So I should probably share the news that has been dominating my life for the last eight and a half months: I’m pregnant, folks. Yep, pretty soon my husband and I will be welcoming a wrinkly little potato-faced creature into the world – god help her.
With the impending arrival less than two weeks away, I started thinking about my experiences of pregnancy, and in particular the effect it’s had on my writing time. Perhaps predictably, my productivity has plummeted: for some reasons I was expecting, and some that came as a surprise. I thought I’d share them for all the other writer-mum’s-to-be out there… congratulations and commiserations to you, by the way!
So here are my top five gripes about trying to write while pregnant:
1. When you miss your coffee.
It’s a ritual for many writers, and I’m no exception – I enjoy my pre-work sesh coffee. I’ve never chain-drunk the stuff like some people I know, but I do now have to think more carefully about whether and when I drink one.
You may already know: your recommended max caffeine intake during pregnancy is 200mg a day, and one cup of (instant) coffee is around 100mg. The eye-opener for me was learning about all the other things I eat and drink that also contain caffeine: Coca Cola I already knew about, but chocolate came as a surprise. Don’t forget tea, if you prefer the more traditionally British of hot beverages.
This means if I have one coffee first thing in the morning, I can’t have one when I sit down to write in the afternoon. If I happen to drink a pint of coke (it’s an occasional treat for me) and gorge on a bit of chocolate, then it’s also probably best to avoid that coffee altogether.
Now, I don’t need coffee to write, but it’s a comforting habit that helps get me in the mindset for it. Especially after a long day at work, a cup of coffee when I get home is a good way of easing my brain back into the idea of doing more work, i.e. writing. Those after-work writing sessions became hella less frequent when I realised my one rationed cup of coffee was more essential to getting me through my regular workday instead.
That wasn’t the only reason productivity took a dive though, as per the next gripe…
2. When you’re too tired to write… all the time.
‘You’ll be a lot more tired when the baby’s here!!’
Thanks. Great advice.
People like to tell you to ‘enjoy your rest’ before the baby comes, but the reality is that pregnancy isn’t all that restful.
I wasn’t prepared for how dramatically the hormones kicked my energy levels, especially early on. It sapped my mood as well as my general wellbeing. One of my colleagues later told me they were worried I was hiding a serious illness, I’d been acting so off.
My morning sickness also hit me quite reliably in the evenings. Trying to write after work was suddenly a complete bust, regardless as to whether I could factor in a cup of coffee or not.
Now that I’m in the third trimester, my lack of energy is down to a lack of sleep. This belly is uncomfortable, y’all. But not just that: the symptom I’ve hated most, and which they don’t tell you about, is sodding acid reflux. Because your stomach is being squished and the muscles are somewhat relaxed, that acid burn is a relatively common feeling, especially at night. I take Gaviscon before I go to bed every evening, and with annoying regularity will still wake up two or three hours later with that same sickly acid in my throat. (Don’t try to give me home remedies, by the way. I’ve tried them all.)
To top it off, for some reason completely unknown to me, I’ve gone from being a person who could happily (nay, ideally) sleep in until midday, to a bloody morning person. Five AM is no longer an alien time to me.
Case in point: as I write, it is presently 5:20 AM. I’ve been awake since around 3:30 AM (woken up by acid, surprise surprise!), because my mind couldn’t stop alternating between drafting this post, and imagining worst-case labour scenarios. Hurray!
3. When your belly gets in the way.
I often sit and write on the couch, with my laptop across my knees. (I know, I know, it’s awful for my posture.) It’s comfortable, and situated in the nicest room of the house. I wish I had a home office set-up, but I lack the space and money. I use my dining table occasionally, but the back room can be a bit cold and dreary to spend long periods in.
So the day my laptop could no longer fit on my lap, I felt really pregnant. That belly has no give in it, whatsoever. So now it’s a delicate balancing act, where if I forget to keep my hands on the keyboard it just might capsize backwards onto the floor.
On the flip-side, I am now saving up for some kind of space-saving desk… Maybe one that fixes to the wall or something.
4. When you’re in the middle of a paragraph and then… you have to pee.
Needing the toilet more is par for the course in pregnancy. But it isn’t half annoying when it interrupts a great flow of character dialogue. Or, quite often, it happens very soon after I’ve settled into my writing groove: I’m comfy, laptop’s sort of balanced, I’ve got some cake, I’ve even managed to factor in the elusive coffee… then bam. Time to get straight back up for the loo.
Another classic is the internal punching-bag effect. ‘Lightning crotch’ is, I discovered, a widely-recognised term for this pregnancy symptom. It’s pretty difficult to concentrate when mid-sentence you might get a sudden twang right in the pelvis because Darling Angel has just decided to headbutt a couple of nerves or kick some of your organs around. Thanks, lovie.
5. When you have even less time to work with.
It’s already difficult to find a balance between your day job, home life and writing, and it’s a struggle I know virtually every writer (unless you’re one of the lucky ones) has to deal with. With a baby on the way, suddenly there are even more jobs that eat into writing time – buying all the baby crap, painting the nursery, figuring out and freaking out about the birth plan…
And if you’re not actively doing something related to baby, you’re thinking about it instead. Do we have enough baby wipes? How the hell do reusable nappies work? What, exactly, is the difference between a pram and a travel system and why does the latter sound like it should come with blueprints?
I’m also very aware that once the darling potato’s here, I’ll have even less time to spend on writing. But there’s got to be a way to make it work. There are tons of successful writer-mums out there: my question to you is… how do you do it?
Feel free to share your own #pregnantwriter struggles in the comments – and any tips you have for overcoming them! New-Mum-Writers out there – do you have any advice for those of us expecting? What are the new challenges you face trying to write while looking after a newborn? Am I being too optimistic to think I’ll have any time spare to keep up with writing? ^_^;
And if you’re in the same boat as I am: remember to take care of yourself, and best of luck to you and your potato!