Congratulations, you just got the most difficult and rewarding job you will ever have. There will be days you are so tired you can barely stand, and days when total strangers walk up to you on the street to tell you how radiant you look. As a professional, you know how to roll with whatever comes your way, but if this is your first baby rodeo, there are some strategies that can help you stay in the saddle.Motherhood is at once a lot like running a company and nothing like it. It will require knowing when to organize and when to let chaos pass over you. You will learn (in a whole new way) that taking care of yourself so you can make good decisions sits at the very top of your priority list. These suggestions are worthy of experiment, not to be taken as gospel, but simply to try. And if all this seems dubious, well, welcome to parenthood.
You are likely laughing at your computer screen right now, but those first 12 weeks when your body is growing another major organ (your placenta) to feed the tiny thing, your body is working double time. If you have a couch at work, shut the door, take off your shoes, and lie down with closed eyes for 15 minutes. Even a quiet catnap can help you recharge and make it though the rest of your day.
2. Keep whole foods on hand at all times.
Again, for the above reasons, you need to keep something in your stomach at all times, especially if you are experiencing morning sickness. Hard-boiled eggs and whole avocados are your friends. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
Even if you are very athletic, walking is the easiest and safest way to get your blood moving and avoid injury. From the halfway point of pregnancy on, the body produces a hormone called Relaxin that loosens the muscles and joints in preparation for birth. For some women, this can make them more susceptible to pulled muscles, soreness, and acute back pain.Support your body by taking a stroll around the office, a walk around the block, or a cruise through the park throughout the day. You’ll sleep better
4. Stand, stretch, and use the ball.
As you take calls or attend meetings,alternate between these three options. Moderate lunges, hip rolls, and heart opening stretches are something you can do throughout the work day when you are on speakerphone, and if you need to sit, use the ball to encourage a straight spine. Gone are the days when you can sit at the computer for hours at a time. And let’s face it, that wasn’t good for you before you got pregnant either.
5. Notify the key players.
Even if you aren’t comfortable making the big announcement until you are farther along, confide in a few close, trust worthy co-workers. This way, if you have mood swings or a sudden bout of morning sickness in the middle of a meeting, someone can cover for you. And the sooner you notify your team, the more fully they can accommodate your needs.
6. Turn the volume down.
When you are building a whole new person, your system is on alert. Smells and sounds will be more distinct and you will find yourself more sensitive than usual to certain kinds of input1. If you watch a movie, make it a comedy, and give the news a break. Limiting the stimulus will help with sleeping, eating, and concentration.
Even if you have never done yoga, it has a host of benefits for expecting moms. In a study that compared a daily 30 minute yoga practice to just walking alone, women who practiced had lower rates of pre-term labor,higher birth weight, and the reduced their time laboring. Pregnant women who practiced also report feeling more mentally prepared for labor because of yoga. Most cities have a certified instructor and it’s better to go to a teacher because there are some poses that pregnant women want to avoid.
8. Plan a gradual exit.
Many high-power career women work full-time up to the last minute, trying to squeeze in as much productivity as they can before the baby arrives. Often too, these same women don’t realize just how much effort it takes toward the end of the third trimester. Your blood volume increases by 50%, your heart is working 40% harder at rest, and to get an idea, a flight of stairs for a woman in her third trimester is like climbing basecamp at Everest. Talk to your staff, be reasonable about your expectations,and taper off your involvement toward your due date.
9. Take the time to get to know your baby, even in the womb.
Remember that you begin forming a relationship with your child right away, that he or she is hearing your voice, accustomed to your movements, and getting to know you. With the hard work of labor at hand, those preceding weeks are a chance to go inward, to nest and prepare as much as you can to bring this new life into the world.
For executive and professional women, stepping back, even if only temporarily, can feel very precarious. Check in with yourself about your accomplishments, your goals, and let out a sigh knowing that work will be there when it’s time for you to re-emerge. The new skill set you acquire in those first few weeks of motherhood will blow your mind and they are skills that you can take with you back to the workplace. But right now, you have an even bigger job to do.