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Growing up I always looked up to the “professional” people of the working world. That’s who I wanted to be. I strived to become the person that worked in an office, had business cards to pass out, and without the concern of benefits to care for myself. I worked odd jobs like Auntie Anne’s and teacher’s assistant before, but it didn’t quite add up to where I wanted to be in life.

Belonging in the professional world to me meant responsibility and a certain level of acceptance. It meant my life as an adult is on track to start accomplishing the goals that I have set for myself and my family. From the outside looking in, I was on track to achieve every goal I had set, including having kids and raising a family.

When I started to settle into my profession with my now “work family,” I began to grow personally and professionally. I became the leader when it came to throwing company events and was even the baby shower coordinator. So of course the team would throw me the best shower in the history of the company.

Little did I know that the professional image that I had managed to build for myself soon would be misconceived as careless and irresponsible. When I found I was expecting my second child, I was far along enough in my pregnancy for an ultrasound to display a full baby. How did I not know? How could I let this happen? What next?

I became paranoid in the thought that I was being judged by those around me. I felt the pressure to change the subject when asked about the details of my pregnancy, when I was going to have my baby shower, etc. The questions never seemed to stop and I never seemed to know how to answer them. I couldn’t even begin to imagine the challenge I would have answering questions even after his birth.

For months I altered my clothing and my habits to hide the fact that I was carrying a child, for which I had no idea what the future held. When I was pregnant with my daughter, my work family was the first to know. Not this time. This time, I would have to explain to a group of people I called family of my decision not to parent. This was one of the hardest announcements I would ever have to make. There were so many questions. But not many answers.

Because the people that I work with also considered my family, they were eager to celebrate his arrival with a company baby shower. How could I have a shower for a baby I am not raising? What would they think of me for something like that? This was one of the hardest things I encountered in the professional world. The shame. I became shameful and I wore it like a beach ball balancing on the edge of my body. It was there and I couldn’t hide it.

When I went on leave to have my son, I was a slightly relieved not to have to answer questions for a short time. But I would need to return to my professional life sooner than later. After returning, I felt as if everyone was looking at me with sorrow and heartbreak in their eyes, when I was ready to move forward on a positive tone. To this day I have a hard time with the acknowledgement of my pregnancy, because that acknowledges I have a son that is not in my home.

Slowly I grow into the wisdom and understanding that my decision was made selflessly and thoughtfully and the best decision for myself, my family and my child.