As I type this, I'm over 38 weeks pregnant. The baby – my first – is due in 10 days and I'm sitting on the precipice of the great unknown, between excitement and terror.
There is a vast amount of information out there for pregnant women and I've been reading about the development of my baby week by week. An app I downloaded compared my baby to the size of a sweet pea at six weeks old – today it's as big as a watermelon. I now know what to expect during labour in graphic detail, and I'll win any quiz about what strollers are best for city dwellers with no car.
However, what I had no understanding of was how being pregnant would affect me at work – so in the spirit of openness and understanding I'm going to share my experience with you. I know that it's going to be different for everyone, but I hope that there'll be something in here that will help ease the worry of any expecting mums (or dads) out there.
Not every mum-to-be wants to get out of work ASAP
Currently I'm creative director at BrandPie, an independent branding company. I enjoy my job and I'm used to being busy, multi-tasking and holding various projects in my head, as well as managing and directing a team of designers.
The general assumption is that every mum-to-be wants to get out of work ASAP and slip comfortably into the fuzzy cloud that is baby brain. Not me. I've always invested a lot of my energy into my career and have worked damn hard to get to where I am. I've pushed my limits and I expect a lot of myself. I also hate to miss out and love getting involved in new projects.
I had certain expectations about how I was going to deal with my pregnancy at work, which didn't veer far from "business as usual".
Taking a step back
As early as halfway through my pregnancy though, I found myself sitting in meetings talking about great new projects that I'd love to sink my teeth into – but knowing I wouldn't be a part of it. I won't be on the pitch team, I won't meet the client. Of course I'd still contribute in the meantime but I couldn't help but feel like my stock had dipped.
I was equating being involved with being needed. I suddenly felt less "important" – and it's not a good feeling. This wasn't the reality from anyone else's point of view, mind you, but the feeling was there (temporarily), despite the logic.
Please know that not for one moment do I want to change the fact that I'm pregnant – it has been years in the making and I'm well aware of the struggle and heartbreak of "trying". But I enjoy what I do, I'm proud of the work I've done and I want to create more. Learning to accept the fact that I was going to miss out was hard. Yes, I've a wonderful experience to look forward to, but because of the effort and time I've put into my career, there's now a part of my identity that I have to let go of for a while.
The other shock was my energy levels. I used to run all over the place at BrandPie, up and down the stairs, from one room to another. I've always operated in a high-octane way, and was adamant with myself that I was super-tough and would work at only a slightly reduced rate up to going on maternity leave.
Suddenly everyone is telling me to slow down, I feel like I'm being treated with cotton wool and though very nice and well meaning I want to say; it's okay, I know my own body and I can look after myself.
Hiring a replacement for yourself
But to be fair, I did need reminding – I was pretty exhausted. I so badly wanted to prove to myself and everyone else that I could do it all, that there were days when I was holding back tears just because I felt so emotionally and physically drained.
A few times these tears did come out at the studio; it was pretty embarrassing but a good lesson for me. I'm lucky to be working with a company that looks out for me and my well-being. I am not a superwoman, I need to chill out and look after myself.
Then, just to mess your head up a bit more while you have a tsunami of hormones raging through your body, comes the task of hiring your replacement. Fighting through the inevitable anxiety of being compared, I made sure to hire the best person I could. I did this for the business and for my team of designers. I've a lot of respect for them and wish them only the very best so they'll continue to grow and develop… this could well be my motherly instincts kicking in.
Letting go of control is the big lesson
That was the easy decision to make. What was difficult was interviewing and meeting people who will be taking over my job and bringing their own opinions and processes to it. What will it be like to come back after six months of absence? How will I stack up against my replacement when I'm back? Again, I had to learn to accept that I couldn't control any of this and that I'll have to figure it out at the time. We've hired someone who I like, trust and respect and I'm grateful for that.
It's not "business as usual". It isn't comfortable giving away something you've worked so hard for, even if it is temporary. I'm slowly getting used to that and learning to roll with it.
Letting go of control has been the big lesson for me and admittedly it has became easier to deal with since the eight-month mark. My body is a constant reminder that my focus has to change and I can't wait for that.
Today is my first day of maternity leave and I've turned off my work email with only a touch of FOMO. All I need now is my little guy to turn up on his due date so I can actually enjoy some time to myself. I still want a little control.