Deciding to be pregnant while unemployed

Finding out that you’re pregnant is very galvanizing. I didn’t feel any instant connection to the little speck deep inside my abdomen, but I knew very clearly that I didn’t want an abortion. If this embryo had survived Plan B and evaded my first pregnancy tests, it was a keeper. And in addition to all the scariness that pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood always bring, it was also going to be very inconvenient, since I was still unemployed and no one was going to hire someone visibly pregnant. And still, I knew I didn’t want an abortion.

But I’d had reason to want to prevent the pregnancy in the first place. Being unemployed was the main one, and would have been my reason to get an abortion, if that had been what felt right. I have always known that if I ever became a parent, I would want to be a working parent. I’ve never ever seen myself as a stay-at-home mom, much less a stay-at-home pregnant person. But here I am.

I left my high-paying job at [Well-known International Company] in October 2016 in order to move overseas. As I’ve written, I was unable to find a job in the company’s UK office, and so was unemployed. After taking a 2-month mini sabbatical, I started looking for a new job. From January to October 2017 I applied for over 80 roles at all types of companies. In August I even hired a career coach to help me redo my resume for the British job market, and help me with job search techniques and interview prep.

During those 10 months, I got phone and in-person interviews with probably 20 companies or recruiters. I got very close to an offer from four or five. But they never came through, for whatever reason. Sometimes I got good feedback; usually I didn’t. Sometimes it had nothing to do with me and it was just bad timing (like the hiring manager leaving suddenly). So I don’t have a clear picture of what was holding me back.

Before moving to London, I had reached a point in my life/career where I thought I was on a clear upward trajectory. I had transitioned from academia and landed a job that, while not perfect, was a reasonably good fit and paid extremely well. The company is a household name and well-respected, and (not that it really matters, but…) I was proud to be the top earner between me and my partner. So even if I couldn’t get a new job at the same company, I was fairly certain that others would want to hire me on the strength of my work experience there.

But that’s not how it’s turned out. There’s something mysteriously wrong with me that makes me an unsatisfactory potential employee in this market. And now that I’m visibly pregnant, I’m totally hopeless. There is no way that I’m going to get hired into a full-time role — even if discrimination on the basis of pregnancy is technically illegal, no one is going to hire me just before I take six months to a year of leave (standard in the UK).

It’s been a difficult 10 months. But now that I’ve more or less stopped job-searching, I’m somehow more at peace and less anxious. (Or maybe that’s the pregnancy hormones?) As long as I don’t dwell on it, I don’t get worried about it.

I would like to be able to cobble together some freelance work, and have taken steps in that direction. I’ve created a professional website, and started looking for and applying to part-time/contract/telecommute roles.

But what I’d really like to do is write a book. At the beginning of the year I was doing some family tree research (my super nerdy hobby) and stumbled across a really fascinating person who I wanted to learn everything about. Her story started building up into something I couldn’t let go of, and it suddenly occurred to me that maybe I could write about her. There wasn’t enough there to write more than a nonfiction article, but there was more than enough to form the basis of a work of fiction.

It felt so ridiculous to think that I could possibly do something like that — I think the last time I attempted to write anything fictional was at age 13 — but I couldn’t shake the idea. And I still haven’t shaken it. I’ve just resisted it because it feels so incredibly indulgent. Indulging a secret fantasy of being a writer, indulging my passion for research and writing, indulging an entirely unproven theory that I could write a book-length work of fiction, indulging my desire to just give up on the job search and try something that I actually want to do.

My partner hasn’t vetoed the idea, but I think he’d strongly prefer that I keep trying to find actual paying work. But I just feel like if it hasn’t happened by this point, it’s not going to, and my time would be better spent working on something that could actually lead somewhere. Even if I fail and don’t finish it, or if it doesn’t get published, then I will have something to tell prospective future employers who ask what I’ve been doing all this time. And who knows? Maybe I could actually do it. I didn’t know I could write a dissertation until I did it. I just told myself I would do it, and I did.


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