Apparently I have a lot to say about this year—which is odd because doesn’t it simultaneously feel like NOTHING and SO MUCH has happened these past 11 months? Anyone else?
I think 2020 has transformed most of us in some way. I’m constantly torn between wondering who the person is growing inside me, and who the person is that I’m growing into. Along the way, I’ve learned quite a few lessons—some still in transit, some a re-learning, some pushing their way in no matter how hard I’ve pushed back.
Overall, I do think this year has been a beautiful reminder of the most important things: our priorities, our health, our families, our time. Here are 10 of the biggest things being pregnant in a pandemic has taught me:
01. To freakin’ slow down.
Ooooh, buddy. I wish I could say it didn’t take a global pandemic and pregnancy to be okay with occasionally letting myself work from bed or the couch—or *GASP* take a catnap in the middle of the day—or *DOUBLE GASP* take a day off from working out—but here we are.
I’ve worked for myself, from home, for nearly 3 years and couldn’t fathom doing that before unless I was sick or something had happened. Now I’m like: give me my bed and my pregnancy pillow and my laptop by 3:30 pm, or give me death. Evolution, y’all. It’s real.
02. To (actually) be kind to my body.
Here I am at 9 months pregnant admitting: I didn’t have a healthy relationship with my body pre-pregnancy. And I didn’t even know it! Because here it is: I liked my body (most days), but I desperately felt I needed to do crazy, sweaty, intense HIIT training sessions, endless sprints, long runs, or hour-long workouts most days of the week and eat “clean” 85%-plus of the time to believe my body was at its best.
And when I didn’t, I hated myself for it.
Then a pandemic hit, gyms closed, and I got pregnant. I was left with a couple dumbbells and our stationary bike at home… and a body that suddenly hated all food in the first trimester. I couldn’t do the crazy workouts I was used to anymore. I couldn’t eat food I loved anymore. Halfway through my pregnancy, my pelvis would hurt so bad after even a 2-mile light jog that I gave up running entirely.
And through this outside force (actually, the inside force of a BABY growing in me), I felt myself softening. Physically, obviously, to make room for a growing baby. But also mentally softening. If I took a couple days off from exercise or did a 20-minute yoga class as my workout of the day before pregnancy, I would’ve torn myself apart.
Now, when I exercise, it’s to simply feel good. Period. Sometimes that IS a tough 30-minute bike ride, though rarely. Most of the time it’s way slower, way gentler movement: a long walk, a low-impact strength class, a prenatal yoga class.
AND—I’VE NEVER LOVED MY BODY MORE. It feels so counterintuitive, since I’ve gained weight and have a completely new shape (hey, belly). But I’ve never felt less judgmental of myself and my “health” choices. I’ve never felt healthier, actually.
I also allow myself to eat what I WANT to eat… which is new for me. We make pizza at home at least a few times a month. I’ve had more pasta and dessert and bread than ever these last few months. I’ve baked sourdough bread and scones and cookies—as a therapeutic filler of time and also a comforting way to create something warm, tasty, and homemade.
Things that used to be “special” or “treats” are just a part of our regular line-up now (with plenty of veggies and protein and grains, too—but minus the insane pressure to STAY AWAY FROM the “bad” stuff).
… Aaand I’m currently realizing this could be a full blog post in itself because I actually have so much more to say about this unexpected transformation, but I’ll leave it at this:
If you’re forcing yourself to do things for the sake of “health,” but it drives you nuts when you can’t or don’t want to stick to it… it’s not healthy, sister. I was so stringent with my health standards before pregnancy—soooo hard on myself—and when I was forced to let my rules go and loosen up a bit, I felt so much more kindness and love for myself and my body that I didn’t realize I’d been missing out on.
03. To be okay with less on my plate.
When I first became self-employed, I was desperate for enough client work to fill every day to the brim. I’ve realized that the nature of working with multiple clients (especially in a pandemic where nothing is promised for small businesses) means that some weeks are over-flowing while others are going to be quieter.
Going into motherhood, I think that’s extra-important to remember. Not every week is going to be giant project proposals and marathons in front of my computer screen. In fact, I’ve been practicing working in smaller increments of time, and taking more breaks, just to train up for what it’s going to be like with a baby around.
We aren’t sure what our childcare situation will look like once baby is here due to COVID and not having family nearby. Luckily, John’s working from home for the foreseeable future—so after our leaves, the current plan is to just… figure it out? Work in intervals? Tag team work + baby responsibilities? Take on less? Aka, we don’t really have a plan, but this year has been showing me that flexibility is more important than ever.
04. To rely more on other people. (Shocker: help is a good thing?!)
Which brings me to this point… I finally hired someone to regularly support me with my client work this year, and holy cow. It’s been transformative and so, so freeing. As an independent contractor, I’ve always felt it was my sole duty to provide great service to my clients. But my time has been more pinched through pregnancy and is only about to get even more limited. Having help that I trust has been such a weight lifted, to realize I DON’T have to carry it all on my own.
Same in my personal life. I’ve relied more on John than ever these last few months and I feel like it’s actually strengthened our relationship in so many of the best ways. Spoiler: help is actually… a good thing? News to me, but I’m taking it and running.
05. To rest in *not* having plans (or distractions).
My name is Audrey and I’m addicted to having a plan. (… Bet you couldn’t tell from my super-chill personality traits laid out above.)
This year threw EVERYTHING out the window, starting with a trip with my family to Ireland and Scotland in March that we had to cancel once we realized, Oh… Coronavirus isn’t just a stronger flu. K.
I’m the kind of person who likes to have something on the horizon to look forward to. But suddenly everyone was all, “Stay home,” and, “Don’t travel.” Which seriously threw me for a loop.
Not to mention, I found out I was pregnant in April—early quarantine days—and I felt a little like a caged animal. Even the normal “escapes” I could rely on like a great meal out or glass of wine or a super intense workout weren’t available anymore.
Disclaimer: I realize me problems are MINIMAL compared to so much of what other people have gone through this year. I don’t want to downplay that at all. But to me, my fallbacks for getting through difficult times were stripped away and I was left to actually… cope. BLEH.
In reality, and over time, I can admit that it’s actually been really beautiful. I’ve gotten back into journaling again this year. I’ve read more books than EVER… in my life. We’ve saved much-needed money that had been depleted after buying a house and dog surgery thanks to limited travel/entertainment.
I still like a plan, but my plans are just different these days. Smaller. And that’s okay for now.
06. To focus more on what I can control.
Not sure if everyone has felt this way this year, but pregnancy + pandemic = time CREEPING by. Like, painfully, excruciatingly slowly.
The first few months of lockdown, I just felt trapped. And when I focused on that (and complained about that), time felt even slower… But once I began finding productive and caring ways to pass the time, it was like I could put some meaning into the passing hours.
We’ve done a lot this year—home projects, savings plans, reading, cooking/baking, painting, gardening, growing my business—but at the same time, nothing monumental. Yet, these small acts of care for ourselves and our home has made the year fuller in so many ways.
07. To make do with what we’re given & how far we’ve come.
I love a project. I blame my mom, the OG busy bee in my life. When we finish something around the house, there’s me sing-songing, “WHAAAAT’S NEXT?!”
John… isn’t exactly a fan. But between budget constraints and literal physical constraints (namely, this preggo body), I’ve had to realize (and then re-realize) that I don’t *always* need to be working on something or making something better. John’s way better at this than I am, and he is showing me to be okay with simply appreciating what we have and how far we’ve come.
It doesn’t always have to be jumping from one project to the next, and there is beauty in celebrating and soaking up accomplishments both big and small without needing to take action on the next thing. I’m… learning to embrace this.
08. To commit to doing small things with joy.
One of the silliest but most oddly rewarding things I’ve done this year is begin watering our orange tree.
It’s right outside our back door, and every single morning when I refill Piper’s water bowl, I throw her yesterday-water on the tree. We haven’t had much rain this year, and this tree had been hurting. I also know next to nothing about plants or gardening.
But ever since I started doing this daily water toss a couple months ago, our once-measly little orange tree has all kinds of new growth and almost a dozen fat, juicy oranges growing off of its branches, just from a couple cups of water a day!
I know it sounds weird, but this tiny daily commitment has brought me the most joy to watch as it’s transformed the tree from barely-hanging-in-there to thriving. It’s a reminder to me that the small things add up: a minute of prayer, stretching before sitting down to work, sending a quick text to a loved one. They multiply and grow fruit… sometimes even literally!
09. To consider how our routines will affect our family.
When we learned we were pregnant, we started to look at different pockets of our life and how a child would fit into them. One thing we were pretty lax about before was our dinner routine.
We both love to cook, but by the time one of us would prep dinner at the end of a long day, we’d sit down on the couch and just casually chat as we ate in front of the TV. (Or… not chat and totally zone out.) It was a habit that I don’t think either of us realized was necessarily harmful until we considered, “How is a kid going to fit into this? We can’t eat dinner with a toddler in front of the TV every night.”
I mean, I’m sure we could, and I’m sure people do! No judgment at all there. But one of both John’s and my fondest memories of childhood was when we could enjoy meals together with our families. Yet, here we were, zombie-ing out on the couch for dinner every night.
We began sitting up to the table for meals and I immediately realized just how much we’d been missing out on. While we both work from home right now, we don’t spend really any of our weekdays together intentionally, connecting and having conversations about random or important things.
It’s been so nice to have this touchpoint every night, even if there’s nothing particularly important to talk about. Just chatting about our days or our families or our future or whatever comes up is so filling.
10. To become more okay not knowing what’s next.
I heard a new mom on a podcast recently say that when she was pregnant earlier this year, she couldn’t see past her due date. She said it felt like a black hole because there’s so much unknown: what the baby will be like, what your marriage will look like, how work will change, how routines will change. Not to mention, the WORLD in just a few months. What’s that going to be like?! Who knows!
And… I FELT THAT. I can guess and hope for things to play out in certain ways once the baby gets here all day long… but it mostly just feels totally uncharted. And really, that’s okay.
I mean, do we *ever* really know what’s next? 2020 has sorta proven that no, we don’t. We can predict and pray and put expectations on things. But really, we’re all just walking through a big pot of who-knows-what’s-going-to-happen, all the time. And maybe figuring it out as we go is the whole point of living a full life.