I feel incredibly lucky.
I moved from Oakland, CA seven months ago to Somerville, MA and started working for HubSpot. In January, I found out I was pregnant with my first kid. It took me by surprise because it happened as soon as I went off birth control. I was on birth control for ten years. TEN YEARS! The human body is pretty remarkable. Turns out it’s not like starting a dead car.
My plan was to be at HubSpot for at least a year before having a kid. I wasn’t sure how I’d approach the subject at work and I wondered how supported I’d feel and what the culture would be like there.
I was immediately comfortable with my design team of 30 people. They were all kind, thoughtful people with a good sense of humor. The head of my department, Tim Merrill, was a dad of four. He was very open about how difficult it was to be a good parent.
My boss, Jonathan Meharry, was also a dad. His son was two and he was open about how overwhelming it was to raise even one very energetic kid with two working parents.
The week I found out I was pregnant, I first Slacked Tim to tell him the news. He was overjoyed and asked me if he could swing by and give me a hug. I Slacked Jonathan and he congratulated me too.
I shared the news with my design team shortly thereafter at a mac and cheese dinner party I hosted at my new apartment. They offered me a beer and I told them I couldn’t because I was pregnant. Everyone cheered and congratulated me. I wasn’t planning to share the news but something inside me wanted support if things went well but also if things fell apart. I also wanted the other women on the team to know both scenarios were normal if they ever decided to get pregnant themselves. I was going to be the first mom on a team of 30 people and I wanted to normalize it.
My greatest fear was to be socially excluded because I was pregnant. While not drinking made it difficult to go out and let loose, being pregnant actually bonded me to certain people in a way I wouldn’t expect.
Suddenly the dads around me opened up more about their lives. They shared detailed, emotional stories about their wives’ pregnancies and deliveries over lunch. They offered me resources like midwives, online mothers communities, and baby clothes. I felt like I was suddenly a part of a club I never knew about and I was extremely touched by how much these dads cared about their partners and their kids.
Being a young feminist, this all seemed relatively normal to me. I expected to be treated with respect and for people to understand how hard it was to be a mom. As my pregnancy progressed, I had an experience that made me realize just how lucky I really was.
“You’re going on vacation before your maternity leave? Do you even work?
“You should really thank them for giving you all that time.
“Be careful of what you say-make sure they don’t forget you when you go on maternity in August.
These are things I heard from my mother-in-law and my mom in the same week.
I was angry and offended. Didn’t they know how hard I worked and how valuable I was? I explained that tech was different in that it wasn’t about the quantity of hours you put in but the quality of your work. It was about efficiency and working smart. They weren’t convinced.
I then explained that I’m in a highly valuable role and that hiring and onboarding a new person would be far more costly than giving me three months to recover. They still thought I should show my immense gratitude so I’m not “forgotten”.
What I realized, after the anger subsided, was that my mother-in-law and my mom were trying to protect me. Their advice rang true when they were new moms and it could even ring true to this day. I was blissfully entitled to my support and stability as a pregnant woman at work and I didn’t know how lucky I was.
A few weeks ago, my PM, Shawn Bristow, sat me down in a meeting room to catch up.
“Oh, Loe… I can’t believe it-I totally forgot you’ll be gone for 3 months instead of 1. I didn’t plan for that because we haven’t had any moms on our team-only fathers,” said Shawn.
I hesitated-feeling slightly guilty for causing him all this additional stress.
“I’m sorry-I know it’s not easy,” I said.
I continued, “Let me know how I can help. If I were in your shoes, even as a woman who believes in moms, I’d be stressing about losing a player on my team for three whole months. It’s a lot to plan for.”
Shawn cut me off and stared at me with his intense, retired fisherman, Shawn Bristow stare.
“Loe…You will never get this back again. It goes so fast and it only happens once. Just be there and be present as much as you can because time moves so quickly. If you call or email me I’m not answering-just disconnect completely. You’re talking to a dad who’s counting down the number of school vacations before his daughter goes to college.”
“It’s four, Loe. Four,” he said slowly as he sat back into his chair and exhaled.
I was speechless, in shock, and so moved by Shawn’s support and by his love for his daughter. I tried to maintain my composure as I held back a few tears.
When I got pregnant, I expected to be treated with respect and to keep my job. I never anticipated having so many fathers advocating passionately for my ability to be a great mom. I’m forever grateful to Hubspot for hiring them and I’m forever grateful to those dads for taking me under their wing(s).
Special thanks to HubSpot dads…
Kyle Gieste for helping me find my midwife
Gregory Cornelius for giving me baby things
Jeff Boulter for shamelessly hustling his kids’ girlscout cookies
Tim Merrill for being real about the challenge of juggling career and family and checking in on me during my first trimester
Jonathan Meharry for being a boss who encourages me to do what’s best for me as an ambitious but also pregnant direct report
Jay Ciruolo for leaving work early when possible to relieve his sleep deprived pregnant wife from 2-year-old duty
Shawn Bristow for being Shawn Bristow
Christopher O’Donnell for talking about his 2-year-old at Inbound
Dharmesh Shah for telling stories about his kid on stage and in company announcements
Also special thanks to my new friends and fellow HubSpot designers Chelsea Bathurst and Quintin Marcus for supporting me through all this change and for listening to me as I navigate strange and annoying pregnancy symptoms.