By Kate Ullman Shade

The Gorsuch hearings are ongoing. And a former student described her experience in the classroom in regards to hiring women — who could get pregnant… And that women manipulate companies to extract pregnancy benefits. Enjoy this rejoinder from a friend and women — as she sought to find a job while pregnant. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t look like Gorsuch seems to have described. 

Judge Gorsuch: I’ll raise my hand. I know a woman who concealed a pregnancy while applying for jobs. I am that woman. Want to know why I did it? I did it because I had just graduated with a Ph.D., and I knew I was competent and motivated, and had something to offer the professional world. I also knew that my family was growing, my husband was in grad school, and I was the primary provider for my kids. I knew that it was my right to be considered for a job without reference to my pregnancy status, but I knew that even well-meaning employers would have trouble disregarding the pregnancy and granting me that right.

Do you want to know what it’s like to apply for a job when you’re pregnant, Judge? Even when your reasons are sound? I immediately realized that I couldn’t wear a suit, since you can’t hide a baby bump under a suit, so I wore a flowy shirt and skirt and tried to pretend I thought that was appropriate interview garb (it’s not). I wore unattractive flat shoes that didn’t exacerbate my sciatica. I walked back and forth in front of a mirrored shop window, trying to figure out how to hold my body so the bump was hard to see. I was sick with anxiety as I prepared for each interview, not because I was scared of rejection or failure, but because I was holding a secret that felt like a betrayal. I longed to blurt out, “Just so you know, I’m pregnant!” before I even met the interviewers in person, but I knew my greater responsibility was to my children, and to myself, as a working woman with employment rights.

When I was in a job interview, I’d spend as much time as I could sitting, and I’d try to avoid employers ever seeing me from the side. I focused at least as much on my body as I did on my answers, and even as I talked about my skills and accomplishments, I felt like a fake and a fraud. “I just don’t understand how no one has snatched you up yet!,” one interviewer marveled, and my stomach sank. My efforts, however elaborate, didn’t always work. Twice I was in conversations that suddenly soured during the building tour, when someone got a better look at me. Comments about how they think I’ll fit in so nicely here, were replaced by comments about how of course they are continuing to interview other applicants. “Please let us know if there’s anyone else you’d like to meet!” before the tour became, “We will call you with a decision in 2-3 weeks” after they caught a glimpse of me from the side. At one school, a superintendent handed me a job offer, I stood up to shake her hand, and she exclaimed, “You’re not pregnant, are you?” Her subsequent reaction was so angry I declined the job offer, even though it was the only one I had on the table.

I will always be grateful to my current supervisor for her grace and professionalism back in December 2012. She interviewed me when the pregnancy was too advanced to hide, and when I didn’t even fit in the flowy shirt outfit any more. It was a relief to know there could be no secrets, but I dreaded that moment in the waiting room when she’d first see what wasn’t evident on the phone. She shook my hand with perfect composure, and her eyes never even flicked down from my face. She waited for me, at the end of the interview, to bring up the obvious fact that I wouldn’t be starting for a few months. Her ability to see past my belly meant that I spent the first months of my son’s life bonding with my children, instead of applying to jobs. She renewed my sense of myself as a full person who has value to society.

I didn’t conceal a pregnancy because I wanted to, Judge, I did it because I had to, and it was a humiliating and disillusioning experience. Our goal should not be to shame women who hide pregnancies, it should be to create a workplace culture that welcomes people in all stages of making families. If we offer universal parental leave and subsidized childcare, and if we stop employment discrimination against childbearing women, I bet the “problem” of concealed pregnancies will magically disappear.

So today — call your Senator. Gorsuch will probably be confirmed, but let’s slow it down.