Within days of my first positive pregnancy test, I had a fat stack of books on my nightstand covering every aspect of prenatal development: What to expect, what to eat (and not eat), what exercises to do (and not do). I was hungry to learn about how to foster healthy fetal development and how to nurture this tiny thing that was barely big enough to see on an ultrasound. I was thinking about nuchal translucencies, gestational diabetes screening and birth plans.
What I was not thinking about: The life going on outside my belly. It wasn’t until many months later, after my up-to-that-point-super-successful career had essentially evaporated, that I realized that I should have been focused on nurturing, protecting and insulating my professional life, as well.
Since then, I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on what I could have done—or could have done better—in the years leading up to having a baby and in the months while I was pregnant. Some of these are lessons I learned the hard way, and some are based on the advice of the dozens of women I interviewed when writing Here’s the Plan: Your Practical, Tactical Guide to Advancing Your Career During Pregnancy and Parenthood. I think of these recommendations as folic acid for your career: Good for you anytime but critically important if you’re thinking about having a baby.