I started my unofficial maternity leave waaaay earlier than normal. Like 4 months earlier.
The idea actually came up during one of my routine visits in early pregnancy.
As you might have read, I was not a happy camper.
My midwife jokingly said “Maternity leave should really begin during pregnancy and go through the postpartum period.”
Heck yes. I couldn’t get her words out of my head.
During my first 4 months of discomfort, I had the idea that I would jump back into the swing of things come second trimester.
After that visit with my midwife I began to play with the idea of an alternate plan.
What if I didn’t jump back into my full time work for the remainder of my pregnancy?
While the concept felt a little bit scary and completely foreign, I decided to think it through.
Now, part of my situation is obviously tied to the fact that I am self employed.
I knew I had two logistical scenarios to consider:
One – My private practice fluctuates monthly, so opening up my calendar for clients is totally up to my discretion and availability.
Two – As a research consultant, my contracts are for 1-5 years stints, but I have a fair amount of flexibility in terms of how I organize my time.
What would it mean to really pull back on work as I transitioned into motherhood?
I started with the money – going through the financials on paper.
I figured out I could reduce my working hours to 20 a week, and still cover my basic living expenses (or at least my portion when my partner’s income is factored in).
It would mean…
Having to renegotiate some deadlines.
Having to put some things on the credit card that I would normally pay in cash.
Not having a cushion to fall back on.
The last one kind of freaked me out, but I knew it would also give me the flexibility to experience…
Less pressure to meet multiple deadlines
Less time sitting at my desk to crank out projects
More ability to do all the things my body was begging me for (rest, frequent meals, sleeping past 6 am)
At the center of it was it meant significant time to plan and process my transition.
So I went for it.
I looked at the list of deliverables I had from October- February, and I started slashing.
My compass question was: will anything terrible happen if I push this until after the baby is born?
The answer to the question was almost inevitably “no.”
Any resistance I experienced was more about my letting go of my usual productivity goals.
In letting that go, I was able to make space for experiencing my pregnancy.
It still sometimes felt like there was always a long list of stuff to do.
I still had shit that needed to get done.
Some of my work time was inevitably replaced by baby prep tasks.
But I embraced slow and was fully focused on being present to what I needed FIRST, and present to my responsibilities as a professional SECOND.
If I woke up feeling tired, I slept in.
If I got hungry during my 4 daily hours of committed work time, I paused and made myself something to eat.
I left my work emails alone by 5 pm every single day.
If something on the list didn’t get done, but my brain was done, it simply got moved to the next day.
Sometimes I would just lay down in the middle of the afternoon and watch my belly move with each kick.
Choosing to take the time to witness something so simple was powerful.
As the end of December rolled around, I could feel myself wanting to go into planning mode.
Reflect on 2015 successes and challenges
Project 2016 projects and income
Set Quarter 1 goals
Break down each of my goals into tasks.
This is the stuff I used to live for!
I had to work hard to break out of my new year planning and allow myself to stick with reflections. That was enough.
Because if I am really honest with myself I simply don’t know what’s around the corner.
So my New Year projections is looking a little different than past years…
Wrap up work projects in January (6 weeks before due date)
Have baby sometime end of February
Be a new mom
Transition back to on-going research projects June-July (16 week of “official” leave)
Re-open private practice in August (25 total weeks of transition back)
For now, I’m enjoying moving slow and seeing what emerges in this new year.
What about you?
Leave a comment below with one way you can slow down and/or do less in the new year.
Let’s make the space to enjoy the present.