Since I discovered I was pregnant I have been keeping a diary of the journey. At almost five months along the diary is unsurprisingly long (and boring to outsiders) at more than 14 pages and counting but I thought I might share some of my more relevant entries. In the future I will post some of my very first entries, from when I first took a pregnancy test, but I thought I would start with the present; with something I wrote late last week. This is what was on my mind:
One thing I have been struggling with during the second trimester is my workload and my emotions. My job is always busy but I am in a period of extreme pressure at the moment with lots of deadlines for big projects.I a m usually immune to stress and the effects of pressure: I have always been calm under fire and able to zone in and focus on what needs doing, without feeling upset or frazzled. But being pregnant, especially in the second trimester, has changed everything. I am all of a sudden highly emotional and I feel everything. I am also more emotionally intuitive – I pick up and tune into the emotional nuances of others. In a busy workplace with mostly female staff I therefore feel vulnerable and like I can no longer handle the slightest of pressures without feeling overwhelmed and anxious.
I have read lots about women balancing motherhood with careers but I do not come across much writing about balancing pregnancy with a career. I know it would pale in comparison to trying to balance a new baby with working, but pregnancy is very much a process of learning and adapting. So many things happen to the body and mind that one simply does not anticipate. For a formerly calm person like myself, learning to manage my own stress levels is a huge learning experience … one I have not quite mastered yet. I am finding I need to be quite disciplined but at first I was not even aware I needed to be disciplined as my reactions to even slightly unpleasant people or situations came about spontaneously and reactively; before I even thought consciously or logically about what was happening, how I was reacting.
There is no resolution or wisdom to this story … people outside of my workplace have told me not to work such long hours, to ‘leave work at work’ when I depart the office, to remember my new priority – my baby. But sometimes it is not possible to do this because I still have other responsibilities and other schedules that will not stop just for me. I think (I hope) the trick is to turn off and relax when I can. I do not check work emails at home unless I am waiting for something urgent. I do not work at home – after work hours or on the weekend – unless I know this will save me time thus anxiety in the following days or weeks. I compel my mind to focus elsewhere when I am not working by literally distracting it – fashion magazines, a novel, Scrabble on my iPhone (a favourite weakness), television. I have been waking up in the night, my thoughts dominated by work (and a full bladder typical of pregnancy), but where once I would have thrashed about in the dark unsuccessfully trying to will the thoughts away, I now know to physically get out of bed, make a hot drink or a glass of milk, then drink it in bed while flicking through a magazine. This is ultimately more calming than laying in a black room with nothing to look at or do but indulge in my anxieties.
Of course, work stress is not the sole domain of pregnant women. But I have found it interesting to think about because while pregnancy makes a person actually more alive than ever (after all they are temporarily representing not one but two lives), and pregnancy has been happening since human life began, it is quite a different state of being. The question of how to balance behaving and functioning ‘normally’ with acknowledging that the pregnant body and mind are operating in altered ways and therefore cannot be treated as though nothing has changed, is a worthy one methinks.
*Image of a very chic pregnant Miroslava Mikheeva-Duma courtesy of Stockholm Street Style.