Now well into my third trimester I am really resembling a walking beachball in a Musto blouson jacket... which I have discovered is the only winter work jacket that fits a pregnant equine vet. On the plus side Musto could use this as a selling point for those with rotund abdomens or a portly build (any Musto reps reading this - can I have a free jacket to replace the one I'm rapidly wearing out?!).
It is business as usual and while I can't say that I have been blocking hindlimbs all day, I have really found pleasure in taking the 'easy calls'. Vaccinations may not usually be my idea of a professionally taxing workload but boy do you learn a lot about your clients by taking that time to chat. I'm now fully up to date on the local equestrians' births, marriages and deaths (or more accurately affairs, divorces and changes in dressage trainer). I'm also up to speed on their horses' aches, pains and needs. I've had some wonderful chats about worming and poor performance which generated positive changes in management, lameness investigations and strengthened client-practice bonds. So this "down-time" has been quite productive I think!
During an informal meeting with one of the practice partners to carry out my latest pregnancy risk assessment, I was able to reflect on my different experiences of working whilst pregnant. Having had a fairly unpleasant experience with my first pregnancy when I was employed elsewhere, I had to pinch myself on realising how enjoyable things had been this time. Not once has anyone made me feel "guilty" for being pregnant or unable to carry out the riskier aspects of our work, not once have I felt that my job may be at stake because I was pregnant, and not once have I felt I could not talk to any one of my bosses or colleagues about issues. I wonder how many other people can say that. I voiced my gratitude at being looked after so well. The reply surprised me, not because I didn't believe it but because it made me sad. My boss said if only all pregnant employees were as willing to find the balance with their employers as I had been. Apparently previous practice experiences had been mixed. This is not an uncommon complaint with partners of some practices telling of employees who seemingly using pregnancy as a way of evading doing their fair share of the work. I find it hard to fathom why anyone would do this. If you have fallen out of love with your job then pregnancy is not a good cover behind which to hide. No wonder some employers are wary, who could blame them with those kinds of experiences?
So while much emphasis is placed on the employer's duty to the pregnant employee, I am glad to see that MumsVet is striving to make employees realise that being happy and pregnant at work is not the responsibility of your boss, but the product of an honest, fair and determined relationship between both parties (I know it sounds like such a cliché but it's so true!). Hopefully the more we all talk about this, the more individual vets will realise how they can play their part in acting appropriately and making it work. For every bad taste left by one's actions there are people following down the line who will be treated differently as a result of assumptions derived from the consequences of your poor actions... we all have a duty to make our profession a happy (AND SAFE) working environment for all involved. As a champion for productive (pregnant) equine vets everywhere, it can work for both employees and employers if there is open and constructive communication between both; we all have the same aim of providing excellent patient care and a quality service to clients but we need to look at the opportunities posed rather than perceived threats of pregnancy.