7/20/2018

Setting Healthy Work Boundaries During Pregnancy

Working while pregnant can be very challenging. Even after reading many incredible pregnancy books (I’ve shared my go-to reads here) and supporting countless pregnant clients over the years, I had an idea in my head about what my work life was going to look like while pregnant. I was also convinced pre-conception that there was no way I was going to get morning sickness if I drank daily bone broth and ate enough protein.

At six months pregnant I am here to report that very little has gone as I imagined pre-conception. In order to for me to dive fully into this experience and stay grounded and sane I’ve had to majorly adjust the expectations I had on what I could manage work wise while pregnant. For someone who loves working as much as I do it has been a difficult yet welcomed life change to do less and less as my pregnancy progresses.

That morning sickness I thought I would never get came in hard during my first trimester. Starting at around three weeks I was pretty much too sick to do anything and had to take a serious look at my schedule. With a book manuscript due, a full load of clients to support and several classes in the works I made the call to reschedule everything that I could to just focus on writing the book and taking care of my body.

Sending out that first round of emails to let clients and work collaborators know I needed to cancel or reschedule was tough. I realized during that process just how much pride I have in showing up to my commitments and not being a person who cancels or reschedules. I felt how much pressure this rigid belief created in my body about what it means (that I am lazy/unprofessional/non-committed) when I cancel and need to take more care of myself. Even though this wasn’t the first time I have needed to shift my work schedule to address my self care, the belief showed up again to be unpacked and integrated. I saw clearly through that experience that this was a big lesson in becoming a parent as well. I needed to practice putting myself and my family first.

This might all sound obvious, but honestly I was worried about money too. I already knew that I wanted to take at least three months off work for maternity leave and felt like I should work as much as possible before the baby arrived. Thankfully, I have an incredible partner who helped support us both so that I could get in the rest I needed without being fearful of not having enough money.

As I eased into my second trimester, it felt like I was finally back online and like a better, more updated version of myself. I was bursting with creative energy and after teaching my annual breathwork retreat in the spring, took on a bunch of new work projects and corporate clients to celebrate the occasion. For the majority of the second trimester I hummed along working at a fast clip, feeling like there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do! I spoke at conferences, shot videos, launched an online course, saw loads of clients, worked on the book. I even got inspired to start doing more personal writing again. I naively had a sense that I could keep going like this until the baby arrived.

Not quite. Nearing my fifth month of pregnancy my energy started to wane a bit, Nic and I were having tremendous difficulty in our relationship, and I ended each day completely wiped out from working and emotional processing. I started to feel tired all day and was having a hard time showing up for work, myself, the baby and our relationship. It became very clear to me that in order to make the most out of my last few months pregnant I would need to pull back from work.

There was a part of me that was disappointed that I couldn’t do it all. I went though a period of feeling bad about myself, feeling like there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t keep up at the pace I’d been going. I went down the social media rabbit hole looking at images of pregnant women running their own businesses and going full tilt until just a couple of weeks before their due dates. Scrolling through those posts made me feel worse. Gratefully, I’ve had enough experience and was able to get off the comparison train fairly soon and remember that each person is different and each pregnancy is different. The loudest message for me during that time, the one that I felt in every inch of my body, was to begin the process of pulling back and setting myself up for an early maternity leave.

Over the last few weeks I have been establishing new boundaries around my energetic output and making decisions about what I need to take off my plate and what can stay work wise. It has been incredible to feel how much has changed since sending those initial emails in March. Looking back on where I was at two months pregnant, the sickness, the book writing and needing to cancel/reschedule clients and classes, I am in awe of how easy this part of the process has been. I have done a great deal of breathwork to get super clear on what my body, mind and spirit need to prepare for the birth and welcoming in this baby and what kept surfacing was space. Interestingly, space is exactly what I needed to carve out to call in this baby and it feels good to have come full circle in this pregnancy, to connect those dots and really give myself time to process this major life transition and initiation I am in.

Allowing the intention for space to inform my decision making process around work has been invaluable. It has helped me define my boundaries, be realistic about expectations (for myself, partner, and clients) and given me so much more energy and excitement for navigating the third trimester. I’ve also got enough money in the bank to last until baby gets here and Nic and I have worked out a plan for when I go on maternity leave that feels good to both of us. I am feeling grounded, supported, and looking forward to enjoying these last couple months of pregnancy, to do the deeper work I am called to do, and to pull my attention more inward than it has ever been.

Moving through the process of establishing healthy boundaries in my work life has been very empowering. I am learning to trust myself in new ways, lean into my relationship with Nic (more on that in another post, it’s such big growth for me!), and follow the intuitive hits I am receiving about what this baby needs right now, what I need, and what my relationship needs. Stepping into this next phase of pregnancy with a desire to really listen to myself and trust in the unfolding has given me a new level of self confidence that I know will serve me well in all aspects of my life.

Last week I sent out a newsletter letting everyone know about my early maternity leave as well as a few emails to corporate clients and collaborative projects. As scary as it was (just a little bit!) to close my practice until the new year it has felt so good to do. Every one of my clients has been incredibly supportive and encouraging and many have reached out to share their own experiences of becoming mothers. What I feared could make my practice fall apart (me taking this much time away) is actually doing the opposite, it is bringing us all closer together and creating a deeper level of community. I cannot tell you how good it feels. My body feels open, relaxed, and full of gratitude.

In addition to the newsletter and writing emails to put larger projects on hold, I wrote an email that I sent out to a few podcast hosts to let them know what was going on with me and see if it would be possible to reschedule our interviews in the new year. One download that I received in my breathwork practice was that I not only needed to take maternity leave from teaching and clients but from interviews as well. The email I wrote, which I made adjustments to depending on who the recipient was, felt like a culmination of everything I have been going through recently and was a real pleasure to send out. Each person that received it supported me 100% with so much enthusiasm and love. One woman also suggested that I post the email on my journal to show how an example of how I am being compassionate towards myself and listening to/taking care of my body during this precious time.

I’ve never shared anything like this before but her suggestion lit something up in me. Here is a version of that email:

Hi ____________,
 
I hope this finds you well!
 
I am still deep in the throws of book editing and having just started my third trimester have decided that the best thing for me, this babe and our family is to take much of August and all of September off for early maternity leave. Our babe is due October 4th but I have a feeling they are coming a bit earlier.
 
I am completely honored that you have asked me to be on your podcast and I so want to do the interview with you, but I need to put it on hold until the new year. I’ve been taking a long and deep look at how much I’ve been working and it’s humbling to say the least. I love what I do so much, the classes, clients, conferences, etc but the amount of work I have on my plate isn’t leaving me with the amount of space I am craving to do more of inner work I want to do before this babe arrives.
 
I’m in a place of needing to pull back, edit and refine my expectations of myself. It’s such a wild and beautiful and tender initiation. I have closed my practice to new clients and am wrapping up with my on-going clients over the next few weeks until I am ready to step into that seat again. I am moving many of classes into the digital realm so that I can generate income using less energy. And my partner and I are in deep with couples therapy re-establishing some essential pieces for ourselves and this new babe.
 
All this to say that I would still love to be part of your podcast, we’ve been listening to it over here and LOVE it, I just need to circle back with you after the babe arrives and our family is well established in our new rhythm.
 
The way I have operated for years has been to just push through and do the thing I am super excited about (your podcast in this example) and right now I am needing to hit pause and trust in this unfolding I am experiencing and this deep deep call to go further into my body, psyche and heart to prepare for the birth of this babe, the birth of myself as a mother and the birth of this new family we are creating. It’s just so major!
 
Thank you for taking the time to hear me, I am sure you get this 100%, and I am making a note in my calendar to follow up with you in the new year.
 
And please let me know if this doesn’t work for you or your podcast, I have so much respect for your work and time and want to be sure this feels good on your end as well.
 
Wishing you a wonderful week ahead and thank you again for being part of my journey.

My goal with these journal posts is to be transparent about what my life looks like and how I am showing up for the unfolding. Sharing this email is my offering to you on how we can take deeper care of ourselves, truly honor what we are going though (pregnant or not!), lead by example of what it can look like to run a conscious business, and allow others to see and feel our humanness.

A few years ago I never could have written an email like this. That rigid belief I wrote about earlier ran a major part of the show in my life and I pushed myself constantly, to the point of burnout. What I’ve learned through earned through slowing down, regulating my nervous system, and taking time each day to breathe and connect with my body is that setting boundaries in my work life is essential not only to my health and wellbeing but to the quality of the work that I do whether that is teaching a class, sitting with a client, or writing here on this journal.

Being pregnant has already radically altered my life in ways I am uncovering and exploring each day. There are so many unknowns in pregnancy and is has been imperative that I learn to surrender to the massive changes that are taking place inside of my body and set my life up in a way that gives me the space I need to be present for it all. I don’t want to look back on this part of my life and feel like I missed it. There is no way to know how you’re going to feel emotionally, physically, or mentally during pregnancy which is one of the reasons remaining flexible and adjusting the expectations we have on ourselves is paramount. Setting boundaries in our work life is ultimately about creating the space we need to live in our truest, deepest alignment.

x

photos x @mariellevchua

Comments

  • valentina

    Such a beautiful and honest post, it really resonated so much with me right now. Thank you for sharing so much tenderness and vulnerability oxoxo

    • ashley

      Thank you so much Valentina. I really appreciate you taking the time to read it and share with me. I feel that it is so important to connect around all of this! Wishing you a beautiful rest of the week. x

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