After a month or so of work getting busier and busier, last week I finally admitted to myself that it was time to take a step back. I had (perhaps naively) hoped that in the lead up to my maternity leave things would slowly quieten down, but instead, there is a renewed sense of urgency about everything. I’ve been burying myself in work, checking emails at all times of day, working late, and without the motivation of running to get me out of the office at lunchtime, skipping my lunch breaks. The kind suggestion of my boss to cut down to four day weeks, combined with an array of midwife and renal appointments, has actually served to make the situation worse as I’m trying to fit more work into less time. And as long as I’m present in the office, there is an expectation that I’m firing on all cylinders as usual, which, if I’m brutally honest with myself, I’m really not.
It was after another sleepless night, followed by a morning thinking about my ‘to do’ list while trying to do yoga, that I decided enough was enough. That day I spoke to boss and we decided that I would finish work a week earlier than originally planned.
Knowing that I had one less week of work, commuting and office stress, and acknowledging that I’ve been struggling, was like an enormous weight being lifted from my shoulders. It also gave me the impetus I needed to start handing over my workload.
I’m lucky that I work in an incredibly supportive environment with the most wonderful colleagues, who have not only put up with my hormonal ups and downs, but who are also willing to take on the burden of additional work that will result in my leaving. I also know that in reality nothing will collapse when I go: books will still be published, rights sold, authors placated.
Taking the work worry out of the equation has also allowed me a little more headspace to think about the actual process of giving birth and my role as a parent. These are things that I realise I’ve been pushing to the corners of my mind, hidden behind work stress, baby admin and body worries.
The NCT and breastfeeding courses, as well as the antenatal class at the hospital have made me realise that my focus has been too much on the fact of my pregnancy – my changing body and my fear of miscarriage – and not enough on my birth plan and the reality of the days, weeks and months that will follow the birth. I think that I’ve spent so long being terrified that I may lose the baby that I haven’t allowed the idea of actually being a mum sink in.
I’m pleased now that I’ve got the time and headspace ahead of me to get to grips with these feelings, to write a birth plan and to start putting strategies in place that will allow me to continue to be a good wife, friend and family member as well as a good mother. And I may also have started compiling a list for some pre-Suze maternity activities: lido swimming and pregnancy yoga anyone?!