Photo courtesy of Jenna Underwood-Nunez.
Being a female in law enforcement has its challenges. Being a pregnant female in law enforcement is its own unique animal. I'm here to try and answer a few of your questions or at least give you some advice to make it easier.
When I was in the uniform store last month picking up my maternity uniform shirt, a male officer looked at me strangely and finally said, "I didn't know they let women work when they were pregnant. I've never seen a pregnant deputy before." I looked at him, smiled, and said "Well, now you have, sir!"
I get all kinds of reactions from fellow officers—some positive, some negative. I definitely get a lot of looks, perhaps because I wear my shirt un-tucked from my pants. They're not sure whether to say congratulations or "I'm sorry you're gaining weight."
There will always be those people who think because you're pregnant you're somehow unable to function in the workplace. They treat you as if you have some sort of disability or communicable disease. My favorite comeback is, "I'm not disabled, silly. I'm pregnant. There's a difference."
This is my third pregnancy while working in law enforcement. When I was pregnant with my first child, I immediately placed myself on light-duty status and was removed from my work assignment. I was left with so many questions. Where do I get uniforms that will fit? How much time can I take off? When I got one question answered, I asked two more.
First off, if you're planning to get pregnant, be sure to sign up for private disability insurance. Yes, it will cost you money every month, but it will be well worth it in the end. You won't regret having it when the time comes. If your department is anything like mine, you'll only be paid for the time you have on the books. If you're low on time and don't have private disability insurance, prepare to go unpaid.
Find out the policy on pregnancy in your unit and department. They may require notification as soon as you confirm the pregnancy with your doctor. Others like mine require it later in the pregnancy (eight months). Next, you'll want to talk to the pay-and-leave department and request your FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) paperwork. While you're there, ask them what other paperwork they require, such as memos and submission of time-off requests for how you want to use your time (sick, vacation, and holiday).
After that, you'll want to find out if there is a policy covering how you wear your uniform during the pregnancy. The easiest and cheapest way is to use your class "B" uniform. You can go to any of your favorite uniform stores and have them add fabric to your own class "B" shirt. Doing this will allow you to save money and not buy a whole new maternity shirt—it costs about $20 to add fabric and $50-$60 to buy a new shirt.
The most uncomfortable thing for me was the pants. If you don't need to wear your belt—meaning you're on light or restricted duty—you don't have to wear your gun belt or your work admin fields. You can just invest in a belly band, which you can buy for $20 at Target. That way, you don't have to buy another pair of pants. If you're still required to wear your gear, invest in a bigger belt and bigger pants so you can wear your waist line under your belly. This is way more comfortable! You'll also be able to hide it for quite a while, if you wear your jacket. Just be prepared for the questions, especially during summer.
Remember, you and your child's safety are top priority, so only do what you're comfortable with and what is safe. That was the hardest part for me. I'm a busy body and I often react without thinking. You never want to take that chance with your child. Your job and your ego can wait until delivery—no need to be a hot shot while prego.
In closing, just do the best you can do. Pregnancy is one of those times in your life where everything is changing. If it's your first child, it's all so new. Talk to your fellow female officers. Above all, just take it one day at a time.
Pregnancy and Policing