Sign Language Interpreter Pregnancy and Childcare Stories

A few sign language interpreters from the Greater St. Louis Community shared sign language interpreter pregnancy and childcare stories with us.  It is not always an simple time of life, but there are so many joys.  Thank you to those who were willing to share!

Pregnancy Advice from Contract Interpreters

Interpreter Number 1

Q: Did being pregnant affect a specific assignment you accepted?

A: I don’t think it was the fact that I was pregnant that affected what jobs I could take, but the side effects (i.e. being sick, extra hot all the time, how long I could stand if it was required).  I just had to ask a lot more questions when accepting jobs.

Q: Did you ever feel discriminated against as an interpreter because you were pregnant?

A: I don’t know if discriminated is the right word, but people didn’t have a lot of patience.  It was hard for people to understand things they aren’t going through when they have 100 interpreters and jobs to deal with.  Although I am my first priority, I am not theirs.

Q: What challenges did you face with child care, expenses, breast feeding/pumping that affected your work?  Did it add stress/limit your opportunities?

A: My partner made a career change to stay home so I could accept more work and save on money.  The only thing that has limited my jobs is pumping.  When accepting a job, I have to make sure there is time for me to pump on the job, make sure my team, deaf and hearing client, and agency are all okay with it.  After getting approvals, I have to arrive early to pump before the job (if there is a room or location to do so.  If not, I pump in the car).  By arriving early to pump, that gives me the full time between pumps before I have to take another break.  I also have manual pumps to pump while driving between jobs.

Q: What encouragement/recommendations do you have for soon-to-be or new moms while working as an interpreter?

A: Be patient with yourself and never hesitate to ask questions.  You’ll be surprised (positively and negatively) by people.  You will get tons of unsolicited advice.  Just figure out what works best for you.  You are doing what’s best for you, your family, and your wee one(s).  That’s all you need to do.

Interpreter Number 2Sign Language Interpreter Pregnancy and Childcare Stories

Q: Did being pregnant affect a specific assignment you accepted?

A: Being 8 months pregnant and a performance interpreter was challenging.  Not challenging for me physically; more for the concerned third parties that had more than enough judgmental looks and tactfully condescending remarks.  That kind of negative treatment never came from a colleague which I appreciated.  As much as I don’t like to admit it, I put a lot of weight on others’ perceptions of me – even when I know I shouldn’t.  It’s more common when experiencing self-doubt or when I’m nervous.  Standing up in front of 10,000 people to interpreter an artist’s work to some of their biggest fans is pretty nerve racking.  Placing focus on the people around me at those moments of insecurity who were treating me like the professional they know I am was what really got my mind back on the music and my head back in the game.  It can be hard dealing with self-doubt…especially if it’s your first pregnancy.  Find what works for you so you can trust yourself and take/ask for support if you need it.

Q: Did you ever feel discriminated against as an interpreter because you were pregnant?

A: I think I was very fortunate to not experience discrimination.  I have heard many stories from other interpreters that made my jaw drop.  I did have a situation once where someone suggested I was being discriminated against and I disagreed.  I still do actually.  I took a job for a conference post-pregnancy while I was still nursing.  Of course that means I have to take regular breaks throughout the day to express milk.  There were plenty of interpreters scheduled for this conference and that coupled with the schedule of events allowed me the opportunity to break as I needed.  Some things changed and the number of interpreters approved to work this conference was reduced thus increasing the work load on the other interpreters and tightening the schedule.  With the new changes, I felt it was unfair for me to ask my already taxed team to pick up more of the work load because of my need to pump.  That and other considerations led me to the decision to hand back the assignment.  Some other interpreters said I should have kept the job and fought for another interpreter to be added to the team.  Or to work with the conference on the schedule so I can do what I needed to do.

In the end, we need to remember to not only look out for ourselves but also other parties involved.  Did I miss out on a cool opportunity?  Yes.  Did I find other work?  Yes!  Was the person who took the assignment in my place qualified?  Of course.  Did my team appreciate not having to pick up slack on an already challenging assignment?  Yes they did.  My decision was a willing sacrifice based on an analysis of the situation with an empathetic eye.

Q: What challenges did you face with child care, expenses, breast feeding/pumping that affected your work? Did it add stress/limit your opportunities?

A: PUMPING!!!! Pumping as an independent contractor sucks.  Plain and simple.  I pumped in the car between assignments.  I pumped while driving.  I carried a cooler and jugs of water everywhere I went.  It added time to my prep time at night.  I added an extra level of embarrassment when I walked into a board room to interpret only to see the one other person who decided to park at the very back of the lot (next to me as I was exposed and cleaning up) sitting at the head of the table!

Childcare can be such a struggle.  There is nothing worse to calling in and having to cancel an assignment because your kid is sick or your childcare fell through that day.  Well, there is actually.  When the agency you’re working for that day responds in a not so supportive or understanding way…to me that’s worse.  It happens.  I already feel awful for not being able to work and possibly leaving people without services (we’re in human service of course and we feel awful), and now my day is shot with a sick kid.  Also I’m not getting paid.  Some agencies take a more caring and understanding approach.  As an independent contractor, those are the agencies I chose to work for more often.

Q: What encouragement/recommendations do you have for soon-to-be or new moms while working as an interpreter?

A: Find balance.  Do NOT take a moment for granted with your baby.  If you’re a good interpreter, there will always be work for you.  You can always get back in it.  You only get one shot to make memories with your baby and to watch them grow.  As much as finances allow, be with your baby.  Take it all in; every first, every smell, every new food, every smile, every boo-boo.  In the wise words of Adrian Monk, “You’ll thank me later.”

Childcare as a Contract Interpreter

I work mostly in educational settings where I tend to stand.  Towards the end of my pregnancy I needed to sit down much more often.  All of my clients were very understanding.

I never experienced rudeness from anyone during my pregnancy.  If anything, people were nicer!

Breastfeeding and Pumping

Most of the challenges came after he was born.  I nursed my son and also pumped.  I couldn’t take longer jobs because I needed to pump every 2-3 hours.  And although a job may not be that long, you also need to include drive time.  If you nurse/pump you, will find that, no, you can’t just put it off.  I’ve had mastitis twice and it’s no joke.  Plus there are clogged ducts (the absolute worst) and the risk of diminishing your supply.  So sometimes I had to decline jobs.  Also, there were times when there wasn’t a place for me to go and pump.  I’ve had to pump in a public bathroom.  I understand that not every place has a designated area for that and that sometimes it’s the kind of job where I can’t just take off for 30 minutes or longer depending on the circumstance.  So I’ve lost out there, too.  However, I can count on one hand how often that happened to me.  I have heard from other interpreters that they had to pump while driving because time just didn’t allow.  I vowed that would never be me.  It’s simply non-negotiable.  And to be blunt, I can’t just sit and pump.  A lot of massaging needs to happen for me to get it all out because I tend to get clogged ducts.  It’s a two-handed activity.

Motherhood Support as an Interpreter

It’s definitely tough to adjust at first.  I’m very thankful to have the kind of job where my hours are flexible.  I’m also thankful that this profession is heavily populated by women and most are mothers themselves.  There’s a level of understanding that happens and a bond that develops when you enter the ranks of motherhood.

Partner Support

I think it’s important to do what’s best for you.  I understand now more than ever the importance of family, and they come first.  Period.  Some mothers work 40+ hours a week either because they need to or because they want to.  Our setup is as such: my husband works from home so our son stays with him.  We save on childcare that way.  But I’m also limited by when I can work.  It isn’t fair for me to have him pull double duty and then work from sunup to past sundown.  He would never get a break and I wouldn’t get to see my child.  Plus we have a menagerie of animals to take care of.  There’s cooking meals, doing laundry, showering, running errands, trying to squeeze in exercise, and a million other things all while trying to work and having a baby who wakes up multiple times a night.

I found I was a better mother when I got to go to work and interact with other adults.  I feel excited and ready to come home and take care of my baby as opposed to feeling “stuck” with him all day.  But because of our arrangement, there’s never a full break for either of us.  I don’t “have an hour until it’s time to pick him up from daycare.”  He’s already waiting for me at home.  And that can be a bit challenging.

“I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”

The best thing I did was figure out what works for our family, stick to it, and make no apologies.  I’m already figuring out that “the days are long but the years are short.”  He’s already 9 months, and it happened in a blink.

The support I’ve gotten from mothers, women, colleagues, and bosses in this profession is overwhelming.  It’s simply wonderful.


Thank you for sharing your sign language interpreter pregnancy and childcare stories!  If you have read this and wish to share you experiences as well, reach out to  We need to support each other as an easily isolated community!


Additional Resources:

Four Women Share their Stories of Pregnancy Discrimination

Facing Pregnancy and Childcare for Sign Language Interpreters


Photo Credit:

MT & Associates | Sign Language Interpreting Practice BBB Business Review