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.

17 Weeks Pregnant: Big Feelings

October 13 – October 19: 17 Weeks 0 Days – 17 Weeks 6 Days.

I may have freaked out this week.

A few years ago I took a yoga training with Hala Khouri about teaching at-risk youth. She explained kids’ emotions in a way that stuck with me: kids have big feelings. When little Jimmy drops his ice cream on the ground, his emotional response is not the same as an adult’s. We may dismiss him: “Don’t get so upset. It’s just ice cream;” but for him, it’s a death in the family, an amputated limb, the rapture and he was left behind. In order to hold space for little Jimmy to process this experience, we must acknowledge that what he’s feeling is enormous. A more compassionate response might be, “I understand that it’s hard to lose something. It’s okay to feel upset.”

I don’t know if it’s the yoga or just my personality, but I usually have the opposite of big feelings. Rage and jealousy are rare for me, I can’t be bothered with grudges that last more than a couple hours, and I’d describe my experience of excitement more as joyful anticipation. Pregnancy put an amplifier on all that.

In my first trimester I was introduced to pregnancy crying. I’m okay with shedding some tears and all, but, just like little Jimmy who dropped his ice cream, once I start crying I can’t stop! On top of that, it escalates: sniffling progresses to sobbing, sobbing progresses to wailing, and when I was at the height of my nausea, wailing progressed puking. That equanimous part of my psyche that stands back to observe my experience understands that my reaction is way out-of-proportion to whatever the trigger was, but instead of doing anything about it she stares on in helpless disbelief and mutters, “WTF.”

This week wasn’t my first freak out: early on in pregnancy, I got mad at some movers for having too long a truck (our apartment building had two large parking garages, and they either had to block one garage door or the other). When I confronted them I wasn’t trying to leave the building, I was just upset on principle. Maybe this reaction would be normal for people with a more confrontational disposition, but I wouldn’t usually expend energy and circulate a bunch of stress hormones over a problem that would most likely solve itself. Sure enough, after moving the truck back and forth several times to let tenants in and out, the movers separated the cab from the trailer to accommodate both garage doors. What happened this week had less of an external me-telling-people-off component, but the internal emotional experience was immense.

Patio before and after

I replaced my patios wood mulch gardens with black Mexican pebbles.

When we were looking for our new home, the intention was to find The House. You know, the one you pour blood, sweat, and tears into making your own, raise your kids in, and retire in. The house we bought and now live in has plentiful outdoor space, and my first blood, sweat, and tears project is to zen-ify the front patio.

Last Saturday I picked up my fourth and final 200-300 lb load of black Mexican pebbles, which Richard diligently loaded and unloaded for me (my low back hasn’t been tolerating heavy lifting well). As soon as I poured the first bag into the garden, I knew something was wrong—they didn’t match the other rocks. I dug them out of the garden and put them back in the bag. A couple days later, Richard loaded the rocks back into the car for me, and I took them back to landscaping store first thing in the morning to suggest that my pebbles may have been mismarked. After examining the rocks through the dusty bag I’d packing-taped shut, the man at the landscape store kindly insisted that the stones were black, but offered to exchange the bags for different ones anyway if I really wanted to. “No, it’s okay,” I sighed, feeling kind of silly, “I must have overreacted.”

Mismatched stones

I poured water over the stones compare their colors. The stones on the left are the ones in the rest of the garden, the ones on the right are the last batch. (See, they -are- different!)

I took the bags home (where Richard had to unload them yet again), and immediately dumped all six 50-lb bags into the garden. And then I really overreacted. The new rocks definitely did not match the others. The old rocks were exclusively shades of gray, the new rocks included shades of green and orange. Overwhelmed, I ran back inside the house and took a couple deep breaths, then went back outside hoping to have a fresh perspective. I kid you not, when I saw those motley stones my life literally flashed before my eyes: I saw 5 years, 30 years, 50 years into the future, how every time I stepped out into my patio for the rest of my life I would cringe at the sight of the rocks. I put my hand over my mouth and ran back inside.

I repeated this melodramatic (but very real to me, at the time) sequence several times, each round featuring a different train of thought tragically crashing in an explosion of big feelings and sending me running back into the house near tears:

Maybe it was just the lighting… Oh God no, they’re so different. Why do they only have men working at the landscaping store?? Men are much more prone color blindess!

They look like rainbow-colored aquarium pebbles! My patio is lined with giant aquarium pebbles. I can’t even…

The colorful rocks aren’t so bad. I can just mix them in with the others so the garden looks more uniform. Then I looked at the side of the patio that was completed to my vision. No! Green and orange accents were not what I had in mind. These rocks are a bastardization of my vision. I hate them and I can’t even handle looking at them! But they’re already all in the garden. What am I going to do??

By the time Richard told me it was time for me to drive him to his bus stop I was beside myself, fanning a hand next to my temple like a swooning southern belle. While driving, I tearfully redirected my frustration toward myself, “Why didn’t I trust my intuition? I knew those rocks weren’t right, but I didn’t exchange them even though the guy said I could. Why didn’t I trust myself enough to just exchange them! I was right there, it would’ve taken less than ten minutes.” I don’t think I was actually expecting an answer, but I got one anyway. Richard said plainly, “Because you don’t like asking for help, and you didn’t want to make those guys unload and reload the rocks for you.” In that moment, that didn’t make me feel better and didn’t stop me from continuing to lament (I think Richard was pretty glad when he got to get out of the car), but wow, how accurate.

In retrospect, that clear statement from my husband, my mirror, was invaluably informative. I was willing to completely disregard my knowledge and intuition to avoid inconveniencing someone, even if the result would be life-shattering (or at least feel that way for an hour). I will have to reverse that habit before attempting a natural birth in a hospital setting where medical interventions may be offered as often for your health as for convenience, comfort, and liability reasons. From everything I’ve read and learned, natural birth is all about intuition and self-trust; one of my affirmation is: my body knows exactly what to do.

By the time I got home I’d calmed down and started focusing on the solution rather than the problem. I went to work digging the rocks out of the garden and repackaging them. I put my low back out of commission for the rest of the day by lugging one of the bags down to the landscaping store and exchanging it for a bag of black Mexican pebbles that beautifully matched the rest of my garden. The next day Richard obligingly loaded the rest of the offensive rocks back into the car and then unloaded the ones I exchanged them for. I tried not to feel guilty about asking him for help.

My patio

Here’s how to patio looks now. Looking forward to adding more plants!

My matching rocks were all in place or the housewarming party on Saturday and I even had time to put in some more potted plants. My vision is coming together! As for the big feelings: I’m continuing to take them in stride, allowing myself to laugh about them in retrospect, and trying to remember to thank my husband for being so incredibly supportive.

Succulent cupcakes

Succulent cupcakes for the housewarming party to match the plants in the patio.

ps – If you’re interested in making the succulent cupackes, I used this tutorial.