23 Weeks Pregnant: To Work or Not To Work?

November 24 – November 30: 23 Weeks 0 Days – 23 Weeks 6 Days.

Since I stopped teaching vinyasa yoga at the end of my first trimester, I haven’t been working as much (more details on this to come—my hypermobility issues have been one of my biggest pregnancy challenges, and, as per the advice of a book I read I read to inform my last memoir-writing project, I’ve been letting those particular emotions age before blogging extensively about them). With Thanksgiving this week, I worked much more than usual filling in for colleagues who were out of town. This had me dropping my Richard off at his shuttle stop in the morning, then whisking Foxy off a friend’s house for the day, sitting with protesting joints in rush hour traffic during my long, rainy commutes, and missing my freedom to snack and rest the way my pregnant body wants to.

Working itself felt wonderful—having a sense of purpose that is my own is important to me, and my body has been cooperative during my second trimester. However, the experience left me wondering if I could maintain that schedule and add in arranging care for a baby, pumping breast milk at work, making a healthy dinner at the end of the day, interacting meaningfully with my family, and still practicing self-care.

I think equally good arguments can be made for providing a child a rich environment at home or immersing her in a social setting at daycare. If I work, I’ll feel bad about missing out on knowing and experiencing my children as much as I can, and if I stay at home I’ll feel bad for letting down womankind and sabotaging my career. Unless I change careers: after childcare, doggy daycare, and the cost of commuting, working would not put me that far ahead financially. Richard makes enough for us to get by and is supportive of me doing whatever I think is best for our family. So the question really comes down to how I want to spend my days. Lately, deliberating over my future work situation has started to feel like this:

Obviously “to work, or not to work?” is a false dichotomy. Work is a multi-dimensional spectrum with varying hours (full-time, part-time, temp, contract, etc.), activities (office job, teaching movement, manual labor, etc.), and location (work-from-work, work-from-home, traveling, etc.). It’s hard to know ahead of time where on the spectrum is best for me. A few pieces of advice I got this week gave me a little clarity:

  1. I put a dent in reading Baby 411 over the long weekend, and have been enjoying how the authors provide information to help parents make informed decisions without undertones of guilt and shame (My reviews of pregnancy books reflect my distaste for books that purport that there is only one right way to do things). In Baby 411, the authors say that whether you decide to stay at home or work, run with it—you can always reassess down the road. No matter what decision you make there will be people who judge you; it’s probably because they’re insecure about making a different decision than you did, and feel the need to justify it.
  2. I gave my e-mail to two or three pregnancy-related businesses, and now my inbox in inundated with baby spam. However, when this article about what NOT to worry about during pregnancy popped up in my inbox, I eagerly clicked the link and read it. In support of the sentiments in Baby 411, one of the quotes is: “No matter what decisions you make, someone will always disagree. Try not to let the negative comments upset you, and if you’re really worried about something, talk with your doctor or a nonjudgmental friend.” Who wants to be my go-to nonjudgmental friend?
  3. Someone I recently met quipped, “People always say they need to work to make money for their kids. Kids don’t understand money, they only understand love. They only want you.” Of course, if kids are going hungry because there isn’t enough money to buy food, they’re going to understand that something is wrong; however, this statement resonated with me with respect to my own situation.
  4. According to Baby 411 the old adage is true: research shows that quality time is more important than quantity time when is comes to parents and children.

Combining the ideas above, my take-away is to guiltlessly work as much (or as little) as I need to stay connected to my career, stay sane, and make any supplementary income we need to get by, but not so much (or so little) that I’m too drained to spend quality time with my family. Unfortunately this is still a pretty vague statement. How many hours should I work? What type of job? Is it worth missing out of my baby to be stuck in traffic on a long commute? What about a short commute? Should I find a job I can do from home? Should I hire a nanny or use a daycare center? What about the dog? I wish I could end this post with a concrete realization, but I don’t think I’ll get any clear answers until after the baby is in my life (and maybe not even then!). All I can do is start with a work schedule, and refine it as gracefully as possible through trial and error. In the meantime, I’m going work on the “guiltless” part: discovering and accepting what I think is best for my family, regardless of others’ judgments.

6 Weeks Pregnant: Secrets

July 27 – August 7: 6 Weeks 0 Days – 6 Weeks 6 Days.

I was already feeling guilty that I’d told the woman at the baby clothing store I was pregnant before I told Richard, but that was just the beginning of a long-standing trend. We would be visiting my family in Canada soon and seeing Richard’s dad in Northern California after that, so we agreed to wait until at least after we told our families in person to announce our pregnancy to the rest of the world. Of the friends I saw in person before we officially announced, it would be quicker to list who I didn’t tell than who I did tell. I can only think of two occasions that I mustered up the willpower to keep the secret. The only way I could resist telling people was to avoid seeing them face-to-face. Richard was annoyed with me because every day I would come home with stories about other people I’d told (my best friend from home, an acquaintance I met for tea, the woman down the hall I barely know), while he’d continued to keep the burning secret.

I hated keeping my pregnancy under wraps. Obviously everyone has different strategies and different coping mechanisms, but here are some reasons I may not even try to keep it a secret next time ’round:

  • Guilt factor. There are already enough guilt-triggers during pregnancy. I’m supposed to eat leafy greens, but after I choke down one or two broccoli florets and a brussels sprout, my nausea kicks in and the rest of the veggies get pushed to the edge of my plate. I’m not supposed to take hot baths, but baths relieve my nausea and help me relax before bed. The last thing I need is to feel guilty for sharing my joy and excitement with others.
  • Support if things go wrong. Women are told to keep their pregnancy a secret for the first trimester because the rate of miscarriage is higher during that time. What’s the underlying implication here? I can think of a couple possibilities, and I’m not really a fan them. Keep your pregnancy a secret because you might miscarry and…
    • Miscarriages are shameful/your fault/something to be embarrassed about. I don’t want any part in perpetuating this weird stigma around miscarriage. I’m grateful for the stories people have shared with me about miscarriage because they help me accept that miscarriages are a real possibility, that they can happen to anyone, that life goes on, and that you can always try again.
    • You don’t want to burden anyone with news of a miscarriage. If I miscarried, I would definitely reach out to people for support. I’ve never felt like I couldn’t handle hearing that someone miscarried. Just as I’m happy to have conversations with my friends about boyfriend woes, or a sick parent, or an injured back, I am more than happy to listen and support when the topic is miscarriage. Even if I don’t know the person well, I can give the generic response, “I’m so sorry to hear that. How are you doing?” I expect that most grown-ups can withstand the news of a miscarriage.
    • It would be too awkward/painful to make a pregnancy announcement and then have to make a miscarriage announcement. Given that I would reach out to friends for support if I miscarried, I think it would be less awkward to text someone, “I miscarried. Can we get coffee?” than “I know you didn’t know I was pregnant, but I was, and now I miscarried. Can we get coffee?” I can see being uncomfortable to post a miscarriage status on Facebook, so I might avoid announcing online immediately. But I can’t help but think that the discomfort arises from the latent stigma and guilt associated with the previous two points. People post about break-ups, family member deaths, and personal illness (Does “Sick and tired of being sick and tired” sound familiar) all the time on social media. One friend recently chronicled the week-long death of her cat, and got oodles of love and support. What makes miscarriage different?
  • Support if things go right: If you’re nauseated, fatigued, bloated, constipated, have hemorrhoids, and cry on a regular basis, things are going right. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. I appreciated and needed the friends who told me, “It get’s better in the second trimester!” and reminded me, “It’s totally worth the gift you get at the end.” Reaching out to broader networks sooner would have given me more access to mamas who have been there.
  • Ability to use affirming language: Much of what’s wrong with pregnancy and childbirth in the North America is that they are considered a health problems that require medical intervention. Rather than reinforcing that idea in myself, it is important to me that I treat pregnancy and childbirth as normal, healthy, safe physiological processes. Unfortunately, the most obvious excuse to explain away intrusive first trimester symptoms is, “I’m sick.” I said this a couple times, and it felt awful to cast my pregnancy as something I needed to “get better” from. There were a couple days the nausea hit me pretty hard and I wanted to reach out to find last-minute subs for my yoga classes, but I couldn’t bring myself to put “I’m sick” into writing.

Satya, which means truthfulness in Sanskrit, has been a front-runner for our baby’s middle name if we have a daughter. With how much I’ve disliked keeping my pregnancy a secret, it’s feeling more right than ever!