Christmas party. At the meal I sneakily ordered and happily sipped away on mocktails saying "I don't drink often".
If It's A New Job
I felt like I had to push myself that little bit harder than if I had been working there a while and everyone knew me. I was still trying to show my value to the company and gaining their trust, so to do that and be pregnant was a bit harder. I wanted to made sure they knew I was serious and not slacking off in anyway. I wanted to gain their trust and respect, that worked both ways.
Going On Maternity Leave
The way you leave work to go on maternity can effect your return so plan it out, your colleagues might not have considered this either. Have a little chat to them and try to plan a little leaving lunch or something small. Celebrate it, it's a happy time. Find a fun way to head off on your maternity leave. That way, when you're off and thinking about work, you will feel good about it and not dread it.
* UPDATE *
As it turned out, my boss did let me go a month after my 3 month trial period for a rather unfair reason - that's another story. I am now back to working for myself and a lot happier. I have had to look into my maternity and child support rights with the union but lucky enough there is support offered here in Iceland. It is an awkward and unfortunate situation which could not have been predicted or avoided but I am looking forward to meeting our baby girl and spending lots of time with her.