Lessons Learned From a Founder-CEO’s Short Maternity Leave
I signed a ~$2 million term sheet from the triage bed, forwarded it to my legal team, and then gave birth
A “maternity leave plan” is an oxymoron; bodies and babies don’t follow timelines. While I knew this in theory, it became painfully clear when, at a routine OB visit, my doctor told me that my fluid levels were dangerously low and I needed to be induced immediately. It would be pointless to tell him — and my placenta — that “immediately” wasn’t the right time. Though the thought did cross my mind.
Instead, I texted my husband to grab our things and meet me at the hospital, and then proceeded to waddle the half-block there. Alone on the triage bed, I scanned my inbox for an email from DocuSign. Our lead investors had sent a term sheet for ~$2 million in additional capital the night before, and I needed to sign it before I was too far along in labor to care. I signed, forwarded it to our legal team, and let my co-founder know that I was passing her the baton. While things were quiet and I waited for my husband to find parking, I wrapped up a few other tasks, and gave birth to a perfect little boy.
My team sent baby Aloha shirts and carbs, not passive-aggressive emails.
Since writing about fundraising and running a high-growth startup while pregnant, I’ve received a steady stream of messages from women who are navigating their own pregnancies and experiences as new moms. Because of widespread remote work policies during the pandemic, many women now have a choice of when to share their news and, like me, most choose to delay as long as possible. Reasons for not disclosing a pregnancy can be personal or professional, and the professional ones make a lot of sense: Capital available to women is already small, and declining. Because hustle culture is celebrated, having the additional duties of motherhood can make women founders appear less ambitious and committed. We know from research that no similar fatherhood penalty applies.
Because navigating pregnancy and parental leave as a founder is a relatively rare experience, advice can be hard to come by. I’m cautious of giving it since pregnancy is personal, but as…