It's interesting what the body does to us in the last weeks of pregnancy. Even the most active woman feels the slow pull in her mind and body, urging her to wind things down. Slow Pregnancy has struck!
Sure, you still feel motivated to go for long walks (more slowly) and swim (at a leisurely pace) or even join a group on a Thursday at lunchtime (and practice yoga), but your mind and body are slowly, slowly pulling inward, demanding attention.
Some women have called to ask if they're losing their minds, asking what just happened to their memories, their attention span, their drive?
"Remind me what week you're at?" And the answer is always somewhere in the 30's.
The body does a wonderful job of making you focus on the internal work of pregnancy, whether you like it or not, in the third trimester. At 20 weeks, the thought of working right through to the end of pregnancy seems like a great idea. This pragmatic approach will save precious sick days or maternity leave time. But as week 32 approaches, the mind starts to turn its attention away from work projects, away from deadlines, away from stress and pressure, and there's a sneaking suspicion that, just perhaps, work isn't quite so important any more.
That's when I get the phone call. "My boss is on my back about the deadline, but I just can't be bothered. I can't even remember what I'm supposed to do next! There's this pile on my desk. And I'm the project manager! I'm looking at my calendar, and nothing makes sense. What's wrong with me? I just keep bursting into tears!" Nothing wrong here, it's just the last trimester, and big work is happening inside. It's time to listen to the body, and start slowing down.
It's quite amazing how the body manages to quietly work its magic. If there's too much stress in a woman's life, and the voluntary slow-down doesn't happen, eventually there will be a physical manifestation that will force her to slow down, leave work, or change to part-time or working at home. It could be a rise in blood pressure, or some body part "out of whack" requiring daily physiotherapy. The body has its ways of demanding attention. It always manages to get each of us to slow down. Slow down.
One engineer, working in an otherwise all-male office, developed high blood pressure and memory loss that scared her in her last trimester. This normally "together" woman burst into tears at her midwife's office, unable to even call her boss to say that she was going to have to stop working. Her midwife offered to call her boss for her. The woman was so thankful, but felt so guilty and overwhelmed that she wasn't able to even make a phone call. "Stress, combined with low hemoglobin and high blood pressure? at 34 weeks?...it'll do it every time. Don't take on any guilt, you hear?" (In those days, Outlander was my prescription for women to read. A good bodice-ripper, easy to read, great at lowering blood pressure if combined with your feet up on a good comfy sofa. Jamie Fraser never hurts anyone.)
And what about the memory loss? Studies have shown that, yes, you do lose some brain cells when you're pregnant. But, here's the amazing thing - mothering increases the neural pathways in our brains, making us unbelievably capable of doing a million things at a time. You just need to give it time. Let it happen slowly. Brains don't change overnight.
So, please be gentle on yourself, pack away the guilt, let the memory slide, slow down to Fiji time, allow the body and mind to complete the inner work of pregnancy. It's okay to be a little less conscientious at work, a little less driven in the gym, a little more giving to yourself. Ask for support from those you love, from your friends, from your caregivers, or find professionals who can help you, physically or emotionally (your local hospital or health unit are ready and willing to help in whatever way possible, for free.) Read more junky novels, watch the clouds pass by, sit on a log and watch the waves.
Soon enough, you'll be able to multitask and work out, but that's long AFTER the baby is born. There's plenty of time to be sucked back into 21st century life, so please resist the urge to speed up for as long as possible once you have your gorgeous baby. Yes, please be slow and easy on yourselves. We are beautiful imperfect creatures who deserve lots of belly laughs each day. (Or you'll cry an equal amount.)
P.S. I think I forgot to say something about those lost brain cells! Right...now I remember...you probably won't be able to remember a long list of things any more. But, that's okay. There's an easy way to overcome your memory loss. You can go "slow" and slip a little Moleskine lined journal into your purse so you can write down all your "notes to self", or, yes, share it all with Siri on your iPhone, and add alerts to everything. I need BOTH my iPhone and my Moleskine because my brain is positively happy mush without them. Then, you'll be right back on track for the rest of your life. Right? Right?