On Switching Up The Plan

My world is pretty much all baby all of the time. Is it dropping? What’s that twinge? Can I bend over and get that? Am I sitting in such a way that I can get up off the couch and go to the bathroom without assistance? Cankles. Cankles are new. Cankles are a little shocking. And shitty shitty shitty nights sleep.

Also, I stopped weighing myself and I stopped looking at the scale. Because… I can’t help the urge to fix the number, and I can’t fix the number… no matter what I do or how much I walk, or how many lentils I munch, I can’t do anything about the water retention, the baby gaining his lbs, my butt that just keeps growing and growing and growing. I can do something about it after, but not right now. I refuse to fixate over 5-10 lbs when I know that realistically I will be striving to lose 30+ when all of this is said and done (and by 30+ I mean AFTER the baby and the fluid and the placenta exit stage left).

This thing happened this week. I stopped feeling good about going to work. Mentally, I love going to work. I like being busy, I like the people interaction, I generally like what I do (even though it is not 100% fulfilling or challenging at the moment), and it makes the weeks ZOOM by. Thirty-nine weeks? WHAT? Wasn’t I just complaining about feeling constantly hungover? Where did this pregnancy go? Anyways… towards the end of last week I started to get uncomfortable beyond the general soreness. Then last weekend… well you guys know how much that sucked, but it kind of took my breath away. On Monday I felt even worse than during the weekend. My joints are loosening and they ache. Not just a little ache, but the kind that takes your strength, the kind that makes you limp and wince and walk so very slowly. The kind that hurts to stand, the kind that is in my feet and hands and pelvis and hips.

But, there is money to think of… in my non-maternity-leave-ness (except for state disability), and also my mental state. I don’t function well when I am bored at home for long stretches. Even when I am working from home it isn’t enough for me. I like working, I like being busy, I like having a purpose and feeling useful. And it is not that I am not capable, I am just slow and big and hurting.

The hurting. It got to me. That, and the slight anxiety about breaking my water at work (something I doubt will even happen at all, but oh god what if it did? I would for sure ruin some carpeting). But it took me a little bit. First Kamel really wanted me to stop working on Monday and I shrugged him off. Then I made some phone calls about pregnancy disability and the pay situation, but I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel. For the most part working is great! Except when I get up to walk to the kitchen to refill my water, then it hurts. Or when I get up to walk to the bathroom, or leave for lunch, or in the afternoons when the pressure begins to grow unbearable from sitting in maternity jeans (or leggings) where the seam pushes against my swelling pelvis as the baby drops. And except when I walk the mile to the train that takes me 20-25 minutes… 20-25 minutes that now feels so incredibly daunting when I first leave the building. The walk that used to take me an even 15. During those times being at work sucks. It hurts me, it makes me wish for sweatpants, and naps, and the ability to put my feet up. It makes me wish I wasn’t there.

I really thought that I would be working until I popped. I really did. I was ok with it, and I also never saw it going any other way than that. Work work work until I literally cannot work another moment, go to the hospital, have baby, recover with baby, back to work. But no, that’s not what’s going to happen. Yesterday I went to the doctor and told them I was hurting and they gave me a notice that said I was to not go to work anymore, and I was relieved. And even though Kamel wished that I would stop working sooner, even though my family wished that I would have stopped working sooner – I felt good about it, because I didn’t tap out until I had made that choice for me.

There are so few things I have any control over – being the best judge of my own limitations is one of them, and I’ll keep waving that flag for as long as I’m able.

Since I’ve been pregnant total strangers (as well as work people and acquaintances) have ladled on the un-asked-for advice. Some of my favorites are:

  • Seriously Lauren, don’t name your kid something shitty, ok?!
  • Don’t waddle. Never waddle. Once you start to waddle you will never be able to stop and that is when the back pain kicks in.
  • You shouldn’t do any housework or laundry. Bending isn’t good for you. Also, you’ll start contracting and you’ll need to sit down and drink water. Don’t be silly.
  • If you haven’t bought breast pads now, do it. You could start leaking at any time.

Yesterday in the elevator a man saw my Starbucks cup and said, “Decaf, I presume?” … These conversations exhaust me, but I remain polite. I replied, “No, actually hot chocolate.” And then he went on to tell me how he has an 8-month old and how is wife was “really good about no caffeine the WHOLE time and then just recently she had some of my coffee and it REALLY affected the baby… you know, through the milk.” And then I got off the elevator and told him to have a nice day.

Socially, it seems a pregnant woman is completely open for commentary on her body, her habits, her choices – by complete strangers. I hate this so much I can’t even express clearly how much I hate this. But I also know that these people are not trying to be mean. For the most part they just want to share something about themselves. They’ve been pregnant once or they know someone who is or has been and they just want to share too. So I nod and smile and take none of their advice. Sometimes I think about it later and sometimes I don’t. As a pregnant lady I don’t feel like dealing with offending people when they are well-meaning… as a mother, on the other hand, I guarantee you I will have no problem telling people to shut the fuck up if they think they can share opinions with me on how I’m raising my kids.

There it is! My big thick line in the sand. Pregnancy – possibly a universal well-wishing “aww so cute” experience for on-lookers. Parenting – mind your own. And when it comes to the few choices I have about my own body, my own capabilities, my own limitations as a pregnant woman – those are mine too. I love Kamel, he is my partner in all things. I respect my family and listen to their advice and support whole-heartedly. But in the end – to work or not to work, how much pain I can handle, what I am comfortable attempting – those are my choices. Even if they aren’t what I originally planned, I still need to own them 100%.

25 thoughts on “On Switching Up The Plan”

  1. OK, so all this week I have been thinking about how I cannot believe that you are still working. I’m sorry, but it’s true. I’m finishing before I’m even 35 weeks! (14 working days to go – woohoo!) I assumed that it was to do with maternity pay, but I completely get the being bored at home thing, too. If you don’t mind me asking, do you not get any maternity pay at all? Just some kind of benefit? Sorry, but I’m in the UK so I don’t know how it works for my American friends.

    So now what I want to say is this: I’m so pleased that you’ve finished work and I think you are AMAZING for continuing because you made that decision. Not because you ‘powered through’ or because of money (although it sounds like that played a part) but because it was your choice. Well done you.

    And, yeah, the random comments from people? Still can’t get used to them. Whenever I say I’m having a boy people say ‘that’s great!’ and I want to say ‘why is that great? Because it’s not a useless girl?’ But, you know, maybe I’m just hormonal… And yesterday a colleague wouldn’t let me walk back to my office because his wife had his daughter at 28 weeks. Right, yes, because I am going to go into labour in the next 20 minutes and even though I will be walking through the city centre, it will be the worst thing ever. Now shut up and give me more biscuits.

    Hope you are more comfortable today.

    1. I can’t speak to Lauren’s specific situation but the US guarantees ZERO paid maternity leave. We have this half-ass law called the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) that grants up to 12 weeks of UNpaid leave and a job on return*. Some employers offer partial pay while on leave, most do not. Nearly everyone lucky enough to be in the position to do so saves their PTO and every little penny.

      *The promise of a job is also vague. Your employer is responsible for employing you on your return with no guarantees about pay, title, work hours, etc.

      1. Actually! It depends on state. And pregnancy/labor/delivery is covered under short term disability. So, it varies depending on how much money you make (and how much money you have paid into state disability) – but it is only a partial amount of your pay. So I file a bunch of complicated paperwork with EDD and my HR department for both disability and FMLA. It is way way way more complicated than it should be.

  2. It makes me mad that your options for paid leave around your pregnancy and after the baby is born are so short and so limited. I wish that the money didn’t have to be a factor in those decisions at all and I could extend some of our maternity benefits south of the border.

    I’m glad everyone respected your right to decide when you were going to stop working for this. Hearing about how much work contributes to your well being I think in some ways the only way to ever be ok with giving up something that makes you happy like that is by making the decision yourself, on your own time (in any situation, and for any person.)

  3. “But in the end – to work or not to work, how much pain I can handle, what I am comfortable attempting – those are my choices.” This needs to be stitched on a pillow or something.

    Also, you get all the points for staying calm and polite to people constantly commenting on your pregnancy. “Decaf, I presume?” What the fuck? I’d be tempted to say something snide, like, “Actually, it’s two shots of espresso. Plus a splash of Bailey’s. How else am I going to get through the day, right?”

    Hopefully you’ll be able to rest without too much boredom, at home!

    1. hahaha that was my knee jerk reaction too! “Nope, super extra caf plus vodka thankyouverymuch. momma needs an extra hit today”

    2. When I was pregnant, I always wanted to say ‘no, I definitely need caffeine this morning with the killer hangover I’ve got!’. Never had the guts to do it though.

      For the record, in Australia the health dept recommends no more than 2 coffees (proper espresso ones) a day while pregnant or breastfeeding. So we can have some coffee, just not go overboard. I drank one coffee a day while pregnant, and am back to 2 a day now I’m breastfeeding. My daughter is fine.

  4. Lauren I just want to send you hugs. And hope the pain away. I want you to be happy and comfortable and busy, and just being crazy happy you dancing around in the living room (I loved that video you posted some time ago). I know it is hard to find this balance between what you want and what you can do, but you really are at the end, and this is a huge deal. You are making a person, no, you made a person, and this little person is ready to come into the World.

    Also kudos to you for being stubborn, standing up for yourself and making your own choices.

    I read this article the other day (On Friendly advice) and I think it’s talking about the same thing. Why can’t we women be kind to each other?

    http://anyotherwoman.com/2013/02/on-friendly-advice/

    Here are another two articles that are super good,

    -the first one more or less on the general subject of we should just stop putting each other down however choices we make:

    I’m calling out on your bullshit, by Anna from Skin and Blister:

    http://www.skinandblisterblog.com/2013/02/im-calling-out-your-bullshit.html

    -and this one that made me think of your honesty telling us about your experiences, you know, the real deal:

    http://www.toulouseandtonic.com/the-top-10-sucky-things-about-being-pregnant/

    1. Hey Amanda,
      Thanks so much for recommending my post here! Seems Lauren and I have like minds. Why lie about the realities? I’m always for seeing them with humor and honesty instead. I appreciate the plug, dude!

  5. I always think about how we can make the best plans, but then life gets in the way and we have to adjust. Good for you for sticking to your choices, even if those choices change with circumstances.

    Also, the whole unsolicited advice for pregnant women… I can only hope to one day be able to handle that as gracefully as you do.

  6. “That, and the slight anxiety about breaking my water at work (something I doubt will even happen at all, but oh god what if it did? I would for sure ruin some carpeting).”

    This cracked me up. It’s the exact same sort of thing I’d be worried about (BUT THE CARPET!!).

    Also, the dude commenting on the Starbucks cup? HOW did you not PUNCH him right then and there. I probably would have told him it was a quad latte (because I’m ornery like that). Your attitude is probably the healthier one 😛

  7. Lauren, thanks as always for your honesty, especially about things like marriage and pregnancy that it’s tempting to draw little hearts and flowers around all the time. Even really really good things can suck now and then. It’s always nice to have that validated. You are awesome. Hang in there.

  8. lol, brilliant.
    “Dont waddle, thats when back pain starts”. f-in bollocks. Back pain CAUSES the freaking waddling, I can attest to that. When my back hurts, my hips freeze up and I waddle. Once I am up and moving better, and my joints have some mobility, I stop waddling.

    I’ve been lucky enough to avoid the commentary. I even bought a coke and chocolate bar yesterday (I couldn’t get through the day without), and no-one even looked twice. Although I have now confirmed that there is no good time of day to have chocolate for me, as it gives me heartburn.

    I should stop looking at the scales too, because they freak me out. And I keep having to remind myself that fact of there being nothing I can do about it. At last scan, only 3 of those 13kg I have put on is baby. So even if the same again is baby-specific fluid, thats still only HALF the weight. Which means I’ll actively have to lose a lot of the rest, and it took me a year to lose that much last time I tried, and I didn’t have a baby to deal with! Gah!

    And yeah, the maternity clothes dont fit any more, I have to change when I get home. And I only have 3 and a bit weeks to go, so I cant justify the expense of new ones, so I’m having to make do, which is NOT helping with the feeling heavy, and the cankles and general having to work really hard not to hate my body stuff.

  9. Oh, the indignities. Huzzah for more discussion of the indignities of pregnancy. I was told a few times to just be grateful for my pregnancy when I dared mention how hard and painful some things were. “There are starving children in India who can’t even get pregnant…” <—– someone actually said that to me. Not even all that sure it was a joke.

    On cankles – I managed to avoid them until the last days of pregnancies but was incredibly shocked when my feet blew up like balloons the day AFTER the baby arrived. Not just the ankles, the whole damn foot. I could poke my finger into each foot and leave dimples. Couldn't even squish them into my gloriously comfy slippers I bought especially for the hospital. So just a warning… in case you suddenly notice you have a pair of nasty hobbitses at the end of your legs.

    1. Ok, what??!?
      I know I’ve had friends who cant get pregnant complain about women who complain about being pregnant and the pains and indignities of it – “You should realise how fortunate you are”.
      Thankfully, one of them is now pregnant (after 2 ectopics and 3 other miscarriages) and has realised that, actually, the “complainers” were right – pregnancy is hard, as grateful as she is for the opportunity to experience it.
      But starving children in india? I.just.cant.

  10. I get so, so angry reading about maternity leave arrangements in the US. If women choose to work late in the pregnancy or go back early, that’s one thing, but when it’s forced upon them it’s a different matter. We don’t get much paid leave in Australia (18 weeks at minimum wage, which is $610 a week, plus some good employers offer an additional 12 weeks at full pay). However, we get 12 months with a guaranteed job on return, because that’s how long it’s recommended to breastfeed for.

    Anyway, rant over – I love your attitude and agree its so important to make your own choices, no matter what anyone else thinks. For some reason, everyone seems to have an opinion on what choices pregnant women should be making. I was told twice by random strangers on public transport that I ‘need a better husband’ so I wouldn’t need to work while pregnant. Never mind that I love working, get a lot of satisfaction from it, and wanted the money!

    It doesn’t get better once you have a kid, so the better you hand,e it now the easier it will be later. You are handling it wi much better grace than I did – hats off to you.

  11. Ok, so I found your blog through Amanda, who recommended it to me as I have just found out I’m pregnant and then I read through all of your posts starting with finding out you were pregnant. First of all, you are an amazing story-teller/observer/writer. The post where you had a freakout moment because you felt there was “nothing original” left to write made me smile, because your blog is so well-written, it makes me feel like my blog is like a six year old’s diary.

    I loved your post about not being able to “take pregnancy off.” It really got me thinking about the parts of ourselves and how motherhood is just a non-negotiable part. How terrifying, but comforting in a way. And speaking of comforting, how neat how you said that later on in your pregnancy you are feeling “yourself” come back. Your interests, your thoughts, just you as a person.

    Anyhow, great writing, good read, and I’ll be following through the birth!

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