Pregnancy and Field Archaeology

Posted on January 20, 2013


I help run open access archaeology. One, aspect of this job is that I get to read a diverse range of open access articles relating to archaeology. A particular one that has stuck a cord with lots of our twitter followers is Pregnancy and Field Archaeology, an article at Assemblage. It is two anonymous women’s stories about working in commercial archaeology while pregnant.

As a man, the perspective was incredibly enlightening. For example, while they discussed areas of discomfort that I expected,  exhaustion and morning sickness, there were others that I say in my ignorance I would never have thought of:

“My bump had started to grow and my stomach muscles begun to stretch to accommodate the baby. Moving a wheel barrow without pulling these muscles is hard, shovelling is painful. I don’t think I really anticipated how much you use these muscles in this job or the discomfort and pain you get when you over stretch them. I found I was in so much pain after a day shovelling, I could barely move.”

In hindsight, this would make perfect sense. I know that doctors tell high performance athletes to stop working out their ab muscles as the expanding baby will tear through a six pack with excruciating pain. In commercial archaeology I can think of very few movements that would not involve the use of the core. Possibly troweling but you rarely get to spend your whole day using a trowel in commercial archaeology.  Though according to the sources I am not alone in my ignorance,

“My PO was positive, if slightly baffled about what to do as “I’ve never had one of your ‘type’ on my team before”….The supervisor and PO had absolutely no idea how to deal with me, so resorted to being impatient and assuming the worst, i.e. that I was being difficult and lazy.”

Of particular concern was that one of the women felt should could not tell her employers until the very last possible moment. While, the other felt discriminated against because of her pregnancy. These are individual circumstances and may or may not be reflective of the field as a whole. It would be interesting to hear others perspective on the issue. If your reading this please share (you can do it anonymously) . Is this reflective the your experiences or the experiences of others at your work? Does your company have a pregnancy policy?  It would be very interesting to see how the field as whole deals with archaeologists getting pregnant.