I’ve been putting off telling people - that broader circle of people that is enabled by having a life online - that I’m pregnant for six months now. At first, there were concerns about it just simply being too early in the first trimester: why should I potentially burden people with awkward questions and unwanted pity if something were to go amiss? Then, after the morning sickness let up but I could still wear my old jeans with a rubberband on the button, there just didn’t seem to be a need for it. Only after it became obvious to everyone that saw me did I start to question why I was so hesitant to say something. It’s not that I’m not thrilled about it - I am! - so why not shout it from the rooftops?
Part of it is that everyone has their own personal privacy comfort level. There’s no sense judging whether one’s is too high or too low anymore than there is sense in judging whether someone prefers pepperoni or sausage. My own is still evolving and will probably continue to do so. But there’s an important societal undercurrent in play here too: does becoming a mom change what other roles I can play? Does telling someone I’m pregnant limit how they see me?
It’s no secret that women fill fewer leadership roles in both corporations and governments. Statistical discrimination, subconscious or otherwise, can be responsible for wage gaps and being overlooked for promotions. Broadly, baby-making and child-raising can be major professional handicaps for women while having kids can actually boost a man’s career. The gendered tension between breadwinning and caregiving is something that women and men are wrestling with more and more both personally and professionally.
Does being pregnant, embodying the (very female) power and vulnerability of creating a new little human while becoming, for a short time at least, all “belly and boobs” as a well-meaning aunt put it, mean I am seen as less powerful in other areas of my life? I certainly don’t feel that way. It is true though that choosing to have a baby has real implications in other areas: for a while I could only eat cinnamon rolls, staying up late working is less tenable than it was, I spend more time eating (second breakfast, anyone?) and at the doctor’s, I miss wine, and a significant amount of leisure time continues to be devoted to making space and getting stuff ready for Baby. I have no illusions about the fact that I am certainly underestimating the time commitment and sleep deprivation associated with newborns. Despite this, aren’t I still me?
I am incredibly fortunate that I am adding a baby to an already full, productive, and privileged life. There wasn’t a baby-shaped hole that I was trying to fill. But yet, when I tell people I’m expecting - or these days, when they figure it out by looking at me - that’s often all they want to talk about. Of course, with four million babies born a year in the U.S. and with the ubiquitous nature of at least having a mother, it’s probably easier to find common ground around pregnancy than it is to bond over flying cars or public policy or even a more mundane hobby like tennis. It’s always very well-intentioned, and I genuinely appreciate the well-wishes that invariably follow. But there’s something in me that wants to jump about and insist that I am more than this. I don’t want to be hidden in the shadow of my ever-growing belly. It’s not even like I’m consciously doing anything at this point - my body is running the baby-making entirely and wonderfully on its own - very much unlike the last time I created a legal entity in the form of a startup company.
So here we are. This new year - 2015 - will be the year that I take on a new role, one that is simultaneously special and mundane, intimidating and relatable, joyous and overwhelming, distinct and all-consuming. This is the year that I become a mother. And yes, the rest of life will shift and be thrown into disarray and resettle with new and old pieces fitting together in whatever imperfect arrangement brings me and my new family the most joy. Some of the hats that I wear for my other roles may have to hang on their pegs untouched for a while, but unlike my pre-baby skinny jeans, I don’t plan on boxing them up. I will figure out how, not to “have it all”, but to be all of who I am. And coming to peace with that, with the idea of expanding my horizons along with my belly, of adding to life instead of ending up in a pastel-colored ruffled box, is what now lets me tell the world: I’m expecting a baby girl in March! Y’all better get ready.