By Michelle Hands – At 8 months pregnant and a week before I was due to finish work I decided to take a picture of my bump whilst dressed in my construction work attire, for memories’ sake. Just for fun I decided to write “building two things at once” on my belly. At the time I knew it wasn’t going to be a typical “bump picture”, but I had no idea that it would make national news headlines either.
I posted the picture on my Instagram page and instantly I received a string of encouraging comments such as “multitasking at it’s best”, “this picture is amazing, love it and you rock!” and “I love that you represent a strong and empowered woman”.
Fast forward 5 months and whilst I was busy changing nappies and trying to catch some sleep, I was contacted by a news agency asking if I would be willing to share my story about what it was like being a pregnant construction worker. Although my picture had caused a bit of a stir, I wasn’t sure that the world would be so interested in a story about being a pregnant construction worker. I was wrong!
It was never easy, project managing, engineering and building a tiny human at the same time. I am however, so glad I battled through to prove that, women shouldn’t be scared to commit to a career in construction for fear of also wanting to become a mom at some point. As long as you take care of yourself (physically)and keep a stress free mind (the hardest part). It can be done. I hope this picture shows girls out there that you can be both a mother and engineer. #womeninconstruction #womeninthetrades #tradeswomenofig #shewhodareswins #femaleegineer #womeninstem #STEM #momtobe #pregnant #femaleengineer #thisisamansworld #newmom #pregnancyjourney #motherhood
Three UK national newspapers picked up the story with the following headlines:
“Female Builder Gives Insight Into Life On A Construction Site” – Daily Mail
“Pregnant Builder Reveals How She Enjoys Working On A Construction Site Saying It Is The ‘Perfect Job'” – Mirror
Since the articles were published, the feedback has been fast-flowing. Comments like, “Wow, you are so inspiring!”, “How on earth did you cope?” and, “This sends such a positive message to other women that we really can do two things at once”. There were other comments, as well: “This is not news” and “Lots of women carry on work whilst pregnant she is not anything special”.
It has always been a goal of mine to try and inspire more women’s interest in the construction industry, as the workforce numbers remain very low. I have put myself out there on social media through my This Is A Man’s World blog and YouTube channel in the hope that any young girls considering the industry would see me and maybe follow in my footsteps. However, when I got pregnant I did have worries. Would I be able to carry on my job? Would I be forced out of my job if I couldn’t do all the physical work? I was, after all, self-employed so legally I wasn’t entitled to anything.
Thankfully, my pregnancy journey at work went rather well and both my colleagues and the company I work for were super supportive. Hence, I was happy for this experience to be shared with the media.
Only on reflection, after a week of feedback from people/social media, did I start to truly consider how far we really need to go so that my story (and others like it) isn’t something that is still newsworthy in the future. That would be a true goal. After all, there are indeed a lot of pregnant women who carry on working in their jobs for the duration of their pregnancy and I was no different. The only difference is, it was still a shock and unusual for people to see a woman working on a construction site these days, let a lone a pregnant one. I guess that is why I was so newsworthy! I understand that the construction industry is one of the most dangerous industries to work in so that has a part to play in people’s reactions.
My final thoughts… I am immensely grateful for all the kind (and otherwise) words over the media attention. It started a conversation, and hopefully it changed the minds of some young women out there who may have been considering other careers because of fear of how they might be treated in the construction industry if they wanted to start a family. On the other hand, like I said, let’s hope in the future people see a woman “building two things at once” as just another pregnant woman at work.
About The Author
Michelle Hands is a construction site Engineer based in Leeds in the UK, and a proud new mom. In her spare time, Michelle explores her “passion for filmmaking and entertaining people, with the antics of her daily life in a crazy world of men.” So check out her This Is A Man’s World blog and YouTube channel for more insight into Michelle’s world.