It has been a challenging few weeks in the FlatWhite household.
To start with the (very) good news, we finally had our 20 week scan yesterday and all was well. *Phew*.
It has felt like forever waiting for this moment. While I know that the chances of things going wrong are so much lower once you’ve had a healthy 12 week scan, there are so many stories on the forums and blogs about things going wrong after this point and even in late pregnancy/at the birth, it’s hard not to worry. I still haven’t felt the baby kick, which I’m told I shouldn’t be too worried about as I have an anterior placenta and so may not feel much until week 24. I do wish I could have that reassurance though!
Most importantly, the scan showed that everything (as far as they can tell) is as it should be and Baby Flat is measuring at just over 21 weeks! He gave us a little scare (probably because I’m super anxious) as the sonographer couldn’t take a lot of the measurements as he was facing towards my back. She had me doing all sorts of gymnastic movements, trying to get him to move, but he was choosing to have a lazy afternoon and wasn’t playing ball! Even after going for a brisk 20 minute walk, consuming a bar of chocolate (not nearly as much fun as it sounds when you’re super anxious and have been ordered to eat it) and drinking a coffee, he STILL refused to move around. Eventually she managed to get what she needed, and thankfully everything seems to be ok. We are both so grateful to have got to this point and to have jumped the next major hurdle.
Sadly in employment news, things have gone from bad to worse. I don’t have the energy to list everything that has happened, and I am trying to switch off from work for a small part of the weekend, but I have been working fairly long hours for a few weeks now given that I was advised by a doctor to just work 9-5. The hours have been nothing like I had to pre-pregnancy (i.e. regularly having weeks where I would have to work through the night and not leave the office), but still 8am – 6:30/7:30pm in the office without much break (if any). I also have a daily 3 hour commute which means waking up at 5:45am every day, so it’s not like I get the chance to catch up on sleep if it’s been a late night.
Anyway, I’ve been plodding on just fine but have been very tired and have known that I can’t really push things any more than I have been. More than the hours, it’s a fairly exhausting environment because of the culture of the team (very unsupportive with people constantly criticising female juniors and blaming them for their own mistakes, plus I would go as far as to say there’s a culture of workplace bullying). As a female junior, we’re constantly doing our best but waiting for the next criticism to imminently come. Not fun at all. Especially as the other two female juniors have both recently resigned so I am alone. As a result of this, I have had months of feeling extremely anxious and on edge. From Sunday morning onwards I feel a sickness at the thought of Monday, and when I get off the train and walk to the office I actually have to watch my breathing as my heart is pounding so much. THIS IS NOT NORMAL.
I knew that I had been blacklisted for getting pregnant and over the past few months many things have happened which have shown me that my career is no longer being taken seriously by them as I can’t be “one of the boys” (i.e. out all night drinking). For months I have only been given rubbish work which doesn’t count for anything and I have been excluded from several important networking events, which would have been helpful to further my career (and when male colleagues more junior than me were invited to attend).
Then came my annual appraisal. These are generally not a lot of fun, because my boss doesn’t want women to get too confident and complain when he gives them a pitiful bonus (while probably giving “the boys” good bonuses because they “have families to provide for”*). This year, however, it was something else. I was completely torn to shreds and was told how I “said the right things” but “clearly wasn’t prepared to work”. Knowing that I had been advised to work 9-5, they then had the audacity to say they expected me to be “fighting to get experience and asking to work through the night and weekends”.
So I should be risking the health of my baby to prove myself to you when you have written me off anyway? WTAF. I don’t think so.
In response to these comments I tried to defend myself but they just got more unpleasant. They basically gave me the “you need to pull your socks up” talk, which is humiliating and makes me angry beyond words given everything I have put myself through over the years for them and to prove myself to them.
Since then they have given me an impossible level of work. Not a challenging amount of work, but a level of work I would not be able to cope with even if I were fighting fit and not pregnant. When I was then given a further project, I politely refused to do it. I explained everything I had on and how I would not be able to do those things while doing the new project and also reminded my boss of my pregnancy and the fact I had been advised by the doctor to work 9-5. He then went ballistic and essentially said he would not allow me to work 9-5. Apparently when I was off yesterday having my scan, he was on the phone to someone (probably HR) complaining about my situation in full earshot of my colleagues.
As a result of all of this, and my general concerns about something bad happening in my pregnancy, I have started to have anxiety attacks. I don’t know if they’re anxiety attacks in the true medical sense, but I have been waking at 2am many nights with my heart pounding, unable to breathe and then bursting into tears and unable to get back to sleep. I’ve also had times when it has caught me just walking down the high street to go and order a (decaf) coffee (although thankfully I haven’t cried those times! I would be mortified!). It is awful, and it is not something I had ever experienced until things started to go so horribly wrong at work.
The thing is, it is all just so unnecessary. I know what a hard worker I am. For years and years my appraisals have complimented me on how hard working, diligent and conscientious I am. If they had dealt with my pregnancy differently, and had my (and my baby’s) health in their minds, I would have come back from maternity leave fighting to prove myself and working every hour under the sun to be both a brilliant mum and an excellent [professional]. Instead, what can I do? How can I possibly go back somewhere like this and fight to make my career work? They will never let it work, unless it is only on their terms (i.e. never go home and see my husband and baby). How can they possibly think that THIS is the way to get people to stay with the firm?
So I have some difficult decisions to make. While I know I am leaving (which I decided the day they suggested I couldn’t go to L’s funeral) I do not know when to hand in my notice. While I want to just quit now and focus on getting myself healthy so that Baby Flat has the best start in life, I need to be sensible and stick it out to ensure I get my maternity pay. Unfortunately this means returning for 9 months post maternity leave, which is the unbearable part.
For now I am just struggling to make it to maternity leave and to have some calm before the baby hopefully arrives. In just over a month we have a week’s holiday, which is something GREAT to look forward to, and when I return I will only have two months to get through before I leave.
So I am trying to focus on the good things and remember that every day I go into the office it’s a day closer to me leaving. This job will not be forever; I can do other things and be a different person.
Also, while I do not earn a lot and it is unbearable being around most of my colleagues, it does allow me to:
- slowly pay off my student loan;
- slowly pay off another loan we took out to help buy the house;
- save a bit into my pension (gosh, don’t I lead a wild lifestyle?!); and
- pay my share of the mortgage.
I think that once the debts are paid off, I will be grateful that I stuck things out and hopefully it will make things easier for us financially.
I also think I will truly appreciate any job where there is a pleasant working environment, as you really can’t put a price on having good people around you.
All in all, I need to remember that I will be fine. I will get through this. I need to just keep trying to tick off one day at a time.
* This was genuinely something an old boss said, and didn’t understand why I was completely outraged.