I find myself here again, unable to view my feet due to a 35-week belly, which this time is serving as host to an actively growing baby girl. As this is baby #3, the novelty of pregnancy has dulled a bit (the kicks! the growing belly!) and the typical pregnancy discomforts seem magnified amongst the background of two active boy toddlers (the heartburn! the fatigue!). And yet. For me, these nine months (or 10 months, as all us mamas know very well) are much more mentally, versus physically, challenging. I am fortunate to be blessed with mild pregnancies; apart from a few weeks of nausea and fatigue, I'm pretty much "all systems go" the rest of the time. I'm extremely grateful for this, especially after having witnessed friends that can't hold much down for their entire pregnancies, have had to watch their diet carefully due to gestational diabetes or have had other complications which require countless OB visits.
No, for me, it's much more of a mental marathon, one made more difficult with intense hormones that then cause much personal frustration and consternation about playing into the trope of the typical pregnant woman: energetic and positive one moment, anxious and despondent the next. Much of that is due to the boundaries and limitations that pregnancy itself naturally imposes from the dietary -- the giving up of deli meat, sushi, wine, etc. -- to the professional -- turning down speaking roles at conferences; gently reminding a client that international site-visits within two weeks of the EDD are simply not feasible.
For someone who worked for nearly a decade before having children, this has been the hardest part: realizing the natural limitations of certain projects and opportunities, not to mention the sinking feeling that perhaps those doors will not only swing shut, but stay locked. So it's a daily exercise in gratitude: to be thankful to have this opportunity to bear children; to play an active role in raising a family and love on these little ones, as well as an hourly exercise of hope; and to be mindful that by faithfully serving those in front of me, that one day, I will have the opportunity again to serve those around me. Many of those around me find my angst rather surprising, perhaps slightly bemusing, given that I also run a consulting company, but as any entrepreneur knows, there is an inherent drive from within that, children or not, 24 hours in a day is not enough and more (be it business development, client work, etc.) can always be done. I know I may feel this way sans children, but it's magnified by the fact that, at times, pint-sized external circumstances dictate the very nature of my existence. And yet. There is freedom in the boundaries, the constraints. One article that has much encouraged me over this recent season has been Kate Harris' "Constraint and Consent, Career and Motherhood." As she writes:
Paradoxically, I found that the new constraints on my time and energies helped me see my true loves and unique responsibilities more clearly. I began to see how all of these same skills had been present to some degree in my earlier professional life and interests but that as disjointed pursuits they never assumed the efficiency and fulfillment -- the coherence or clarity - that my limited availability now required.
As this is not my first maternal rodeo, I am aware that the "no's" I'll have to say in the near future will be bittersweet, that there will be a tug of regret or a pang of doubt at times, but I also know from these past few years that there will be the gifts of focus and clarity, and yes, even joy, borne amongst these constraints. That by saying "no" to some things, I'll be saying "yes" to so much more.