If you have a baby bump and no one’s there to see it, does anyone need to know you’re pregnant?
When Meghan Lapides-Bedussa found out she was expecting back in December, the Upper West Sider figured she and her husband would have plenty of time to tell everyone in person when the time was right — until the COVID-19 lockdown shook up their plans.
“As soon as we were able to start telling people, everyone was in quarantine. Ninety-five percent of the people in our life didn’t know we were pregnant until after we had the babies,” said the new mom of 8-week-old twin boys. “We kept the pregnancy off social media, and since we didn’t really see people in person, it wasn’t an issue.”
Among those who were initially kept in the dark were her colleagues at a video-hosting service, where she started as the new head of human resources in March, just as everyone started working from home.
“It kind of became, ‘I don’t need to tell them right away. Let me get up and running,’ ” said the 41-year-old. “To get to know an entirely new company, but then to have to tell people you’re pregnant, is a little bit intimidating.”
Three months into the job, when she was six-months pregnant, she felt ready.
“It gave me the opportunity to build relationships without my pregnancy being the first thing they talked about,” she said.
With virtual meetings replacing real ones, it’s easier than ever for women to hide a growing belly with a strategically placed laptop camera and delay telling workplace and social circles the big news. Even relatively high-profile celebrities Amanda Seyfried and Mindy Kaling both recently announced that they welcomed babies — without a paparazzi photo or Instagram clue that they were even pregnant.
“The silver lining is this new choice that pregnant women have: They have the power to decide when to notify their employers. It can be liberating,” said Julia Taylor Kennedy, executive vice president at Coqual, a nonprofit think tank that studies diversity and inclusion in the workplace. As someone who’s 20-weeks pregnant herself, she added, “The pandemic has also allowed me to get the rest and medical appointments I need without having too many awkward conversations about why.”
First-time mom Annabelle Evans, 37, who gave birth to Scarlett in July, similarly wanted to avoid office chitchat about her pregnancy.
Working remotely as a buyer for a media company, the Greenwich Village-based Evans said, “It didn’t feel right to just blurt out on a Zoom call with 15 people who are stressing over a deadline and running late to another meeting to say, ‘Oh, and by the way, I am pregnant — bye!’
“Even though my pregnancy wasn’t a ‘secret,’ it did feel like one because right up until the day I left to go on maternity leave, there was still a lot of my day-to-day contacts and colleagues who had no idea I was pregnant.”
Some seasoned moms have learned the hard way that revealing a pregnancy can have a negative impact on their work life by triggering misplaced perceptions.
“A lot of people assume when you have a baby or you’re pregnant that your brain falls out — that you’re mentally not there, and that’s clearly not true,” said 40-year-old mom of three Miral Sattar, who owns a digital marketing company for authors.
The Upper East Sider, who welcomed a son in July, kept her latest pregnancy relatively secret, with most people learning the good news after her son was born. “With clients, no one can see you. Saying you’re pregnant changes the conversation. It made work easier because nobody makes assumptions.”
Those assumptions include “that you’re going to check out anyway once you have the baby,” Sattar said, adding that before she had kids, she thought similarly.
“I used to make all those judgments, too, when I was in my twenties,” Sattar said. “Now, I want to go back to all those women and apologize.”
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