I find myself in now in the first week of maternity leave, at a heaving 36 weeks pregnant.
Our much-longed for baby is nearly ready to make their appearance, and my husband and I are simultaneously excited and nervous. I haven’t shared much about my being pregnant over the past nine months, although many of you will have noticed from recent photography used by Ruby Assembly that I’m definitely looking rotund and jolly! Being pregnant has been a wonderful, transformative and magical experience. To add to the weird, I’ve been pregnant almost exclusively during a 7-month lockdown in Melbourne, Australia – meaning that very few people have actually witnessed my growing the baby.
I feel that now is a good time to share some of my insights of pregnancy whilst running a business; to be fair, I think it would be churlish to keep these discoveries to myself! Sure, I’ve watched a lot of Mummy Vloggers talk about packing the ultimate hospital bag, or the best way to strip cloth nappies. But I’ve not been readily able to find experiential smarts relating to both the development of baby and business from a woman like myself – someone in her late 30’s who is as focused on watching her enterprise flourish as her family. So here’s what I’ve learned, in no particular order. May the runs you’ve put on the board carry you through this time of transition with grace.
- Tell people. Or don’t.
Whether or not you choose to wait ’til the end of your first trimester to share the happy news with your colleagues and clients is a very personal decision. My business is one that’s too small and intimate to hide big and important information within, so I chose to tell my colleagues I was pregnant within days of confirmation from my Doctor. I also began telling my clients. Intuitively, I feel that this period of change will go most smoothly with the support of my whole network – which includes my colleagues and clients. Everybody was very, very happy and excited for me. It also gave me the opportunity to begin sharing ideas about what might work when it came to the three months I’m having ‘away’ from the business.
- Feeling yuck
In my first trimester, a lot of things happened. We moved into a glorious-but-rundown heritage home – settling on the same day we confirmed our pregnancy. Two weeks after, COVID-19 struck and lockdown began. At the same time, the worst of first trimester feels hit me. These included intense teariness, anxiety and depression (which I knocked on the head with the help of my husband and Doctor), feeling nauseous quite often (but not to the point of vomming, thankfully), bone-tired lethargy and an inability to do things like cook (particularly at night). I could also smell everything and it all smelled bad to me, including my husband’s aftershave which I normally love.
This development was very alarming to me; I had wanted to be pregnant so badly, and now I felt deathly ill and couldn’t imagine how I could make it through the coming months. I felt trapped and isolated by COVID-19, I felt anxious at the unfamiliar surrounds of my new home, I was quite overwrought. This period of time did pass however, and with medication I soon felt much, much better and positive about pregnancy.
- Changed working patterns
In some ways, your first trimester is the most taxing on your body – it’s in set-up mode and is draining you for all you’re worth. I have continued working all the way throughout my pregnancy, but my working day looked different. I was lucky in many ways to be house-bound due to pandemic restrictions, as it has allowed me to rest when I needed to. Typically, I’d be able to work from 9:45 am – 1:00 pm. I’d then have lunch, and need to sleep with irresistible force. I know that some women who are office-bound have napped on (or under) their desks during the first trimester. There’s no avoiding this; you’re like Dorothy Gale in the field of poppies and you’re going down to the land of nod. Post-waking up, I’d feel like trash – have a cup of tea with sugar in it and go for another hour or so.
Whilst my working patterns changed, I do not feel like my productivity overall was diminished. Having my colleagues and clients aware that I was pregnant was helpful, because it meant that when I need to postpone meetings or have a colleague run a meeting on my behalf – everyone was understanding and supportive.
- Return to form
In your second trimester, you will feel much more like yourself. Hopefully your nausea will have abated, you’ll begin looking pregnant rather than as if you’ve overdone it on a cheese platter, and you’ll be full of energy. I found I had more stamina during this period, and began to enjoy hour-long walks with my husband on the daily. I once again felt a desire to cook and enjoy my home – I began to feel much more positive about the small changes we were making to the home to prepare it for baby. Overall, the second trimester was a good time. I still needed to nap, but I don’t recall it being as intensely debilitating as earlier.
- Prospecting and business building
I spent a lot of time working on my business rather than in it during this phase, recruiting a contractor to help me prospect, developing eBooks with the help of my colleagues and doing lots of new business Zoom meetings. I also had a renewed focus on client communication via Zoom – which was tiring, but necessary during the COVID pandemic period.
- Documenting your pregnancy
In my second trimester, I chose to do a photo-shoot. I’m so glad I did! The images have been wonderful for business, and they are very special keepsakes for my family.
- Tiredness and discomfort
Lethargy hit me like a train in the third trimester, with my day divided into several distinct period of energy. Post-breakfast, my body put all its energy into digestion. I would typically be moving around quite a bit in the morning too; making breakfast, tidying the kitchen, playing with the pets and getting ready for work. This use of energy leaves me pretty zombie-fied from 10:00 am – 11:00 am, so I’ve mostly just tried to do what I can. I have another good period of energy from 11:00 – 1:00 pm, have a nap, and then maybe do another hour (although this has slowed as I’ve approached full term).
Things I found helped with tiredness and physical discomfort include: ice packs and heat packs (one for swelling, and one for muscular discomfort), my acupuncture Shakti Mat, Mamaway maternity belt, Belly Bean pillow for sleep, stretchy pants (I liked Good Mama and Target) and Rose & Thorne maternity bras. Putting your feet up (literally) also helps with swelling makes you feel less tired. I also have developed a penchant for Pepsi Max, Berocca and Ribena during pregnancy (probably all to do with the sensation of bubbles, and a need for salt and sugar).
- Nesting and transition into maternity leave
I have always been a ‘potterer’, but have been pottering more in the last month or so. This has mostly been in the form of learning about cloth nappies and how to use them, selecting them and laundering them, laundering and folding baby clothes, preparing hospital bags for myself and the baby, and choosing artwork for the nursery. Feeling the baby move very regularly is a wake-up call that they’re coming, and I think it naturally focuses your mind towards the transition to the role of mother and how that might interact with your role as a business owner.
In the last month, my team and I have arranged contractors for our busy holiday season with fortunate ease. We’ve discussed the next three months to come and how work will be delegated between us, and I’ve given myself some freedom to continue to do the work I want to do (like new business, prospecting, vlogging/podcasting etc). My out of office is now officially on, and whilst I’m continuing to work on some strategy and new business, I’m easing my way into more rest. In short; as an organisation we’re already quite systematised and my colleagues work with great independence. We’ve tweaked a few things for the time to come – with the aim of my returning to work several days a week in February. I feel secure in the quality of my team, my clients and (of course) our excellent work, and I’ve worked so hard for so long to be able to enjoy this period of impending motherhood and adventure.
- Negotiating your identity
My identity is deeply tied to my Directorship at Ruby Assembly. She is my first baby, now on the cusp of adolescence. I feel very comfortable in my role as a leader and mentor, and I’m now adding another layer to my identity – that of a Mother whose world revolves around her baby. I really don’t know what the next few months will hold for me. I imagine a joyful and grateful time. I’ve put as many systems in place as I can to ensure that my business will continue to thrive and offer a brilliant service to our customers, and hope that being present for my colleagues will remain a possibility.
See you on the other side!
Photography: Breeana Dunbar