talking about my pregnancy at work when I’m placing the baby for adoption

A reader writes:

I am in my mid-twenties and am in my first job out of college. I graduated a little later due to taking off a few years to do some volunteer work. I love my job—it uses my degree, the culture is a great fit, and I find the work we do meaningful (for the most part). Luckily, I am also pretty competent at it and feel like I make a positive contribution to the department. I am paid a very reasonable wage for the local area and my experience level, and it is also a pretty kind, flexible, and understanding atmosphere.

My senior year of college, I was sexually assaulted by a man I was seeing romantically. I had a strong support system and was able to graduate with my sense of self intact. Unfortunately, three days after I started my new job, I was again assaulted while on a second date. I did not have a strong support system, as I had moved to a new city, and unfortunately my PTSD expressed itself as hypersexuality.

Although I have been seeking counseling and have made significant progress in my healing, I have become pregnant. The likely father is not particularly interested in being involved, and I am seriously considering giving the child up for adoption. This decision will not be made flippantly or as a way to remove myself from responsibility, and it is only on the table after seriously evaluating my hopes and dreams for my child, my potential support, and my actual ability to make them possible. (I am not very far along, so things could change.)

My question is this: how would I address this at work? Women in my family do not tend to “show” for quite a while as we are large-framed and carry pretty far back, but I know it’s only a matter of time before it becomes something I either get asked about or will need to address. Additionally, I know I will need to discuss FMLA/maternity leave with my manager. How do I address not just the fact that I am pregnant, but that the baby will not likely be coming home with me? Whenever I have this conversation, it is likely to be a shock to my department and coworkers, as this is not reflective of the reputation I have at work—and you know that everyone will have an opinion, whether they express it or not. When should I discuss this with my manager? How do I announce this to my coworkers? I am devastated to even be in this position, but would like to make the fewest waves possible at work for the sake of the department and my own emotional health.

If you choose to publish this letter, I would ask that commenters extend as much compassion and empathy as they are reasonably able, knowing that I do understand the weight of this situation.

Oh, this is so hard! I’d like to say that it’s none of your coworkers’ business — but it’s also true that as you become more visibly pregnant, people are likely to talk to you about the pregnancy and make assumptions about your plans, plans that you might feel awkward not contradicting.

I don’t think there’s one right answer to this! It comes down to what you feel comfortable with.

Here are my thoughts though: Because you’re not sure of your plans yet, for now I’d try to keep things as low-key as you can at work. If people try to talk to you about the pregnancy, one option is to say you’re juggling a lot and are trying to keep work a pregnancy-talk-free place (“it lowers my stress” and “thanks for understanding”). People may be surprised — it’ll be counter to our cultural narrative about pregnancies always being a sort of community topic — but if they’re decent people, they’ll respect it if you keep reinforcing it.

At some point you will indeed need to talk to your manager about your leave. But you don’t need to get into your plans for the baby in order to do that. It’s enough to let her know how much time you plan to take and talk about the work logistics. She doesn’t need an accounting of your plans for the leave beyond that. If you’ll be talking a shorter leave than you would if the baby stayed with you, you might get pushback like “you’ll want more time than that!” If that happens, you can say, “This is what I’ve settled on” and/or “I’ll let you know if I change my mind, but for now this is my plan.” (On the other hand, if you feel comfortable telling your manager more than that, you can! I just want you to know you don’t have to.)

If you do ultimately decide to go with adoption, one option is to continue giving just the bare minimum of details, since you’re not obligated to share the situation. You could use language like “It’s a difficult situation and I’d rather not talk about it at work, but the baby won’t be coming home with me.” Or you could even wait until after the birth and then simply let your manager know the baby didn’t come home with you, and ask that she let people know on your behalf that you prefer not to be asked about it when you return to work.

Another possible framing: “I’m carrying the baby for another family.” That’s true, and it avoids getting into details. If people pry, you can always say, “I’d rather not talk about it at work. Thanks for understanding!”

Or maybe you’d be more comfortable being more open with people, and if so, you can do that too.

I wanted some expert advice about how to do that so I asked Ashley Mitchell, the president of Lifetime Healing, which provides adoption professionals with post-placement care training for birth mothers, to weigh in on your letter. Here’s her advice:

Ok so this is a GREAT question because it truly speaks to one of the hardest things about facing an unplanned pregnancy, and that is that we have to face society and their judgement. There is no hiding, especially in a close work space. One of the biggest things for her will be to be VERY clear about her adoption plan. Have the process laid out, have her top reasons, and have clarity that she can keep coming back to when people disregard her reasoning. There are so many uneducated people on the topic of adoption. If that is something that she decided to be public about, be prepared for stupid questions. Be ok with not having to defend every action and show a lot of grace…we don’t know what we don’t know.

Coming back to work will be so hard because letting go of your child is not something that you can prepare for. I am a birth mother, 13 years post placement and it still wrecks me! Having boundaries put into place with coworkers ahead of time will be vital to get through those first few weeks and months. Talking about it may not be what you feel like doing, you may cry randomly, you may be angry or depressed. Letting them know that you have the right to not answer questions or that you may not want to talk will be so important for your emotional healing, and if they respect you, they will respect your wishes.

This is an impossible time. Have uncomfortable conversations now so you can be in a safe space when you need it later.

Readers, what other thoughts do you have?

Read updates to this letter here and here.

{ 610 comments… read them below }

  1. New Job So Much Better*

    No advice, but am happy to hear you will consider giving the child up to a loving, waiting family. :)

    1. Amber T*

      Ditto! No further advice I can give, just good, warm thoughts your way and internet hugs if you want them. None of this is easy, so best of luck that everyone (work and otherwise) will be supportive and understanding in whatever decisions you make.

    2. SophieChotek*

      No advice either, but whatever you decide, I hope the best for you.
      Having been adopted myself, I am strong believer in adoption, but I believe you will make the best decision for you. I hope you can find support, even in a new city.

    3. Tequila Mockingbird*

      Yes, in the hopes that OP is reading this, I want her to know that adoption is not, ever (in her words) “a way to remove [her]self from responsibility.” It’s exactly the opposite: it’s the most mature, responsible decision a parent could ever make – to honestly assess one’s own circumstances and make the heartwrenching, unselfish decision to give the child to a loving family who is able and desperately willing to raise that child. It’s a win-win for everyone involved. I wish OP all the best in her journey. <3

      1. Qwerty123*

        OP, thank you for taking such good care of this little one who is entrusted to you for this period of time.

      2. Marvelousmith*

        With all due respect, in this case, “parent” clearly means “parent who is not ready to be fully responsible for another human being for the rest of their lives”, which is a perfectly okay thing to be, and the point stands. Arranging for a family who IS ready to be fully responsible is in itself a responsible thing to do.

    4. Maggie*

      I have no wisdom to share, but wanted to send a big hug to you, OP. What an intensely difficult situation. Good luck!!!

    5. Jules the 3rd*

      Best of wishes to you from here, too, OP. You are the best judge of you. Trust yourself.

    6. Cassandra*

      Hoping for the best for you, OP. I too have no wisdom to offer. If you feel you can — and ONLY if you do — update us later, just to let us know how you’re doing.

    7. ScienceMommy*

      OP, I think it is such a wonderful, selfless thing that you are doing. You have gone through so much and I’m so sorry for that. But in the midst of difficult circumstances, you are doing the best that you can, and you are giving your baby such a gift. Hold your head up high and be proud of that. I wish I were with you in person and I would give you such a big hug. Best wishes to both you and your baby, OP! And best of luck with your continual healing for your PTSD!

    8. Cranky Prognathodn*

      So many virtual hugs and puppy-snuggles for you OP! Take care of yourself, and know this corner of the internet has your back, whatever you decide.

    9. Formerly Arlington*

      I also wanted to add that I think you are brave and thoughtful. I hope that you are met with compassion and support rather than judgment.

    1. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD*

      This is what I was thinking. Honestly is all well and good, but sometimes you need to lie to get people to stay in their lanes

      1. Puggles*

        How about just “I’m carrying for a family” at leave it at that. Leave off “another” or “family member”.

        1. Thursday Next*

          Yes, the simpler the better. LW, you don’t have to say any more than you want to say. If people keep asking, just stick to telling them you don’t want to discuss it. This is your business, not theirs, and if anyone presses you, that is their inappropriate behavior and their problem, not yours.

          Wishing you the best.

        2. Jane Finch*

          Unfortunately, plenty of people will ask prying followup questions – which you can brush off, but they won’t go away easily.
          I would suggest being as transparent as you are comfortable with your boss, and ask that they support you with the privacy and respect the situation deserves. Maybe for your coworkers say something like “I just wanted to share with everyone that I am pregnant, but because of some sensitive, private reasons I don’t want it to be a topic of conversation. Boss and I will make a plan for when I need time off, and we’ll let you know as soon as those are finalized.”
          My reasoning for this is that it is better not to pretend it isn’t a sensitive situation, so it is better to admit that, but draw a red line on how much people get to know, and make sure your boss supports you if people cross it.

    2. MB*

      I don’t think telling her to lie is good advice here. The “I’m carrying for another family” is a much more elegant solution and is based on truth.

        1. salvadora*

          A gentle smile and “oh, everything’s going well but it’s complicated” should shut down most of the questions.

      1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

        +1 – way better to let them draw their own conclusions, and keep a clear boundary that this is not something up for discussion or debate.

      2. emilyherself*

        Yes. Plus, if the child remained in it’s family of origins, coworkers might still ask for updates. If it’s established it’s for *another* family, I think there will be more clear boundaries, which are absolutely necessary for LW.

        1. Patty Mayonnaise*

          Seconding this – I think saying “a family member” could open up more questioning by well-meaning coworkers (especially if the person has some personal connection to surrogacy) whereas most people would be able to read between the lines of “another family” and stop asking.

    3. Good luck!*

      That was my immediate reaction is well. I can’t think of a reason not to just do that… the truth is nice, but frankly your coworkers aren’t entitled to the truth on this.

      1. MB*

        I think, inadvertently, it opens the situation up for more follow up questions in the future because “for a family member” implies that she might still have a relationship with the child going forward. And even with as many “I’d prefer not to discuss this” qualifiers she could throw in there, I don’t think it’s an ideal why to handle the issue.

        Fully acknowledging that there is no “ideal” way to address this.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        They definitely aren’t entitled to it, but I think it’s a question of what will make things easiest in the long run for OP. I think Ashley Mitchell’s advice that having some uncomfortable conversations now will be much easier than fielding a bunch of well-meaning but way off base questions later when you’re dealing with post baby hormones and all the emotions that come with giving your baby up for adoption.

        Personally I think Allison’s wording was pretty perfect. It is entirely true but leaves room for people to assume a planned surrogacy which may make OP feel more comfortable.

    4. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      I was thinking this immediately and then when I read the phrasing “for another family” I thought this was brilliant. The part I worried about with saying for family was the follow up…will you see the baby? What about when you see the baby? Type of thing. I think removing it from immediate family will prevent THAT particular line of questions. Saying “another family” might stop that.

      1. Ophelia*

        This is a really good point. I think the “another family” phrasing helps to shut down a lot of potentially awkward and difficult discussions that would otherwise follow.

        1. Ophelia*

          It also occurs to me that the “carrying for another family” option allows OP to refer to privacy considerations as a reason she won’t discuss the pregnancy–and if people think she means *the other family’s* privacy, well, they can go ahead and think that.

          1. Armchair Analyst*

            That is perfect.
            “If you don’t care about my privacy, please know that I am respecting the other family’s privacy and won’t be able to say more* sorry, thanks for understanding”

            *Possibly because you’re rude and intrusive and don’t care about my privacy….

          2. MatKnifeNinja*

            Distant 20 something relative did that 6 years ago.

            It kept the lunatics (including her uber judgey boss) at bay.

            The only ones who have a need to know is you <3, bio dad (legal stuff), adoptive parents, and the little one <3. The rest can pound sand.

            OP, I send you and the little one all the love and hugs I can send.

      2. Kiki*

        Yeah, I feel like if you said for a family member, it would be likely that people would ask who in your family you’re carrying for.

      3. Episkey*

        Yes, I agree with this — just modify and say “another family” rather than for YOUR family member…that’s what I said down thread too. The only pro I can see about saying for a family member is if someone were to ask if you would consider being a surrogate for them (which would be really intrusive)…then you have a built-in excuse, “Oh, I could only do something like that for a family member that I’m close with!”

      4. Kyrielle*

        The thing I would worry about with “for another family” is being asked if you’re being paid to do it, as surrogacy is sometimes paid (usually, if you’re not friends with or family of the people involved) – if the job has a clause about telling them about all other employment (for conflict of interest evaluation) that could come up. And/or they might question whether their health insurance covers it, because apparently many plans now explicitly exclude coverage for surrogate pregnancies (so the to-be parents instead pay for insurance for that).

        None of that applies in this case, but “for another family” might make someone think it does, and that could make for a lot of hassle for the OP to have to straighten out.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think she could handle that, though. If asked if she’s being paid to do it (a really rude, intrusive question!), she’d say no. And if the employer raises the question of whether health insurance covers it, she can privately explain to them that this isn’t surrogacy in that sense.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I’m inclined to recommend shutting it down with, “For the privacy of everyone involved, I’d prefer not to discuss those details.” And then repeat as necessary. It’s a rude and intrusive question, but unfortunately, a lot of people in society don’t seem to have gotten the message that the details of other people’s reproductive choices are none of their business.

          1. fposte*

            I also think this is a situation where the perfect is the enemy of the good. A quick, effective answer that shuts down the questioning of 95% of people who ask is likely your best outcome. There’s not much you can do to forestall the 5%, and it’s not worth your time to craft an answer just in case you encounter them.

            1. the_scientist*

              So much this. And honestly the 5% that are going to continue to push are so out of line that I feel like you can respond with “wow, that’s really rude” and leave it at that.

            2. BetsyTacy*

              Absolutely well put! 95% of people will ‘read the room’ with a quick answer.

              May my best wishes go with you on whatever path life’s journey takes you.

          2. catwoman2965*

            This 100%. It’s really no one’s business about any of the details. None whatsoever. I’m reminded of a phrase I learned on another side, where its frequently said not to JADE, justify, argue, defend or explain. A concise, simple response is all that’s necessary. No explanation necessary.

            I don’t JADE myself, but its generally in response to much “simplier” things, like why i couldn’t work for someone at my PT job last minute “i’m sorry I have plans” never mind my plans are to sit on the couch watching movies all day!

        3. Glitsy Gus*

          I think that would be the kind of situation where Dear Abby’s, “Wow, that is an incredibly personal question!” would come in really handy. You can let HR know the score if they really need it, but other than that it is nobody’s business.

          I think other’s suggestion about, “given the situation I’d really can’t discuss it, to protect everyone’s privacy.” is a good option as well, but I really don’t think OP should be afraid to shut down the Nosey Nellies

        4. Jennifer*

          All of those questions are extremely intrusive. I guess someone might ask that but if they do that’s their own rudeness to blame and has nothing to do with the OP.

    5. OhNo*

      Normally I’d agree, but it seems like when you want to stop talking about something, fewer details are better. Any additional info you provide creates openings for people to ask you questions.

      So in this case, I think Alison’s “I’m carrying for another family” response is a little better, just because it gives less info for coworkers to latch onto or pick apart.

      1. TootsNYC*

        also, additional info is an indicator that you MIGHT talk about it. Some details immediately make people assume that OTHER details might be available.

        (I have always heard that when you exercise right of the 5th Amendment, you can’t then answer ANYthing about it–it’s all or nothing–and this always seemed to me to be the rationale behind it. Of course my impression of the legal system is based on fiction and therefore is highly suspect.)

      2. Emi.*

        I sort of disagree about your first point — when there’s a risk that people are going to pick, I think there’s a “Goldilocks” amount of information you can give out that makes it not-mysterious without baring your soul. In this situation it’s probably somewhere around the level of “I’m carrying for another family” or “The child is going to be adopted” and no details about your motivation, but much less would probably result in wild speculation. If they can say “oh, adoption” then they’re more likely to move on.

      3. Pop*

        I totally agree with this. There are a lot of legal regulations around surrogacy, as well as industry best practices – for example, reputable surrogacy centers require you to have already had a successful pregnancy to be a surrogate for another family. Leaving it vaguer means less questions.

    6. Temperance*

      I wouldn’t recommend this course of action at work. There are a lot of weird health insurance rules re: surrogacy (namely, your personal insurance benefits don’t cover pregnancy costs, typically, depending on the individual insurer), and I would hate for her to have to deal with more BS while navigating this situation.

      1. A person*

        That’s between her and the health insurance company though; the coworkers aren’t involved in her policy and she can tell them she’s got it covered and is taking no more questions if they pry.

        1. Temperance*

          But not knowing how involved HR is in the health insurance program, I would steer clear.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            That’s between her and HR, though, and should not involve the rest of her coworkers.

            1. JM*

              Additionally, if and when HR got into it, she might be able to provide a brief note from the adoption placement agency that she’s not carrying it for any particular family, just for another family. Or a copy of other paperwork she completed for the agency (with nonessential info redacted).

          2. WhatTheActual*

            Uh, if HR is so over-involved in office gossip I’d be looking for another job.

      2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        Maybe she could start with a private conversation with someone in HR? Tell them you are pregnant, will be giving it up for adoption, and are going to tell everyone at work that you are carrying for another family to prevent any further questions or opinions on the issue. Then you can discuss what kind of leave you want to take afterwards and there is one person who knows the situation if there are any issues with insurance.

        As someone who is pregnant I really think saying you are carrying for another family is your best bet. People I have never talked to before here now want to engage me about it alll the time – and more than one coworker I barely know has taken to calling me Mama or Mommy. People are still going to want to talk to you about your pregnancy and birth experiences, but this should cut back on the baby talk.

        1. TheRedCoat*

          Ugh. Being called Mommy is the number 1 reason that next pregnancy no one will know but my manager and HR for literally as long as possible. Preferably until a week or two before -.-

          1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

            It is the weirdest thing that I did not expect. I was super prepared to fend off belly-touching, which apart from family did not happen, but I was not prepared for the Mama stuff. Although just last week some random lady in Purchasing touched my face (like, cradled it!) and told me I looked tired. And of course my super nose immediately picked up she was a smoker – so the combined touch and smell I made the biggest UGH face, which she did not appear to notice at all. By the time I got my wits together to say something she was gone.

          2. Pomona Sprout*

            I was living in NC when I got pregnant with my daughter. A coworker of mine got pregnant about the same time, and some of the older ladies in our office started calling us their “little mamas.” (As in, when either of us would walk in the door, we’d be greeted with “Hey, there’s one of our little mamas!” It was … special, lol.

    7. AnotherAlison*

      I see this as something I’d only say once she was very sure, and that may not be until delivery. I guess if she kept the baby, you could say the surrogate arrangement fell through, but that opens a lot of questions, too. Or, you just come clean and say you were not sure, invented a cover story to keep things sane, but ultimately decided to keep the baby yourself. Tough spot, for sure.

      1. Clisby*

        I was just coming here to say similar. I don’t see a reason to tell co-workers anything. I kind of like “Oh, it’s complicated” . OP is seriously considering putting the baby up for adoption, but it’s possible she’ll change her mind. She doesn’t owe co-workers any explanation for either choice.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Or any information, of any kind at all. She only needs to talk to her boss/HR about FMLA. The rest is no one’s business period. Personally I would give zero info to coworkers, including Boss with the exception of the afore mentioned FMLA arrangements.

    8. Hills to Die on*

      Adding to the chorus of people who agree with this language. I think it is kinder to you than any other option. Speaking as someone who once kept going on and on about a coworker’s pregnancy, be firm, keep repeating, ‘I prefer not to discuss it at work.’ It’s ok to be a little rude after the 3rd time (ahem) because the person asking is being rude and clueless at that point.

      And also, no judgments and nothing but love to you. I have several friends who are very grateful to their birth mothers for making the choice that they did, because my friends were raised in wonderful, loving homes or are raising beutiful little kids they adore when it might not have otherwise been possible. I wish you all the best and I hope you will come back to give us an update. <3

    9. I Work on a Hellmouth*

      I love “I’m carrying the baby for another family.” It will make it easier to shut any further or future conversations down, and it’s true so you don’t have to worry about anyone prying into which specific family member, why, etc, etc.

      Side note: You’re in a tough/weird spot right now, and you’re doing a great job thinking this through and handling everything. You have all of my empathy. Take care of yourself.

    10. Mike C.*

      Why not just tell people that it’s none of their business? You don’t have an obligation to satisfy everyone’s curiosity.

      1. EmKay*

        Because idiots who push and pry and ask overly personal questions have the unitigated gall to get all huffy and offended when you tell them it’s none of their dang business.

          1. Jaz*

            When I was in third grade, my school had an assembly about bullying. We all practiced saying, “You are making me uncomfortable, and I need you to stop!”

            It’s probably the most valuable skill I ever learned in school.

      2. Annette*

        If only life was as simple as you believe. Especially for a young woman who is pregnant – being perceived as hostile in the workplace = much worse than telling a white lie and THEN shutting down further questions.

      3. Zillah*

        This framing is a little weird; asking about someone’s pregnancy isn’t just about curiosity, it’s often about being friendly and trying to connect with them. “It’s none of your business” can come off as pretty rude in a way that feels unnecessary and also like it’ll give interest air. OP absolutely doesn’t need to talk about it, but I think approaching questions from a less hostile POV would probably be more effective in getting the result she wants.

        1. Josie*

          Yes, I agree. People are just trying to be friendly. I could not care less about babies, but I would politely make small talk…but if shut down, I would shut up, though, of course!

      4. EventPlannerGal*

        Well, if you put a few seconds’ thought into it I’m sure you can figure out why “it’s none of your business” is not an answer that will make the OP’s life easier.

        A few suggestions: it’s a very unusual response to a type of question that is very common, which will draw far more attention to OP’s situation than a lie. It will be perceived as strangely hostile, which it is, and women are often held to higher standards of politeness and niceness so that hostility will likely be extra noticeable. The curious people will be coworkers whose opinions OP does seem to care about in a workplace that she likes. Many of them will be asking out of friendliness or interest in the OP’s life or social nicety, rather than a desire to pry. And so on.

        If people do ask excessively personal, intrusive or rude questions then of course the OP should feel able to shut that down, as should anyone. But in terms of making “the fewest waves possible at work”, which is what she’s explicitly asking about, “none of your business” is a terrible response.

        1. WakeUp!*

          YES!!! It drives me nuts when people (this comment being a prime example) act like all other commenters are constantly overthinking everything and are incapable of communicating clearly, and then their supposedly ultra-logical suggestion actually makes no sense and reveals a real lack of critical thinking about a tricky situation.

      5. TurquoiseCow*

        Because that’s kind of rude? You have to keep working with these people. If I asked someone about their pregnancy (which is a completely normal thing to ask a pregnant woman) and got “it’s none of your business” as a response, I’d be very insulted and put off. It would make working together quite difficult afterward.

        If OP says this to someone in power, it could put her job at risk.

      6. Confused*

        I mean as a first response to someone talking about your pregnancy that’s a little harsh. You could just say “it’s complicated and I’d rather not talk about it.”

    11. Missy*

      The only issue with this is that the LW hasn’t settled on adoption as her final decision, so making people believe the surrogacy thing could lead to more problems if she ends up deciding to parent. (And some people have very strong feelings about potential birthparents who choose to parent which she shouldn’t have to deal with those conversations unless she wants to).

      Even if she makes an adoption plan pre-birth she might still want to avoid the surrogacy stuff, just because she still has the legal right to change her mind and shouldn’t have to have “but what will I tell my co-workers” as one of the reasons to make such a big decision. Something more vague like “I’m not talking about it because we are unsure if the baby will be coming home” will do the same thing (in terms of deflecting) but will make it easier if she does decide to parent. She can always say “I was carrying the child for another family” after giving birth if she decides to place the child for adoption, and both of the “true from a certain point of view” answers work together.

      1. Traveling Teacher*

        “I’m not talking about it because we are unsure if the baby will be coming home”

        I really like this turn of phrase. It leaves the possibility open for the LW to change her mind while also elegantly shutting down most people’s questions. Their minds will likely turn to something being problematic about baby’s health/prognosis and will be less likely to pry (while still remaining “true” for the adoption scenario).

        And, in the case where LW decides to keep the baby, well, we’ve all heard those stories about women being told their pregnancies could be non-viable or very complicated where the baby was born perfectly well in the end.

        1. Glitsy Gus*

          I kind of like that as well because there are any number of reasons why that may be the case, and most of them are extremely private. At the same time, I think it’s up to the OP to decide what she’s comfortable with and just go with that. All of the options that have been discussed will work.

          When it comes to her insurance it really doesn’t even need to concern HR most of the time, and if they do need to be informed that can happen very close to the due date. The only thing she’ll really need to deal with is if her maternity leave is shorter than normal, but even that shouldn’t really be all that big a deal. I would recommend to OP, though, that even if you do decide to give the baby up that you give yourself enough leave time to really be able to recover both physically and mentally. Be really kind to yourself, OP.

        2. Humble Schoolmarm*

          My concern with this is that making an implication that the pregnancy isn’t viable is going to attract a whole other set of intrusive questions. And while it’s all about what you’re comfortable with, OP, and not how your colleagues feel, I would be concerned about stronger reactions if people inferred that the baby died and later found out about the adoption.

          1. SMH RN*

            Yeah first thing I thought when I saw “baby might not be coming home” was that there were expected (possibly fatal) health concerns. That will probably only make people more concerned

            1. words count*

              Second. If you want to avoid drama do not use “Baby might not be coming home.”

    12. Cori Smelker*

      The issue with that is if she changes her mind after the baby is born, the lie reflects badly on the surrogate community. I was a surrogate 6x – carrying 7 children for couples unable to have their own kids. The concept of surrogacy can so often be misconstrued that any negatives that come out of it, impact us. True surrogacy is when you carry a baby that is not genetically linked to you, and by telling someone she is a surrogate, and then keeping the baby, does not reflect well.

      I prefer the “I am carrying for family” is a better option, because if she changes her mind once the baby is born, the impact is less negative.

      My prayers are with the OP – I went through something very similar to her, and found myself pregnant at age 21, in college. Knowing that the father was not interested, I decided to give the baby up for adoption, but somewhere along the way I changed my mind and against my parents’ wishes, even against the advice of my university, I chose to keep my son. It was tough, but it was one of the best decisions I made.

      No matter what the OP decides this is tough.

      1. Starbuck*

        I don’t think she’s at all obligated to be concerned about how her choices will reflect on the reputation of the surrogacy community in her response to this extremely personal issue.

    13. Flash Bristow*

      If you say you’re a surrogate for family, colleagues will likely assume you’re in touch with them. You don’t want to be blindsided by “Merry Christmas! Are you seeing your family over the holidays? How’s the little one doing?”

      I’d only say something if it’s true.

    14. Artemesia*

      I like the ‘carrying the baby for another family’ wording because it is perfectly accurate and it is understandable not to want to discuss the details. That way you don’t have to lie and say you are a surrogate for family or whatever; it is implied.

    15. Sandman*

      This is great unless she changes her mind – not to say that she will, but it’s something that happens and would make explaining that much more difficult.

      1. Indigo a la mode*

        “It’s a little complicated, but I actually ended up bringing the baby home! Her name is Maltharka – want to see a picture?”

    16. pentamom*

      I would think that would require having to create an entire mythical backstory for all the questions that will inevitably follow. Or else, she just shuts down the further inquiries — which she could have done in the first place.

  2. Cathy Gale*

    You have my best wishes and hopes. This is a very difficult situation to be in, so I thank you for sharing your concerns with AAM as you decide what to do. Whatever you decide, my thoughts are with you as you heal.

  3. Audrey Puffins*

    One thing, if you consider waiting until after the birth and then saying “the baby didn’t come home with me” on your return to work, it might sound to the manager as though the baby died, and that could lead to further weirdness. I like the ambiguity of “I’m carrying the baby for another family”, but I always did have a fondness for presenting the truth in a very curated way to avoid unwanted questioning (I have the WEIRDEST conversations with hairdressers because of this).

    Whatever you go with, LW, I expect it’s going to be very hard. You have all my thoughts and best wishes.

    1. Colette*

      Yeah, I’d think the same thing about “the baby didn’t come home with me” – whether before or after the birth. I think it might cause a reaction that the OP won’t want.

    2. Alton*

      I agree that just saying the baby isn’t coming home could imply that it died. Unfortunately, it might also pique people’s curiosity about whether there were factors such as the child being removed by social services or something similar. I’d probably try to avoid framing it as a tragic or unfortunate situation. The OP might experience it like that to some extent, but I think that trying to express the nuances of choosing to give up a child and the mixed feelings that can come with that is probably more personal than the OP would like to get into at work. Since it is a choice the OP may make because it’s the best option for her at this time, I like more neutral language like “I’m having the baby for another family” that’s vague but framed as a decision.

      1. The Bean*

        Yeah “the baby didn’t come home with me” seems unnecessarily dramatic. Carrying for another family doesn’t prompt the same type of questions in someone’s mind and isn’t upsetting to hear, whereas the first would make me think the baby died, there were health issues or OP was considered unfit and I wouldn’t pry but I would wonder and feel concerned for the baby.

      2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        ” Unfortunately, it might also pique people’s curiosity about whether there were factors such as the child being removed by social services or something similar.”

        100%, I’ve noticed that when there’s a void of information, people pick the most salacious possible answer to fill it, then spread it around as if it was fact. Sometimes you have more privacy by sharing more information, if only because it lets you shape the narrative.

        1. eee*

          i agree, I would definitely have the good sense to not ask a bunch of questions if someone said this to me, and would do my best to avoid/shut down any gossiping, but I would be VERY curious if the line was “the baby didn’t come home with me.” I internally would be trying to figure out did the baby die?? did the baby get taken away?? Mostly because I am a curious nosy person who thankfully doesn’t let thoughts translate into behavior, but also because it sounds like something bad happened and you’d want to treat the person very carefully afterwards. “I was carrying for another family” is case closed, some people like to be private, no questions going around in my head.

      3. NotTheSameAaron*

        If I heard that, I would think that there were medical complications with the birth. That sort of answer can lead to embarrassing things like fundraisers and baby gifts, which can be very awkward to shut down or refuse.

    3. OhNo*

      I had the same thought, about people assuming the baby had died if OP uses that particular phrase. Which may or may not be okay with the OP – it’s likely to shut down much of the additional talk, but may be more uncomfortable emotionally.

      The one upside of that phrasing I can see is that it would give you ‘permission’ (not that you’d need it) to be open about grieving at work. Which, again, you may not want or need. But it’s something to consider if you think that’s a likely reaction for you.

      1. Perpal*

        In an ideal world, OP, you could be frank about your plans and be supported. It’s hard to imagine anyone having a problem with adoption, but when it comes to women, sexuality, and babies people in general seem to be oddly opinionated.
        I do like the idea of implying it is a surrogate pregnancy “I’m carrying for another family”; some people might be curious (or even thinking of it themselves) and pry a bit, but overall it should be pretty easy and reasonable to say “oh that’s a little personal” at any requests for unnecessary details*
        *Necessary details being pretty much only “how is this likely to impact your work schedule?”

      2. Perpal*

        sorry that was meant to be a new comment
        I agree the phrasing “the baby didn’t come home with me” sounds more ominous than is perhaps necessary, and may attract a bunch of uncomfortable concerned sympathy

    4. Kate*

      As someone who has a baby not come home with me because of stillbirth, this is where my kids went immediately with the phrasing “the baby is not coming home with me”. The phrasing “I’m carrying the baby for another family” would help prevent fear the baby has a terminal diagnosis.

    5. Guacamole Bob*

      Agreed – “the baby didn’t come home with me” makes it sounds like the baby died.

      How is your workplace generally about boundaries and personal stuff? If people are generally respectful, I think just saying that you’re placing the baby for adoption but prefer not to talk about it at work is a good option. The cryptic workarounds would just make me more confused and uncertain about how to respond or how to act. Someone who volunteered to be a surrogate is going to approach their pregnancy differently than you are, for example, and many people might ask chatty nosy-but-understandable follow up questions about whether you’re a surrogate for a family member or whatever.

      Just telling people about the adoption might serve as kind of a “this person is probably Going Through Some Stuff” flag. Decent people know that this stuff is complicated and hard and no one makes these kinds of decisions lightly, and that you may have family/health/relationship stuff going on in the background that you don’t want to talk about, and will leave you alone about it if you ask them to.

      If your coworkers are not good at boundaries, then probably the more cryptic answers are the way to go. Though I’d still consider telling just your manager if you have a good relationship.

      Best wishes to you, OP.

    6. CheeryO*

      Yes, I understand wanting to be vague, but “the baby didn’t come home with me” 100 percent reads to me as “the baby passed away.” :(

    7. Judy and the Dream of Horses*

      This is an excellent point and I’ll put in another vote of support for the “carrying for another family” explanation. My BIL lost his first son to intense congenital heart defects at 5 months and was never able to bring him home. I can say that even as the almost-aunt (this was during my engagement), I had to field a lot of curiosity at work. My coworkers knew that a nephew was on the way, and even editing to the barest details on the situation led to well-intentioned but ultimately painful questioning. It was awkward and upsetting, and can only be magnified for the parent. Alison’s suggestion is a very smart, curated truth that I hope would save the letter writer a lot of pain.

    8. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I agree with this whole comment. I really like the “carrying for another family” verbiage because it is ambiguous and if people try to pry, you can simply say “I’d prefer not to discuss that.”

      Good luck with whatever you decide, OP!

      1. Hyacinth Bucket (Pronounced Bouquet!)*

        OP, I’m sending you love and support right now. I had very similar life experiences – assaulted multiple times, diagnosed with PTSD and CSD (compulsive sexual behavior). I know that if I had become pregnant at that time I would not have been able to keep the it, because due to a multitude of factors I likely wouldn’t survive the term of the pregnancy. I honor your strength in making this tough decision. I hope you are treated with love and respect for the selfless decision you have made.

        I think there’s a lot of great advice here, so I don’t feel compelled to add, except if I was in your shoes I would use the “carrying for another family” or “giving the child to a family who’s unable to have their own” language, and when pressed for more details would say that I need to respect the privacy of the family and couldn’t disclose any more.

    9. RPCV*

      Yes, this was my thought, too. “The baby didn’t come home with me” will make people think the baby died, and she’ll be getting condolences.

      Also, people may want to throw you a shower or something, so making the situation known ahead of time is a good idea to spare that awkwardness.

      I like the “I’m carrying the baby for another family” language. You can also try telling one or two people you trust, making it clear you’re not really interested in giving details or talking about it, who can spread the word and that might help cut down on the questions.

      1. salvadora*

        This was my thought. People will want to throw showers and talk about baby clothes and names and itty-bitty feetsies.

        If you’re pregnant but make it clear that you aren’t excited to be a parent without referring to why, weird things are going to get assumed and some of those assumptions will go to pretty dark places.

      2. Jenny*

        I agree that “the baby didn’t come home with me” will make people think that the baby died. People may try to offer condolences or sympathy, which I think would be more awkward. I like the statement, “I’m carrying for another family” and I also think that directly saying, “I’m giving the baby up for adoption” is ok. I would hope that people would be polite enough not to make rude comments, but that might not be realistic.

        Would it be helpful if right before you returned from maternity leave to ask someone (like a boss or a close colleague) to tell people that the baby was adopted by another family and that you do not want to talk about it when you return from maternity leave?
        Sending good wishes to you – this is hard and I hope you have support.

    10. irritable vowel*

      I agree that “the baby isn’t coming home with me” is an oddly negative way of phrasing adoption placement (either before or after the birth). I advocate for just factually saying “I’m going to be placing it for adoption.” Anyone who responds negatively to that is a jerk and doesn’t need any further explanation.

      You will also find that this factual information will be distributed through the usual informal conduits of information sharing and soon most people will know without you having to tell everyone individually. I worked with a young woman about 15 years ago who placed a baby for adoption – by the time she was visibly pregnant, it had become known to me that she was going to place the baby for adoption without me ever hearing this from her directly. I was glad to know this so I didn’t put my foot in my mouth.

      1. Perpal*

        Yea it’d be nice if the OP could just say she was planning on adoption, but if they have some reason to worry that would be poorly received, the vaguer phrasing should work!

    11. Noah*

      Yes. It’s also not nice to make people think that the baby has or is going to die.

      The idea here is a good one, but the wording is not.

    12. BananaPants*

      I agree. Unfortunately we have more than one friend who lost a baby to stillbirth at full term or during/shortly after delivery so if I heard a colleague say, “the baby didn’t come home with me”, upon return from maternity leave I’d assume that a tragedy had occurred.

      Hopefully by the time the OP is obviously-showing she will have decided on parenting or adoption – and if it’s the latter I’d recommend Alison’s phrasing of, “I’m carrying a baby for another family.”

    13. crochetaway*

      Yeah, this was my thought as well. I wouldn’t even say it prior to having the baby because my first thought when Alison suggested it was that perhaps it was a non-viable pregnancy. I like the framework of “I’m carrying for another family.” and then deflect from there. Lots of hugs LW through this super tough situation!

    14. cleo*

      I’m a big fan of curated honesty as well.

      If the LW is comfortable with it, saying something like – it was an unplanned pregnancy and I’m planning on adoption / still exploring my options / other emotionally neutral but true statement of your intension. And then ask for what you need (I’d rather focus on work at work etc) and change the subject.

  4. Episkey*

    Unfortunately, there is probably going to be judgment, so I would straight up say(lie) that I’m acting as a surrogate and the baby is for another family. I think (again, unfortunately) people are going to be way less judgmental about that because I feel like as an adult in your mid 20s with a stable job, the thought from society is that you should keep the baby…I feel like people are only understanding of adoption in cases like teen pregnancy or extreme situations.

    1. Jennifer*

      People are judgmental about surrogacy too. Plus it’s not their business. I’d stick with, “I’m really not comfortable discussing my pregnancy at work. Thank you.” Rinse and repeat as needed.

      1. Episkey*

        I don’t think that’s going to be any better — people are (usually) genuinely happy for pregnant women and assume they would like to talk about the upcoming baby, etc — I think that would come off as very odd and cold.

        1. Jennifer*

          There’s no perfect answer here, unfortunately. She can say it in a warm tone, or maybe add, “I appreciate the concern…” at the beginning of the statement, but the reality is that it’s really none of their business. Giving any detail at all opens a Pandora’s Box of questions that will just make things more difficult.

          I’m not trying to be rude here, but I think it’s wrong to classify people who want to keep parts of their lives private as cold or odd. We have a right to do that at work.

          1. Oh So Anon*

            Well, it’s a catch-22. If you’re open about things that people might find uncomfortable or unrelatable they will be apprehensive around you anyway, so being seen as cold or odd for being private isn’t much different. If you don’t have “normal” life experiences in the “normal” way people will be put off by you regardless of how you handle the situation.

          2. Jadelyn*

            It may be wrong to classify people that way on that basis, but the fact remains that it happens, and so it’s a factor that should be discussed in any advice-giving on the subject. Giving advice for the world as we wish it were, not the world as it is, is just likely to backfire.

            1. Jennifer*

              I agree that we can give advice that some people may perceive her that way and how to navigate that, not tell her to give information she may not be comfortable sharing just to head it off. I don’t agree with that at all.

              People could potentially have problems no matter what she chooses to say so to me the priority is making sure that she’s comfortable. It’s wrong that anyone thinks they are entitled to information about someone’s pregnancy and it’s fine to push back against that, granted you do it in a polite way.

        2. Dagny*

          Not to start a wild debate, but people are “genuinely happy” for pregnant women because we live in a society in which birth control usually works, and when it doesn’t, mot women who don’t want to keep their babies have abortions. It is very, very rare to see women with big bellies who do not want their children.

          This is one of the million reasons why MYOB when it comes to other people’s reproduction is the ONLY thing to do.

          1. TootsNYC*

            I was just thinking this morning about how much I hate the “you chose to have children” thing. Because the biological default is pregnancy (or risk/opportunity for).

            You have to actively INTERFERE with biological processes in order to prevent pregnancy; THAT is the choice.

            And of course those efforts sometimes fail.

          2. Jennifer*

            It’s really not all that rare. People just don’t talk about it. There are women walking around with big bellies who are terrified they won’t be able to provide for their baby, who are second-guessing their choice to become a parent, who are afraid their baby will be born in poor health, who don’t think they will be good parents, who don’t even really want kids but gave in to societal pressure to become parents, plus many other situations.

            Not everyone that’s pregnant is happy about it. Let them bring it up.

            1. SpaceySteph*

              Even for 100% wanted babies who look healthy in the scans, some women have really hard pregnancies, have body issues come up around weight/size, have medical conditions exacerbated by pregnancy.
              Some of that can be anticipated but a lot of that takes people by surprise. I know women who had to stop taking mental health medication while pregnant with wanted babies and it was very hard for them, women who were nauseous every day for 9 months (it doesn’t always go away in the second trimester), women who were in constant back/leg pain during pregnancy.
              Its a really dumb default to assume any pregnant lady is excited/happy about it.

              1. Jennifer*

                All of this. Women aren’t just allowed to say, “I love my child but pregnancy REALLY sucked.” They are pressured to say it was all a magical experience like going to Disneyland.

                1. beckysuz*

                  I’ve made it my mission to tell all my pregnant friends how untrue that is. I’ve had three very rough pregnancies, the last of which almost killed me. My mom had seven easy with no problems at all. I just want women to know that though it COULD be a magical nine months of sparkles and unicorns, it might not be and it’s ok to say so. Let’s be more honest about the experience so women who struggle don’t feel so alone

                2. Jennifer*

                  @beckysuz That’s wonderful. I don’t have kids but I try to ask women who have to be honest about their experiences. That will help me make a more informed decision in the future.

                3. Episkey*

                  Oh, I totally had a rough pregnancy and I say it all the time! It def wasn’t a magical experience, and that’s part of the reason I won’t have any more children (and I tell people that too!). I think I’m a little more open in general than the majority of the commentariat on this website, though.

                4. The Rat Catcher*

                  My pregnancies SUCKED, especially the first one. I adore my children and it was great when they kicked but mostly the experience was garbage.

                5. SpaceySteph*

                  It IS a magical experience like going to Disneyland. Sweaty, uncomfortable, exhausting, way overpriced, plus surprise heartburn and/or puking!

                6. Jaz*

                  I love my child with all my heart, but when people ask me, I tell them the cold truth: Pregnancy sucked. Labor sucked. Large portions of parenting an infant/child absolutely suck.

              2. Relly*

                My mom spent most of the third trimester with me covered in rashes. Then during delivery, she hemorrhaged so badly that she nearly bled to death.

                So yeah, I’m the youngest.

            2. Dagny*

              Ambivalence is real and understood. Giving up a healthy baby for adoption is infrequent.

              There are 135,000 adoptions in America every year, of which 15% are American-born infants. (The other 85% are international adoptions or foster adoptions.) By math, about 20,000 American women place their newborns for adoption every year, out of approximately 4 million babies. That is one half of one percent of pregnancies.

              There just aren’t a lot of birth moms out there, and that affects how we socially interact with pregnant women.

              1. Jennifer*

                All I’m saying is that there should be other factors involved in how we interact with pregnant women beyond just whether or not they are planning to give their baby up for adoption. As someone said below, people carry babies they don’t want to term for many reasons.

                1. Perpal*

                  Well it would be a little weird to start off with anything other than happy and supportive noises, in the absence of information to the contrary, neh? Pregnancy and early parenting is vaguely terrifying and I think it’s kind of nice for people to be encouraging as a default? Though of course the caveat is that it’s important not make it weird / second guess reasonable decisions if something unexpected is going on.

            3. TootsNYC*

              It’s [Not being happy about a pregnancy is] really not all that rare. People just don’t talk about it.

              Yeah, you don’t dare say it!

              I can’t even complain about the difficulties of aprenting, certainly not unless it’s a joke!

              I loved a former colleague who used to say, with a very mild level of venom that felt real, “Kids are a pain in the ass!” Then she’d say, “I love mine, but they are a pain in the ass.”
              She’s who I took all my worries and frustrations to.

          3. Annette*

            I’m sorry but I can’t ignore this. People carry pregnancies to term that they don’t want for many reasons. All the time. Your generalization could be true in your social circle but to extrapolate to wider society = unsupportable.

      2. LAC*

        The thing with “I’m really not comfortable discussing my pregnancy at work” and no additional info is that it doesn’t discourage people from asking questions AFTER the baby is born. Without any additional details, people might just think OP is private about health issues. When OP comes back from having the baby, people will inevitably ask how the baby’s doing, if she’s getting any sleep, etc. So while providing zero details during pregnancy will get you through pregnancy without discussing it, it really only forestalls the awkwardness until after OP comes back to work.

        That’s why I lean toward “I’m carrying the baby for another family.” You can then refuse to discuss the situation further–it really is no one else’s business–but it provides some context and will stop most people from innocently asking additional questions.

        1. Jennifer*

          I think they will think she’s just private in general. If not, she can change her statement during the pregnancy to, “I’m going through a lot and I’m not comfortable discussing the baby at work. Thank you for your concern.” Another option would be to have a discreet coworker or manager tell everyone about the adoption and that she doesn’t want to talk about it.

          1. LAC*

            Fair enough! I personally would prefer to only answer questions once, but your approach is better if she doesn’t come to a decision about the adoption prior to starting to show/giving birth since it doesn’t commit her to a definite story.

          2. MsClaw*

            In my experience, it would be really odd to come back from maternity leave and just never discuss your baby at all. There’s private and then there is …. truly bizarre. That would be behavior that is so far outside the social norms that it is likely to get her labeled a weirdo and have an impact on her future prospects.

            I would also vote for ‘I’m carrying for another family’ once you’re sure that’s the route you’re going. It is unusual to hear, and it’s likely to naturally push people not to ask too many follow-ups. And anyone who does, you could politely push back and that you’re not at liberty to discuss the details.

            1. Jennifer*

              It would be strange to come back from leave and never mention a baby, true. And parents tend to bring up their kids a lot, at least some of them do, and may try and include her in the conversation. After she returns from leave, I think getting a discreet person to spread the word is the best option. Telling people she carried for another family still opens her up to criticism.

              1. MsClaw*

                I don’t think there’s any way to avoid criticism. (Frankly, ain’t no way for any woman who is/was pregnant to avoid criticism from buttinskis who have *opinions* she never asked for.) But eventually people will wonder if she is pregnant, and what happened to the baby when she comes back, and some people will consider it none of there business but a lot of people will wonder. If this were a joe job, you could probably be very tight-lipped and figure people need to just mind their knitting. But if this is a job she wants to become a career and/or generate future references and networking, etc, she needs an approach that preserves as much privacy as possible while also not coming off as abnormally stand-offish.

                This whole discussion really underlines why a lot of women don’t go this route. Kudos to the OP, because this is a hard row to hoe.

                1. Jennifer*

                  The ideal situation is that she never obviously shows or is able to hide it. She could deny being pregnant if someone asks if she wants to go that route. If she’s very obviously showing, that would be strange, but if she never does, I think that’s the best outcome. She could say she’s on medical leave when she takes off to have the baby.

                2. Jasnah*

                  Honestly I think people who would criticize someone for choosing to give their baby up for adoption have overstepped social norms and kindness so far that I don’t think it’s even worthwhile preparing to deal with them. Just as we aren’t considering what OP could say if a coworker offers to adopt the baby themselves, or if HR starts asking for evidence that the baby is really hers, or any number of truly crazy things to which OP could simply reply, “Wow, absolutely not, how dare you.”

        2. pentamom*

          Perhaps I’m extrapolating with not enough information, but my sense is that when it comes down to it, she won’t have too much of a problem saying afterward, “I decided to place the baby for adoption.” It might not be easy, but it will certainly be the most uncomplicated answer.

          It’s all those long months of being the pregnant woman-you-can’t-say-normal-pregnant-woman-things-to that she’s anticipating as difficult. Most people assume, and percentagewise it’s a fair assumption, that a visibly pregnant woman is nesting and planning for a future with a child. Whether they should speak on that presumption is not terribly relevant, since they do.

          So the awkwardness comes in not so much in “what happens to the baby” as “how do you relate to a pregnant woman with whom you can’t have normal pregnant woman conversations,” or, on her end, “how do I/should I tell my co-workers they can’t have these normal conversations and if not, how should I react when they start them?”

    2. Foreign Octopus*

      Honestly, I agree.

      Yes, it opens the conversation up to surrogacy but that’s something that can be navigated because it’s almost certain that “well-meaning” people will try to persuade you otherwise if they know the truth and that’s not something anyone should have to deal with.

    3. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      I’d worry about lying because lying is hard. You have to own it and OP is under enough stress and pressure. The truth is out. So real life leaves her somewhere in between. Also, the more you share, the more people feel entitled to know. Question asked and answered. “I’m having a baby for another family. It was a difficult decision, but I’ve committed to it and that’s where I am now.”

      1. lawyer*

        Yeah, in situations were you don’t want to discuss something, the simplest explanation is the best. People have a LOT of views about surrogacy. They have a LOT of views about adoption. An explanation that doesn’t provide a lot of specifics won’t satisfy nosy people, but nosy people are never going to be satisfied anyway, and it can help spare the OP someone’s well-meaning desire to talk about how their BFF John and his husband Bill are using a surrogate, and how cool that you want to do that, and did you work with an agency, and will you see the baby, and is that even legal in this state? Etc. etc. etc.

        1. PJs of Steven Tyler*

          This is a really great point, and taken with the comment that saying you’re carrying the baby for another family might cause insurance issues, it creates the notion in my mind that your best bet is keeping it as simple as possible. Say you don’t want to discuss your pregnancy at work, don’t say anything about the baby’s future, and I personally might strongly consider not saying much of anything until I am showing and hoping that most people will take the tack that they shouldn’t ask if you are pregnant if you haven’t said that you are. (I know that many people DO ask without being told, but maybe the folks in your office will be really good about not asking personal questions about your body.) Best of luck and know that we are all rooting for you :)

          1. blackcat*

            +1 to avoiding surrogacy discussions.
            In looking over my insurance once, I saw that my health insurance explicitly excludes maternity coverage for surrogate pregnancies. I don’t know if that’s legal or not, but I’d be worried about causing problems with insurance if your benefits person hears.

            1. EMW*

              Ok, but that’s cleared up with a simple CONFIDENTIAL discussion with your insurance provider/benefits person. It doesn’t matter if that’s what people assume. It’s not the case, and therefore you’re at no risk at not being covered.

              1. salvadora*

                That may be true when surrogacy is arranged through an agency, but that’s hardly the only way someone becomes a surrogate.

              2. Starbuck*

                I think the legality of paying for surrogacy arrangements varies by state (and country).

      2. Episkey*

        If people start asking a ton of questions, she can always say that she can’t really discuss it due to privacy issues and the agreement she signed.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I like this!

          And for the insurance issues, work that out w/ HR and insist they keep mum. Should someone bring it up, say, “I’ve worked out everything with HR and the insurance, and I did say I don’t want to discuss this at work–didn’t it?”

          If someone says, “How did you find out about surrogacy,” maybe say, “Google can help you satisfy your curiosity, I would imagine. Now, about that Smith report…”

      3. Mimi Me*

        Agreed. I know that just hearing “I’m a surrogate for another family” would give me so many questions (How did you decide to do this? Was the process hard? Was there a financial compensation? just to name a few). I wouldn’t ask them despite thinking them, but not everyone has a strong filter between brain and mouth. I think Hey Karma has a great response with “I’m having a baby for another family. It was a difficult decision, but I’ve committed to it and that’s where I am now.” At that point, if there were follow up questions, you can push back with “I’m respecting the privacy of all involved and not discussing this further. I know you understand.”

        1. TootsNYC*

          and if someone asks questions about the process, laugh in a friendly way and say, “Let me google that for you….” with smile. To indicate that they don’t need YOU to answer questions about how this works.

        2. Pommette!*

          My main concern about using the surrogacy story would be that people who have been or have worked with surrogates, or are considering becoming surrogates themselves, might want to engage OP on the topic. And it could attract the jerks who think that they get a say in other people’s reproductive lives, who think that surrogacy is wrong/wonderful for X, Y, or Z reason, and who’ll want to tell the OP about their feelings.

          Hey Karma’s response allows the OP to be simultaneously very vague about the details of her pregnancy and plans, and very clear about what the she needs from co-workers.

    4. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      Honestly, once there’s an unwanted pregnancy, people are going to be nosy and judgmental about ANY of the options – saying it’s surrogacy just invites a different kind of judgy-ness. I’d keep it vague and refuse to give any details.

      And, OP… don’t let others make you feel pressured to choose any particular option with the pregnancy. This is an incredibly tough situation, and you need to choose the path that’s right for you, whatever that entails.

      1. Move Over Thrawn - Florian Munteanu is BIGGER than you!*

        I’m reminded of the epic Army Wives scene from years back, one of the wives was being a surrogate, and everyone was being gosspipy and nosy, etc. So she stands up in front of the big crowd of women, with the microphone, tells them all what she’s doing and why, and then says “have at it” with the gossip session.

        1. Violet*

          Parenthood episode 3×01 shows a young woman in the workplace planning to place a baby for adoption while visibly pregnant and having to have the “it’s hard for me because I’m not keeping it so I’d rather not talk about it” conversation for drama’s sake. In the US it’s available to be watched on Netflix. Of course it’s dramatic television so the main character literally asks to adopt this woman’s baby in the next episode which is ridiculous and hopefully would never happen in real life. Episode 1×03 of Everwood also shows the visibly pregnant surrogate fielding the shocked reactions of customers frequenting her diner workplace. It’s not an easy thing to carry a baby till term and have to deal with society/coworkers etc having opinions on it because you’re visibly pregnant.

          I’d consider it like other visible medical situations you might not want to talk about though, or like a divorce you might not want to talk about because it’s too painful even if it meant you decided to change your last name back to your maiden name or something to make it really “obvious” to your co-workers that something had changed in your life. Respectful co-workers will avoid gossiping much, will not pester you about sensitive topics, will follow your cue based on tone of voice of words you say after the initial comment or question. If they say congratulations you can thank them simply and curtly until you decide and after you no longer are the guardian of the child you can simply and matter of factly tell people “I placed the baby for adoption.” If they seem to keep wanting to talk about it you can cut them off and explain you’d rather not talk about it further and thank them in advance for being understanding.

          There is obviously no one right answer but hopefully some of the advice on this page helps.

    5. Joielle*

      My only concern about implying it’s a surrogate pregnancy is that in some states, a person has to have already had a child before they can be a surrogate. I’d worry about inadvertently causing more drama – I don’t think anyone would straight up ask the OP about having had a kid before, but they might wonder or gossip. BUT, I’m particularly familiar with surrogacy laws through my work so maybe most people wouldn’t know that?

      1. Ali G*

        What? I don’t think most people would know that because it sounds…ridiculous? So if I never want to have a baby of my own, I can’t carry one for someone else? What’s the reasoning for that?
        Sorry, this is probably too much for this thread, but maybe it’s just safe to say most people wouldn’t know that.

        1. Good luck!*

          It’s actually very common for it to be a requirement for surrogates to have already had children. That was on my mind as well, but I figured people would be unlikely to know/ask.

        2. Guacamole Bob*

          I think those laws usually apply to paid surrogacy? In a paid surrogacy arrangement everyone wants to be sure that the person can get pregnant and has relatively easy and uncomplicated pregnancies. There’s never a guarantee, but a prior pregnancy can provide good information. And you want the surrogate to have a clear sense of what’s being asked of them physically and emotionally and a better chance of understanding the emotional complexities of being pregnant for someone else.

          I don’t think this applies to family.

          1. sunny-dee*

            It also is so the surrogate doesn’t get attached to the baby — if she already has kids, her family is complete. If it’s a first pregnancy, she may not want to give the child up.

        3. Legal Beagle*

          I think it’s primarily for health reasons – knowing that your body can handle pregnancy and childbirth – and also being more prepared for the psychological/emotional impact. I’m not saying it’s entirely logical, but it is a common requirement. However, this is probably not widely known. And, if people ask nosy questions about the presumed surrogacy, OP can politely say, “I’d rather keep the details private, thanks.”

        4. BananaPants*

          This is common for gestational surrogates – many obstetric complications become more severe or risky with successive pregnancies, and you really want to avoid choosing a surrogate who might be susceptible to preterm labor or preeclampsia. It’s for the well-being of both the surrogate (who’s risking her health and life in the process) and the baby.

      2. TPPD*

        I believe this requirement is not codified in law, though it is a common surrogacy agency and reproductive clinic requirement. In the unlikely event that she is asked about this, OP can simply state that she prefers not to discuss personal issues at work. No one has a right to know details about how families are made or how others may help families grow (which is what OP would be doing).

      3. FaintlyMacabre*

        I had a friend carry a child for her friends and she’d never been previously pregnant. I imagine rules are less stringent if you are not going through an actual agency.

  5. Momofadoptedangel*

    As someone who has placed a child for adoption I can tell you, at the very best, that people tend to think it is a wonderful thing and will praise you. Of course, not all, but most. A good script either way is “I decided to bless a family who cannot naturally conceive with a child”….and let people assume what that means.

    Of course, not everyone was wonderful. A nurse in the hospital I delivered at was fired and had her license revoked for trying to pressure me to not give my child up for adoption and pushing her religious reasons on me.

    I just want you to know that as someone who has been there I think you will see more support than you might imagine.

    1. TootsNYC*

      This is my thought as well. I’m just thinking of all the people who currently work in my office, and how they would react.

      I think anybody who had a negative reaction, or felt weird about it (and I can’t imagine who among them it would be, based on what I know of them), would feel great pressure to just zip it.

      Of course, in the world, there may be one or two, like that nurse. But if (when?) it happens, try to see them as an extreme outlier and instead focus on those around you who are supportive.

      (Also note: Some of us who are internally very supportive will not be gushy about it, because we think it would be intrusive and we have better manners than that.)

    2. Shirley Keeldar*

      I’m appalled to hear that happened to you at the hospital, and would like to leap through the internet and drag that nurse away from you. How dare she! Please accept some belated sympathy from an internet stranger.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        Also appalled, but glad that there were real consequences for the nurse’s actions. I have to wonder if it wasn’t the first time.

    3. Momofadoptedangel*

      Thanks for the replies all. Luckily I was confident and happy with my decision but she really could have impacted a lot of people if I wasn’t so strong at that time. I know I was lucky to provide a very wonderful family with a child. Now that we are trying to have kids we look forward to adopting to give another child a loving home. She is 16 now (WOW I am old) and has a wonderful life.

      If someone makes her feel bad about it then that just proves a lot about THEM not her. How anyone could think negatively of someone giving a child a loving home is beyond my comprehension.

    4. Hills to Die on*

      Good grief – unbelievable. I’m so sorry that happened to you. I”m glad they addressed it.

    5. A Conservative Christian viewpoint*

      Removed. Comments for or against abortion are not appropriate here.

      1. Shad*

        I just want to thank you, Allison, for keeping that level of controversy to a minimum (came here after the comment was removed).

    6. gmg22*

      A friend adopted both her sons as newborns, and in their younger son’s case his birth mother invited them to the hospital so they could meet her and baby immediately after the birth. That was a special moment for friend and her husband — but it was dampened by the dismissive, hurtful manner in which some hospital staff treated the birth mom. They did the best they could to compensate for that and intervene when necessary, but it was still hard. The lack of compassion and lack of professionalism makes me grit my teeth … really glad to hear that there were consequences for the person who did this to you.

      1. Momofadoptedangel*

        That’s awful. I included the parents completely. Even telling dad it’s ok to see what’s going on I’m beyond being embarassed after 39 hours of labor. Ha. He cut the cord and they were there for all of it. Brought me food after.

        They did give me the last day alone with her. I felt the hospital was really supportive all around to all of us, minus that one bad apple. I could tell the parents were trying hard not to overstep but to me that was their child being born so they were as important as I was.

        1. Former Employee*

          It sounds like everyone who mattered behaved in an exemplary fashion.

          So happy it all worked out for you, your baby and the adoptive parents.

          1. Momofadoptedangel*

            Thank you. She is gorgeous (she clearly didn’t get my thin hair or pale skin) and travels the World among many other wonderful opportunities she has thanks to them.

  6. High school teacher*

    Sending love to you, OP. You’re in a difficult spot. I think Alison’s advice to not mention it until your plans are set is good advice– and I really like her language of “I’m carrying the baby for another family, but I’d rather not talk about it at work” as a neutral statement. (“The baby isn’t coming home with me” would confuse me and probably prompt follow up questions–I think I might assume that the fetus/baby was ill or something, and want to be sympathetic?)

    1. Mimi Me*

      “The baby isn’t coming home with me” would confuse me and probably prompt follow up questions–I think I might assume that the fetus/baby was ill or something, and want to be sympathetic?


    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I like the “I’m carrying the baby for another family” language too.

      When I was single and pregnant (by choice) and wanted to dislodge folks from the usual conversational path, I had my friend/ally at work say “It’s a welcome child.” That kept the noses out of my business, and basically left nowhere for the inquirer to go except to ask the same original nosy question. Which could be answered with the same bright, cheery and nonspecific answer.

  7. Jennifer*

    My dear, I am so very sorry for all the pain you have experienced. You have gone through more than anyone ever should. I hope the counseling helps. I can tell you that that though experiences like this do change you, you can come out on the other side. Sending lots of love and light your way, and hugs and kisses if you want them.

    As far as your question, I would keep it to, “I’m going through a lot and not really comfortable discussing my pregnancy at work.” I wouldn’t tell anyone about the adoption. If you can get through the entire pregnancy without showing and never have to mention it at all, that would be ideal. But if you do start to show and people ask questions, that’s what I would stick with. The less information the better. If they keep pressing, say, “I’d rather not discuss it. Thanks.” The reason why is people have a LOT of opinions about adoption, not all of them favorable, it’s none of their business, and you don’t need their criticism right now.

    Maternity leave, just stick to the logistics. The amount of time off you’ll need. Use Alison’s script if they press for more info.

    Also, talk to the adoption agency about counseling specifically for birth mothers.

    Again, best wishes, love, light, hugs, kisses, and comfort.

    1. Mimi Me*

      I agree with most of this. I do think that someone (manager, HR, etc) needs to know that this isn’t a typical pregnancy. I have been to too many “surprise” showers at work to think that some well-meaning co-worker isn’t going to try to spring something similar on the LW. If someone knows then they can shut that down ahead of time.

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        This is a very, very good point.

        I hadn’t even considered the baby shower and everything that goes with being pregnant in our culture. Definitely loop someone in who’s in a position of authority to shut this down if anyone brings it up. Tell them to say that “OP really doesn’t want anything because she wants to keep this private/personal reasons/superstitions etc.” Whatever it takes to shut this down.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        That’s true, but I also think it’s ok for OP to wait until late into the pregnancy (or when/if she shows) to alert HR. I’m thinking end of the second trimester, assuming that’s how everything proceeds.

      3. Cacwgrl*

        Yes, 100%, please let someone (ideally HR) know so they can help you manage expectations. I work in a fairly close workgroup and anyone who is engaged or having a baby – male or female – gets a very nicely planned shower or gift, unless they ask for that not to be done. It’s not because we have to, it’s a tradition because we truly are happy for our coworker. We have had a surrogate mother in our group as well and she ended up getting more of a pamper yourself gift just before she delivered. We’re trained enough to know we can’t let religion in the workplace, so IDK if anyone had strong feelings, but she was very well supported her, as was her husband in his work group that is completely unrelated to ours. The whole point is, I would definitely let someone know to help you avoid the potential stress of something like that happening if you don’t want that.

    2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      Also – other people will not notice you showing as soon as you notice you showing. You will think it is crazy obvious and everyone must know – but nope, no one will really notice, and if you aren’t recently married (or a celebrity, poor celebrities) no one will really be looking for it. So don’t feel like you have to announce anything before you are totally ready to.

      1. Jennifer*

        That’s true. There are many times when I suspected someone was pregnant but it could also have only been weight gain. I most definitely didn’t say anything. The last thing you want to do is ask someone if they’re pregnant when they aren’t.

        1. ElspethGC*

          I joke that my bloating after a big meal makes me look three months pregnant, but seriously, if someone who hasn’t seen me in a while saw me walking out of a Thai restaurant in a tight dress, I wouldn’t be surprised if they had to do a brief ‘Is she pregnant or has she just eaten too much?’ calculation. (Especially since I’m usually touching my stomach the whole time because I’ve eaten too much and have indigestion.)

          Most polite people won’t even bring it up in conversation until it’s *really* obvious that weight gain/bloating isn’t the case. That gives you a good few months to decide on what you want to say, more than just the recommended three months that people use for wanted/intended pregnancies.

    3. TootsNYC*

      ooh, I do like that “I’m going through a lot and I don’t want to discuss it at work” if there comes a time period when she doesn’t have a solid decision yet.

    4. Sandman*

      I agree. I really think that there isn’t any easy path here, and that honest-but-vague will serve the OP in the long run much better than a lie that could end up complicating things even more in the long run. Decent people will understand to give you space if you mention that it’s a difficult situation. Much love to you, OP. This is tough.

  8. That Girl From Quinn's House*

    I’m so sorry you’re in this situation!

    My thought would be do handle it the way someone in the public eye would, a single “press release” style verbal request or group email, saying “This is what’s going on, I would prefer privacy so please respect that.” Then, as insurance, dust off your resume and start looking for a new job. That way, if your request for privacy is not respected, you have a head start on finding an exit once you’re ready.

    Good luck!

    1. Shirley Keeldar*

      The idea of handling the announcement via e-mail so you can clearly lay out what you need is a good one. Another thing you might consider is asking your boss, if you trust her, to run interference for you, telling everybody what you want them to know and enforcing that you want privacy around this and are entitled to that.

      On a more personal note, I wanted to add that I’m an adoptive mother, and I so very sorry that you feel you have to brace yourself for judgment or disapproval even when asking for advice and help. That just breaks my heart. You deserve nothing but support and care while you deal with all that’s happened and make the choice that works for you and your child. If it helps at all, please know that although I’m not in touch with my daughter’s birth mother, I think of her often and honor her grief and her courage and her dedication to taking care of her baby the best she possibly could.

    2. Murphy*

      I was thinking this too. When you’re visibly pregnant, everyone thinks it’s their business, so it might be good to hea off some of that

    3. WakeRed*

      I love this idea and I think if I were in this situation, thinking of my responses like a press release (a la a royal or celeb) would help me stick to my talking points and also have some sense of humor about it. OP, I am rooting for you and for this little one on whatever route your paths take. You’re doing a brave thing. Love and light to you.

  9. Foreign Octopus*

    I’m so sorry that you’re in this situation, OP.

    I would like to second Alison’s advice that you say you’re carrying the baby for another family. This is true and it won’t be a lie as you are doing this. It should hopefully mitigate any questions but people are very, very nosey, particularly when it comes to babies and pregnant women. Decide now how much you want to share with people and then stick to it.

    You don’t owe them any explanation of your choices (although they may believe that). Treat it with the clear understanding that it’s your business and you don’t want to discuss it. If there is anyone in the office that you’re close to, maybe get them to act as a sort of spokesperson both pre and post-birth so that you can avoid most of the questions that will be heading your way. Obviously, only tell them as much as you’re comfortable with.

    It might be helpful to see if there’s anyone else who has also been through something like this. I’m sure your doctor must have some information about groups for birth mothers where you can talk through your feelings and plans on how to deal with things at work. It’ll also help in you not knowing that you’re not alone.

    This is a hugely difficult decision and I admire you for the grace and courage that you’re showing right now.

    All the luck in the world.

    1. your favorite person*

      I agree with finding a ‘spokesperson’ if you want to be more transparent (although I can totally see, understand and respect just coming up with a white lie). When my co-worker got divorced, she asked me and a couple others to tell our departments so she didn’t have to share the news over and over again. She asked me over email and then I told the others in person, specifically because there was an event that spouses would normally attend together.
      You don’t even need to give the ‘spokesperson’ all the details, it could be, “I am pregnant and I will not be keeping the baby. I am not interested in talking about the situation so if you could share this information and ask others not to discuss it, I would appreciate your help.”

      1. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

        Sometimes this spokesperson role is something HR can help with too. I had a friend whose workplace had someone who was undergoing gender corrective surgery and the HR rep and their manager gathered the department together to say “so-and-so has been on leave, when they come back they will be called Jane, they should be referred to with these pronouns, we will have cake the first Friday they are back onsite..any questions?” And it worked perfectly. Be truthful with HR to ensure insurance is not an issue, and then have them help with some appropriate and limited phrasing, and then they can also help police this in the background if there are busybodies running their mouths.

  10. Emi.*

    Internet hugs to you, OP.

    I would avoid just saying that the baby didn’t come home with you, because then I think people will think he/she died. Even if you say it before the birth, to me (caveat that I have no personal experience here; I’m just thinking about how it would sound to me if I were one of your coworkers) it sounds sort of euphemistic in a hush-hush, mysterious, taboo way, whereas “I decided to place the child for adoption” or “I have an adoption plan in place” is more straightforward, which I think makes it easier to end questioning after that.

  11. Facepalm*

    I would go with the surrogacy story as well. If you mention that the baby will be adopted, there is always the possibility that a coworker with no boundaries or a lot of desperation might try to pressure you to let them adopt the baby, which would add an additonal incredible layer of stress and awfulness to this.

    Wishing you a healthy pregnancy and a lot of love and kindness

    1. MistOrMister*

      I didn’t think about a coworker potentially trying to force OP to let them be the adopter. I can’t imagine anyone behaving in that manner, but I don’t doubt that there is someone out there who would do that sort of thing. Which is just awful.

      I also like saying she’s carrying for another family. It’s the truth and it makes it sound as if the details have already been ironed out. Which would hopefully keep people from being too nosy.

      Whatever you decide OP, good luck!!

      1. facepalm*

        Childlessness can make people do desperate things. And for a person who wants a baby and might be in the middle of very expensive solutions to try to get one, the arival of a young, pregnant coworker who is planning placing her child for adoption might seem like a miracle. “You have a baby and we’ve been on the list for 5 years! It’s meant to be! Just take a look at our homestudy/website/adoption profile/etc.” I could see this happening in a heartbeat.

      1. Belle8bete*

        To be fair, I have a friend who got pregnant young and wanted to give up the baby for adoption. A nurse at the clinic had a family member in another state who were trying to adopt. It worked out perfectly and my friend knew where the child ended up. It’s not always bad to find someone through someone you know.

        1. Jennifer*

          That’s true, but it doesn’t seem that’s what the OP is looking for. That would definitely be boundary-crossing at work.

        2. facepalm*

          But not at work. I can’t imagine seeing and having to interact at a professional level for hours every day with the person raising your child because it’s your coworker. Do you have to avoid their desk because seeing their casual family photos is too hard? Do they have to make sure not to discuss their family life or compare cute child stories with their other parent coworker friend if you’re in earshot? Do you hide out in the breakroom when they bring the new baby in to ooh and aah over? I can’t imagine what a recipe for disaster this would be, and all the emotions and huge feelings that would happen.

          1. Jennifer*

            Or coming in and complaining about the baby keeping them up at night or misbehaving when they’re older, depending on how long the OP stays with the company. Talk about uncomfortable. A lot of people won’t even date people they work with to avoid awkwardness. Giving them a literal child is whole ‘nother level.

    2. Bostonian*

      At first I thought this was a really unlikely possibility, but after reading AAM for years, I actually don’t think I would be too surprised by reading a “My coworker wants to adopt my baby” letter.

    3. gmg22*

      “I’m working with an agency, but thanks for the kind thought” might work if such a (pushy, boundary-crossing) offer is made regardless. Repeat ad nauseam.

    4. reminded of a thing*

      Great point about the potential for being pressured.

      Quick anecdote: not too long ago, in a different community where I lurk, a woman shared an experience that is a perfect example of what you’re referring to.

      She had become unexpectedly pregnant, and decided very early on that she didn’t want to continue the pregnancy. Her “friend” at work had somehow learned of her pregnancy (I forget how exactly), and wrote her a super long and emotional letter BEGGING her to continue the pregnancy and allow her to adopt the baby. It was so bizarre and… offensive. Just thinking about it now makes me cringe a little. Gah. People like this (no boundaries even surrounding such a sensitive personal subject) exist!

    5. pentamom*

      That seems better handled with, “Thanks I’m already in the process of arranging the adoption” than making up a story. The problem with stories, apart from the morality of lying question, is that you have to stick to them and they tend to grow.

  12. Jennifer*

    This is also a reminder that other people’s pregnancies are no one’s business and are not always happy news for people. I know someone right now that may be carrying a child that will be born with some severe disabilities, they aren’t sure just yet, and has to deal with these intrusive questions wherever she goes now that she’s showing.

    Stop initiating conversations with people about their pregnancies. Let them bring it up to you. If they haven’t, there might be a reason why. In short, shut it.

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      Pregnancies do tend to attract a lot of attention. I don’t like being touched at the best of times, I couldn’t imagine having strangers come up to me with their hands outstretched when I’m 8 months pregnant, hot, pained, and tired.

      Let alone the questions they’d come up with.

    2. Bunny Girl*

      This so much. Don’t ask people about what’s going on with their bodies. Like ever. I never ask anyone any questions about their pregnancy. First of all, I’m afraid they would say What I’m not pregnant. But that person could have not wanted the pregnancy, or the fetus could have severe disabilities or not survive or whatever else. I also think it would be hypocritical of me because I always say stop asking people about their plans or lack of plans for children.

    3. salvadora*

      Right–if someone is pregnant and excited to share, that person will share, I promise.

      It’s not like a new haircut–did he notice? If he noticed but didn’t say anything, does he think it looks horrible? This is: he almost certainly noticed but doesn’t think he should initiate discussion which is totally cool, and there’s no reason to think he wouldn’t want to talk about it if I bring up the subject.

    4. RachelM*

      + a million

      At my previous job, one of my co-workers experienced one of the biggest tragedies I’d ever heard of with his wife’s pregnancy. I sat next to the communal kitchen and as she was nearing her due date people would ask, sometimes several times a day, and he’d explain really patiently again that there had been a tragedy. (I’m not sure why his boss didn’t tell people not to do this, maybe the co-worker asked him not to – I choose that generous interpretation, fully realizing that people are just not great at difficult situations.)

    5. monday*

      My friend asked a coworker’s wife at the Christmas party (he knew she had been pregnant) when her due date was and she said “Four months ago” and he felt like an ass. Luckily she thought it was funny.

      I’m teaching my daughter that we don’t comment on other people’s bodies at all, I can get into finesse and time and place when she’s older.

    6. Katie the Fed*

      Yeah I had the job a couple years ago of spreading the word that a coworker’s expected child was going to have severe disabilities and she specifically did NOT want people fussing over her with sympathy, prayers, or asking about the prognosis. It was actually a really effective way to ward off any unhelpful comments.

  13. AnonEMoose*

    I don’t have real advice to offer, OP. I just want to offer a big hug if that’s something you would want. You’re in a very difficult situation, and I have no idea what I would do in your shoes. And you’re right that, no matter what you decide to do, people are going to have opinions about it – and may choose to be obnoxious about expressing them.

    In a way, maybe that can be a source of strength for you – no matter what you do or do not do in life, some people will take issue with it. And that’s about them, not about you. Maybe some of them really would choose differently – and if it were them, they’d get to decide. But it’s not them, it’s you, so it’s your choice, not theirs.

    All you can do is make the best decision you can at the time, with the information you have. And no matter what others say…you are the only one qualified to decide how you want to proceed in this situation. It’s your life, and your body, and your future. So it’s your choice and no one else’s. I wish you peace, strength, and all the very best no matter what you ultimately decide.

    1. Bostonian*

      This is really good advice. I actually just gave very similar advice to my sister when she needed to break some news to our dad.

      No matter what you say/do, there’s going to be someone who has an OPINION about it. There can be comfort in knowing that even if you mess up and don’t do/say the “perfectly right” thing, the result will be the same. But to whoever is judging you, that’s 100% on them.

  14. bunniferous*

    Best wishes to the OP for what has to be a very difficult decision to make. My recommendation is to figure out who you feel might be the most supportive and discreet person at work and enlist their help if you feel others opinions might get a little hard to deal with. I hope your pregnancy is easy and you are able to make the best decision both for you and the baby, whatever that may be.

    1. CheeryO*

      Yes, I had a similar thought. I have one coworker who is a superstar when it comes to spreading delicate news because she’s super outgoing and friendly, but not in a gossip-y way, and she knows how to be discreet. I’d have someone like that either send an all-office email, or email a smaller group of trusted coworkers and ask them to quietly spread the news – whatever seems more normal for your office. They can just let people know that you’ve decided to give the baby up for adoption and would prefer privacy at work. No reasonable person will push it past that, and I bet you’ll get a lot of quiet love and support back.

      That said, it’s really up to you, OP – you’re entitled to be more vague if that makes you comfortable. I just think that people are going to want to talk about the pregnancy, so it may be best to get out ahead of it as soon as you’re sure about your decision.

      1. Hilary Flammond*

        This would be my approach too. I hate how intrusive and entitled people get around pregnant women! Back off, people….
        Thinking of you, OP and wishing you well – this is truly a tough situation.

  15. TootsNYC*

    just musing…

    I wonder if one of the benefits of the old system of sending unmarried pregnant women off to stay with an “aunt” once they started showing is that they didn’t have to face this problem.

    And even when the woman returned without the baby, because the pregnancy was not officially “known,” it wasn’t talked about. At least not by those not intimate with her, and not by polite people. (She may have felt really isolated…)

    1. pugsnbourbon*

      There is an excellent book on that called The Girls Who Went Away by Ann Fessler. While it seems like “visiting relatives for the summer” was a way to escape stigma, it actually was incredibly harmful for these women to have their pregnancies and experiences swept under the rug. It was isolating, as you mentioned, and they’ve had to live with that trauma without being able to talk about it. I know you meant well with that comment, but it was truly awful for most of the women who experienced it.

      1. Oh So Anon*

        It’s isolating, but hiding trauma allows you to live a more socially normal life than having people know that you’ve had something bad happen to you and have them associate that with you forever. Sadly, it’s close to impossible for many people to perceive people who have ever discussed their traumas as being anything but boring, self-involved, humourless…it overshadows everything else the person could be.

        1. gmg22*

          “Socially normal” and personally normal aren’t always the same thing. In fact, all too often they aren’t. And the old system in which adoptions were almost always “closed” left many adults who were placed as infants with a lot of questions that couldn’t be answered. Closed adoption still exists in the US, but it’s more common for adoptees to be able to obtain info about their birth parents once they turn 18 (if not before), so they can reach out to them if they wish to. Not everyone wants to make this connection on either end and no one is obliged to, but having the option strikes me as a lot more psychologically healthy than mandating it being hidden forever. (For one thing, DNA testing increasingly means it can’t truly be hidden forever.)

      2. TexanInExile*

        I was just going to mention that book. It’s heartbreaking. So many of the young women wanted to keep their babies. So many of them have had awful lives ever since.

      3. Karma*

        My partner’s birth mother was forced to give him up for adoption after being sent to stay in the city for the duration of her pregnancy. She was 16 and from a country town.
        He never knew the extent of her trauma or that she begged the nurses to let her keep him until she told me about it.
        Luckily he was adopted by wonderful people so he had a good childhood and she doesn’t have any regrets about that. Once he was old enough his birth mother was able to establish a relationship with him but I can’t imagine how painful those years between his birth and regaining contact with him must have been.
        I know it’s not unique to my country but there were serious issues with forced adoption here for a period of time as well as the forced removal of indigenous children and it’s a stain upon our history.

    2. Headachey*

      They weren’t sent off to stay with nice, kindly, storybook aunts. Many were sent to families through religiious charities, and treated as unpaid domestic labor, subject to great judgment from those families and communities, and expected to be nothing but grateful for the “kindness.” My mother was one of these women – she was given no choice about going or where she went, or even about keeping the baby of giving her up. It was a brutal system and had no benefits to anyoned except the people who adopted the children of these exploited women.

    3. Annette*

      Depends what you consider a benefit. The reasons and brutality behind this practice = extensively documented.

    4. ThursdaysGeek*

      My cousin was sent to stay with my parents when I was a baby. She was isolated, hurt for many years, because she could only talk about it with my family – no-one else was supposed to know. It wasn’t the best option.

      My sister’s birth mother was also forced to give up her baby. I gained a sister, so it has always been good for me. But it wasn’t her mother’s choice, and she resented that decision. As soon as my sister became a teen, she was given enough information so she could contact her birth mother. Now my sister has two moms.

      There has been a lot of adoptions in my family. Openness has always made them better.

  16. Ro*

    I am so sorry you are dealing with this.

    Seriously- if all you ever say to people is this script from Alison- “It’s a difficult situation and I’d rather not talk about it at work, but the baby won’t be coming home with me.”- That should be ***all*** you’ll have to say. No decent, caring, intelligent person is going to push you once they hear that. They’ll understand that there are some private details at play that are none of their business and you are likely dealing with a lot. I know I would.

    Sending you lots of love as you deal with this.

    1. facepalm*

      Unfortunately, this site has shown time and time again that there are tons of people who aren’t decent, caring, and intelligent, and that even people who are can cause hurt through carelessness or ignorance.

  17. The Ginger Ginger*

    Honestly, I would go with the “I’m carrying for another family.” Let people assume surrogacy if they want. You can talk a little about how you’re happy to be able to give another family a chance at a child, but you know it will be really difficult for you when the time comes so you’d prefer not to talk about it much or have a big to-do made so that it’s not worse later. Make sure they know not to throw you a baby shower or something. And prep them for the fact that you might be a little sad after the birth, and will continue to want to keep pregnancy and baby talk to a minimum.
    Once you’ve laid that ground work (and reiterate it as needed), stick to it. If people get chatty about it, just let them know that you don’t want to talk much about it. Remind them you’re carrying for someone else, so you don’t want to go into much detail – that any detailed baby health info is for the family and is personal – not yours to share. Keep those convos brief as possible and move everyone along.

    Hopefully this will be the kind of thing where people read their cues from you. If you treat is not strange, breeze through it with minimal details, and present a professional, upbeat front they’re likely to do the same.

    Good luck, OP. Whatever you decide, I wish you the best!

    1. AFPM*

      I was just thinking about the baby shower too – which might come as a surprise because that’s how some offices are. So you might need to be explicit and shut that down as soon as people know. And OP, there is only deepest of compassion for you here – that’s one of the things I love about AAM, that commenters come from all different life experiences, and are here to be supportive. Please take extra good care of yourself during and after your pregnancy, and don’t let anyone make you feel bad or uncomfortable about your prior experiences or your decisions. Best wishes to you!

      1. salvadora*

        And if someone broaches the subject: “The baby’s new parent(s) will definitely have a shower, which is wonderful” should be a pretty firm answer.

    2. The Ginger Ginger*

      I think the key is not to go into a lot of detail. Just –
      I’m carrying for another family. It will be hard. I don’t want to talk about it much at work to avoid making it harder. Don’t throw me any parties or baby showers. I’m not sharing personal details re: the family.

      Then just don’t talk about anything else with people at work. Stay pleasant and positive, but if you talk it into the ground, or put a lot of attention on it, people will pay more attention to it too.

  18. Cold Weather & Milk Shakes*

    My sister-in-law was in a similar situation and to get through it she told people at work and socially that she was being a surrogate only our family and the adoptive parents knew the truth. The lie was right for her at the time, she told people she really couldn’t discuss stuff about the baby and the new parents based on the agreement she signed. I’m not saying this is the right option for you but it made work and being out manageable for her with her head space at that time.

    1. TootsNYC*

      You know? In a way, she WAS being a surrogate. Sure, the biological matter may have come from her body, but she was gestating on behalf of another person. Her surrogacy just extended into other arenas as well (not “instead”).

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        I totally agree here.

        Everyone always speaks about how adopting a baby is a wonderful act (and it is) but then vilify and judge the women who make that decision to give their baby a better life and the hypocrisy is awful. We should support these women for making this choice instead of having to create plausible lies to stop the invasive interest.

        Not that this helps you now, OP, but just eugh.

  19. lawyer*

    One thing to consider: if your coworkers don’t know the baby won’t be coming home with you, there are decent odds that they’ll want to throw you a baby shower/celebration or get you a gift. So that’s a reason not to wait until you deliver to explain this. I like Alison’s advice of explaining this as “carrying a baby for another family.” I wouldn’t expressly describe yourself as a surrogate, since that’s likely to raise a lot more questions from people. Ambiguity can convey to people that there is a complex and likely sensitive story and dissuade them from further questions. I’d probably follow it up with “this really isn’t something I want to discuss at work, but I appreciate your support and consideration” or something along those lines.

    1. Ashley*

      I agree that you may want to have some upfront conversation with someone just to avoid any baby presents. Hopefully you have a co-worker who might be able to get the messaging out for you.
      While I believe most people will be trying to come from a kind place, people can suck so the best of luck with all of this.

      1. Jennifer*

        Some people don’t understand that their gifts, or even kindness, though well-intentioned, aren’t always welcome. They just bulldoze over everyone with their good intentions. Similar to Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation.

    2. Not Australian*

      I’d like to think that she’d get a shower anyway, but maybe of nice gifts for self-care instead of baby stuff. She shouldn’t have to miss out on the generous impulses of her co-workers.

      1. EMW*

        I think this would be a very weird shower as a coworker. I would not throw this kind of a shower unless it was publicly known the recipient wanted it. That’s my stance on any shower though.

        If she chooses to share some information with her coworkers, I would probably get her a card and small gift card to use during her leave. I prefer all gifts from acquaintances to be in private though.

        If she doesn’t want a shower though – she should make sure her boss/who ever typically organizes them knows that explicitly.

        1. Jennifer*

          Agreed. If she does decide to tell everyone about the adoption, if someone wants to privately give her a card or some kind of self-care gift, that’s one thing. I might do something like that too. A “shower” would be strange. Every time a gift is given to someone at work it doesn’t have to involve the entire office.

          I have given gifts/cards privately in the past and been chastised for not being a team player when people were taking a collection to give a group gift. It’s very weird.

        2. salvadora*

          Agreed. “Birth showers” aren’t really a thing. Throwing an “upcoming medical procedure/possible some emotional upheavals” shower would be very odd and uncomfortable, even if you got nice gifts out of it.

      2. Foreign Octopus*

        This reminds me of the scene from Friends where Monica and Rachel threw Phoebe a “baby” shower and got her bottles of alcohol and leather pants.

      3. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Many years ago, Carolyn Hax answered a question like this (pretty sure it was Hax). It was along the lines of, “My employee is pregnant and I know she’s a surrogate but no one else does, now they want to throw her a shower, what do I do?” It turned out that people did know and had a “shower” anyway, with gifts of massages and healthy food and a gym membership (at the pregnant woman’s request). I thought that sounded lovely.

    3. Anne of Green Gables*

      If there is one person in the office that you are close to (or your boss if she is a decent boss), you could also use that person to tell the others not organize a baby shower. You wouldn’t have to give them more details, just let them know what you don’t want. I’m in an office where it is expected that there will be a party for weddings, retirements, babies, and earning a master’s degree in our field. If it’s for someone I supervise or who I’m close to, i try to find out what they want and communicate with our upper administration who seem to think that everyone always wants a party and the attention despite that not being the case.

      Best of luck to you, OP. May your coworkers prove to be lovely people who give you privacy and space.

    4. AnnaBananna*

      I completely forgot about baby showers. But couldn’t OP just no-thanks that idea?

      1. nym*

        Unfortunately some people will just not hear that, and send planning underground – “oh, she couldn’t possibly mean that, surely something small is fine, we’ll set it up in the conference room and make it a surprise.”

        An ally who knows enough of the story to be firm about shutting it down will help (“yes, she really means it, and no is a complete sentence”) as will – should such an event come to pass – a terrible reaction, like “oh my gosh I can’t believe you did this, I said no” and then fleeing the room in tears. Which presents other problems, and I don’t advise it as a course of action, but I guarantee none of the coworkers would schedule an unwanted baby shower ever again in their careers!

        (I was once witness to a public proposal, where the guy went down on one knee in front of about 3000 people and when the microphone was handed to the girl she said “no, and if you knew me well enough to get married, you would know that I would absolutely hate a proposal like this”. Cemented a lot of peoples’ minds to never make a public proposal that day, I think. The crowd reaction was… awkwardly subdued as we all filed out.)

        1. Former Employee*

          Yes! I don’t even want someone to tell the waitstaff at the restaurant that it’s my birthday. If I just got a free dessert that would be one thing, but they tend to gather round and sing. Ugh!

  20. No Mercy Percy*

    This all sounds like good advice. OP, I’m really sorry you’re dealing with this, and I wish you all the best!

  21. booksnbooks*

    Thinking of you, OP, and sending all the good wishes your way. I agree with the “carrying for another family” line if it ever comes up, particularly with your manager. Doing so will also preclude any well-intended surprise baby showers if that is common in your company. (It is common in all the places I’ve worked). I hope it is a safe, healthy pregnancy with minimal discomfort to you.

  22. Justme, The OG*

    I have no advice but want to extend you gentle internet hugs (if you want them).

    Actually, I lied. I have one piece of advice: make sure you’re taking care of yourself through this.

  23. Ali G*

    I am also on the team “I am carrying the baby for another family.” If you waited until after the baby was born, you might have the added awkwardness of all the questions about setting up the nursery and potentially the problem of your co-workers throwing you a shower and wanting to buy you gifts, etc.
    You will figure this out, and whatever you decide, you will have made the right decision.

  24. MuseumChick*

    I have no advice to add to what others have said. Just want to send you good vibes and internet hugs. I sincerely hope no one in your office gives you problems around your choice. If they do, do not hesitate to shut them down with a chilly “This is none of your business.” or “I did not ask for your opinion on this. Stop.”

  25. YarnOwl*

    I mostly agree with the advice given, but also just want to say, I don’t think you have any reason to feel guilty or like you’re just trying to remove yourself from responsibility. I can totally understand feeling that way in a culture where motherhood is often touted as the most important thing a woman can do, but if this is the right choice for you, then it’s okay to make it. It’s not a bad or wrong or selfish choice. Anyone who makes you feel like you’re making the wrong choice or like you’re a bad person is a jerk.

    Also, I do think “I don’t really want to talk about it at work” is a great option. I’ve dealt with some difficult personal stuff, and when people have asked about it I just say, “Yeah, XYZ thing happened, but honestly it’s tough for me to talk about so I’d rather not talk about it at work. Thanks for understanding.” If you say it in a nice tone and be kind of nonchalant about it, I think people will be understanding and follow your lead. In my experience, that kind of thing also make it around an office pretty quickly, and after saying it to a few people I didn’t really get asked about it anymore.

    Best of luck, OP. You deserve good things.

    1. It’s a Bird, It’s A Plane, It’s SuperAnon!*

      +1. I am so sorry that you have to defend your decision at all, but you are trying to make the best decision for yourself as well as the baby. That in itself is taking responsibility, and if you decide you are not in a position to bring the child home with you, then that’s a responsible choice too.

    2. Ali G*

      Yes – your first para is right on. It makes me mad that somehow the LW should feel shame for not choosing to keep her baby, while parents that want to adopt are given all the support in the world. Without people like the LW, there wouldn’t be babies for others to adopt. She shouldn’t feel shame or guilt about that.

      1. Pommette!*

        Honestly… people who want to or do adopt are often faced with a lot of criticism and stigma, too. There are people who feel that they have the right to comment on and criticize other people’s decisions when it comes to pregnancy, and/or to making/having/keeping/giving/adopting/wanting/not wanting babies. It’s ridiculous but it’s true. It’s too bad that OP has to worry about those fools and their reactions when making an already complicated choice.

        The OP is definitely in her right to reveal as much or as little as she wants, and to say or do anything that makes things easier on herself.

        And yes to your main point: there is nothing for her to feel ashamed or guilty about!

    3. she was a fast machine*

      I just keep coming back your first paragraph. If OP decides to and is physically able to(barring abortion or miscarriage) carry the baby to term, if OP does or does not decide on adoption, if the OP does or does not take Alison’s advice, she should feel zero guilt or remorse or like she’s trying to evade responsibility. That language is part of the brainwashing we as women get that tells us we MUST have children and any “deviant” behavior like abortions or adoptions is wrong of us. It’s not, and we support you in that OP.

  26. Sarabene*

    I would never say “the baby isn’t coming home with me” because that would lead most people to believe the baby died. While it may feel like a death to you and you may very well need to mourn, if it comes out the baby was adopted, it’ll make you look like you were bidding for sympathy.
    Just tell the truth – you chose to give the baby up for adoption.
    I also feel pretty strongly you shouldn’t claim to be a surrogate, unless you want somebody asking to surrogate for them in the future.
    Just tell the truth, set some boundaries ahead of time and then see if anyone behaves badly instead of expecting it.

  27. DaffyDuck*

    LW my heart goes out to you. FWIW I did not have morning sickness, carried high and tight and normally wore very modest clothing to work. I also have a tendency to be a bit chubby and gain/lose weight often. My boss was VERY surprised when I told him I was pregnant at about 6 months to discuss maternity leave. I would suggest not informing the office unless you have a medical necessity or until you start showing just to cut down on the number of days people may bring the pregnancy up. Dressing in non-maternity clothing whenever you can helps cut down on comments. As Alison mentioned, many people seem to think pregnancy is an acceptable social topic.
    Whatever your choice, you have my best wishes.

    1. Jennifer*

      I agree. It’s possible she never shows at all or that it’s passed off just as weight gain, which most polite people would never bring up at work.

      1. Becky*

        My sister, overdue at 42 weeks with her first child, just looked a little thick in the waist–if you didn’t know you would NOT have guessed she was pregnant. Other sister, pregnant at the same time with number 4, looked like she literally had beachball under her clothes. Bodies are weird and everyone’s is different.

    2. Ophelia*

      THAT said, there are maternity pants that just have an elastic waist and don’t read as maternity if you wear a shirt that covers the waistband, and I would *definitely* not subject yourself to rigid waistbands longer than absolutely necessary ;-)

  28. 123456789101112 do do do*

    Alison, thank you so much for running this letter and for being so supportive to the OP. OP, my best wishes for a healthy and easy pregnancy. I hope you do talk to your manager about FMLA. Pregnancy and childbirth is really hard on your body and you will need the time to recover physically and emotionally. Be good to yourself in this way – give yourself space and time.

  29. designer*

    The great autobiographical play Baby Mama is about being a birth mother and I think might be helpful to read to see how someone else navigated a similar journey:

    Mariah picked the adoptive family, got to know them, and had an open adoption, so she had a ready answer for the nosy folks.

  30. EMW*

    I think tone will matter a lot here – repeat whatever phrase you choose (“I’m carrying the baby for another family.”) over and over so you can say it with a neutral tone and then PIVOT to another subject. It’s an emotional thing, but it’ll raise less questions if you’re able to state your simple reason without too much emotion.
    If there are any particular people who become extra nosey, utilize your manager and/or HR to tell them to knock it off if you’ve already addressed it with them and it hasn’t stopped.

    Make sure you’re fully taking advantage of your benefits – EAP, etc. I don’t have specifics recommendation for support groups, but there are some out there if you want to pursue that. It’s a difficult choice to make, but also one that you realize may change over time, so please keep your plans to yourself (in the workplace) for as long as possible. You don’t need random coworker opinions on the matter.

    Wishing you the very best with a safe and healthy pregnancy and additional clarity for afterwards!

    1. desktop ladybug*

      I agree to practice, practice, practice out loud whatever phrasing you decide on. My body was hormone soup during pregnancy, and I sometimes caught myself with surprise emotions, or things that came out seeming to be more strongly felt than I actually felt them, if that makes sense.

      Whatever you decide to do or how to handle this situation, peace to you OP.

  31. Data Analyst*

    Great advice from Alison here, and I would just like to add that it seems like *perhaps* you have attached some shame to how you got pregnant/the concept of having an unplanned pregnancy at all. But it’s not shameful. I say this because I think if there’s shame, then that filters in to some of the predictions you have for what opinions people might have about it. Reading this, I had only compassion for you and this decision you’re faced with. Whatever you decide is your business only. And while it’s not your job to be a poster-person for it, I think it’s good for people to remember that not all pregnancies are wanted, or even if they are wanted pregnancy is not always a happy time, and not always up for comment and discussion. And that adoption is something that happens, and we applaud adoptive parents but not always the birth parents, etc. etc. Okay, a lot of feelings came up. Anyway, OP best of luck to you, you are doing a great job.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I wanted to say this as well.

      Also: Many, many people who are NOT hypersexual get pregnant when they didn’t want to. The abuse, and the resulting PTSD and hypersexuality, have really nothing to do with this.

      Any woman who’s sexually active even once can become pregnant.

      1. KR*

        Yes!!! Getting pregnant isn’t a women’s penance for daring to have sex. It’s something that happens even when you’re taking every precaution and using birth control the recommended way. Even if OP wasn’t having more sex than usual they could have become pregnant. You don’t have to be ashamed of this OP <3

      2. TootsNYC*

        and your sex life doesn’t have to be part of the narrative.

        “We weren’t dating that seriously, and birth control failed.”
        It happens to LOTS of people.

      3. Shark Whisperer*

        Absolutely! Seriously, I know so many women who had pregnancy scares or actually became pregnant when they didn’t want a baby or weren’t in the position to take care of a baby. The circumstances vary so widely. It sucks that women are taught to be ashamed of everything surrounding sex and pregnancy. Just because you feel shame doesn’t mean anything about your experience is inherently shameful.

      4. Competent Commenter*

        I’m glad you wrote this, Data Analyst, because I tried and failed to write a similar post. I too felt like the OP has a lot of shame and after all she’s been through it’s so sad that she has that burden as well. I don’t blame her for her feelings! We all get these kinds of messages every day in our culture and how can they not affect us?

        Getting pregnant is not a punishment for being very sexually active with people we don’t know well any more than it’s a punishment for having sex just once with a loving partner. Like all activities, sexual activity comes with risks/potential outcomes. So does getting in a car and driving on the freeway, so does riding a bike, so does skiing, but we don’t attach the concept of sin to those things.

      5. Courageous cat*

        Yeah. It almost seems strange to me to give that context – you don’t need to justify this to anyone. There’s nothing wrong with being pregnant or having sex.

    2. LeighTX*

      This, 100%. OP, you are incredibly brave and strong and whatever you do is your own business. I would advise simply saying that you’re carrying the baby for another family and that it’s not something you really want to talk about; you’re going to get questions no matter what you say or do but that doesn’t mean you have to answer them, AND it doesn’t mean you have anything to be embarrassed about.

      What a gift you have been given–the opportunity to bless a family who wants a child, and the opportunity to bless the baby with a hand-picked family. The very best of luck to you, OP.

    3. hbc*

      I agree so hard with this. All the explanation and backstory is very important to your life, OP, but it shouldn’t affect how anyone views your decisions surrounding your pregnancy. I hope with time that it won’t affect your view of yourself either. And not that you should care about my opinion, but I think you’re handling the entire situation with grace and reason, which is pretty rare around emotional issues such as this.

    4. CNM*

      Yes! I wanted to say this as well. OP, I work in women’s health, and pregnancy is something that happens in all sorts of situations. You do not need to justify anything to anyone. I know you need to process for your own sake but don’t take any shame onto yourself. You’re a lovely person making the right decision for yourself and that is excellent.

      Similar to the advice-giver above, your adoption agency may have advice for you on how to handle the situation as well. I’m sure they’ve seen it before!

  32. Stella70*

    I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to give someone an online hug as much as I do you! My heart aches for you and all that you have been through. I have been assaulted twice before, too, and my response was to create a custom-made fat suit so that no one would ever find me attractive again (I did this by gaining 100+ lbs through excessive M&Ms and misery).
    You owe your co-workers nothing more than the respect they deserve by virtue of being your co-workers. As you progress in your pregnancy, you may feel like sharing more or less than you do now. Any way you feel is the exact right way to feel. Do not let this create more stress for you. If you want to say you are carrying the child for another family, that is perfect. It’s also perfect to say that your goal is to be the first pregnant lady who doesn’t bore everyone to death with baby talk for nine months!
    Just focus on your health, your therapy and try as much as you can to be at peace. You are so much stronger than you are giving yourself credit for being. And your baby is truly blessed to have you as a mother – whether or not you raise the little one.

  33. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    This is one situation where you can say to any nosy person who keeps pushing your boundaries. “This is not open for discussion, please do not ask me again.” Repeat, repeat, repeat.

  34. Bananka*

    I would employ a lie and say you are a surrogate for someone very dear to you who can’t have children of their own. And well, essentially it is not a lie except for knowing the future adoptive parents. If you decided to keep the baby, you could say didn’t work out as planned.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Or you could go the other direction and say you could only do it for carefully-selected non-local strangers because you didn’t want any chance of being part of the child’s life, or even hearing about it. Which could forestall anyone asking you to be a surrogate for them (not that I think this is going to be an issue at all, but a couple of commenters brought it up.)

  35. Clorinda*

    People don’t know, so when they make the first inevitable comments, tell them in as calm and unemotional a way as you can. If anyone starts pushing/arguing with you/crossing the line, then you can and should push back hard. Also, do you have a trusted friend in the workplace? If you can tell one person and ask him/her to spread the news for you, that might cut down on the number of initial comments.

  36. Emmie*

    I knew two people who placed their child for adoption. One coworker about your age while I was in high school, and another high school classmate. I still remember them, and how difficult it must have been to place a child for adoption. There are people who think kindly of your decision, if that is one you ultimate make. I am sorry you have to think about other people’s judgement while you are making your decision.
    My former coworker told people matter-of-factly. In hindsight, I could tell that the decision was a tough one for her as she always looked down when she many other people inquired. I think her matter-of-fact approach was helpful. If you are comfortable with this, I recommend telling a few selected and trusted coworkers something like “I’m pregnant and placing the child for adoption. It is a tough decision that I’ve given lots of thought to. Please tell people, and let them know that I don’t want any questions or comments about it.” It’s helpful to deputize messengers since it eases the burden a little.
    I know you will make the best decision you can for yourself. It sounds like you’ve had a tough set of circumstances, and I admire how strong, insightful, and brave you are.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      The deputized messengers are a great idea. If the people in the office are trying to be kind and considerate, give them the outline of what that would look like in this situation.

    2. TootsNYC*

      Re: the deputized messengers.

      Several years ago I went to a workshop about church music for children (I was the church organist at the time, so this was professionals giving amateurs advice).

      The elementary-school music teacher who ran the workshop taught us how to teach a song when you sing in the bass clef (men, usually)–because the children will be singing an octave higher, and they can’t make their pitch match yours.

      One of the tactics was to look (listen, really) for the child in the group who is the “natural translator.” The child who is able to do that instinctively. Generally, in a group of several kids, there will be one. Ask that child to sing solo first. And then have the other children join in.

      I think of that workshop so often, for things that have nothing to do with music. Like this!

      (also, that “natural translator” is not necessarily the most obviously kind–you want the person who is the most reasonable and who has some quiet authority)

  37. Falling Diphthong*

    Just internet support, and that Alison hit on the two things I thought of:
    a) Try to keep things on the down low while you figure out what you want to do. Giving revised updates can be emotionally exhausting.
    b) If that’s the adoption, use the language of surrogacy, which people seem to now understand and accept as “oh, a new-normal thing, and you wouldn’t have an ongoing relationship with the child and family necessarily and don’t need my thoughts on that.”

  38. Super Anon For This*

    Removed. I’m sure the OP is aware that’s an option, and that isn’t what she’s asking about.

    1. Meyers and Briggs are not real doctors*

      I feel bad the OP feels shame for this pregnancy – no woman should feel shame for reproductive choices, full stop.

      I feel for you OP and I support whatever decision you make with your body. please don’t have shame over this pregnancy, or ANY decision you make regarding the pregnancy. For any reason.

  39. Octopus*

    I don’t know if your office is the kind that would throw a lunchroom baby shower or where your coworkers would give you gifts or anything like that. It may be beneficial to let your manager or a coworker you trust that you aren’t interested in that sort of thing.

  40. Matilda Jefferies*

    Love to you, OP – there are no easy answers here for you. I hope everything goes as smoothly as possible, and that you’re able to take good care of yourself throughout your pregnancy and afterwards.

  41. Amber Rose*

    LW, I don’t think anyone would think you made this decision flippantly. You sound a touch defensive, as though you’re holding on to guilt for making this call and sort of preemptively justifying it. It’s not necessary. You have nothing to feel guilty about. And you really don’t want to start justifying yourself to random coworkers, because it’s likely to make at least one of them think you want to talk about everything in full detail and that you’re open to nosy questions.

    Pick a line or two from all these great suggestions and practice them in a mirror until it’s practically muscle memory, so you don’t get taken off guard or flustered.

    And, you know, take the time you need. Or the time you don’t think you need. This is a good chance to focus only on yourself for a bit.

  42. Jess*

    I had a co-worker a few years ago who had a miscarriage, well after everyone knew about the pregnancy. An email went out from HR to our office letting everyone know what had happened and that the co-worker would be coming back to the office quite soon after and had requested that no one bring it up — work was her distraction/refuge. I believe HR may have sent a condolence something-or-other on behalf of the office. I thought that was a respectful and effective way to handle it.

    I imagine something like that would be even more helpful in this case, once the OP is clear about the adoption decision and around the time they start showing. Having someone else (manager or HR) send the email creates a clear boundary for -all- communication, having it sent early quashes the pregnancy comments, and having it sent widely quashes the post-pregnancy comments from folks on the fringes who notice you pregnant and might otherwise say a year later at the holiday party, “how’s your little one?,” thinking they are making thoughtful friendly conversation. As for what specifically to say, Alison and others have some good suggestions.

    1. Imaginary Butterfly*

      I was about to suggest this. We had a very outgoing employee whose wife lost their baby in the second trimester. We quietly told everyone about the situation when he was out of the office dealing with the loss – we didn’t want anyone joking with Wakeen about the baby. He was usually a super playful guy so this would have been highly likely if people didn’t know.

      If the OP shares her situation with someone in authority, they can quietly tell everything the most basic bit of information and insist they show discretion.

  43. HarvestKaleSlaw*

    I don’t think I can gather all my thoughts at work to write something that says what I want it to say. But I’m so glad for you that you are in counseling. It is incredibly brave of you. Please stick with it. I understand a lot of your worry about judgement and people pushing their noses in.

    There are things for survivors that come back up, with pregnancy and childbirth. Even if it is many years later and they seemed dealt with or buried. Even with a wanted pregnancy. Please know that you are not alone. Please keep going back to your supports during this time. Come back to the weekend open threads to talk. People will listen and not judge.

    Finally, obstetricians and hospitals are becoming more aware of how the medical experience childbirth can be made kinder for survivors of sexual assault. One option, if it is possible for you, might be a doula who understands survivor’s issues.

    1. Ophelia*

      I second the suggestion to find a doula with experience in working with sexual assault survivors. That person may also be a really useful support when you do get to the point of delivery, playing a similar role as the “translators” discussed above with hospital staff who may not realize your plans.

    2. Traveling Teacher*

      Yes to all this. I’m so, so glad that you are being proactive on this front, LW. Take care of yourself, and I wish you the best.

  44. PNW Jenn*

    I agree with the simple statement that you’re carrying the baby for another family. Adoption is, after all, surrogacy for strangers.

    Other advice:
    1. Let it be known that you do not wish for any sort of shower or gift-giving occasion.
    2. Find a support group. There are physical things that happen to your body after giving birth – let-down of milk, lochia, emotions on overdrive, etc. – that many doctors don’t tell women who are taking their babies home, much less explain to a woman who has elected for an adoption. Find other women who have walked this path, who can explain it without judgment, and who will support you.

  45. Ravenpuff*

    Internet hugs and light to you, OP. I appreciate the care you are taking to do the best thing is a difficult situation.

  46. Bookwormish51*

    This is so difficult, and my heart goes out to you. If you are able to make a decision before you start to show, that’s great. You will probably want to use the line about carrying for another family or something similar and let that get around early. The problem with the approach Allison mentions about just not saying and trying to shut down discussion is that your well-meaning coworkers will talk to you constantly. They will give advice, make you food, bring you presents, and maybe host a shower for you. That’s what we do at my office, and it’s pretty common. If you’re ‘carrying for another family,’ you can head that off at the pass. But you’ll be stuck either saying something about adoption, letting them think you are a surrogate, or implying the pregnancy is a result of assault. I know all of these options really stink. I wish you all the best in making this difficult decision.

    1. TootsNYC*

      But you’ll be stuck either saying something about adoption, letting them think you are a surrogate, or implying the pregnancy is a result of assault.

      Wait, what?
      The pregnancy can’t just be the result of a casual sexual encounter? Or a short-term-dating situation, and the birth control failed?

      I don’t know anything about the dating activities of my colleagues until they have a serious boyfriend. Like, more than one or two months! Maybe even more.

      But I sure don’t assume they’re never having sex. So “we just dated a little while, and birth control failed” is accurate (even w/ our OP saying she has hypersexuality–how long is “a little while,” anyway; and even if she forgot to use it, that’s a “failure” of birth control).

        1. TootsNYC*

          in our OP’s case, her colleagues may know that she isn’t in a long-term dating situation.

          That’s why I didn’t include it in the list. (because of course people in long-term dating situations can become pregnant when they didn’t intend to; I know of a couple who did, and gave the baby up for adoption, and continued to date)

  47. JoAnna*

    OP, you’ve gotten some great advice already but I just wanted to thank you for your bravery. Your path is a difficult one, but it will be made easier for people who come after you because of your efforts. I’m so sorry for the pain and trauma you have had to endure, and I hope you find peace and healing.

  48. Jaz*

    I agree that implying you’re a surrogate is a good route. After all, it’s true; if you choose adoption, you are carrying that baby for another family. The baby’s conception is nobody’s business.

    I also want to strongly suggest that if you haven’t already, you talk to your delivery team about your PTSD and its origins. I’m a sexual assault survivor and I found the labor process triggering in ways I couldn’t anticipate, but regular reminders to all the staff involved about asking before they touched me and other tiny considerations helped a lot.

  49. AnotherAlison*

    My oldest (now 21) was unplanned when I was 19. I kept him, and married his dad 9 mos. after he was born (still married). Lots of people thought we should give him up for adoption, so I definitely relate to being in your shoes. The difference was I didn’t have a job, and at my age then, no one thought it was weird if I didn’t know what I was going to do.

    I would be inclined just to tell people who make comments that it’s a medical issue that you aren’t discussing at work. It may be completely obvious that you’re pregnant, but who cares? Let them wonder if they made the faux pas, and you’re gaining weight due to an unrelated medical condition. Once you’ve decided firmly one way or the other, if you want to share more, fine, but I wouldn’t be submitted to judgment (even the well-meaning folks) until I was ready.

  50. Four lights*

    Depending on your office, you may have longer than you think to not bring it up. Some people are nosy and intrusive, but a lot of people have also learned the lesson not to ask someone if they’re pregnant. I’m 30 weeks and obviously pregnant and just last week a coworker did not ask me about being pregnant because she didn’t want to be wrong.

    I would also say that your coworkers don’t have a right to know everything (or even anything) about your situation, so you don’t have to justify anything to them. And they can have all the opinions they want, but it’d be rude of them to share it.

    I wish you all the best during this difficult time.

  51. Hillary*

    While it’s not your coworkers’ business, like other commenters I am concerned that people might try to do things like throw a baby shower for you. If you do settle on adopting, it might spare you fewer awkward conversations if you let people know sooner rather than later that the baby won’t be coming home with you. Some people have suggested saying that you are a surrogate – I don’t think it’s unethical to tell that lie, but it may prove very awkward for you as people might ask questions about the imaginary couple you are serving as a surrogate for, although I suppose you could just say that you don’t want to discuss it at work. This is so rough, I’m sorry you’re in this position.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I would argue that it’s not much of a lie. Our OP would be gestating a baby on behalf of someone else; it’s only the very beginning that doesn’t fit that narrative.

      As for questions about the other family, I would think that HIPAA-type ethics could be used (and might be required!) to brush off questioning.

      There might be questions about the process, and that’s going to need a different set of answers. Maybe just send them to a website.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      Some people have suggested saying that you are a surrogate – I don’t think it’s unethical to tell that lie, but it may prove very awkward for you as people might ask questions about the imaginary couple you are serving as a surrogate for

      I don’t think it’s much of a lie either. If she decides to place the child for adoption, she’ll be carrying it for another family until it’s born. And even if it were a pre-arranged, intentional surrogate arrangement, she’d have every right (and possibly responsibility) to refuse to answer questions about the intended parents.

    3. Relly*

      There is an amazing quote from one of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe books that I am unfortunately going to have to paraphrase: a lie isn’t a lie if the person asking the question doesn’t have a right to ask in the first place.

  52. TootsNYC*

    The one thing we haven’t addressed:

    Our OP says she is considering placing the child for adoption.

    But what if she hasn’t decided yet? Or can’t feel sure until later?

    I think this:
    Our OP should look around the office and find the person who is the most sensible. Not necessarily the most kind, because people who come across as obviously kind can sometimes have blinders. Sensible. Aware of boundaries. Reasonable. Sane. Able to keep confidences, and steers clear of office drama.

    Confide in THAT person, and ask them to help you shape the narrative in the office, and to discourage people from talking to you about it.

    Then talk to your boss when you need to.

    And then, maybe just own it, and address it directly to everyone. “I’m pregnant, and as you all know, I’m not married. I’m considering adoption, but it’s a tough decision and I haven’t decided yet. It’s important to me to not talk about it at work, because that can be a lot of pressure from all of you about a life-changing decision that’s really pretty private.”

    1. Ophelia*

      I really, really like this option. I think it gets at the heart of OP’s dilemma, and shuts down intrusion in a kind, but non-negotiable way.

    2. salvadora*

      Maybe she can use the “another family” line, but keep it really vague, like nobody is stressed or worried about it but custody/caregiving isn’t set in stone yet.

      1. Sam.*

        If she does use the “other family” line (which I quite like in that it’s suggestive but also vague) and ultimately changes her mind for whatever reason, I think she could just say, “It’s complicated, but the situation changed and I ended up bringing [baby] home with me.” If people ask questions, you could say, “I don’t really want to get into the details, but I’m really happy with how things have turned out.” And then distract them with baby pictures.

    3. Scandinavian in Scandinavia*

      Excellent advice! And so inportant to leave the door open, it is impossible to say what OP may feel and experience in the coming months.

      OP, I am sending love and warm thoughts your way. I hope that a wonderful support network will form around you soon, no matter what you choose. You have been through so much very early in your life; here’s to you building resilience and being wise beyond your years. Good luck!!!

    4. Marie A Ricci*

      18 years ago when I placed a child for adoption, I experienced the awkwardness of returning to work afterward. As a birth mother, I support this. Deciding on adoption is a huge decision, one that no one should be pressured into, and this advice is golden for supporting a person while making that decision.

    5. Anono-me*

      I think that this approach really depends of the personalities of OP’s coworkers.

      Bringing this up at my work as a decision still in progress would result in lots and lots and lots of ‘helpful’ well intentioned advice and comments.

      Other workplaces are probably much different than mine, and this approach would work well in those locations.

    6. Flower*

      To be honest, I don’t think the “not married” bit is relevant. Maybe it’s just my surroundings/generation/places I’ve tended to live and this wouldn’t be true everywhere, but I have a hard time imagining people even blinking at someone having children while partnered but not married, especially in mid-twenties, and most people wouldn’t spend that much time thinking about whether someone is even partnered. I’d just take that bit out of the script and use the rest of it. “I’m pregnant, and I’m considering adoption, but it’s a tough decision and I haven’t decided yet. It’s important…”

      Plus I kind of feel like that implies that people who are partnered/married don’t put infants up for adoption and I really don’t think that’s the case. Without seeing statistics, I’m sure it’s more common for people who are single to adopt out, but I don’t think it’s at all impossible for partnered people to decide to adopt out their newborn.

    7. cleo*

      I really like this advice. Using the office grapevine well can really help in situations like this.

      I think I’d leave out the unmarried part and say this is an unplanned pregnancy and I’m still exploring my options

  53. CU*

    So, I am about 95% sure about this. If anyone in HR or employment law wants to jump in, please do!

    FMLA/short term disability for after giving birth is to recover from giving birth. There’s additional time for bonding in FMLA, but as long as you qualify you should get 6 weeks for a vaginal delivery, or 8 weeks for a c-section. (More if there are complications.)

    I know this doesn’t cover how to address it with your coworkers, but hopefully it helps to know that you do get leave to recover.

  54. Liz*

    OP, I think I’m picking up on something from your email that I want to address: please don’t feel as if this pregnancy is the consequence of your (quite common) response to your assaults. (It sounds as if the father is not your assaulter, based on the email?) Women in all kinds of situations experience unwanted pregnancies. I get the impression that you’re thinking of this as something that happened as a direct result of a period of sexual activity you feel shame about, but it could have happened regardless. Don’t beat yourself up for getting pregnant.

    1. Merula*

      This post needs to be seen more widely. Preferably the entire world.

      Things happen. People who haven’t experienced an unplanned pregnancy have some source of luck; they’re not better people.

  55. GA Business Owner*

    Birth mothers are heroes in my book! You are a hero. I don’t think there is any reason to lie. Obviously what you say is totally up to you, but you are right to be prepared for people talking about you. Since they will talk anyway, I think the best approach is to be open about it and proud of your actions. You are doing such a wonderful thing, and giving the best gift in the world to a family, and to your child. If you decide to do this, you can confidently state your decision and hold your head very high. I suspect most people will be very supportive, and your attitude will change the minds of any who are not. I also think you might have well meaning people want to plan a shower, so in order to avoid awkward situations after the birth, it would be good to tell them.

  56. HeatherT*

    As someone whose biological mother made the incredibly selfless and lovng choice to give me (and my twin) up for adoption, it saddens me to hear so many people express a fear of judgement. Whatever you choose to say and whatever you choose to do, know that you will make the best choice for you and your baby.

    However, as someone who is adoped, I also know that there is a ridiculous amount of ignorance out there. Don’t feel that you owe anyone an explanation for your choice and there is no need to justify or engage with anyone who comes from such a such a place.

  57. A Lady*

    I had two very traumatic and late second trimester miscarriages in a row. My pregnancy after them was rife with anxiety and I didn’t want to talk about it at work. When I began to show, I sent an email to all the people I work with on a regular basis. I said I was expecting, when I was due and, do to personal reasons, I did not want to discuss my pregnancy at work. Perhaps some people were put off or wanted more information but IT WAS NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS. For the most part people kept their comments/questions to themselves, and when I was ready to talk about my pregnancy, they followed my lead. The email route really worked well for me and it helped shut down unwanted questions before they arose. I wish you peace and support in whatever decision you make.

  58. Not Australian*

    Nothing exciting or revolutionary to add, but just wanted to say to the OP that you sound like a lovely, strong, caring person and that I hope you find as much help and support out there in the ‘real world’ as you are clearly getting from the crowd on AAM. And please – if you feel you can – let us know how it all turns out.

  59. Nobody Here by That Name*

    I have no advice, just sending tons of support and love to OP no matter what she decides to do.

  60. nnn*

    It might be helpful to speak positively of the adoption situation. Example: “The baby is being adopted by a lovely family!”

    I think this de-emphasizes any implications that the pregnancy might be a mistake or the result of suboptimal behaviour, and emphasizes “YAY baby! YAY bright future for baby!” while still conveying the information that you won’t be raising the child.

  61. Molly*

    Oh, what a difficult situation– I’m so sorry. If you’re sure you don’t want to discuss it at work, what about something like:

    “I won’t be bringing this baby home with me. It’s a painful subject and I really don’t want to discuss it at work. Thank you so much for understanding.”

    You could also have your boss/ a work friend/ disseminate that message for you if you wanted.

    I think that leaves people free to speculate that the baby is going to die or is a result of rape (which, from the way you frame things, it sounds like is true, if indirectly), which I actually think might work in your favor– people may be deterred from asking more questions. There is nothing wrong whatsoever with being vague in a way that might cause people to jump to conclusions that aren’t quite right– that’s on them and you don’t owe anyone anything here.

    Finally, and a little off topic: you don’t owe anyone an explanation or proof that you have thought this decision through thoroughly enough– an unintended pregnancy can happen to anyone for any number of reasons and you can and should do whatever you think is best without apologizing or justifying yourself to anyone else. I hope you’re able to work with an excellent therapist to help you figure out the best decision for you, and work through it, no matter what you decide. You deserve all the loving, nonjudgemental help and support that you can get.

  62. HumanPerson*

    Hey OP, I’m sorry you’re dealing with this – it sounds like this is a tough time for you, and I’m sure you’re going to make the right decision for yourself.

    I wanted to give you some reassurance that with a little careful dressing (plus first pregnancies show later), you don’t have to be visibly pregnant at work for a while. I am 20 weeks (5 months) along, and not showing at all yet. I recently announced my pregnancy at work, and received several “you don’t even look pregnant” comments.

    Definitely have some of the comments suggested by AAM and others in your back pocket, but hopefully you’ll be able to go quite some time before needing to discuss your pregnancy at all with your coworkers.

    Wishing you all the best.

  63. KR*

    Here have some care and compassion and internet hugs ~~~~~~~ you have been through A Lot and I wish you all the best.

  64. Dasein9*

    Dear LW, I want to say thank you: by writing this question and allowing Alison to publish it, you have probably given a lot of readers reasons to think twice about what we say when a colleague has big news. It’s so important to let the person whose news it is decide what ways we can support them and it’s kind of you to share your experience. Please add my name to the list of us who wish you all the very best.

    1. emmelemm*

      This is a great comment. Hearing a story like the OP’s really does remind me, and hopefully others, that you absolutely never know all the details of what’s going on in someone else’s life and it’s quite possible to make them feel bad without intending to. Always let them lead the conversation!

  65. CupcakeCounter*

    No matter what you decide you need to prioritize your mental, physical, and emotional health above all because that is the best thing for you and the child. In this case finding a script to use seems like something that your goal at the moment so that is my focus with my response.
    In the end, the closer you can stick to the truth the better. “The pregnancy was a surprise/unplanned and the baby’s father and I are no longer together. I am not sure I am ready to be a single parent and am considering several options” would probably be a clean enough line to use. Enough information to calm some busybodies, a bit of reputation preservation by insinuating that you were in a relationship at the time of conception since you appear worried about that in your letter, plus you are giving yourself time to make the decisions you deem best. Keep that in mind also – no one else knows your situation better than you so feel free to shut down any advice one way or the other (mine included). “Thank you but this is a really personal/difficult/private situation and I need to make the decision that is best for me/us. It would help me out a lot if we could focus on work instead of my pregnancy.” Maybe enlist the help of one of your manager or one of the busybodies to pass around a message so you don’t have to deal with multiple rounds of questions.

  66. Immunomaven*

    I scanned most of the comments pretty quickly, so I’m not sure if someone has mentioned this- but IF you have a coworker that you are closer with, and you trust to be a good mediator, you could tell that person some bare minimum details. They could quietly use the “she is carrying the baby for another family, and doesn’t want to talk about it/have a baby shower/etc.”

    Honestly I don’t know if this would work for you, but I thought I would mention it. I had a coworker who is also a good friend, and she had difficulties with a pregnancy a few years ago. She talked to me about it, and then I was able to field other coworkers and direct them away from her, as well as deal with their inevitable emotional “oh no, that’s terrible” reactions. This worked in my office because we were all generally friendly people who didn’t gossip a lot, so your mileage may vary.

  67. Alienor*

    Quite a long time ago–the babies involved would be in their late teens now–there were two 20-something women in my office who were pregnant under similar circumstances and due around the same time. They were both pretty open about it and just said “the father and I aren’t in a relationship and I’m not sure yet what I’m going to do” (both of them ultimately ended up keeping and raising the babies; at least one of them eventually married someone who became her son’s stepfather). I wouldn’t be surprised if they got some weird comments here and there, people being what they are, but in general everyone was sympathetic and they were treated like any other pregnant employees when it came to making arrangements for maternity leave, etc. I think you have to know your colleagues and how people are likely to react, but having seen it actually play out, I might err more on the side of being very matter-of-fact about the situation. You don’t have to go into detail, but the less you shroud it in mystery, the less people will have to gossip and speculate about.

  68. Cambridge Comma*

    I am going against everyone else and saying that you shouldn’t imply that you’re a surrogate. Recently I’ve encountered people very hostile to surrogacy who aren’t shy to share their views and I’d hate to think of OP exposed to that.
    I was pregnant until 34 weeks with a baby with a 5% chance of survival. I did not want to talk about it at work because I couldn’t without crying. I just said ‘I’m sorry, I know you mean well, but this isn’t a happy story and I’d rather not talk about it.’
    This isn’t your situation so perhaps you could say ‘this isn’t the situation you might assume ‘.

      1. Cambridge Comma*

        I should have added that he made it in the end — I was thinking back to the pregnancy, which was horrible, rather than the unexpected happy ending. Thank you, Susana.

    1. Marie*

      As a birth mother, I agree with this, as well. I found it to be more helpful to simply state “I’m considering adoption” rather than bringing up surrogacy. Surrogacy seemed awkward and would have been opening a whole can of worms, whereas “I’m placing this baby for adoption” usually allowed people to know it was a sensitive subject. So, I agree with the honesty factor here, state adoption is being considered without bringing up any other cover story.

  69. AKchic*

    I am very sorry for what has happened, and for everything that is going on. If you aren’t currently, please do make sure that you are seeking support now. You are going to need it in the coming months.

    I think that once you’ve fully committed to adoption (because it does kind of sound like you’re still somewhat on the fence? I’m not sure, but a few of the lines stuck out as somewhat still ambivalent, and that is okay to still be iffy right now) then I think it’s okay to slightly alter your personal narrative for work. You are acting as a surrogate for someone. It is true in a bare-bones kind of way. If anyone tries to ask you for details, you could give a slight smile and say “I signed an NDA and this is all medical information anyway, some of it isn’t even mine. I don’t discuss personal or medical information at work and I do have to respect other peoples’ privacy as well.”
    You could also enlist HR or your boss to help you with some of the fiction. You don’t need to go in to the truth. Just that you are surrogating and that you won’t/can’t discuss the details and you’d appreciate help in ensuring that nobody asks you questions.

  70. nnn*

    Also, if, for whatever reason, you want to shut down any pregnancy-related discussion without giving a full explanation, a useful out can be “I’m superstitious.”

    Some people in the world are superstitious about talking about a pregnancy as though it’s definitely going to result in a healthy birth (I’ve even heard of not buying baby stuff in advance due to superstition).

    It’s something you can’t really argue with, and anyone with a shred of well-meaningness would be unlikely to push.

    1. Relly*

      Actually some Jewish communities don’t have baby showers until after the baby is born, because it’s seen as tempting fate to celebrate prematurely.

      1. Former Employee*

        Thank you. Relly. I was just going to post a similar comment. It’s a bit of a scramble once the baby arrives, but this tends to be the approach among the Orthodox who normally have a lot of community support, so it’s not as if the baby comes home to nothing at all.

  71. inlovewithwords*

    Just here to say LW, you are going through so much right now, and I hope you find the love and support you need for any decision you make. I know I am a faceless internet person, but please know you have people cheering for you who never want you to feel shame for any decision you make about what is best for your future and your family’s, whatever form that takes.

  72. Auburn*

    I’ve never been in this situation but I had a very difficult pregnancy (major health scare. Severe depression) so when people tried to talk about baby/pregnancy stuff I would always just say “I’m having a very complicated pregnancy. If rather not discuss baby stuff at work.” That took care of it. I asked a couple of very social “popular” colleagues to spread that around and that worked well. No shower. No questions. People seemed to get that it was a sensitive subject. Clients were harder. I just had to quickly change the subject with them but that didn’t come up until late in my pregnancy when it was super obvious at least.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I was trying to come up with a line like this — something that would convey “this particular pregnancy is very difficult and it’s easier on my not to discuss it.” I like your wording.

    2. newmom*

      I struggled with prenatal depression (it’s a thing!), and I often said something like this. It was hard with non-coworker types because I showed super early (I am petite to start with and had HG, so I was basically a stick with a belly from 16 weeks onward). But overall, “This has been a complicated pregnancy, and I’d like to just focus on work” worked well.

  73. Emily S.*

    LW: Sending you lots of virtual hugs. I am so, so sorry for what you’ve been through.

    I can’t imagine the pain you’ve experienced, but please know that adoption will bring so much joy and happiness to another family. I know several people (including my brother) who’ve adopted, and they’ve been blessed beyond words.

  74. Erin*

    If/when you decide for sure you’re giving the baby up for adoption have a few go-to phrases to deliver, and be ready to (politely, tactfully) shut down intrusive questions if you do not want to answer them. I love Alison’s “I’m carrying the baby for another family” line.

    Because carrying a baby for someone else is so fascinating, people may ask questions! Have a couple of lines like “I actually don’t really want to talk about this at work, thank you for understanding” in your back pocket and deliver them in a gentle, calm, non-defensive tone.

    Also, it might be worth mentioning – if you’re at the point you’re actively looking for adoptive parents someone at work may have connections for you IF you feel like opening up and going that route. I do not know if this would be advised by Alison and company but just throwing that out there.

    1. DaffyDuck*

      I would highly recommend she contact a reputable adoption agency/lawyer with lots of experience and good reviews. “Do-it-yourself” adoptions have some pretty horrific pitfalls on both sides.

      1. Erin*

        Understood. I know someone who did it successfully and I was thinking of them, but that’s just one example.

    2. virago*

      You’re well intentioned, but seeking adoptive parents via one’s co-workers would present not only legal issues but also personal boundary issues. I would not advise that the OP go this route.

  75. Seeking Second Childhood*

    OP, I’m useless here except I need to say you’re turning a horrible event into something beautiful for another family, at great cost to yourself. I’m glad that the world has people like you.

  76. Susana*

    Oh, LW, I’m so sorry you have to deal with this. One thing, though – it’s not clear to me from your letter whether this pregnancy was the result of the second attack or of a consensual encounter afterward, but you mention presenting as “hyper sexualized.” I hope you did not mean to suggest that you provoked your attack – NOTHING makes it OK to sexually assault someone. Nor is it some moral comment if you willingly had sex. It’s also no one’s business.
    You have an unplanned pregnancy, which present all sorts of choices and complications – but they are no one’s business and not something people are allowed to judge. Make your own decisions and announce as much or as little as you like (hard, I know, when it’s obvious you *are* pregnant). But you do NOT have to justify any decision you make. Be well.

    1. facepalm*

      It seemed like after her second assault, she coped by having consensual sexual encounters, which is a super common thing–to retake control over one’s body after having that control taken away.

      1. Susana*

        Ah, that makes sense. (and still nothing to be ashamed of – and you can have an unwanted/unplanned pregnancy from your first sexual encounter).

        1. Relly*

          Yes, this. Also the hypersexuality itself is nothing to be ashamed of, OP. It’s a coping mechanism you’re using for dealing with extreme trauma. When I was self-injuring, I felt shame at that, until a therapist told me it was a coping mechanism used by people who didn’t have better ones, and that the only thing wrong or bad about it was that it was hurting me while it helped.

      2. AnotherAnon*

        Thank you for saying this, you made me cry but in a relieved kind of way. I’ve never thought of this and it helps me more than I can explain here.

  77. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    I second what Alison suggests. Figure out what you’re comfortable sharing, and don’t allow the nosy ones push you into revealing more than you’d like. I think if you come up with a game plan once you’ve made your decision, it will help when there are questions. I’m always thinking of things I should have said after the fact, as I’m not good with coming up with things to say in the moment, so I think being prepared will be helpful. Decide what you want to say, then follow with “That’s all I’m comfortable sharing. Please respect my privacy.” It’s not rude to shut others down, it’s rude for them to push for more info.

    Good luck!

    1. irene adler*


      I’m hoping this will be one time where all are respectful of the OP and her situation.

  78. MommyMD*

    Tough situation. I would stay away from an outright lie such as you are being a surrogate for a family. It’s not true and can have unintended ramifications. If pregnancy is complicated and you are off work for an extended time, employer may wonder why “you are carrying baby for another family” without taking your job under consideration and health insurance coverage might even be an issue if anyone thinks this pregnancy is bound by legal contracts or any remuneration. I would just be honest towards the end and state baby is being placed for adoption due to personal circumstances you don’t want to talk about and that you thank everyone for their support and you want to move on. Good luck to you. Life can be so hard. Your coworkers will move on.

    1. TootsNYC*

      well, I think there’s a difference between what you tell HR and what you tell colleagues.

      So HR, and the insurance company, will have the legal facts. And colleagues can get the social version of it.

      I don’t know how insurance works once a pregnant woman starts proceedings with an adoption agency, but i’m sure there’s a protocol, and HR will no doubt be aware of that and facilitate arrangements with the insurance company.

      “Carrying the baby for another family” absolutely is a reasonable way to describe “carrying a pregnancy to term and giving the child to another family to be adopted.”

  79. Rose*

    I commend the writer for handling all of these responsibilities in a thoughtful way. I am a happily adopted adult child. The parents who raised me are my parents, although I do have a relationship with my bio family.

    That being said, the writer should handle this situation by doing what is best for her.

    If she chooses to have the child, have those difficult situations BEFORE coworkers start asking questions, throw showers, do well-meaning things without knowing your future plans.

  80. Pommette!*

    I think that “the baby will be going home with another family” would be a very good option *if* the OP was absolutely certain about placing the baby for adoption. From her letter, though, it sounds as if that wasn’t the case (she says that she is “seriously considering” adoption). Which makes sense: it’s not an easy decision, and it’s not one that she was planning on having to make!

    I’m concerned that any statement that hints at surrogacy or adoption would open her up to questions and speculation if she does decide to keep the child.

    What could the OP say if she is still unsure of her plans once the pregnancy becomes very visible? Would something like “There is a lot of uncertainty about the outcome of this pregnancy. I would rather not talk about it at work.” be helpful?

    1. Observer*

      Would something like “There is a lot of uncertainty about the outcome of this pregnancy. I would rather not talk about it at work.” be helpful?

      I think that this is a really good script. It gives people the information they to need (ie no baby showers, no baby talk please, without sharing more than the OP is ready to share.)

    2. Missy*

      Yes, this is better language than the straight out surrogacy stuff. It’s important to respect that the LW hasn’t made a decision yet.

    3. Marie*

      As a birth mother, I agree with this comment wholeheartedly. This protects the mother’s privacy, regardless of the end decision, and lets co-workers know this is a sensitive topic without having to have a “cover story”.

    4. virago*

      I like this a lot — it politely shuts down further discussion without presenting any misinformation.

  81. TheOtherLiz*

    I’m not a birth mom but I know several and I’ve been steeped in adoption world as I search for a match to adopt. I would like to suggest a couple of expectant parent/birth parent communities out there to seek advice from women who have been there: Brave Love and you can find an amazing birth mom I know on Instagram at Your experience is unique and you deserve mentors who have been there.

    I also recommend, as someone on the much easier side of something folks are curious about: state up front what you want people to know and what you want people to do. We said to friends and family, we are searching for an adoptive match. We are happy to talk with you about THIS and THAT, and we won’t have an update until we have a REALLY BIG update, so please don’t ask us for updates all the time. Also, we welcome support but not debate – we know this is the right choice for us. That same language might work for you, too.

    Please also make sure you advocate for yourself that you DO get maternity leave to heal, physically and emotionally, after you give birth. Like, a GOOD amount of time. You deserve it and it is your right.

  82. Tupac Coachella*

    I started to write a few suggestions, and then realized that nothing I had to say really honored your experience in the way I intended, so I’ll leave it to those who have been closer to your position to offer advice. All I really want you to know is that you have nothing to be ashamed of, and whatever you choose to share or not share with coworkers or anyone else is ok. Adoption is an act of love, and any choice you make in the best interest of this baby is the right one. I’ll be thinking about you.

  83. MsRedheadedGeek*

    No advice but just know that this random stranger in Chicago supports you and your choice (whatever it ends up being.) I am sending you so much love and support!

  84. Jen F*

    My heart goes out to you! I wish you all the healing possible.
    One thing to be aware of. I have a coworker who figured out someone was pregnant by the frequency of their doctor appointments, so you may not have ‘until you start showing’ as the earliest date you have to deal with this. It was icky when it happened and the situation wasn’t nearly so complicated as yours is. People are awful to pregnant people but I hope your coworkers are all awesome and understand boundaries. Best wishes.

  85. Jessica Fletcher*

    OP – You didn’t mention if you’re planning to tell your family about the pregnancy. Just wanted to recommend that if you’re Facebook or other social media friends with work folks, and you decide not to tell your family, you may want to block work people from commenting on your page. They will undoubtedly bring up the pregnancy on your social media or tag you in baby related content, and anyone you haven’t told will see it and ask questions.

    Best of luck to you in whatever you decide!

  86. logicbutton*

    One possible issue with “I’m carrying the baby for another family” might be if someone assumes it was a planned surrogacy and wants to bond over/ask questions about IVF, or surrogacy generally, so you’d want a reply ready for that. “Oh, I’d rather not get into it/discuss this at work,” possibly followed by “Thank you for sharing that with me,” if they tell you something personal, and then a subject change, should do it.

    Otherwise, I think it’s a perfect script – it’s true, it won’t trigger baby showers or sympathy for your supposed bereavement, and it makes for comparatively uninteresting gossip.

  87. Guacamole Bob*

    I’m really surprised how many commenters are in favor of explicitly or implicitly saying OP is a surrogate. The advice to avoid disclosing a plan to place a baby for adoption makes me think that OP is right to fear judgment – what’s so much better about a planned surrogacy than an adoption after an unplanned pregnancy? Are we as a society still so judgmental about women who become pregnant accidentally? Surrogacy is seen as a fundamentally selfless act, and adoption a selfish one, maybe?

    OP, there’s no perfect choice about how you want to handle it at work, but you have several reasonable choices. Be kind to yourself and handle it the way that feels best to you.

    1. Ali G*

      The LW has to navigate her life in the real world, not this internet forum. Unfortunately, yes, IMO society is still too judgmental about unplanned pregnancies. The LW needs to make decisions that preserve her mental and physical health, her job and her self esteem. For me, the “carrying the baby for another family” the path of least resistance to that.

    2. Lilysparrow*

      See, I took it not as judgment/shame but as undermining curiosity.

      Carrying an unplanned pregnancy and placing a child for adoption are complex, highly emotional situations. People know there’s a “story,” and they will be tempted to keep asking prying questions or to gossip. That makes a pregnant woman even more the center of attention, and creates more nonsense for her to deal with – even if it’s sympathetic nonsene.

      Implying the pregnancy is a surrogacy is a way of saying, “move along, nothing to see here.” It takes her out of the center of a dramatic story, and deflect a lot of that attention with less effort.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        See, to me, surrogacy triggers a whole bunch of other questions and emotions – different than adoption, but not necessarily that much easier to navigate. And some people are super judgmental about it, still.

        If a colleague of mine were a surrogate, I’d expect them to be, overall, basically happy about the situation, because it was a choice from the beginning. But with adoption there’s a much bigger range of emotions and reactions that I’d be expecting. If I were OP’s colleague and she told me she was a surrogate but seemed off and unhappy a lot during the pregnancy, I’d really wonder what was going on in a way I wouldn’t if I knew she was placing the baby for adoption (and by implication the pregnancy was unplanned or something big in her life had gone wrong).

        I like to think I’m a decent person and I wouldn’t treat OP differently either way and that I’d respect signals that she didn’t want to talk about it. But I do wonder if I’d be a bit more sensitive and tread more lightly if I knew it was an adoption situation.

        1. Emi.*

          Yeah, I think mentioning adoption throws a “tread carefully and probably just leave me alone” flag that surrogacy doesn’t.

    3. nnn*

      I read it as LW feeling personally awkward about the fact that the pregnancy was unplanned, before we even get into the question of how society would respond, so I think people are responding within the framework of what LW wants to keep private.

      Unfortunately, adoption is the one situation where you can’t hide the fact that the pregnancy was unplanned.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        That’s fair, and OP should totally use the surrogacy thing if she wants. It just seemed to me like the overall tone of the comments has been “Don’t tell people you’re placing the baby for adoption! People are super judgy and you’ll have to defend your choices. Just tell them you’re a surrogate, and everyone will think that’s great.” And I don’t think that’s entirely true, in either direction.

      2. Becky*

        Though, given that about 50% of all pregnancies in the US are unplanned, you’d think we’d have a better handle on it as a society.

    4. Marie*

      Thanks for your comment. As a birth mother, I felt this same way reading all the comments suggesting surrogacy instead of the truth (considering placing the baby for adoption). Thank you for putting into the words the exact feelings I couldn’t.

      And I do believe honesty is better here. There was a script above “this pregnancy is uncertain and I’d rather not discuss it” was much better than a surrogacy cover story.

      1. virago*

        Another upvote here for the script suggested by Pommette: “There is a lot of uncertainty about the outcome of this pregnancy. I would rather not talk about it at work.”

        As I said above, it shuts down discussion without providing any misinformation.

        Using a surrogacy cover story, on the other hand, means that the OP likely have to correct mistaken assumptions among some co-workers further down the line.

    5. Koala dreams*

      I’m also surprised. I would think that people who are judgemental or nosy about adoptions would behave similarly if not worse when it comes to surrogacy. The opinions on both have a very wide range and there is a potential for a lot of awkward questions if the coworkers lack tact.

      It might be better to say something vaguer, such as “it’s complicated, I don’t want to talk about it at work” or be direct and let people react how they want “I’m thinking of adoption and I don’t want to talk about it at work”.

    6. Someone Else*

      I think it’s less about judgement and more about “what is the thing you can tell the colleagues that is most likely to result in the least follow up discussion.” Yes she can start off by being a broken record of “I don’t want to discuss it”, and might need to do that anyway, but I can see how for many, it seems like of the options available, it’s a response that can more easily be taken as-is and left. I’m sure there might still be some people asking follow up questions, but potentially less than with other things she might say. Has nothing to do with shame and everything to do with shutting people up.

  88. Lilysparrow*

    I’m sorry for the hard times you’ve experienced, and I hope the pregnancy and placement work out as smoothly as possible for you.

    People are awkward and wierd, often. But when they are, it does help (a little) to recall that most people ask these type of awkward questions as an expression of goodwill. So you can direct that goodwill toward the things you actually want and need (like privacy).

    Maybe if there is a co-worker (or possibly your manager) that you would feel comfortable confiding in, they could help be a buffer and run interference for you.

    Some people are even willing & able to be a buffer without knowing all the details. Those people are awesome.

    I’m sending good wishes that you have an awesome person like that at your job.

  89. Certified Llama Midwife*

    I hope you get a lot of support from those around you and nothing but positive and helpful responses from co-workers. However this ends up, please know that you are doing a wonderful thing for this kid by finding him or her a loving family or, although this sounds very unlikely, choosing to be this child’s family. It says a lot about you that you have been able to be so thoughtful about this child’s future in light of such a traumatic time in your life

  90. Observer*

    I haven’t read the comments yet, but I have a few thoughts.

    1- Don’t lie. It doesn’t really help, and it makes it harder on you in the long term.
    2- You don’t owe anyone any information, so share ONLY what YOU are comfortable sharing! Don’t be angry or upset at people for asking curious (or stupid) questions. But do NOT feel like you have to provide any information.
    3- No one has to approve of or understand your decision. That means that you don’t need to explain why you do this, and if you do decide to share you get to decide how much detail you share. It also means that if people try to discuss this with you (or “discuss” it by trying to convince you to change your mind or criticizing your decision) you should feel totally free to shut that down. Start with politeness, but if people persist it is perfectly OK to be blunt even if it feels impolite.

    Please make sure that you are getting good legal advice. You don’t want the probable father to decide at the last minute that he doesn’t want the baby given up for adoption or that he wants the child but wants you to pay child support or the like.

    Lots of luck in navigating a very difficult situation.

  91. WaterGirl*

    1. I love the suggestion of identifying and cultivating an ally that can help run interference at work. That person will be part of your support network in the office.
    2. If you move ahead with adoption, “I’m carrying this baby for another family” or “I’m making an adoption plan for this baby” is sufficient for 90% of the nosy nellies at work. Let your ally do their thing for the other 10%. No need to embellish with additional details because it always seems to be an invitation to share more. I can see if you refer to the adoptive family as “lovely” that some people may ask how you selected them, if you’ve met them, etc.
    3. As someone on the other side (a waiting adoptive parent), I cannot believe the amount of misinformation and misunderstanding that still surrounds adoption in 2019. And the things people say out loud! I’ve learned that it’s not my job to educate these people myself unless I want to, and the same goes for you. Set some boundaries that you’re comfortable with and develop some change of conversation techniques. Your therapist, social worker, or agency advocate will be able to help you here.
    4. Sending you peace and love, OP.

  92. 2 Cents*

    I had a baby last spring, and I was amazed at how long I felt like a train had hit me — it was a good 8 weeks before I felt even close to physically normal, and I had a c-section with no complications. I only say this, OP, because you might want to take more leave (especially if it’s paid/partially paid) to allow yourself to recover physically. You might also want to consider coming back at reduced hours (if you can). At the very least (if you can), go back on a Wednesday or some other not-Monday day, so you don’t have to make it through a full week afterward.

    Also, I’m so glad you’re getting help. I got slammed by pretty bad PPD/anxiety, and it took months to figure out because I wasn’t in treatment at the time.

    1. Observer*

      Each pregnancy is different, so the OP needs to not make too many hard and fast plans about how much time she’s planning to take off. Having said that I’ll point out that caring for that new borne makes it take longer to recover, simply because you don’t get full nights of uninterrupted sleep. Also, a c-section, even on that’s totally routine and uncomplicated, is going to have a longer recovery time than most vaginal deliveries, assuming that nothing terribly out of the norm happens.

      On the other hand, OP, you are probably at a higher risk of PPD than most because of your circumstances. Both in how you got pregnant, which was not a really positive experience for you, and the fact that you’ll be going home without your baby. So, try to make sure you have a good support network in place and allow for more time than you expect to recover. You may not need it, but it’s easier to go back to work sooner than planned rather than later.

    2. newmom*

      I think this really varies.
      If I had been sleeping and not breastfeeding post-baby, I probably would have been good to go back to work at ~2 weeks, maybe 3. Vaginal birth with a pretty nasty 2nd degree tear. I was taking the baby out for lengthy walks at maybe 5 days after birth? But being up and about felt better than sitting down for those early days. A donut pillow was a really, really excellent gift from a friend.
      A friend who had a c-section for an infant who did not survive physically healed very quickly–she was back at work after 3 weeks, I think. She wanted to get back to her “old life” as soon as possible, and did so full time right away. It was the right decision for her.
      Obviously it’s different if you’re on your feet a lot, but it can be relatively easy (physically) to get back to work after a birth.
      I think allowing for a range of timelines and feelings

  93. Hooptiedoo*

    I faced this same situation early in my career although I ultimately decided to have an abortion in the first trimester. I *knew *I was pregnant almost from the moment of conception so I had several weeks to think through the options, including carrying and then giving up the child as a professional woman. When I was leaning toward adoption, I decided I would just be upfront about it. If my more liberal colleagues made a comment about it, I would emphasize that that was part of what CHOICE entailed. If my conservative colleagues said anything less than supportive, I would call them out for being hypocrites and tell them that if people were more supportive and less judgmental of unhappily pregnant women there might be fewer abortions. I realize all this was theoretical and I may not have had so much courage if I had gone through with the pregnancy. But if you are doing what you think is right, be strong and own it. You don’t need to get into details of your relationship with the father or of your own sexual behavior but saying you were the victim of a sexual assault should be enough explanation for even the most judgmental people. They are not even owed that but you do not feel ashamed of having been assaulted.

    1. Meyers and Briggs are not real doctors*

      I feel for you and I can relate to your story, by how my loved ones have been treated. One was at a university, and I was amazed at how judgemental folks were from both sides of the political spectrum when pushing their religious judgements on others who made the decision to terminate a pregnancy. It was a medical issue after she was showing and I was shocked at how her professors and university coworkers treated her upon “finding out” her sensitive and difficult medical situation.

      It bothered me that those people really pushed her to do something against her doctors’ recommendation for her best health that floored me, like why should she put herself in a medically scarey situation to carry a pregnancy that is not viable, just because others assume carrying and adopting out is the default?

      I know this isn’t OPs situation but I was so angry for fam member. The academics that did this to her got a slap on the wrist and she ended up transferring.

      The thing with choice is that it’s a choice she is free to make and should be respected, for whatever reason. Full stop.

  94. Sarah Simpson*

    I think this is an honorable and generous choice for your baby, and I sure wish you didn’t have to worry about people’s reactions and would get only positive feedback and constant support. I also know that isn’t the way the world works, and I’m sorry about that. I agree that telling them “You’re carrying for another family” is probably the easiest way to address it, and then tell them to mind their own business after that. And I hope you do have a support system that will give you the love and respect you deserve.

  95. Rapunzel*

    Hey Alison, is there any way you could put a content warning at the top of this post? Fellow sexual assault survivor here and it can be really helpful to know what you’re walking into sometimes.

    1. Nerd Boss*

      I would like to second this request. Coming across sexual assault on a management blog unexpectedly can feel like a punch in the gut.

  96. Missy*

    I’m a little concerned by how many comments seem to assume that LW is going to choose adoption. She is only considering it currently. She may choose to parent, and she has the right to make that decision based on what is best for her situation. Jumping to the assumption that she will be placing and therefore should claim it is a surrogacy situation will only make it harder if she does decide to parent (and in most places she had the right to make the decision to parent after giving birth and even in some places after placement of the child). The co-workers will all wonder why the surrogacy fell through, and may also not be kind if they discover that she decided to parent after making an adoption plan.

    Which is why I would avoid saying anything (except to those who need to know) unless directly asked and then to use the “it is a very private matter that I don’t want to talk about because I’m not sure if the child is going to be coming home” and then “I was carrying the child for another family” only after birth and adoption finalization. These are both true and work together (you weren’t sure if the child was going to come home and, if you choose adoption, you were carrying the child for another family). They also allow the listener to come up with their own version of the story, where you were a surrogate who was pregnant with a child that may have been had some sort of medical issue. And if you decide to parent then when you bring the child home it doesn’t have any weird questions since people will just assume that things worked out with the pregnancy.

    1. Pommette!*

      I like the approach you suggest. It leaves room for the OP to share more information, as is useful to her, once she is certain of what she wants to do.

  97. Imsostartled*

    OP, I just want to say that I really admire how you are handling this situation and I hope you are gentle with yourself. You are making the best out of a situation that was fueled by past trauma.

    I really like Alison’s “I am carrying the child for another family” language. I hope that if you choose that route you might frame it to yourself that way as well, because you absolutely are and would be providing the child with a bright future. I have faith that whatever choice you make will ultimately be the correct/best decision for you and the child, as you have been carefully evaluating the situation. Good luck OP.

  98. Jennifer*

    Re: Surrogacy. It may not even be legal in whatever state/country the OP is in, which opens up a lot of other questions from people at the office. Another reason I’d stay away from implying that.

    After you return from leave there may be questions about how the baby is doing, etc. so just be prepared. I think you can use the same script.

  99. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

    OP I just want to say that you do NOT have to justify your plans for this pregnancy, no matter what they are. That is totally your business and you don’t have to explain why or why not you would choose adoption. Good luck in whatever your choice!

  100. Dragonfly*

    I would not reveal my intention in advance of the delivery. Opening up about adoption will invite unwanted advice, judgement, and speculation, the negative impact of which won’t be minimized no matter how candid the mother is or if in fact she chooses to read her speech off a carefully worked out script. The fact is, when you don’t put thoughts in people’s heads, quite often they develop none.

  101. Paper Librarian*

    Hey OP- I cannot even imagine how you must be feeling right now. I hope you are doing well now with counseling, and I hope you will be able to develop a loving support system.

    I wanted to add something that I don’t believe I saw mentioned above. If you do decide to adopt out, can you say so cheerfully? If you aren’t feeling it, that might not be an option. But I remember reading advice that in general, revealing information casually and cheerfully primes for a more positive response than revealing information as if it were dire. I think other people have better suggestions about phrasing, but I wanted to bring up tone as well.

    Treat yourself well. We are all struggling in this world together.

  102. Safetykats*

    I don’t know now why we feel like any of this beyond the obvious is anybody’s business Burbank the OP’s. Most of the responses here are about trying to explain or obfuscate the issue. It is possible to simply say “I’d rather not talk about it.”

    Trust me, once you say it enough, people will make up their own stories and quit asking. My adult daughter has leukemia, and for various reasons, although we started out taking FMLA to help with caregiving, we are now estranged. I spent some time and energy trying to figure out how to explain the issue to coworkers (as a significantly number of people knew we were taking time off to care for her and suddenly were no longer doing that). My husband was completely successful with saying only “I’d rather not talk about that,” and changing the subject. After watching him do this for a couple of weeks, I started doing it too – and it work a brilliantly. Very few people have pushed back at all. I don’t know what the rumors are, as nobody tells me. I’m sure people assume the worst, and I really don’t have to care.

    OP – people will make up their own stories. That’s okay. After a while people will stop asking. That’s okay too. Surely if you lost your baby late in pregnancy, or soon after birth, nobody would expect you to talk about it at work. There is no particular reason you should feel you have to explain how you got pregnant, or how (or whether) you plan to raise this child anyone who isn’t a a very close friend. Let everyone figure out on their own that you’re pregnant, apply for your FMLA/maternity leave when you absolutely must, and come back as early as you like. You are not obligated to tell them how much leave you will take, only to follow the appropriate process when you return, or if you need extended leave. Let everyone assume you will take the standard leave until you’re ready to come back.

    Stay strong and do what’s best for you – and try to remember that discussing your personal life with your coworkers may feel like it’s expected, but it’s completely optional – and if the issue is painful at all, talking about it at work is likely NOT what’s best for you.

    1. Former Employee*

      I’m so sorry that your daughter has leukemia and that you and your husband are currently estranged from her.

      Without knowing any of the details, I do know that a life threatening illness is stressful for the people around the patient, not just for the patient, and all sorts of things can end up creating ill will, even if they might be seen as no big deal under other circumstances.

      Best wishes for your daughter’s recovery and for your family’s healing.

  103. Michaela Westen*

    OP, I’m so sorry all this happened to you and I hope things are better going forward.
    Alison’s expert mentions stress after placing the baby. Two things I’ve found good for stress are theanine supplements and benadryl at night. Don’t take them while you’re pregnant – take them after to help with the emotional stress she mentions.
    Good luck! :)

  104. Elizabeth West*

    What I’m about to say applies not only to this situation at work but also at social gatherings, worship, whatever. The vast majority of commenters here would not do this, but just in case anyone reading would, this is for you.

    If someone you know only casually (or not at all) tells you they don’t want to discuss their reproduction, DROP IT. Better yet, if they’re not bringing it up, reconsider even asking. You have no inherent right to know anybody else’s business, even if they’re nine months along and out to here. Not if they plan to get pregnant, not their birth plans, not how they got pregnant, not if or why they don’t have any children.

    It is literally none of your concern. Especially at work, where all you need to know is how long someone will be gone (on mat leave or for a birth) and what work you’ll be doing while they’re out. You should direct those questions to your manager.

    It may be intensely painful for the person to talk about these things–you can’t know. If you think your curiosity trumps their pain, you are a horrible person. Go sit in a damn corner and think about what you’ve done.

    If more people followed this rule, life would be easier for everyone.

  105. LaDeeDa*

    My only advice is to take the full amount of time you are allowed to take off. Your body and your heart will have a lot of healing to do, no matter if you keep the baby or not. *hugs* Good luck!

  106. CatMom*

    I don’t have any advice, but I just want to add that I am so sorry about what has happened to you and I want to remind you that you don’t owe ANYONE an explanation for your choice here. It’s your choice and yours alone and you don’t need to justify it to anyone.

    In light of that, give the explanation that makes it easiest for you, and don’t feel bad about omitting or even lying about the circumstances (because it isn’t really anyone’s business anyway).

  107. Laura*

    I haven’t been in an adoption situation, but as someone who has been pregnant twice in the workplace I can tell you that many (well-meaning) people will get very involved in your pregnancy and what life will be like with baby as soon as it’s announced through when you go on leave. I like Alison’s advice to say that you’re carrying the baby for another family, and that it’s a matter all involved would like to keep private, as soon as you announce. Otherwise, people are going to want to talk to you about all sorts of details (names, gender, advice, etc) and throw you a baby shower, and all sorts of stuff you probably don’t want to deal with after having made this decision. So if it were me, I’d be as upfront as soon as possible about this being a different, and private, situation, to minimize all of that as much as possible.

    1. Becky*

      I wonder if it is because I am in a male dominated industry, but for the most part no one in my work place would ever think to throw someone a baby shower and no one has peppered prospective parents with invasive questions. We have had a number of individuals take parental leave (which my company recently expanded to be more generous) and mostly the talk is around when/how long they will be gone and who will be covering their duties. There is some congratulations/hope everything is going well talk but other than that it rarely comes up. One of my direct reports recently got back from parental leave, I was a little more involved in that one than normal because he is a direct report and the extent of my involvement was asking him to keep me informed of when he would need to start his leave and encourage him to take what time he needed for what was best for his family (I REALLY didn’t want to be one of those companies I hear about on here where you have the benefit but are “encouraged” not to use it).

      1. Becky*

        The one female colleague who was pregnant in our department as far as I know never had anyone offering advice or trying to touch her belly or anything. There was no thought of a work-organized baby shower. She and I had been friends for 10 years before we ever worked at the company together so I was more involved, but that was independent of work.

      2. Laura*

        My workplace was more evenly split male/female-wise, so maybe that had something to do with it. But I’ve also noticed it in other workplaces where it’s the female parent (male parents-to-be don’t seem to get the same treatment, possibly because it’s not visible body-wise for them). I also got a lot of congratulations and questions from complete strangers in the store or at restaurants. Again, just people trying to be well-wishers, but it took me by surprise how comfortable people were with talking to me about my body and baby. For me being pregnant was like entering a weird social bubble where people felt more warmly towards you and more connected to you just because you were having a baby.

  108. Mahantongo*

    I would say I have ARRANGED an adoption, which might put off anyone asking to adopt, since it’s already been arranged. Then say you would rather not talk more about it. But try to be as honest as possible. These are not just people in line at the grocery checkout. You might someday want closer relationships with some of these coworkers and it will be nice to start off from honesty. Also, many things can happen during pregnancy, and just as they are happy to share your joy of a pregnancy you will be keeping, they will most likely also be there for you if something doesn’t feel right or the day your water breaks or to drive you to the hospital.

  109. Brian*

    As an adoptive parent, first, I want to let the OP know how deeply thankful my wife and I are that a woman in a very similar position to hers (sexual assault victim) made the choice to place her baby with us when she was unable to raise it herself. If you decide to go through with the adoption (of course, you’ll have the option to back out until whatever your state’s waiting period allows), you’ll create a lot of joy out of an awful situation.

    Now, for the work question, I would go with “honest without details.” Something like, “for personal reasons I don’t want to discuss, I am planning to place the baby with a loving family.” If a rude co-worker presses you on the reasons, say something like “It’s really difficult for me to talk about and very private, so please respect my privacy.” And if that’s still not enough, go to HR—but I would expect that will be enough with most of your co-workers. I expect you’re much more likely to get support than judgment.

  110. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

    So this will probably veer a little more than usual from the work advice, but hang in there with me.

    As you are deciding what you are going to do there will be a lot of raw emotion and you know what the situation was that got you the place you are now. So for you this is a huge big choice that understandably has a lot mixed up in it.

    For your coworkers (and anyone else you encounter through the pregnancy) though, these details and backstory don’t exist. Telling people about your plan for adoption doesn’t mean that they will know anything about the circumstances surrounding how you got pregnant in the first place (not that you have anything to be ashamed of!).

    From your coworkers you are likely to get a mix of reactions. I suspect most will be surprised, some will be awkward, and more than you will probably guess will be supportive. There will also be some that get weird and possibly rude or insulting, but I would imagine these would be in the minority if your coworkers are otherwise normal and good people. It’s natural for people to get weird when faced with a situation that they aren’t expecting, and this will be one of those situations where you’ll have to get used to the “Congrats you must be so excited” that gives way to “Oh, umm, err -insert some awkward phrase here-” when you first tell them. You will have some that will drop the conversation like a hot potato and some that will follow up with awkward or weird questions.

    With that being said, I’d advise against telling anyone until you have made up your mind what you want to do. Then I would adopt a matter-of-fact way of communicating your plans and be upfront about it. I’m not a fan of the vague comments, because that usually invites more questions and speculation than if you were just up front about it. ‘Carrying it for another family’ and ‘The baby is not coming home with me’ are both weird euphemisms that seem to shroud everything in mystery.

    Going with a straight… ‘I’m pregnant, and am opting to place the baby up for adoption’ says it all. You can then use the ‘obviously this is a personal situation and I’m really not into discussing it’ should be employed if you get more than the initial awkward space filler question or if people get weird.

    1. Jennifer*

      If she decides to tell people about the adoption, or discuss the pregnancy at all, I think that’s the best way to put it. Be direct or don’t say anything. No middle ground. Carrying for another family and the baby isn’t coming home with me is just going to inspire more gossip.

  111. Beth*

    I love the line “I’m carrying the baby for another family.” It tells the truth–you aren’t planning on keeping it, it will live with someone else–but keeps the focus on the pregnancy and not how it happened. Maybe you had unprotected sex, maybe it was a worse experience than that, maybe you intentionally decided to serve as a surrogate…you’re not saying, and you’re not saying in a graceful enough way that I think most people won’t pry. (And if they do, you can give them some major side-eye and just say “I prefer not to discuss such personal things at work.” They’re being rude and overstepping.)

  112. EmmaUK*

    In your situation I think I would just tell people that I was being a surrogate for a nice family.

  113. the_scientist*

    OP, this sounds like an incredibly challenging situation. I’m so glad to hear that you’re making progress in therapy and I hope you are building a strong local support network. All the best with whatever decision you make.

  114. Lindsay.aerib*

    definitely regardless of the story she ends up using the manager and team should know she isn’t keeping the child before she gives Birth – my department currently and many others I used to worn at like to do surprise baby showers where people all chip in and the team buys something – I would hate to think if she just left it until she came back and had to sit through a work baby shower!

    1. Anonandon*

      She might not know *herself* what she’s going to do until after the baby is born. Or maybe she’ll change her mind. All of that is OK.

  115. Rg*

    I haven’t read all of these, so forgive me if I repeat. I think the answer here depends on your colleagues – at my current workplace, for example, you could tell all of us and we would be an amazing support system. At prior workplaces, you wouldn’t have that. But my inclination is that people have to know the bare bones, so they know not to buy you gifts or surprise you with a shower. And if there is one person you trust, you could tell that person (I like – ‘I’m carrying this baby for another family’) and have that person take care of discreetly telling everyone else. Also -you are not alone. You may be surprised at the number of people who have been through this or something like it – people who don’t share due to shame or vulnerability. You keep this as secret as you want to – it is your decision, and you don’t owe the world an explanation. But just know that there are thousands of others like you out there, going through this as well. All my love and good wishes.

  116. Flash Bristow*

    OP, what a very difficult situation, you have my huge sympathies.

    One thought I had reading Alison’s advice is that if you tell your boss that “the baby didn’t come home with me”, they may assume that your baby died, and you might be met with lots of hushed sympathetic or pitying expressions, or even flowers and a condolence card. So although you need to find the easiest way to say it, you do need to be clear as well.

    Maybe something along the lines of “the birth went well, and the baby will be brought up by another family. I’m keen to return to work, and I’m sure you understand that I don’t really want to talk about babies in the office. Thanks.”

    I wish you all the best, this must be so hard and I’m impressed that you’re tackling this so seriously rather than delaying in hope it’ll go away or resolve itself somehow. I hope your colleagues and management are appropriately kind and supportive. Good luck on your journey.

  117. Scrumtrillescent*


    My situation was different, but similar. I left my abusive ex husband and moved into a DV shelter. After a few weeks there, I realized that I was pregnant. (Everything was in such upheaval at the time, it took me a really long time to realize that’s what that was.) One of the requirements of staying in the shelter was finding employment. I had to simultaneously navigate my working schedule around the shelter’s requirements (daily counseling, twice weekly meetings, curfews), divorce proceedings, and baby doctor appointments. So…everyone at work knew what was up and I felt a lot of shame about it. Everybody had an opinion. And people said (I will assume positive intent and say that it wasn’t intentional) things that broke my heart on a regular basis.

    People don’t know how to navigate these types of conversations because they’ve probably never had them before. I had people insinuate that I was making a big mistake carrying my child to term and parenting her. We had just lost our family, our home, our pet, our belongings…I wasn’t willing to lose her. It was hard doing it all alone, it was hard driving myself to the hospital while in labor, it was hard juggling my three other children and two jobs throughout this time. The people who were saying the things that hurt my feelings were probably just trying to protect me from a scary, difficult thing. And the ones who treated her like a mistake…I have a harder time reconciling that as being positively intended, but…once you decide on your truth, whatever that is, it will give you strength. And that strength will protect you from the things people say or the things you think people are thinking.

    If you ever want to talk, please feel free to email me. Um. I hope we are allowed to post our email addresses. Mine is the5thgroover at gmail.

    1. Jennifer*

      I’m so sorry you had to go through that. I really hate it when people tell others what they should do about their pregnancies. No matter what you decided, someone would have something negative to say.

      I hope you and your family are doing better now.

      1. Scrumtrillescent*

        Thank you. We are doing much better now. I have one job, we have an apartment. I was in retail for several years but got a job in municipal finance about a year and a half ago so I no longer have to work nights and weekends like I did in retail.

        One thing I want to mention that totally restored my faith in humanity during that time…OK picture this.

        I found out I was pregnant around Christmastime. I took a dollar store pregnancy test in the bathroom of a church that was providing child care to the people who lived in the shelter. A choir was practicing for their Christmas program and was singing “O Holy Night” as the two lines appeared on my test. I instantly knew that I was going to have the baby myself, by myself.

        One of the jobs I got was working for the Girl Scouts. They had a program for girls who were experiencing barriers to joining traditional troops. Basically, I went around to disadvantaged schools and did troop meetings with them once a week. They got vests or sashes, patches, and they got to sell cookies. (They didn’t get to go to camp.) I did this job for one year and then we lost grant funding for the program and they discontinued it. I was due in August. The program (and our jobs) ended in early June.

        At our last troop meeting at the school where my group of girls was the largest, they threw me a surprise baby shower. These girls were some of the most impoverished in our large, metropolitan area, but they pulled out all the stops for this shower. They were in 3rd and 4th grade so they didn’t have money or a way to go to the store. The gifts were all clearly taken from their own homes, handfuls of loose diapers, blankets, single baby bottles, pacifiers, tiny baby nail clippers. (Oh my gosh, I’m starting to cry at work just thinking about it.) Anything that they could take from their house without it being super noticeable, they brought to me. All of the decorations and cards were handmade. (I still have every single one.) They had games for us to play and brought the supplies for us to play them. I was absolutely floored. I will never forget their kindness and generosity.

        Isn’t it funny that things can be bleak, so bleak, and our struggles can be so great but even during times of great difficulty, there is capacity for love.

        1. triplehiccup*

          That is so lovely. OP, I hope you are surprised by kindness as you navigate this difficulty.

        2. Jennifer*

          I’m tearing up. Sometimes people with the least are the most generous. That is so very kind.

        3. Flash Bristow*

          Oh my. The “oh holy night” is so evocotive, and the gifts…

          That is beautiful. It shows humanity in a raw sense. Thank you for posting that.

          I’m glad things have moved on a bit for you and send you all the love and best wishes to possible.

          1. Scrumtrillescent*

            Thank you. I miss them all so much. All of this occurred so long ago that they’re all juniors and seniors in high school this year. I wonder if they remember me.

            Whenever I think about this story, I think that more people need to hear about these kids and how awesome they are. Thanks for letting me share it here.

  118. Anon today*

    My only advice is to focus on your mental health–and to tell your OB the details you’ve told us about your history. You’re already dealing with PTSD, and pregnancy and childbirth put women at risk for depression and anxiety. Besides therapy, there are medications you can take while you’re pregnant if warranted. Talk with your OB about that.

    Everything about this situation will be more manageable with adequate mental health treatment. Things can and will get better.

    1. Flower*

      Also important to keep in mind that giving birth can trigger sexual assault related trauma, (pregnancy too, but especially giving birth) even when the pregnancy was planned. Being aware of that, discussing with your doctors, etc, can all help.

      Best of luck to you, LW!

  119. AnonForNow*

    I just want to give all the love and support to the OP. I was in a very similar situation- I was sexually assaulted in college and then dove off the deep end into alcohol and sleeping with basically anyone who looked at me. My life was a complete mess when I got pregnant by a guy I had only been ‘dating’ for 3 months. I had to think very hard about my life and my choices and in the end I chose to keep the baby after a spiritual moment. I now believe the only reason I was kept alive through all the terrible choices I was making was because she was meant to be. She’s about to graduate high school and is the coolest, most amazing person I’ve ever known. I don’t say this to try and sway your decision- it is YOUR decision and no one else has the right to tell you what to do or judge you for your choices. I just think I might know a little about how you are feeling right now and want to tell you that you are not a bad person and no matter what, you are going to be okay. Biggest of hugs.

  120. L*

    I ditto all the comments saying not to imply surrogacy. I love the phrase Cambridge Comma suggested “‘I’m sorry, I know you mean well, but this isn’t a happy story and I’d rather not talk about it.’”

    I don’t know if you feel this way and would feel comfortable, but your pregnancy is the result of your trauma. If you feel comfortable, you might consider sharing some of that information. Or come up with what you’d want to say. I raise it only because I can see people pushing you for more information/change your mind/etc. and I think that level of context would (hopefully) cause people to stop.

    Also, can we just all STOP asking people about their bodies, reproductive choices, and child-rearing. It’s literally no one’s business. If someone wants to share, they’ll share. But unless they’re asking you to perform a c-section on the conference room table, it has nothing to do with work.

  121. Anonymeece*

    First off, my thoughts are with you, OP. I’m glad to hear you are doing better and seeking help for yourself. Whatever you decide, I wish you the best.

    One thing to consider about bringing a manager in is that it might help ward off those unpleasant conversations later. I like Alison’s script – very short and simple, and places the labor off of you telling everyone – but it also allows you to speak openly to your manager if you find coworkers are not understanding of you or your decisions. It might also help to practice a few scripts in your head of how to cut it off, “Jane, I am here to catalogue rare teapots, not discuss my personal life,” but it might help knowing you have someone in your corner.

    I wonder if HR would maybe also be a good mediator in this? As we know from reading this site, managers are not always rational creatures, so it might even be a good thing to loop them in and have them aware in case anyone decides to share their (absolutely not yours and therefore absolutely not valid in this instance) opinions, including your manager.

    Keep taking care of yourself, OP.

  122. booksnbooks*

    More practically, if you work out how to dress late in your pregnancy in larger-than-normal normal clothes, rather than the extremely obvious maternity clothes, people might err on the side of just not asking you if you are pregnant. It will depend entirely on the pregnancy, of course, and how you are carrying. But that might solve all the issues, because if your clothing style isn’t screaming I’M PREGNANT no one will bring it up if you don’t. I do think you’ll need to tell your manager something, though, because you’ll need to take that maternity time off. Unless, of course, you have enough PTO and really want to keep it under wraps so you just call in sick for a bit when the time comes. (That, too, will depend on how the birth goes. Some women are physically fine after a day or so, others really need weeks to recuperate).

  123. ActivistAlice*

    Alison’s advice is great, if you’re not comfortable being open about it. But I just want to be clear, OP, if shame or embarrassment is what’s keeping you from just stating the facts, that you have nothing to feel ashamed about, and you shouldn’t feel as though you do. You didn’t cause your own PTSD, nor did you have control over the way it expressed. It’s a consequence of what you’ve endured, NOT a personal failing.

    PTSD led you to a situation that you weren’t prepared for. It’s analogous to being kidnapped and dropped in a foreign city. You can either fall apart, make bad decisions based on panic, or take the time to get your bearings and make rational decisions about how to find your way back where you need to be. You’ve done the latter. PTSD dropped you in this unexpected landscape, and you’ve rationally assessed whether you can successfully thrive there or whether you need to get back to where you were before. That shows that you are a thoughtful, intelligent, resilient woman.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that you tell people that you have PTSD and that led to some decisions that were out of character for you. But there’s nothing wrong with matter-of-factly saying, “I’m pregnant, but the timing is wrong. I’m choosing adoption for my child.” Many people might make that decision for many reasons. There’s no shame in it. In fact, it’s something to be excited about. You’re helping people who desperately want a child to fulfill their dream! That’s making something wonderful out of the terrible things that happened to you.

  124. LW*

    I’m finally able to get to this after reading/skimming most of the comments.

    First of all, I would like to thank everyone for being so kind about this. I really appreciate it. In typical pregnancy fashion, a lot has changed since I’ve written in. It turns out that I am actually a lot earlier on in my pregnancy than initially thought, which unfortunately opens the possibility for another man to be the father. He has been significantly more supportive than the other, and although I am not 100% sure on anything, I believe co-parenting would be more feasible with him. I plan to do prenatal paternity testing and hope to do that once I am far enough along to make the results accurate and court-admissible. A lot of this has been me having a long list of questions that will need answers eventually, and feel pressure to answer them all *right this very second*, even though I do feasibly have time.

    I have since told my parents and one sister, who are all supportive of my choice. My family has had an extended ride on the poop Ferris wheel for the last couple years, so even though this is still shocking news, it’s definitely in line with things that have been going on. I’ve also told some friends, who have reacted with compassion as well, and one woman at work who I have worked closely with since I was an intern. I asked her to please keep it private, and to my knowledge, she has. She had some good advice about how to handle my pregnancy in the workplace, and I feel so much better knowing that at least *someone* at work knows. My manager has been out on his own FMLA, but I don’t anticipate telling him until much farther down the line, regardless of my choice.

    Alison, thank you so much for your research and thoughtful response. I will definitely employ your script, especially if I decide to adopt rather than parent. As many commenters have surmised, I am not 100% decided on anything. Both options are still very much on the table. Again, thank you all for your kind words and sentiments. I am sure I will revisit them many times throughout my pregnancy. This has been one of the most difficult things to happen to me in my life, and I appreciate the kindness and concern shown by perfect strangers.


    1. booksnbooks*

      Take care of yourself. You are a thoughtful, wonderful person and will make the best decision for yourself and the baby, whatever that might be. You’ve totally got this:)

    2. Emi.*

      Hi LW,
      I am so glad to hear you have support in your family and friends and at work! You deserve every bit of help and kindness. Whether you decide to parent or place your child for adoption, I hope you know that you are doing a brave and loving thing, and I wish you the very minimum of haters and nosy parkers.

    3. Jules the 3rd*

      Consider asking the trusted coworker if she’ll help with the office conversation – let her leak the story you want to have known, along with ‘but LW doesn’t want to talk about it, we just happened to have one conversation on it when I noticed.’

      Go You.

      1. TootsNYC*

        ‘but LW doesn’t want to talk about it, we just happened to have one conversation on it when I noticed.’

        I think your surrogate can flat-out say, “She asked me to speak to everyone on her behalf.”

        There’s nothing to hide here, no need to pretend that your convo w/ your surrogate was accidental, etc.

    4. gmg22*

      It’s really great to hear that you have gotten reactions of positive support from everyone around you who you’ve trusted with this info. Very best wishes to you on whatever decision you make.

    5. agnes*

      wishing you the best. You sound like a thoughtful person who will make a good choice, whatever that choice turns out to be.

    6. Marie*

      Hi LW,

      I hope you are doing alright. When things are tough, look here and know that you have a lot of support.

      18 years ago, as an unwed young woman just starting my adult life, I made the decision to place a baby for adoption. It was a one of the most difficult decisions of my life.

      6 years ago, with a marriage ending and a 2 year old, I found myself pregnant and once again faced with the decision to place or parent as an unwed mother trying to start a new life. My (almost) ex husband decided he didn’t want the baby (even though it was his), and I would be making the decision alone and moving forward alone. Although I almost placed again, I ended up keeping and parenting.

      Whatever you decide will be the right decision for YOU and for this baby. I support you in your decision. Both will be hard, both will provide opportunities, and both will be life changing.

      If you’d like to talk, please reach out to me. Marie A Ricci at gmail dot com or eight zero one, six one zero, nine four three three. (Hopefully that will avoid the bots and still allow you to reach me. If that didn’t work, I give Alison permission to provide LW with my contact info.)

      And Alison, thank you for publishing this letter. Thank you for allowing the AskAManager community to support this member.

    7. Marie*

      Hi LW,

      I hope you are doing alright. When things are tough, look here and know that you have a lot of support.

      18 years ago, as an unwed young woman just starting my adult life, I made the decision to place a baby for adoption. It was a one of the most difficult decisions of my life.

      6 years ago, with a marriage ending and a 2 year old, I found myself pregnant and once again faced with the decision to place or parent as an unwed mother trying to start a new life. My (almost) ex husband decided he didn’t want the baby (even though it was his), and I would be making the decision alone and moving forward alone. Although I almost placed again, I ended up keeping and parenting. It was also one of the most difficult decisions of my life.

      Whatever you decide will be the right decision for YOU and for this baby. I support you in your decision. Both will be hard, both will provide opportunities, and both will be life changing.

      If you’d like to talk, please reach out to me. Marie A Ricci at gmail dot com or eight zero one, six one zero, nine four three three. (Hopefully that will avoid the bots and still allow you to reach me. If that didn’t work, I give Alison permission to provide LW with my contact info.)

      And Alison, thank you for publishing this letter. Thank you for allowing the AskAManager community to support this member.

    8. Flash Bristow*

      Hi OP. This must be so difficult with all the not-knowings… huge empathy and good wishes. I’ve been in a similar “eek what do I do” situation, but… well my decision isn’t relevant to yours. But trust I know it is incredibly hard and you have so much of my emotion and empathy.

      I’m so glad you have someone at work who is on side and understands, so you don’t have to be stuck there alone.

      The only other thing I would say is that, while it makes a huge difference whether the baby’s father is on board, ultimately it is your body and your situation. It’s good to include them in knowledge and decisions – of course it is – but don’t let anyone push you in a direction that makes you unhappy for your own body and the baby you are carrying.

      Very best of luck (as before!)

    9. Sparkly Librarian*

      LW, all my best to you. You’re making tough decisions in a difficult situation, carefully, with thoughtful consideration of all your options. I’m sorry that you’re having to do so, and glad that you’ve received compassion and support from the friends and family and coworker you’ve told so far. It’s okay not to know all the answers (although it may be frustrating!). You’ll need people on your team during pregnancy, whatever the outcome. Whether you make an adoption plan or not, it seems clear that you’ll be using the information and resources you have to make the best decision for you and your baby. That’s something you can be proud of. Good luck!

    10. anon like everyone else*

      Much love, OP. It’s a lot of hard decisions. I am married but got pregnant unexpectedly, and my husband didn’t want a kid. I had an abortion scheduled and then cancelled. Now I have a toddler. It’s all working out, more or less, but I too had to face the decisions of, coparent with someone who didn’t plan on this? be a single mom? have an abortion? adopt? etc etc etc. And I felt I really couldn’t talk with anyone about it because of the judgement of my husband that would come along with those conversations — I wasn’t interested in having a spouse-bashing conversation. Sure made congratulations awkward — congrats, you’re pregnant with a kid which might leave your husband to leave you! Haha!

      No advice. Just encouragement. You’re not alone, and don’t feel ashamed. Even as a married woman I felt judged for getting knocked up — the smog of our culture taints everything, but that’s not the truth and it’s not our fault.

  125. beckysuz*

    OP, please know what whatever you decide to do, that you are brave and strong. Many hugs to you as you navigate this difficult time.

  126. wittyrepartee*

    Hey, it sounds like you were dealt a very difficult hand. You seem to think that people think you’re trying to skip out of your responsibilities. Nope! You are making a choice that is right for you in a responsible and compassionate way.

    I’m so sorry that you were sexually assaulted.

  127. Jules the 3rd*

    When you make your decisions, consider using a proxy to shortcut discussion at work. Tell one chatty person what you want other people to hear and let them know that they can share that, but in general you don’t want to talk about it.

  128. Daphne Tyson*

    OP I really feel for you. Say nothing until you start showing and people start asking. Then go to HR and discuss maternity leave. You are under no obligation to discuss details with HR, other than dates of leave and dates of return, insurance coverage etc. But get to HR first, and tell them you’d appreciate them shutting down the rumor mill if necessary. Then, when the comments start coming, keep it simple. “I will be giving/considering giving up the baby for adoption. I appreciate your concern but I’d rather not talk about it, thank you.” If you get into surrogacy, or “carrying for a family” (which hints at surrogacy) beyond the potential insurance/legal issues, you could be branded as an employee who may not be serious about her career. As in, is she promotion material. The world shouldn’t work this way, but in my office, it would really color people’s perception of you unfortunately. I agree with other posters, people understand that adoption is painful and will hopefully back off. Whatever you choose to do, our hearts are with you, and you will get through this with grace and thoughtfulness you have already shown. Please keep us posted.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      hunh, I’d expect surrogacy to get less stigma than adoption. In the US, surrogacy implies thoughtful choice, while adoption has all the baggage that the Puritans have loaded on us.

      1. Arctic*

        It could really go either way. I think some people assume a surrogate gets paid (which is not usually the case and no one’s business either way) and, therefore, there is a negative connotation at work. So, some people will judge for “selling” (I’m so disgusted to even write it that way) your womb.
        It’s just another way people feel entitled to judge pregnant women. It drives me nuts.

    2. virago*

      The OP has posted in the discussion (as LW).

      She says she plans to use Alison’s script. She hasn’t decided whether to parent or to place her child for adoption. She has confided in a trusted co-worker and asked that person to keep the information private. (OP’s boss is out on FMLA.)

  129. Me*

    I just want to say, please please don’t think you need to explain or justify your choices. I noted in your letter you went into them a bit especially the responsibility part. I just want to be sure you truly know you do not owe anyone any information on the hows or whys of your decision.

    I’m so glad you’re in a better place and wish you all the best.

  130. WillyNilly*

    Hey OP, just want to reassure you, for all the doofuses out there, plenty of people will be totally cool with you not wanting to discuss it. I know women who have aborted, who have given up for adoption, who have carried to term babies destined to die, who have had late term miscarriages, who have adopted, who fostered, who have chosen to never have kids, who have had childlessness thrust upon them, women who had kids in their teens, and in their 40s. Honestly, none of it is shocking. If someone wants to talk, it can be interesting, but if they don’t want to share? Ok, no biggie, next topic. Pregnancy is pretty routine, its not so rare it needs to be the topic of conversation.

    Even if you have some nosey coworkers, chances are you have more who will gladly help you change the subject.

    Best of luck.

    1. TootsNYC*

      , for all the doofuses out there, plenty of people will be totally cool with you not wanting to discuss it.

      And the funny thing is, precisely BECAUSE we are being discreet and not discussing it, you won’t notice us!

      But we’re here, so watch out for us. And let our silence be support for you. Because we intend it to be.

  131. My Body My Choice*

    I think the surrogacy line is going to be easiest. And, as others have rightly pointed out, it is technically true but you’re just leaving out that it was not planned.

    But, with that said, I wanted to say that I personally do not see anything morally or ethically wrong with telling a lie in this situation. When I took time off for a pregnancy I chose to terminate, I flat-out lied to my boss and coworkers about what the time off was for, and I feel zero remorse or ambivalence about doing so. People are nosy and judgmental about women’s reproductive choices, and you do not owe them your honesty about this. With that in mind, obviously you want to keep it plausible and make sure you are as transparent as you need to be to not put your job in jeopardy (like if you are asked for documentation for FMLA or something).

  132. Adoptee*

    I don’t have suggestions for OP, but wanted to say that as someone who was adopted as an infant, I appreciate you making this choice. I’m sure it is difficult, but you are doing what you think is best for you and your child. I was given many opportunities that I likely wouldn’t have had if my unwed birth mother (18 at the time and during the 1970s) had kept me and I am grateful for that.

  133. SarasWhimsy*

    A coworker of mine placed her baby for adoption in the mid 90s. We were a very big environment so it’s not quite the same. She didn’t say anything to us ahead of time but when she came back from a short maternity leave she told anyone who asked about the baby that she wasn’t ready to raise a child so she placed it for adoption. End of discussion. I don’t know if anyone who pressed her on details or questioned her decision.

  134. Sarah Q*

    Different back story but same outcome – I let my coworkers know that my circumstances had changed and I was not in a position to start a family and had decided to place my baby up for adoption in order to ensure they had the life I wanted to give them but was unable to.
    The team I worked for was very understanding and went out of their way to not make my remaining months any harder than they already were, as well as create a safe space for me from the changed circumstances.
    I wish you the best and know you will make the decision that is right for you!

  135. BookLady*

    I don’t have any advice, but I’m sending all my best wishes to you, OP! This sounds like a tough situation and I wish for you an easy pregnancy and un-nosy coworkers.

  136. Ladylike*

    OP, I can’t add anything to Alison’s advice, but I just wanted to say that you sound like a mature, courageous person and I admire your willingness to endure questions and criticism for the sake of your baby. I wish you and your baby only the best.

  137. GreenDoor*

    Please do say something about the baby not coming home! I especialy like the idea to tell you manager and ask her to give everyone else a heads up after you go on leave. I had a coworker that went on maternity leave, came back, and when I saw her I enthusiastically asked, “And how is the little one?” only to have her burst into tears. Turns out seh gave the baby up and word never filtered down to me (I was a lowly clerk at the time). I felt like a huge ass for making her so upset at work and she took it as me being callous and judgy. It was awful.

    At a different workplace, a colleague called out sick. She had had a miscarriage and asked our boss to tell everyone and ask for privacy on her behalf. While she was recovering over the next few days, the rest of us were able to get it out of our system, the way people do – telling our own stories and wondering things aloud – without her being there to be subject to it all. By the time she came back, it was a few mumors of sympathy, a few private “it happened to me too” conversations but that was it. No drama. I wish you all the best OP – this is not an easy position to be in at all!

  138. Peggy*

    I don’t have specific advice and I didn’t read the other comments but I’m sure everything’s been covered.

    I’m not sure you’ll even get down this far in the comments. I just wanted to say that I lived a similar situation about 20 years ago. My first rape was by a relative stranger (a friend of a friend I’d only known 3 days) and I had an excellent support system and worked through a lot of the ugly parts as best I could and came out from it very much changed but mostly okay. The second time was 2 years later and it was a coworker who was loved by all, charming and sociopathic and I feared telling most of my close friends because they knew and loved him, and feared telling my family because I felt guilt that I’d “let it” happen again. I did NOT deal with the hard stuff that time around – what he did to me was incredibly physically violent on top of being sexually violent and I had a really hard time coping with everything that came out of it. I did a lot of hard drugs, I had a lot of unsafe sex, and I shut out everyone who cared about me. I got pregnant during that time and had a painful miscarriage at work – if I hadn’t, I’d have had to make a decision about abortion or adoption. It opened my eyes a little but I still continued down the same path for a while. When the drugs and sex were no longer serving me, I turned to food and put a big wall of fat up between me and the world to prevent unwanted attention. To this day I’m still dealing with the repercussions of all of those decisions. I’ve lost a hundred pounds in the last few years and in doing so am faced with dealing with some of the intensely difficult reasons I gained it in the first place. When people think about rape survivors they often just think about the immediate aftermath – being afraid for a little while, fragile. What they show you on law and order SVU. in reality it can be much bigger than all that, and take decades to work through. I hope life treats you well from here on out.

    There’s not much point to this except to tell you you’re not alone, this isn’t your fault, you’re strong for getting through it, and best of luck to you.

  139. atalanta0jess*

    I have a stupid question. Is there some reason it is preferable to say that you’re carrying for another family, versus “I’m considering placing the baby for adoption. Obviously it’s a very complicated situation, and one I’d rather not discuss at work. Thanks!”?

    Forgive me if I’m missing something obvious. If I imagine myself in your shoes, this feels like it would be most comfortable for me, because it allows for shutting down conversations when necessary, or for opening up more to coworkers who are friends if you want to. I guess, it’s the fear that people will make judgments about how you ended up in this position? That’s understandable.

    Take good care!! It sounds like you are a thoughtful person, and will navigate this well, whatever that means. Wishing you lots of support, acceptance, and healing.

    1. teacher girl*

      I’m wondering if it’s because saying that you are placing the baby with adoption will lead nosy, pushy people into asking why you’re doing that and trying to talk you out of it?

      Surrogacy is usually seen as generous and praiseworthy, whereas when it’s a choice you’re making about your own life/baby, EVERYONE has a damn opinion.

    2. AnotherKate*

      The reason I can think of is that people will ask “Why?” There’s an assumption that if you’re a financially independent adult woman who happens to get pregnant, you’ll either have the baby (and keep it) or not keep the pregnancy. There’s a visibility to being pregnant that you can’t escape; people will see what’s happening to your body and make all sorts of assumptions. If you say “no, I’m giving this baby up for adoption” even people who wouldn’t SAY anything might make the wrong face or otherwise not know how to react. All of this would feel like death by a thousand cuts to me, so I can only imagine it’s the same for the LW.

  140. Lee*

    Hi, I just want to wish you well and hope that you find peace with whatever decision you make. I am a mom to two adopted kids who are the light of my life and the greatest gifts I could have ever hoped for in life. I do not have the words to express how grateful I am to their genetic mothers because those two women gave me the gift of motherhood. I have talked with my kids about their adoptions and how we became a family. They know that my husband and I have the great respect and love for their genetic mothers. We tell them how brave and strong they are to have made an adoption plan for the children. We pray for them regularly. I’m telling you this so that you know that there is no shame in making an adoption plan for this baby. If that is your decision, please don’t allow yourself to be pulled into that hurtful, judgmental narrative. Even is some judge you, the people who really matter know the truth – you are brave and strong and everyone else is irrelevant. I wish you peace.

  141. AnotherKate*

    I love Alison’s suggestion to say you’re carrying the baby for another family. It’s true! It’s just not what they’ll assume from that wording (i.e., that you’re acting as a surrogate). I for one am fine with the idea of letting them make that assumption. It’ll save you a lot of judgment (and even just plain curiosity and other prying that you don’t need).

  142. kristinyc*

    Don’t have much to add, but from one pregnant lady to another – wishing you the best! It’s hard enough when you’re pregnant by choice/ under optimal situations, and dealing with coworker comments/questions sucks.

    Hang in there. I hope you have healthy and smooth pregnancy! <3

  143. Relly*

    Hey, Alison, you don’t have to take this out of moderation. I just wanted to say that I really appreciate you being willing to monitor comments with sensitive subjects like this.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      FMLA will work the same as normally! She might take only the time for recovery from delivery rather than the additional bonding time, but it’ll cover her for the recovery time she needs.

  144. Jenny*

    As an adoptive mom, I can only say that I am very grateful to you and countless other women. I support fully the right to abortion, by the way. I am nonetheless grateful for having had the chance to be a mother despite my own body’s non-cooperation. Thank you.

  145. yvette*

    My heart goes out to you. But my biggest concern is that these people have assaulted you. You should probably press charges. Or they could go around hurting other women.
    As far as the baby. I would talk to the HR and disclose the situation. I had two pregnancies back to back while I was in high school. I went on to have graduate from college and have a career. You can be a mother and have be successful at the same time.
    I’m praying for you.

    1. gmg22*

      How the OP handles being the victim of a crime is her private business, and I would also note that there is no indication here at all of whether she did or didn’t press charges, so we shouldn’t assume either way.

      The advice requested was about how to deal with disclosing the pregnancy and her plans at work. Your advice re talking to HR is good.

  146. AnnaMaye*

    I have a co-worker who is very early in a very high-risk pregnancy that has been a lot of work to get this far into. She’s told only me (I’m in administration) so that I can help with FMLA prep/etc but no one else will know until she’s ready. And also, sadly, in case it doesn’t last.
    If there’s someone you trust at work I might suggest telling them that this was the product of assault and that you’ll be putting the child up for adoption. Ask them to let people know and head off the comments for you by telling the rest of the staff you don’t want to get into it.
    Good luck!

  147. ENFP*

    You are very brave! Sending you good thoughts and please don’t worry about judge-y people – they’d have a comment no matter what. Allowing a family to adopt your child is a beautiful thing. Best of luck!

  148. llamaturner*

    First-time commenter compelled to say: OP, you don’t have to “justify” this unexpected pregnancy. It seems like you feel you must “explain” it (recounting your reactions to PTSD). Let this internet stranger reassure you that you don’t owe anyone explanations, justifications, etc. I am so sorry for the incredible pain you have experienced and wish you the very best. You are brave. You are stronger than you know. And a friendly reminder as well that being a single parent (should you decide not to adopt and if the father isn’t supportive) is still being a parent, full stop–you are already demonstrating the thoughtful responsibility of an amazing parent.

  149. Fishgal*

    My only thought with saying the baby didn’t come home with her, while true would lead many people to jump straight to assuming the child died and that could open a whole new can of worms.

  150. cheese please*

    A few comments because the surrogacy lie blew up. While it may appear convenient, some people (like myself) have moral / ethical problems with surrogacy. So, OP, if you are not ok saying you are acting like a surrogate I think you’re allowed to say “The circumstances around my pregnancy are complicated. I’m sure you may be curious, but I want to maintain privacy for all involved, and I have found the support I need to handle my situation. I would appreciate we not talk about it at work”. If you are comfortable with your boss and/or HR department, tell them the truth but ask them to keep it private. They may be allies in helping sush people’s questioning.

    Additionally, I am not sure if your adoption agency can work with you to find a birth mom / birth parents support group. It may be useful to connect with mothers in similar situations.

    Best of luck OP. You are strong. You can do hard things.

    1. TootsNYC*

      another nice script, and it would work even if the OP is still making her decision by the time she needs to say something in the office.

    2. Former Employee*

      I don’t understand why someone would have “moral / ethical problems with surrogacy”.

      It is such a blessing for a couple that cannot have biological children for someone else to enable them to have a child.

      At least some of the time, it is a relative or close friend who offers to be the surrogate, which only brings the couple closer to someone with whom they already have a loving relationship.

      1. Observer*

        That’s not really relevant, though. The OP really doesn’t want to deal with judgements. So, if she’s using surrogacy to avoid that problem, it may not work, because CheesePlease is not unique.

  151. Lalalaaaaa*

    I agree with aforementioned advice of “I’m carrying the baby for someone else” and/or “I’m having a complicated pregnancy and prefer not to talk about it.”

    Also- sending a million hugs and good vibes your way, Letter Writer! This is a tough situation but it seems you’re handling it as best as you can. Don’t let others push you in a direction that doesn’t work for you.

  152. Meißner Porcellain Teapot*

    Mark me down as another commenter suggesting to give an explanation, but to keep it very short and factual:

    “Yes, I’m pregnant. Thanks for your well-wishes, but I’m carrying this baby for another family, so she won’t be coming home with me.”

    I’d use those sentences like a broken record, because:

    1) They give an adequate explanation as for why you will be taking several weeks off from work (which will affect your co-workers and boss and thus is a legitimate thing for them to wonder about).
    2) They acknowledge people’s input, thus completing the social circuit (that’s the “thank you for your well-wishes” part) and getting all the people who were just trying to be polite by doing the socially expected thing (congratulate a pregnant women and showing/feigning interest in the little bundle).
    3) They wrap “I’m not keeping the baby” up in the most positive spin ever and it’s not even a lie. It doesn’t mean what most people will think it means, but it isn’t false. Also, if anyone inquires about the baby’s future family, you can just say “woah, you know data like that is confidential for good reasons, right?”.
    4) By giving no reasons for your decision, you’re leaving very little room for arguing.
    5) Most people will likely accept this answer and move on.

    If anybody does decide to argue after that (“But how can you give away your baby?!” or “Don’t you love your little angel?”): “I made this choice carefully and it is not up for discussion. Let’s drop this topic and move on.”

    If they still don’t drop it after that: “None of your business, Janet.” And honestly, I’d use that one once, maybe twice, and after that Janet would be in HR explaining why she thinks your reproductive choices are her business.

  153. Lucille2*

    I have been the coworker in this situation. A coworker of mine had decided to give up her baby for adoption, and was very open about her plans. For better or worse, we were a close knit group. She was in an abusive relationship at the time, and was not in a financial or emotional place where she felt she could raise a child. When she gave birth, she took her full maternity leave before returning to work. As a coworker, I completely respected and admired her decisions. Even her decision to take her leave of absence. That is a very personal choice, so I will not give you advice here, but only to do what you feel you need in order to heal. Having given birth myself, I can tell you first hand there is a lot of physical healing as well as emotional after giving birth. It’s great to have a plan in place in advance, but you may find you have different needs than originally expected after giving birth.

    I worked in retail at the time, and had some rather sexist and out-of-touch coworkers, so there were some insensitive comments. I’m not sure how much of those comments were to her directly or not. But the majority of our coworkers were very supportive and even admired her for her strength. And I for one, defended her anytime I heard insensitive remarks from others. Just remember this, it takes great strength to make the choice you are making, and only you know what is best for the baby. Anyone who tells you otherwise is simply projecting their own issues and insecurities on you. But they are not yours to carry. Best of luck to you.

  154. Case of the Mondays*

    I’m very hesitant to write this because I want to make clear that I am reaching out to help you, not just myself. I’m a regular reader and commenter here. I commented under “Case of the Mondays” for a long time and have used a variety of other names as of late since I’ve been trying to spend less time online.

    I, with my husband, are currently approved-to-adopt prospective parents looking to be matched with a birth parent seeking to place an infant. When considering your options, I’m guessing uncertainty of the adoption process is one of your concerns. You want to make sure you sign up with an ethical attorney or agency to assist you with your placement.

    We are interested in an open adoption with on-going contact with the placing parents. We may be able to help each other. If you decide that you do want to place your child but are uncomfortable starting the process alone, I would be happy to connect, refer you to the firm I am working with and I could get a new attorney to represent me should you choose to place with us. I am an attorney so this wouldn’t be hardship for me to find another.

    Even if you aren’t interested in placing with me, I’d be happy to tell you what I know and give you the contact info for my agency. If you want to exchange contact info, just reply and I will post a burner or Allison can give you my email (assuming she sees that field).

    1. Anon Anon Anon*

      I realize that you are trying to tread carefully, but I think this is deeply inappropriate.

      The OP has come to this board asking for advice about how to manage questions from her co-workers. She is not seeking advice on if she should place, nor is she seeking hopeful adoptive parents.

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        People offered all kind of advice for all sort of things beyond the employment question. People offered advice for dealing with sexual assault. People offered advice from perspective of having placed a child and people offered advice from the perspective of being an adopted child. People who have lost children commented and people who were involved in surrogacy commented. All of these went beyond giving employment advice. I’m the only one you called out as inappropriate? I offered a resource. She can scroll right by if she is not interested.

        I want to add, I did not see OP’s update prior to posting this. I read through the comments but left the window open for awhile before I commented. This posted after OP’s update. I likely would not have posted if I had seen her update.

        Lastly, I offered NO advice on whether she should place. I said if you are interested, I know a reputable resource (because I passed on some that were SHADY) and I personally may be interested. If other posters had stayed 100% on topic for work I would have not bothered to respond. Other comments were allowed and I don’t see mine as out of line for those. If it was, Allison would have deleted it. Look at the post directly under mine for example.

  155. Common Welsh Green*

    OP – As the grandmother of a long-hoped-for, joyously received adopted grandson, I can only imagine how hard this must be for you. Others here have given you excellent advice. I would only like to add that when you surrender your child, somewhere there will be a family who will forever think of you with gratitude for your decision and with appreciation for your willingness to do the very best you can for your child.

    1. virago*

      The OP has posted in the discussion (as LW).

      She says she plans to use Alison’s script. She hasn’t decided whether to parent or to place her child for adoption. She has confided in a trusted co-worker and asked that person to keep the information private. (OP’s boss is out on FMLA.)

  156. AR*

    Dear OP, my heart goes out to you, I understand your concerns as I’m dealing with something similar with my coworkers. They know I’ve been married for 10 years, but what they don’t know is that I have an infertility problem. Now, the “when are you having kids” comments are coming my way. It’s been a little hard to come up with an answer since I do not want to disclose my private information. So my advice is just keep it a “it’s a private matter and I prefer not to discuss” basis if tu don’t want to lie (carrying for another family) our just disclose more information . You will encounter coworkers that will get it right away, but be prepare for the ones that will try to pressure you to give more information. Good luck OP!

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Ugh I really wish people would just get a clue about this! A young woman’s family plans are really, REALLY not up for discussion! And then you have the awkward situation of coming across as either being a child-hating hag who doesn’t want children, or struggling with infertility which opens you up to every unsolicited suggestion under the sun when you actually really don’t want to f**king talk about it.

      Good luck to you, AR!

  157. Vibey Vibes*

    There are so many comments now, so I don’t know if this is a repeat, but I’d like to suggest another option for deflecting questions. One of my coworkers a few years back, when she started showing, was asked about her pregnancy in the chit-chat before a meeting. She responded, “Gosh, I feel like people treat me like a Pregnant Person all the time right now, and at work I just want to be a Work Person! Can we talk about work or maybe a good TV show?” She said it with a very cheerful and frank tone, and I don’t recall anyone being offended or ever bringing up her pregnancy again. Even when she returned after maternity leave, we said “How are you?” and let her introduce talk of the baby or not, as she wanted. I’m sure not everyone was as respectful of her boundaries, and I’m sure she had to repeat herself a number of times, but I think it’s a good script, and it doesn’t get into your personal life at all.

    1. Nicole*

      This is a really good script! Oftentimes when we are in a condition that’s not the “norm,” whether due to a medical condition or otherwise, we get morphed into just that condition. You can forget that underneath there is still a complex, multi-faceted person!

  158. Database Developer Dude*

    I’m sitting here wondering why it’s any of OP’s colleagues’ business that she’s pregnant, or that the baby won’t be coming home with her.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Because it’s normal in a warm, friendly office for people to express pleasure in what they assume is a happy situation and to take an interest in the fellow humans they spend lots of time around. Many people ask about pregnancies without prying, but simply because they are attempting to connect and express warmth. There’s much discussion of this above.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      Humans are a social species and as such we’re pretty hard-wired to be very invested in occasions that affect the community. Marriages, divorces, births, deaths – those are really monumental events and the community members of course will be interested!

  159. Katie the Fed*

    I’m coming in SO late to this but what a great discussion of a really complex topic. I hope people will remember this when they flippantly suggest a woman just “give the baby up for adoption” in the event of an unplanned pregnancy – the reality is HIGHLY complicated for so many!

    OP – best wishes for a safe and healthy pregnancy! Please remember to take care of yourself – so often during (and after!) pregnancy all the focus of everyone – including healthcare providers – is on the baby and not on us. Take care of yourself – you matter!

  160. AnnaBananna*

    Wow. ^^ That’s a lot of comments already. If you’re still reading, OP:

    As someone who had to make a similar decision in a similar time in my life, I understand what you’re going through. First, be incredibly graceful with yourself. You are not broken, you are just a bit bent from the storm, and will get strong again with time.

    As for what you should do? Do nothing. It’s still way too early to make any permanent plans. I have a feeling that you might be like me and waffle back and forth quite a bit in the next 6 months. Keep your options as open as possible – just in case you decide you can’t part with it after birth. Although I suppose if you went with the lie of surrogacy you could always say that it ‘fell through’ and now, voila, you’re a perma-mom.

    Breathe. You’re also not even remotely close to the first person this has happened to. Look around for support in your area. Your OP might even have a referral to an adoption support group or something similar. Do whatever you can to make yourself strong NOW, so that in 6 months you’re ready for all eventualities.

    And hug yourself for me. <3

    If you ever need/want to talk, you can find me on Insta (@splendorpursuit)


  161. TootsNYC*

    I want to make another comment that I don’t think has been covered.

    If people get pushy, or try to pry, or get judgmental, GET MAD.

    It is OK for you to get mad at them, and for you for show it a little.
    Get a little testy.

    “I did say that I don’t wish to discuss this at work–please respect that.”
    “This is not your business.”
    “I didn’t ask for your opinion on my sex life.”
    “This is a difficult enough time–your judgment and pressure are not helpful.”

    It is not polite to pry, to sermonize, or to pursue a conversation when someone has said they don’t want to talk about something. Remember that. THEY are the ones in the wrong, and it is perfectly reasonable for you to let them know.

    I don’t want to encourage you to pick a fight, but I DO want you to think of yourself as the one who is in the right, and they are in the wrong. I don’t want you to internalize some apologetic mindset.

  162. The Bimmer Guy*

    Is it that you’re uncomfortable with people knowing you plan to place your baby up for adoption, or the conversation itself (which might invite back-and-forth)?

    On principal, it is no one’s business what your in- and post-pregnancy plans are. But if it’s just the conversation you dread, I agree with Alison. Deputize someone (it can be your manager) to let people know in vague terms that you won’t be taking the baby home. Only the most tactless person would ask more questions after that, and then you can respond bluntly with a clear conscience.

  163. Recent parent going through issues*

    I didn’t have time to read through all the comments so this may have been covered. But, I would not recommend saying the baby isn’t/didn’t come home with me. If boundaries are respected and there aren’t followup questions it leaves to many negative possibilities in people’s minds. For example, was the baby taken by child protective services and why? Was the baby lost because of past abuse or current drug use? I would want to avoid that rabbit hope… Saying I’m carrying for another family rules out all of that.

  164. Nicole*

    I really like the answer of “I’m carrying for another family.” Not only will that cover not bringing the baby home, but also explain away any non-maternal behaviors you might display. You can also use the privacy of the other family as an excuse to shut down prying.

    Beyond all that though, I am so, so sorry you were sexually assaulted. You are strong and awesome for opening up to us about it.

  165. Coldbrewinacup*

    Best of luck, OP. I don’t have any witty comments or good advice, but I do hope everything turns out for the best for you, whatever you wish that to be. Hugs

  166. Grammy*

    I just want you to know that I think you’re actually being very brave and very strong. I have absolutely no condemnation for you in any way, shape or form. This is a tough, tough, tough situation and you are very young. You’re handling very well, I would hope that my own daughters would have handled such a situation as well. Also, you will get through, and you will be stronger for it. It will be hard, but you’ve shown you’re tough and resourceful. I hope you find some peace in this situation, putting the baby up for adoption is the greatest gift you can ever give another family. To make something good come out of something bad is the best ending to any story.

  167. Chickena*

    Letter Writer, I don’t have any advice but wanted to say that you are clearly a thoughtful and compassionate person yourself. I hope you are able to come to a decision that feels good and right to you.

  168. Unfurloughed Fed*

    Oh, what an emotional load. Whatever you decide, good for you.

    That said, I recommend both honesty and brevity, to any questions about the baby. “Oh, I’m carrying this child for someone else and I really prefer not to discuss the particulars at work, please.”

    It’s honest. You ARE carrying the baby for someone else. If you don’t yet know who doesn’t change the truth of that statement. And for the rest, again, you have no obligation to discuss it further.

  169. I don’t post often*

    As a waiting adoptive parent I wanted to say THANK YOU for even considering adoption as an option. Whatever option you choose I hope you find a community that supports your decision and helps you to heal from the trauma you have experienced. Lots of love to you.

  170. CS*

    OP, to steal a phrase from the blog, Captain Awkward, I think that you are terrifyingly awesome! What an incredibly difficult situation to be in an what a mature, loving, responsible, and yet heavy choice you are making. I commend you!

  171. Kitchen Person*

    I hope you have support from the community. This is hard and you’re being thoughtful about making the right decision.

    I think that if you say, “The baby didn’t come home with me”, people will think that the baby died. You might get condolences or inappropriate sympathy. (For example, someone might give you information about parent grief support groups.) I think that might be harder than the (rude) comments people might make otherwise.

    I like, “I’m carrying for another family.” I also think that being direct that, “I’m giving the baby for adoption” is okay especially if it’s followed by, “I know you will understand that I don’t want to talk about it further because of privacy reasons.”

  172. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

    I scanned most of the comments, but if this hasn’t been addressed: OP is still on the fence about adoption. It’s possible that she might change her mind, even last minute. And I think it’d be easier to start with “I’m carrying the baby for another family,” and then saying that she changed her mind, than it would be do it the other way (saying you’re planning on keeping the baby and then suddenly not coming home with it).

    It heads off questions during the pregnancy, it explains why the baby isn’t with her if she does decide on adoption, and if she decides against it, there’s an appropriately warm and fuzzy explanation (“I just loved the baby so much I couldn’t give her up!” or whatever).

  173. Former Employee*

    I once worked with someone who didn’t show much at all until pretty much the end of her pregnancy. The only reason everyone knew she was pregnant earlier on was due to the fact that she shared that information with co-workers.

    If OP happens to be someone who doesn’t look pregnant then she can keep the information to herself.

    From OP’s later comment, it seems that she is now more into 50/50 territory regarding whether or not she will keep the baby vs. give baby up for adoption. That’s even more of a reason not to share information outside of her family and selected friends, which is what she has done so far.

    I wish OP all the best and hope she sends an update after she has the baby.

  174. NoLongerYoungButLotsWiser*

    No advice on the wording. Just commenting to give you support. Family members on all sides of this (birth mothers; adoptees, and open adopters) , and so grateful for options that broadened our family in wonderful ways… and provided options.
    And support on the trauma. No additional back story from me (wrong time), but hug and hope that the counseling, as well as comfort of good friends, soothe and support you. Here for you virtually – I’d give you an extra internet hug if I could.

  175. Zarna*

    If your manager is trust worthy and not a gossip; I would tell them the full story (not necessarily the assault unless you feel comfortable with that part), but ask that it remains a private issue. For everyone else, “I’m carrying for another family and I’d prefer not to discuss the details” will shut them down. You’re not taking the easy way out of your responsibilities, you will be giving another family their dream by going through this, be proud of that, not ashamed.

  176. Chriama*

    I really like the wording of “I’m carrying the baby for another family”. I think some people might push further (asking about your surrogacy or sharing their own stories or asking if you have or want your own kids) but at that point you can go back to “I’d like work to be a pregnancy-free zone for me. How about your TPS reports?” I also want to say that I think you’re really great for doing this and I hope you get all the support and encouragement you deserve.

  177. Kali*

    This has been said countless times, but I wanted to say it again.

    You are not shirking. You are not doing anything lazy or immoral. You are making a decision about a very tough situation, and you’re not obligated to ick the toughest option just because it’s the toughest.

  178. Wren*

    I haven’t read all the comments, but having read a large sample, I’m kinda cringeing at how many people are still missing that the OP has not made up their mind yet, and may start showing before they’ve made up their mind. Certainly, the path forward is clearest if they make up their mind before other people become aware of the pregnancy, but I hope OP doesn’t feel pressured to do so. OP, you hold your head high however and whenever you come to this decision! And while I totally believe OP should feel entitled to tell convenient lies to people who aren’t owed the complicated truth (which is, like, almost everyone,) I hope all these comments chiming in with that advice don’t make OP feel stigmatized for their situation. If keeping the details to yourself feels best for you, OP, that’s great, but if speaking your truth feels right, I hope you find the support you need, and that there is at least one person in your life for whom it is affirming for you to be able to share the whole unvarnished truth. I don’t really have any advice, I just want to send you support.

    1. CM*

      I was thinking this too — this is a difficult situation regardless, but even more difficult because the OP isn’t sure what to do. Also, even if the OP was totally sure and told the surrogacy white lie, people would still have all kinds of questions about who she is carrying for and why and how THEY must be so excited about the new baby, etc.

      I think it makes sense to delay as long as you can before telling anyone, but maybe a different type of message would work better? Like if you could get your boss or HR or somebody to spread the word that you’re having a very difficult pregnancy and prefer not to talk about the pregnancy or the baby at work. I know this implies that you or the baby are having health issues, but I think people will understand it more and will be less likely to ask followup questions or make excited baby noises — and it’s true, this is a difficult pregnancy, just for other reasons.

      Best of luck to you, OP.

      1. virago*

        The OP has posted in the discussion (as LW).

        She says she plans to use Alison’s script. She hasn’t decided whether to parent or to place her child for adoption. She has confided in a trusted co-worker and asked that person to keep the information private. (OP’s boss is out on FMLA.)

  179. ScarlettInTheBallroom*

    OP I am so sorry this has all happened to you. I’ve never been through anything like this but I just wanted to say I wish I could give you a big hug right now. Everything is going to be OK.

  180. just trying to help*

    Hopefully, a good boss will accept PO’s information and simply ask what she needs from work. No judgement, but support and compassion. Knowing what you need to stay healthy, sane and productive at work when your personal life has complications can go a long way to having a constructive conversation with the boss and any nosey coworkers.

  181. yetanotherbirthmom*

    i surrendered a baby for adoption when i was 18, more than 20 years. i was out in the working world by then, and i learned fairly early on that other people were more weirded out by my situation than i was. but then, my pregnancy wasn’t the result of trauma, and my decision to surrender the baby was an easy, matter of fact one for me. i worked in series of places through a temp agency, so for each employer, all they really needed to know was that i was pregnant and whatever accommodations i needed because of that, which was pretty straightforward. co-workers, on the other hand, like to talk to the obviously pregnant lady, so when they asked about my pregnancy, i said in a matter of fact way, “oh, i’m giving the baby up for adoption,” and then shrugged off whatever their response was. being uninterested in their opinion made it clear that i wasn’t interested in talking further about it. my attitude was really what made the difference, in my opinion.

  182. Sick Civil Servant*

    I’m a mother, twice over, thanks to adoption. I would not have my wonderful children if not for birth mothers like yourself. Adoptive parents have to jump through so many hoops on the way to parenthood. On behalf of adoptive parents everywhere, thank you for knowing that this is right solution for you and your baby. If you want to keep quiet about your circumstances, feel free to say you’re a surrogate and “don’t want to talk about it at work.” Surrogacy is another way to form a family and is often kept in the dark. It will also shut down the baby shower at work and the intrusive questions (about your partner, daycare plans, etc.)

  183. Elizabeth Proctor*

    YMMV, but for my first (only so far, but first is relevant) pregnancy I didn’t start to show until I was 6-7 months pregnant, so you may have more time than you think.

  184. President of the Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club*

    I have nothing else to add except so much respect, support, and love for you.

  185. I am a Birth Mother - Twice Over*

    It took me a while to comment on this and I hope I didn’t miss you here. I’ve gone through this twice. I have two wonderful children who are in the same family and are having amazing lives I wasn’t in a place to give them. And it’s a super difficult decision and unfortunately there’s a stigma around people being birth mothers that makes this question difficult to answer. I hate that there is this stigma so I’m actually very open with people still to this day about having two children and I talk about them and their “parents” but I didn’t start out this confident in my decisions.

    So I’ve gone through this twice. And I made the decision to be super open with my bosses each time and I asked them to tell the team on a day I wasn’t there so they would be aware. I actually prepared a few comments so they would know exactly what I wanted them to know and not what my bosses thought they should know. I’m trying to remember back to what I said and I can’t remember the exact words but I covered these things:
    1. I am making the decision to place this baby for adoption
    2.This is not a situation that needs any type of sympathy during the pregnancy-while it’s a difficult decision to arrive at it’s not something I need to hear other people be “sorry” for because it’s a good and valid decision.
    3. Please don’t ignore the fact that I’m pregnant. You can still check on my physical well being(this was beacuse I didn’t want the awkwardness of people trying to pretend I wasn’t pregnant when I obviously was and wasn’t always feeling my best)
    4. I don’t know how I’ll be feeling when I return so I might give an update but if I don’t please don’t talk about it.

    I know that these points might not be the points you want them to know, maybe you would want something different. Maybe you don’t have trust in your team or bosses and you don’t want to tell them anything, or you want to lie and have it be a surrogate situation(which, in some ways this is, just not preplanned) so how you choose to fit this into your comfort level is your decision. I foud being a certain level of open about it worked for me.

    If I were to do the same thing today I would probably just be super open about it but it’s also easier to say that when you’ve been through it.

    Good Luck from someone who has been where you are! I will be thinking of you and pulling for you!

  186. MJ*

    I have an idea I want to submit for extrapolation but I know it will sound insane, but I had a co-worker do something similar an it weirdly went well. This is a genuine possibility, not me trolling.

    Have you considered just flat out denying the pregnancy? When anyone asks you directly, for example? Obviously you couldn’t do that when setting up leave but if you treat it like any other sort of medical condition, your boss should be able to see their way towards maintaining confidentiality.

  187. Lisa*

    I was on the other end of this conversation. I was the dorm mate to a young woman who gave her baby up for adoption. She never shared her story or plans with anyone and of course there were those who understood and those who had to snoop to gain understanding.

    In hindsight, as one who understood, I don’t believe she owned anyone any explanation and I minded my business; however, in seeing the behavior of those who snooped, I would suggest having a statement to make when asked and sticking to it. As for bosses, etc. speak with HR and follow what they require. Otherwise, you owe no one anything, not really your boss (if HR doesn’t require it). Establishing a story you feel comfortable with is the only thing you owe yourself to avoid bearing the brunt of nosy people. Also, keep papers, notes, etc. out of your work space and at home. People will do a lot to satisfy their curiosity.

  188. Been there*

    I think you are putting a lot of undue shame on yourself for having sex and getting pregnant, and are projecting that on your coworkers in how you think they will react. The only thing wrong with your sexual activity, regardless of how sexually active you are, is that it appears to have not made you happy or have been done because you wanted to do it. There is nothing wrong with having had casual sex. And though you know the full circumstances of how you got pregnant, none of your coworkers do and it is unlikely that that their first thought is going to be that you did something “wrong” unless that is what you indicate to them, explicitly or implicitly. What you say, or don’t say, is entirely up to you.

    I agree you shouldn’t get into details, especially because you never know what decision you might make about parenting later in your pregnancy or when you give birth. I’m pregnant right now – happily and I’m keeping it – and I can tell you that most people just want to congratulate me, make sure I’m feeling OK, and if they are new parents give me advice on birth and baby care. The latter primarily because I’ve welcomed that conversation. Some people are private at work, and it is ok to be one of those people.

    You don’t need to tell your work for a while unless you will need accommodations. Most people will just assume you are gaining a little weight, if they notice at all. You’ll of course want to give work a heads two to three months out for your leave, and remember that 6 weeks is considered normal for your recovery, 8 if it is a c section, for disability payments, regardless of whether you are caring for a newborn, so take the time if you can afford it. And don’t feel rushed into a decision on anything.

    I was in a similar situation when I was 25 and I chose not to continue the pregnancy. I wasn’t ready to be a parent. I don’t regret that decision for one moment. I can tell you though that as I’ve gotten older I’ve found the world to be less rigid than I thought it was back then. More is possible that I had imagined, and what people think about your personal life matters much less than it feels like right now. If you are a respectful productive and trustworthy colleague, that is what is going to matter to people.

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