Say you’re on top of the world. You’ve got a great boyfriend, a wonderful life and are just launching your dream non-profit organization dedicated to supporting women, one that involves traveling around the glob to help women in need. Kids aren’t on the horizon for you at all.
Until one day, that all changes.
Meet Amy Scerra, an entrepreneur who recently launched Think Global Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to creating positive economic and social change in communities around the globe by educating, supporting and empowering women entrepreneurs.
And in the midst of launching her dream non-profit, Amy got one other unexpected surprise:
A positive pregnancy test.
Tell us the story of your two lines:
Looking down in nervous anticipation, I saw one blue line. I took out the other test. Again, one blue line. Siiiigh of relief. But something didn’t feel right. I didn’t realize I could be a hypochondriac, but my mind started swirling through scenarios – was it cancer? A tumor? Why don’t I feel right? I decided not to say anything to Steve, my almost-fiancé, business partner, live in comedian, boyfriend. He has many titles, but is pretty much my everything, partner in crime.
At this point, we had been together for almost 3 years and had talked about children, but we were both terrified of the thought for different reasons. We both love kids, but weren’t sure if having our own was what we wanted. I had just left my job where both of us worked with women entrepreneurs from developing economies. Me as the director of the program, Steve as my faithful volunteer. His own business advisory firm was based in Southern California, but he made sure to be in Phoenix whenever my entrepreneur training programs were in session. As an entrepreneur himself, he had an immediate connection and strong bond with these women from 22 countries. Many of these women were coming from patriarchal societies where male figures are threatening and hazardous to their quest for success and equality. Steve’s ability to make them laugh, relax and even connect with them on a level that they call him “big brother” was amazing.
My parent organization went through transition and many layoffs later, I was out of a job. The 100 women we worked with were appalled and in disbelief that their “Mama Amy” could be let go. However, this was the best possible news to me! I knew this was the beginning of my increasingly fulfilling life.
A week after my two negative results, I decided to buy another box of pregnancy tests. I didn’t want to go to the doctor, now that my insurance was gone. First test – two blue lines immediately. My heart skipped a beat. Steve and I were about to embark on a cross-country road show to introduce our nonprofit idea to thought leaders in every major city! I CANNOT be pregnant. Second test – two blue lines immediately. Nobody was home, but I wanted to just lock myself in the bathroom and never come out. I didn’t have to tell Steve right now, right? I’ll just wait to tell him until we are done with the road trip. He’s so stressed about money, the nonprofit, all of the “what if’s” in our life. This is the last thing HE needs. I won’t start showing for several months anyway! Perfect.
Steve walks in the door and I blurt out, “We have to talk”. His brow furrows and with concerned eyes, he quickly sits down on the couch. I never practiced what I would say to him. I had no clue what to say. I just said, “As if we don’t have enough going on…(million second pause) I’m pregnant.”
Steve, my big bodybuilder, my broad-shouldered protector, Green Bay Packer die-hard fan, went completely white. Blood drained from his face. He stood up and I felt nervous that he was going to faint. He paced all over the living room and didn’t say anything. Then something clicked in his head and he rushed over to me, hugged me and asked how I was feeling. I don’t remember saying much, but needing that hug badly. All I remember of that day, is that we didn’t say much to each other and Steve went to the gym for FOUR HOURS! I was ok with that though – I needed my own space to stress. After we started discussing things the next day, Steve dramatically announced that we needed to cancel all our plans, shut down the non- profit and that he was going back to the dreaded corporate world. There was “absolutely no way we can have this life with a baby”. However, abortion or adoption never came to mind, truthfully.
Thankfully, I’m the cool-as-a-cucumber in our family. I basically told him that balance was bullshit and that a baby should be even more reason for us to pursue our dream.
What better life could we hope for our family than one filled with purpose, global travels and working with some of the most inspiring, change-making women entrepreneurs on the planet?
Trading that for a “stable” life with Steve working 70 hours a week at a job he hated wasn’t a trade I was willing to make. I even threatened to do it on my own if he wouldn’t stick with it! (ha!!!)
Tell us about your amazing non-profit, Think Global Institute:
For the past 1.5 years, Steve and I had been quietly working with about 60 of the women virtually (and for free) advising these women as they returned home to husbands, babies, war, uncertainty, unreliable employees and unstable economies. How in the world could they possibly implement the high-level education they had just received? That’s where Steve and my “extra-curricular” involvement came into play. Day and night, we were on Skype, Google hangout, email and any other digital connecting device, meeting with these women. Steve would advise the women on their business issues and I would be the listening ear and person the women came to in times of personal or family struggle. We found that this multi-pronged approach was what made real change in these women’s lives. However…we were tired. Exhausted. We knew we needed to formalize what we were doing already, and bring a trusted team to the women.
We decided to create an organization, Think Global Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to creating positive economic and social change in communities around the globe by educating, supporting and empowering women entrepreneurs. Our team physically relocates to women’s communities, working with them in their business, with their employees and their families. Again, the multi-pronged approach of ensuring a woman entrepreneur is supported in mind, body, spirit and business. We are with the entrepreneurs for one month, creating strategies and implementing practical, sustainable solutions to their problems. After our month in-country, the women are virtually mentored closely for an additional 12 weeks by a global network of incredible thought and business leaders. At the conclusion of the program, each woman becomes part of a managed global portfolio of ongoing support. The portfolio of businesses will be managed by an international review panel made up of innovative business professionals, international entrepreneurs and change-provoking educators. The panel will monitor progress, track measurable results and report their findings back to the organization. Thinkers also receive ongoing access to “human-capital” and subsequent opportunities.
What was your family’s reaction to your pregnancy?
We were so worried about telling our families, mine in particular. This baby would be their first grandchild and my parents are not ones that deal with change or “out of order” life situations well. Steve, although the oldest, has several nieces and a nephew. His parents, we knew, would be overjoyed. We wondered how the women we were working with would react – devout Catholics to Muslims and everything in between. Actually, the very first people I told were four of the women entrepreneurs I work with. I just had to say it to someone. As I had hoped, they almost jumped through the computer screen with joy and excitement. They started planning our itineraries and travels to their country with our nonprofit, offering babysitting services, traditional welcoming ceremonies and more. I was beaming with happiness that people I loved were celebrating for me at a time I couldn’t on my own. Having these sweet women from all over the globe reassure me that this was happy news, such a blessing, something to be thankful for and it is something to celebrate, was exactly what I needed at that moment. Steve and I were not able to celebrate as a couple yet, and these dear friends helped me see light at the end of this nine-month long tunnel.
Where are you at now?
Of course, it’s been about nine weeks since we found out the news, and now Steve is “Mr. Daddy.” He asks every man on the street with a baby about their brand of carrier or stroller, researches travel with babies and loves to hear updates on how our baby is growing each week. We both adamantly agree that if God had allowed us to decide when we were going to have a child, to actually say “Hey! I’m ready to have kids. What about you? Yes? Great!”, it never would have happened. We would have missed the boat. An “unplanned” pregnancy was something we thought was biologically impossible due to precautions we took, but the universe had other plans! Ones that we are so happy about now!
How do you plan to juggle motherhood and your non-profit?
I have a hard time with the term “unplanned pregnancy”. I feel like people say it in hushed tones and it has the potential to equal irresponsibility in many people’s minds. Right now, I feel like I have two babies. The one in me (which Steve has nicknamed Maximus, the baby gladiator) and our nonprofit organization. People ask me how I’ll do both? Will I do both? I don’t mind them asking, but I’m not interested in their opinion of what I should do.
Only I define my own “having it all”.
Not the “lean in” working mothers or the religious stay-at-home zealots. Me – I decide.
Right now, I’m taking it one day at a time. All I need to do for our baby right now is stay healthy, keep stress at bay, eat well, exercise and treat my body kindly. That means I have tons of time to give to my “toddler,” Think Global Institute. When “Maximus” comes, he/she will come first for quite a while. But that doesn’t mean I can’t chip in, travel with the team or add creativity or value to Think Global Institute. As long as Steve, me and our baby are fulfilled, safe, healthy and happy, my life is complete. Will it be balanced all the time? No way. I’m not going to beat myself up over that either. Both our baby and our organization are surrounded by helpful, smart people. Everyone will be ok, including me, as we figure this out.
Do you have any advice for other women with unplanned pregnancies?
My only advice is to search out positive, helpful people when you first find out you’re pregnant. Your family or significant other may or may not be that person, and that’s ok. There is a married couple in our life that has provided both me and Steve a safe, stable place to feel scared, happy, overjoyed, stressed, excited and every other natural emotion. If you’re feeling a certain way, feel it, don’t hide it. There is no instruction manual for pregnancy whether it’s planned or not. I heard a great quote that reminded me to relax, listen to my intuition, seek out positive people, be less judgmental and more forgiving to myself and Steve, and enjoy this ride!
“We are the girls with anxiety disorders, filled appointment books, five-year plans. We take ourselves very, very seriously. We are the peacemakers, the do-gooders, the givers, the savers. We are on time, overly prepared, well read, and witty, intellectually curious, always moving… We pride ourselves on getting as little sleep as possible and thrive on self-deprivation. We drink coffee, a lot of it. We are on birth control, Prozac, and multivitamins… We are relentless, judgmental with ourselves, and forgiving to others. We never want to be as passive-aggressive as our mothers, never want to marry men as uninspired as our fathers… We are the daughters of the feminists who said: ‘You can be anything,’ and we heard: ‘You have to be everything.’ “ – Courtney Martin
Breathe. Do not let other people tell you how much you should be striving for and what is best for you. You’re your own you. You define your own “All”.