5 Things I Learned From Being Pregnant

Yup, still pregnant.

Work has eased up considerably, so I’ve had some time to think about what I’ve learned from being pregnant, and I thought I’d share.

  1. You’re not an invalid, but you’re not the same physically either. While it can be tempting to take to the bed, unless under doctor’s orders to do so, getting up and moving around actually will help you feel better. But don’t make the mistake of thinking you can do all the things you used to. You need more sleep than you’re probably getting. Cleaning the house will wear you out. And trying to sit in a desk chair in front of a computer for 8 hours will kill your back. So modify your activities accordingly, and take it easy on yourself. Your husband can do the dishes.
  2. Don’t compare yourself to other pregnant women. There are 3 other women in my company who are also in their third trimesters. One is in Africa for a couple of weeks, presumably working those 14-hour days you have to work when you’re in the field. Another plans to work up until the moment she goes into labor. The third is planning to move to Vietnam about a month after her baby is born. All I want to do is sit on the couch. I look at these women and wonder why I am such a wuss. But that’s a mistake. You have to take responsibility for your own health and self care. I know I need some time to wind down from work. I know I need to avoid stress. If other women have different needs or different energy levels, good for them, but don’t focus on what they’re doing or wonder if you aren’t doing enough. Trust your instincts and your knowledge of yourself. We’re all different, and we all experience our pregnancies differently. That’s really okay.
  3. Pregnancy is a transitional time — use it. Change, even if it’s a change you really want and planned for, is always traumatic. Having a kid is a gigantic change. Fortunately, you have 9 months or so to prepare yourself for it. I think it’s a mistake to try to go from one life to another, wham! on the day you deliver. Take time while you’re pregnant to get used to the change and to grieve a little. It’s become very important to me to take some time to myself (while I still can) and prepare myself mentally and physically for my new role. I had to reconcile myself with my changing identity. Would I have the same sense of self worth if I was no longer working full time and bringing so much money into the household? Would my childless friends all dump me? Will I be able to hang on to my own individuality once I’m a mom? I figure I should make peace with these things now, while there are relatively few demands on me, rather than risk depression or resentment further on down the road. So it’s become more important that I make time for that rather than keeping on working or staying on top of the household chores.
  4. Pregnancy is gross. I don’t mean that pregnant women look gross or anything ridiculous like that. I just mean that when you’re pregnant, things (usually little things) happen to your body that no one tells you about and that you can’t really control. And those things can be squicky. It really, really helps if both you and your husband have a good sense of humor about such things.
  5. Maternity leave in this country (the U.S.) is a joke. Yes, we get 12 weeks’ unpaid maternity leave by law. A lot of people can’t afford to take off 3 months without pay. Fortunately, my company allows us to use our sick/vacation leave, but even that is a double-edged sword. Because I’m saving up as much leave as I can for after I have the baby, I have been very reluctant to use any leave beforehand. Which has meant that I push myself to work even when I’ve had a sleepless night or I’m having a particularly bad day. This has the net effect of wearing you out just before you have to give birth, instead of allowing you the time you need to rest and prepare. The United States is one of 4 countries in the entire world that does not mandate paid maternity leave (keeping company with Lesotho, Swaziland and Papua New Guinea). Every other industralized country and most developing world countries have some form of paid, protected maternity leave. This is a country that advocates our strong “family values” every time an election rolls around. What hypocrisy. If pregnancy has made me passionate about anything, it is that paid maternity leave (and paternity leave) should be a right for everyone.

And one bonus thing I learned from being pregnant: Everyone treats you like you’re special. Just enjoy it. Don’t worry about double standards or insist that you’re the same as everyone else. It’s probably never going to happen again, so take the small perks with a smile.

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One thought on “5 Things I Learned From Being Pregnant

  1. dylan555 5 March 2008 at 11:06 am

    i’ve learned something too! I’ve learned that many people’s marrigages rest on steroetypes and they don’t seem to get it. A lot of the cliches I’ve heard about pregnancy don’t seem to be true. I realize that some of them don’t happen to everyone, but I think there are a lot of myths out there that people are too lazy to overcome.

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