I was so happy when I got my job in 2013. After a run of rotten luck, my hard work paid off and I landed what I considered a dream role working for an organisation that did a lot of good in communities across the UK. I was extremely happy there and imagined I’d spend many more years to come working there.
Then in June 2014 I found out I was pregnant with mine and my husband’s first child. There was a colleague in my office who’d been actively trying to conceive, with no luck. I did what I thought was compassionate and professional by asking what I could do to be supportive. At first this was fine, but when I was diagnosed with Hyperemesis (extreme morning sickness) and signed off for a while, things went wrong. I was suddenly not invited out to lunches with the same people I was before. I’d get blanked in the hallways. I found out from a different department that my immediate colleagues were resentful of the fact I was pregnant; I didn’t deserve it. The woman who wasn’t pregnant deserved it, she wanted it more. I wasn’t enjoying it enough and I wasn’t appreciative. I was aghast. I didn’t know how to proceed, so I spoke to our HR department, thinking that I was doing the right thing, professionally speaking. HR’s response was that I needed to be understanding about how difficult others might find my ‘happy time’.
Things progressed from there. I was immediately resented for having spoken to HR and I’d walk in on colleagues bitching about me constantly. I got reprimanded for the silliest things, and I’d often go home in tears. At the time I genuinely believed that I was somehow in the wrong, that I wasn’t doing enough to make my pregnancy easier on others. I feel sick to my stomach now when I look back and realise just how vulnerable I was. Things came to a head when I decided enough was enough; I approached the colleague with the problem outside of work to see what I could do to alleviate her displeasure with my situation. I got a very mixed response, mostly placing the blame with me that everyone was sick and tired of hearing me moan about my pregnancy (not true, I barely spoke about it, because when I did I was apparently ‘rubbing her face in it’). After this, a social media post went up about me, where other colleagues all bandied together to berate me. It was genuinely the most nauseating thing that’s happened to me in the digital age.
Having seen the mounting stress on me, my midwife now insisted I go on sick leave, supported by my GP (who was disgusted with work’s attitude towards my Hyperemesis). I was signed off at around 28 weeks pregnant and this meant my mat leave was forced into starting a lot earlier than I planned, placing financial strain on us at home. I had an extremely traumatic c-section during which I nearly bled to death. While having a blood transfusion, I asked my care team if stress had been a factor and they agreed it might well have been, given I wasn’t even full term. After informing work that I’d given birth I heard from two people to congratulate me, neither of which from my immediate team. I was gutted. Two years of hard work, passion and professionalism and I’d been made out to be a villain. It was a heart-breaking decision not to return, but I couldn’t imagine working with these people knowing what they’d been saying about me and my little boy. HR promised an investigation, but I honestly don’t see how that will happen given the level of office politics there; I’m fairly sure it’s going to be easy for people to bandy together to blame the ’emotional pregnant woman’.
The part that makes me feel most sick? This is a charity. A charity that promises support and care for people in vulnerable circumstances.