When I saw those two little pink lines on that first pregnancy test, elation doesn’t begin to describe my thought processes. I couldn’t focus on my work and decided to daydream about that tiny bundle of joy by adding nursery themes, pregnancy announcement ideas and homemade baby food recipes to a secret Pinterest board.
Since that moment, I have struggled to maintain my daily routines. I like to think I have a handle on things. After all, I’m constantly at the helm of my own company, one I created from scratch to exemplify my talents and interests. I’m a natural leader, stemming from being my parents’ first child to leading efforts of nonprofits, associations and more.
As a high achiever who has always been at home in my tried-and-true workflow and busy schedule, I didn’t anticipate the struggles that pregnancy would bring. To have thoughts of, “I can’t do this” and general fears of being a mother spawned more than my growing bun in the oven. The prenatal depression and anxiety struggle are very real, as well as other potentially challenging processes.
While I learned about pregnancy well before experiencing it myself, I was less than prepared for the following seven aspects of the first trimester:
You can’t focus
You often sit there, seemingly paying 100 percent attention to what others at the table are saying. You jot down notes, establish workable deadlines, and strategize with the best of them. Yet, you don’t feel like you’re entirely there. Your mind focuses on the fact that you have to pee (again), your back hurts from sitting in that uncomfortable chair, and if something bad will happen during your pregnancy. I have never felt so discombobulated in my entire life, and it’s like a tiny foreign invader causes me to not even belong to my own body anymore. Despite having all of the symptoms of early pregnancy, this notion perplexed me the most — and overwhelmed me. How in the world could I manage being pregnant and still maintain my ever-growing workload and manage my company? Take it one step at a time and take breaks from work as needed. You may go slower than normal (which to an overachiever, this is horrible), but you will be able to focus better when it counts, like during that new client pitch meeting or in-depth article you have to write in less than 24 hours.
Getting up for work in the morning is its own challenge
The world doesn’t stop because you are pregnant. It’s not like I expected this to happen because, I mean, I know life goes on. People are in various stages of their lives and may not be able to understand what you’re going through. BUT, getting up for work in the morning feels like your worst case of PMS mixed with waking up on the wrong side of the bed and feeling like you haven’t slept for an entire week straight. Most of my clients are on an 8-to-5 schedule, and I often have to communicate with them during normal business hours. However, if you have any ounce of flexibility in your work schedule, take full advantage of it! My dream is to only have meetings in the afternoons during my pregnancy, if I can help it. I know this won’t always be the case, but know your limits. When you feel comfortable, let your clients know what is going on. Most of them will be empathetic!
You become way more forgetful
With the lack of focus comes the onslaught of forgetfulness. Just like I didn’t believe in biological clocks before it happened to me, I didn’t think I would suffer from this particular pregnancy ailment. “I’ll be fine because I’ve always been fine,” I thought. Oh, how I was mistaken. If I don’t write something down, I will forget it within a nanosecond. My Outlook calendar and Asana are my best friends because I keep extensive track of everything, from personal baby appointments to business-related meetings. I’ve had to meticulously record appointments, meetings, deadlines and to-do lists in a private Asana project. And don’t get me started on my spelling woes. I mean, I have always considered myself to be an exceptional speller, but these days, I’ve needed a little extra help from Grammarly and Google. Problem words have been more than a problem.
You can’t have coffee at all of these coffee meetings
If you’re anything like me, you have a blend of work days in the office and meetings outside of your office’s walls. While I enjoy getting out into the world, I do not enjoy having to dance around the fact that I cannot drink as much coffee as I previously did. It probably wasn’t as obvious as I made it out to be in my mind, but when I turned down coffee, I would think, “They have to know that’s out of character for me. They must know that something is up.” Honestly, people aren’t THAT perceptive, unless you’re a fellow empath like me. I would dabble in some coffee, but it made me sick most mornings — and all throughout the day to accompany my everlasting morning sickness. It would smell and taste terrible to me, and at this point, I can function with limited caffeine. If I would have written this five years ago, I would have thought I was clinically insane. This is coming from the girl who used to drink at least an entire pot of coffee a day. Now, I’m lucky to even drink one 8-ounce cup before lunchtime. It is challenging when you can’t have caffeine and are running on empty from the time you wake up until the time you go to bed, but maybe you get used to it eventually?
You have to eat — you have no choice
I used to have my fill of coffee (see above) and eat sporadically throughout the day. Often, I would skip breakfast and work all morning until my stomach rumbled at around lunchtime. I wouldn’t stop to eat because I was “in the zone.” Those days are long gone. Now, I have to intentionally sit down and eat three meals a day, in addition to small snacks scattered throughout my workday and evening hours. There’s nothing like having a tiny human inside you to make yourself eat and establish healthier habits. I have never had an eating disorder, but I am prone to not want to eat unless I have a specific craving for something. Now, I just have to eat whatever is on hand and is semi-healthy. I lived off Saltines, Sour Patch Kids, and bland foods during my first trimester. (And there’s nothing quite like craving something you CANNOT have, such as queso, feta on your Greek food, and uncooked lunch meat.)
You feel like you can’t use pregnancy as an excuse
Pregnancy is when you need some extra TLC and understanding the most, but if you’re like me, you’ll keep your news close to the vest. After having a miscarriage in June 2019, I’ve been cautiously optimistic during this first trimester, but I still didn’t feel comfortable telling the world about our wonderful news. Thus, I haven’t been able to use my pregnancy as an excuse — not that I would anyway. When you are the CEO of your own small company, you feel like you don’t have that option, especially when you are handling most of your company’s projects and retainers. You can’t say, “I’m too pregnant to go to this important meeting” or “I messed up that press release because of pregnancy brain.” In business, you either do something or you don’t, and I have been so used to not giving or listening to excuses. You have to be professional while also knowing your limitations along the way. This process has given me a taste of compassion that I forgot about and some I have never experienced before. It’s allowed me to be more flexible with family-related happenings with colleagues and contributors. In essence, I’ve loosened some of my unrelenting high standards for myself and others.
You may deal with prenatal anxiety and depression
There are times in which I feel like I have never made progress with my mental health journey. It’s as though I am in square one, and I haven’t learned coping mechanisms and helpful behaviors and thought processes. When I found out I was pregnant, I quit my Prozac cold turkey. This was a bad idea because the withdrawals debilitated my positive mental health. I found myself in a negative spiral until my doctor prescribed a more pregnancy-safe medication. I had to make a choice: either succumb to this growing-in-severity depression and anxiety or take a medication that would ultimately allow me to make healthier decisions for me and my baby. Obviously, I chose the latter. It may not be every woman’s choice, but it’s mine, and I’m sticking behind it. So, just realize that prenatal anxiety and depression are extra real for those of us who already have mental health struggles. Be patient, kind, and loving with yourself, even when you feel like you can’t be any of those things. Talk with a mental health professional or a loved one. Write in your journal about what you are experiencing. Don’t bottle it up because you will implode over time.
Now that I am entering the second trimester, some of these symptoms are beginning to dissipate. I know I’m not home free, however. Now that I am going to be a forever parent, I know that work/life balance will become more essential. I plan to take the lessons learned in my first trimester and grow them into tangible habits to use for my company and motherhood. This is most certainly an evolutionary, fluid process that won’t always be easy, but it will be so worth it.
While the second and third trimesters will have their own challenges, my hope is that these hard lessons will continue to help me — and others — as we continue our parenthood journeys.