Everything changed, yet I am the same. This time last year, I was one person. Now, I am two. Two hearts beat inside me, tiny hands and feet start to kick me from within. Jo the Monster has a little monster growing in her belly.
I have now passed the halfway point of pregnancy, and it feels like I am in the middle of a wonderful but particularly complicated masters degree. Or perhaps it is as if I am going through my teenage years again, but at very high speed. Body changes? Yes, but instead of taking years, they take days. Mood swings? Oh my goodness YES! Existential and personal self doubt? Of course!
Over the last months, it has been difficult keeping my creative juices flowing, and I realised that this issue is bound to affect many Jo the Monster readers. Not only pregnant people, but anyone who is going through a big life-changing moment of their lives.
How difficult it has been to keep a playful, inventive, curious and open mind! More often than not, anxiety, tiredness and worries have prevented me from fully enjoy this stage of my life. Suddenly, it becomes difficult to find time to draw or write when I am permanently worrying over the possibility that I may have done something that hurt the baby, or musing over all the ordeals the future may have in store for me.
Over the last few days, I took some time to understand what is going on with me and how to move forward in a calmer, healthier way. As a result, I came up with a list of advice to myself, which I hope will be useful for anyone who is going through a demanding time of their lives.
Be gentle to yourself.
Although this is a platitude, it is worth repeating. I carry expectations with me, and if they are not met, I feel like a failure. But I must remember that now, I am doing something else besides living my normal life: I am also creating a whole new, wonderful, miraculous human being inside me. This takes energy, patience and endurance.
The solution is to re-adjust my expectations to my new circumstances. It is impossible to keep living as before, so I need to lower the bar on some aspects of life and raise the bar on others. For example, in order to keep my energy levels up, I may need to give up on a project or two so I can squeeze in a couple of extra hours of sleep. Which brings me to the next point…
Follow your own pace - distance yourself from the world’s frenzy
Quick, quick! Things need to be done right here, right now! Stress and worries everywhere.
Although this may be everyday reality for a lot of us, it is important to understand that pregnancy is a very particular time in life. If I could manage the stress before pregnancy, that doesn’t mean I can manage it while pregnant. This has been the most challenging aspect of the journey - to be able to put some distance between me and the demands of the outside world.
Sometimes this means taking some time to myself. Other times it means avoiding stressful tasks, or delegating them. Moving flats, hosting a big party, having your driving exam, organising a holiday… those are all things that are probably best avoided, unless you have someone who can do it with you, and take most of the weight out of your shoulders. That being the case, it is important not to forget to…
Appreciate those around you
A pregnant person has lots of attention. The growing bump and the “Baby on Board” badge make sure of that. Unfortunately, the partners, family and friends of the pregnant person don’t carry around a badge saying “I’m having a baby, too!”
Partners and loved ones are the unsung heroes who never get the stage, but who are working behind the scenes to make sure the future mummy is happy and healthy.
During pregnancy my patience levels haven’t been the same, and the proverbial mood swings have made me an annoying company at times. It is important to thank the people who are there for me, and to show them how much I love them. I am very lucky to have a fantastic and attentive partner, the person who fully understands me when it comes to our baby. It is wonderful to know we are in this together, a great team that is about to grow!
Besides my partner, I am also incredibly lucky to have my mum and aunt supporting me from Portugal, coming here when I need them, taking my panicky calls at any time of the day or night, and also sharing all the joy of such a time!
Regardless of who do you have to support you, please appreciate them, but also remember…
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Help can come from many fronts. It can mean asking you partner to make you dinner every night while you suffer with nausea, or it can mean going to the doctor when things become difficult to manage alone. Perinatal anxiety and depression are more common than people think, and there are resources that can be of help. Please don’t suffer alone, and let your GP or midwife know what you are going through.
Once again, one of my expectations was that I would be very calm and happy throughout my pregnancy - what a disappointment it was to go on a spiral of anxiety! It was hard to convince myself that I wasn’t a failure because I needed some help, but now that I am getting it, I am very glad I spoke up.
Limit Google time
Speaking of anxiety - researching every single worry I have only makes me more anxious. Whatever the issue is, use just one or two scientifically trustworthy websites, such as NHS or Mayo Clinic, or better yet, call a health care provider. When I am panicking about my latest ailment, I really don't need to read a thread of scary comments written by other anxious (and often misinformed) people!
Do something you love every day
Another trick to reduce anxiety is to do something I love. This is particularly difficult when I need to find the extra time to sleep more, take life slowly, etc, etc. But it may help to integrate bits of pleasure on the ordinary life. For example, walking to work while listening to an audiobook is an excellent way to introduce some fun time in the work day. Other good ideas are watching a silly comedy in the evening, having ice-cream, walking in the nature, doing some meditation, going to the gym… whatever makes you happy and relaxed.
Do something creative
Doing something creative can be the ideal pleasurable activity. Don’t put pressure on it - just let your mind flow! Use your creative medium as a way to express what you are going through, with no expectancy. Just let it be. Forget your inner critical voice, just do something - it doesn’t need to be good work, it just needs to make you feel better!
Although most of my readers are not pregnant, I hope these words resonate with you, and may be of some help if you are going through a particularly challenging time.
Meanwhile, I will make sure I am the best I can be, providing the healthiest and happiest body for my perfect baby to develop in!I have already started feeling the baby move… and this feeling alone is enough to say: all worries, ailments and anxieties are worth this joy!