It’s a Tuesday morning in September, I’m out of breath, and by some miracle I’ve arrived just in time for the morning pitch meeting in my towering New York City office—killer view of Central Park included. Just three months ago I graduated from college, praying I wouldn’t be another sucker who would struggle for months to land a job, any job.
As fate would have it, after interning and working my ass off during my senior spring with one of the country’s largest magazine companies, I scored an editorial assistant job at the website of a major national women’s magazine. This means two things: I’m at the place to start a glamorous, challenging career—and I’m at the bottom of the figurative food chain.
As I rush into the conference room, a group of intimidatingly polished women—my new colleagues—greet me, laptops and iced lattes at the ready. My (terrifying) boss gives me a forced smile as I slink to my chair. Because I had to beat out hundreds of other young women for this gig, I’m planning to crack open my Mac and blow them away with my brilliant story ideas. Instead, an all-too-familiar wave of nausea overcomes me. I’m in a critical meeting with all my new coworkers, and I am going to throw up.
I get up without saying a word and run to the bathroom, which clearly bewilders everyone and probably aggravates my boss. I find sweet relief in the last stall, flushing the toilet twice for good measure, and a glance into the mirror reveals that I definitely look as a bad as I feel. No, I don’t have a stomach virus, and nope, I’m not hungover. A month ago, I found out I’m pregnant. And I’m going to be a single mom. And I haven’t told my boss yet.
I try to suck in my bloated belly as I do my best to walk casually back into the meeting—because they definitely couldn’t have heard me, right? Wrong. My boss, who’s onto me, shoots a skeptical look my way. “If you threw up, you should just go home,” she says. I actually cringe now, imagining the horrified looks that were exchanged minutes earlier.
I thank her as graciously as I can, since I’m not about to explain why I’m sick to my stomach in the middle of this meeting. Also, I’ve discovered that morning sickness is a bitch, and most definitely not limited to the morning, so jumping on the chance to get out of this mortifying situation (and avoid any more today), I accept their “feel betters” and catch the next bus back home to New Jersey.
When I found myself holding a pregnancy test that boasted a little pink plus sign weeks ago, I was overcome by a potent mixture of excitement and fear. The guy I was seeing was nowhere near ready to be a father, and our relationship was far from the next great American love story. We’d only been dating for a few months, and my pregnancy was a surprise for us both. Not to mention that I just graduated from college and got my first real job. What did I know about raising a child? My thought process boomeranged from worrying about dreaded student loan payments to how I would financially support another human.
But that’s just it—there was a little person now, growing and existing and living inside me. And he or she needed me, in every possible sense of the word. After this intense revelation, something inside me changed. My first sonogram left me in tears while the nurse showed me the screen. Hearing her heartbeat—yes, I was having a girl—came next, and that’s when it truly hit me: I was going to keep her.
After I told the father my decision, he and I agreed to go our separate ways. I decided to wait until I was 12 weeks in to tell my boss, although I would have waited longer if I could. But I was only going to get more pregnant, and as I struggled to button my pants, I knew the telltale baby bump was fast on its way.
I’ll admit, I didn’t expect to receive a hug or squeals of delight when I revealed the news to my boss—but I made it clear that I wanted to keep my baby and my job, which I’d worked hard to land and loved. Instead of trying to mask her utter disappointment, my boss got up and walked out. She disappeared for the entire rest of the day and ignored me for almost two weeks straight. Not even a half-hearted “congrats.” I was crushed.
Shortly after the awkward freeze-out stage, my once enviable (and abundant) editorial assistant responsibilities dwindled. I was lucky if I even got to pitch a story, let alone attend the critical weekly meeting. I never felt more judged or discriminated against in my entire life, a low point I don’t wish upon anyone who is trying to succeed at a job they’re truly passionate about.
As the months passed, the emotional and physical struggle worsened. I was working in a world where girls my age run around looking flawless in heels, simultaneously working their butts off and climbing the corporate ladder. It’s an understatement to say that my baby bump and I stuck out like a sore thumb. Aside from the roller-coaster ride they call pregnancy hormones, I couldn’t hide the overwhelming anxiety I felt Monday through Friday at work. Most of all, I felt completely misunderstood and totally alone.
By month six, the anxiety morphed into frustration and, frankly, anger. I was miserable, especially after I caught wind of my boss making fun of me to another editor. My stomach was constantly in knots as I wondered what she would say or do next. And with the not-so-gentle push from my boss, I made the decision to quit.
It’s Tuesday again, but this time I’m not sick or pregnant. I’m a mother to a beautiful three-month-old baby girl named Grace, who is currently looking at me with a silly smile and curious blue eyes. I tell her I love her and kiss her insanely adorable chubby cheeks.
After leaving my job, I knew my passion for becoming an editor was still there—in fact, it was stronger than ever. So toward the end of my pregnancy, I convinced an advertising agency to give me a chance; they hired me as a writer and editor, and I’ve been happily working for them since. Bonus: The agency is located closer to home, so I don’t have to spend hours commuting into Manhattan when every second I get with Grace is precious.
I spend most days writing and editing my assignments in between my daughter’s naps, breastfeeding, and cuddle time—and my new boss makes me feel valued and appreciated, which motivates me even more to want to work hard and succeed. Considering how scared and confused I felt just months ago, today I feel beyond blessed. Cheesy as it might sound, I can’t wait to explain to my sweet daughter that, as I know firsthand, sometimes one door closes so that a better—and happier—one can open.