According to my doctors, I’m exactly 35 weeks pregnant today. According to my body, I’m exactly 55 weeks pregnant.
While every day brings a new surprise and ailment my way, I’m still expected to hit the office and smile and compute like everyone else. And it sucks. In my brain I thought I’d take off a bit before I gave birth, to help accommodate all my doctor’s appointments but also to rest before the baby arrived. When my doctor stated she wouldn’t sign off on my leave unless a more serious medical condition presented itself I almost cried. I have so long to go.
My pregnancy was a choice I made, so while I don’t regret the discomfort I think some moaning is still warranted. It’s like how friends and I used to compare how terrible we felt the morning after a particular fun night out: yes we all felt like death and occasionally wish we could take our choices back, but mostly we’re super happy we decided to infuse that watermelon with vodka and we’re adults so whatever.
Even though I still have a few weeks to go, I’ve developed some coping mechanisms that make work not nearly as painful as it could be, given the fact I’m constantly wetting myself and need to eat exactly every three minutes. I thought I’d share them with the internet, in case there are others out there like me who wonder how they’ll survive the next few weeks. Here’s my suggestions on how to survive life at the office in your third trimester:
- Give in to leggings. I remember reading accounts from other pregnant woman about how they lived in leggings their third trimester. I also remember being dumb and judgmental about it, thinking about how I would wear professional maternity clothing because I’m a professional or whatever. To these random women on the internet: I’m sorry I ever judged you. I can’t remember the last time I wore real pants to work. My go-to professional dress is now a nice tunic or dress over leggings. I dress up dowdy single-color maternity dresses with scarves or distracting bracelets. It works for me.
- Snacks. All the snacks, everywhere, in my cubicle all the time. I felt bad for the very nice colleague of mine that can probably hear every crunch of every carrot stick, but hopefully I have the pregnancy card to play and she realizes this shall pass. Or wears headphones.
- The more brainless the task, the better. I seek out projects that really just require me to check preexisting work, pull documents, or even enter dumb numbers into my dumb computer. Anything requiring thoughtful analysis on my part seems to take twice as long as it used to, and I seem to second-guess myself more than before. I’m not saying I don’t pull my weight at the office – in fact, I’m volunteering for more work than ever before. But I try to grab projects that I know I can do in my sleep, because honestly I’m so sleep-deprived third trimester you don’t want me doing much heavy lifting. My brain is also constantly distracted by random pains or emergency bathroom trips to focus on anything for long periods at a time. Depressing but true.
- That leads me to bathroom breaks. Assess your closest bathrooms, and have a back-up bathroom on hand in case it’s occupied and you suddenly realize you are about to wet yourself. This happens to me at least once a day – I stand up from my computer to get a drink of water or to mail something and realize I have exactly one minute before I wet myself. My son is sitting very low though, so maybe my urgency is unique. Also if you’re the sort of person who likes to pretend you don’t have bodily functions in the presence of others I suggest you get over it. People WILL notice how often you run to the restroom and having a sense of humor about it is the only thing you can do (unless adult diapers are your thing).
- On a less physical note, connect with your colleagues. One of the best things about my current ailments is I’ve discovered so many of my colleagues understand what I’m going through. I’ve been able to connect with people I haven’t before, and it’s made my experience at work so much more pleasurable when I can joke with co-workers about my waddle or swollen feet at the water cooler. Co-workers that seemed distant before are happy to share stories about their own children or nieces and nephews. I feel like I’ve really gotten to know people at my office on a different level, which can only help improve our work environment. Note: this may not work for you if you’re office is full of the sort of people who want to dole out advice on how you should raise your child, or how you’re doing it all wrong. I worried so much about these reactions I didn’t talk much about my pregnancy to begin with, but once I opened up a bit I was really pleased to discover my colleagues are normal, nice people who’ve lived through similar experiences. Humanity!
- If you’re like me and have a billion doctors’ appointments towards the end of your pregnancy, own it. Remember you are a professional and having a doctor’s appointment doesn’t make you any less good at your job. For me, one of the most difficult things about expecting my first child is learning to weave impending expectations related to motherhood with my own sense of self. I try to view these new aspects of my life as complementary and not competing. Yes, 2-4 doctors’ appointments a week takes me away from my desk more than I’d like. But because of this care I’m confident in my baby’s health and can focus on the task at hand when I’m at the office (unless I need to run to the bathroom . . . again). I also think that displaying this confidence, even if it’s just for show, tells others to take me seriously and not write me off as a new mother who doesn’t care about her job. Because I love my job!
I wish I had more snarky points about being awkward at the office, but honestly besides the discomfort, ranging from mild to extreme in any given day, I am glad I am working right now. Without the office I would be sitting at home, trying to set up my nursery but getting breathless and instead sitting on my couch twiddling my thumbs/Googling my symptoms to feed my anxiety. So thank you, mean doctor, for not signing off on my leave despite my intense desire every morning to just give in to my ailments. My paycheck and sanity thank you.