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The Marissa Mayer club: Starting a new job pregnant, working until my water breaks

Courtesy Teresa Strasser

Large and in charge: Starting a new job when you're heavily pregnant has special challenges... especially if you work in TV.

I’m standing on the set of a television show, crammed into a burnt orange maternity dress and exposing my cankles in a pair Fit-Flops — the only shoes that still fit — feeling sweat drip down my spine while experiencing a mild contraction.  It’s the final rehearsal before the launch of a new show I’m co-hosting. I’m 38 weeks pregnant. 

Forget the pit stains and the jowls, I will be working right up until my water breaks.

Hired pregnant, and willing to work up until I’m crowning, I guess that puts me in a league with newly minted Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who made news when she Tweeted that she was six months pregnant just hours after Yahoo announced her appointment. 

We’re due within a week of each other, both having boys.  We are practically twinsies.  She’s the head of a Fortune 500 company and I’m reading off a TelePrompter telling you what Kate Hudson said today on “Ellen” or perhaps showing you viral video of an inspirational blind dog (that’s if you live in one of six markets in which my new show airs), but otherwise, TWINSIES.

So, to summarize, Marissa is an in-demand tech genius and I’m your garden-variety television host who mostly toils in the salt mines of deep cable and is now in syndication, but allow me to suggest that somewhere between us is the beginnings of a trend.

If a company wants to hire you badly enough, it will overlook your fetus and make you a deal. It will look at the long-range benefits of bringing you onboard.

Enough about Marissa: your story, if you’re a working mom, is probably more like mine.

I needed a job because 1) I love working and 2) I love eating.  I don’t have a trust fund. In fact, I like to say that my parents “trust” that I will “fund” them. Though my husband has a good job, we really need to be a two-income family.

About my line of work: It’s hard enough getting a job in television if you are 22 and look like Miss Wyoming. However, when you never got that nose job, or that boob job, and you are also what my medical records so jarringly refer to as AMA — Advanced Maternal Age — that adds a degree of difficulty. Throw in being pregnant with a toddler, and let’s just say my options were looking a bit limited.

So, when a company was willing to hire me, knowing I would be 38 weeks pregnant the day their new nightly news magazine show hit the airwaves (which happened this week), I packed up and moved my family from Los Angeles to Arizona, with the promise of regular hours, a gig for at least a year, cheaper square footage and maybe even a few new suspicious moles to call my own.

There are a couple of things that aren’t so great about working right up until I deliver.

One is kind of petty, but it irks me some days.  Understandably, my bosses have to prepare for my departure. As I outgrow even my largest maternity clothes, it makes sense for them to act as if I’m already gone.  This is all reasonable and fair. I’m going to be gone, they have to prepare for that.

Still, you know how it is when you’re pregnant. It’s easy to get your giant panties in a bunch when you feel marginalized or left out.

Also petty, my concern about how I look. TV hosts aren’t usually greasy, puffy and enormous. Even when you see pregnant ones – Elizabeth Hasselbeck, Nancy O’Dell — they have that cute second trimester look, thin limbs and a little baby bump.  I gained 60 pounds last time and I’ve added 45 this time so far. That’s just what my body does. And it’s one thing for me to be philosophical about it, as in, “I am making a person and it’s not about how I look right now,” but my business is about how I look. And I look bad. 

“We need all talent to bring wardrobe options with sleeves,” read an email from one of the executives on our show.  It was sweet not to single me out, but c’mon, I get it. No one wants to see my giant, pale, 38-weeks-pregnant arms.  I can put on my big girl sleeves about it, sure, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel self-conscious. It’s a high quality problem, I know that much.

Today, I was researching a story for work when I stumbled across one of these “scare the pregnant lady” studies. The headline from The Daily Mail screamed, “Working in Late Stages of Pregnancy is as Bad as Smoking, New Research Claims.”

That seems bad.

The research indicates that lots of moms are working later into their pregnancies, and they may have babies with lower birth weights. Is that so bad, I wondered? Well, that only lowers my baby’s chance of competing school, having high wages and living longer. No big deal.

The study acknowledges that this largely affects women in low-paying jobs, which may be more physically stressful, so I am choosing to ignore it.  Marissa Mayer sure is, and somehow I think her kid will be just fine.

Teresa Strasser, author of "Exploiting My Baby," is due with No. 2 any day now. Her new show, The List, will just have to be brave and carry on without her.

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