By Susana Kuehne of Singing and Screaming
When I interviewed for my current position at a prominent law firm, I was not pregnant. I had just miscarried the month prior, and my husband and I had not decided when we would be trying again. Three weeks later I received a call from the firm extending me an offer; thrilled, I accepted, but the following month I became pregnant. I didn’t tell anyone for fear that it might be another loss and tried to go about my life as usual. However, it was not easy to do, because unlike my first pregnancy, the symptoms were hitting hard — almost debilitating.
From nausea to insomnia and stress, all of this combined wasn’t allowing me to be the best wife, mom, or employee. It’s difficult to describe the juggling act of being a mother with a full-time job, but the expectations are excruciatingly burdensome to meet, especially when you’re pregnant.
How was I supposed to succeed in either regard when staying awake was a tough task in itself? These were the major obstacles during my pregnancy. Though my body might have been trying to shut down, my mind was on overdrive every day trying to come up with a solution, and just like most moms — I was able to figure it out.
1. Managing a household and family.
I desperately needed my husband’s help here. He had to pick up more chores, because I couldn’t sit all day at work using up every ounce of energy on legal procedures (and growing a human inside me) just to come home and exert more effort into cleaning and feeding everyone. There were evenings when I couldn’t stand up from the couch and play with my son from agonizing dizziness or depression. I finally broke down one night and yelled at my husband for not being more supportive. It wasn’t all his fault, but I was frustrated at how he couldn’t comprehend the quicksand that had become my life. Luckily, my mom eventually came to stay with us to help cook and care for our son so my husband could get more done around the house, and I was able to sleep better by fitting in time for walks and moving a television into our room.
2. Dealing with a male OB doctor who expected me to keep my mouth shut.
From the start, my doctor made me feel that I had no choice but to undergo the cookie-cutter screenings and exams and keep quiet. We had disagreed on many points, mostly because he could not support any of his answers with reasons other than ‘everyone does it’, and instead of researching my serious concerns about C-sections and prenatal exams, he started a silent war against me. He didn’t care about my nausea or insomnia, and laughed when confronted with questions he could not answer. I fired him because I couldn’t stand the way he made my stress levels skyrocket. I would not be patronized for the remainder of my pregnancy by someone who thought that his medical degree was worth more than my sanity or modesty. His notes in my medical record proved that my instincts were right. He had made me look like a stalker to pave the way for having a reason to get rid of me as a patient. A professional who will go to these lengths to avoid answering a pregnant woman’s questions about her body is no professional in my eyes, but rather a coward.
3. Trying to prove myself at work.
While some family members suggested that I quit my job to take care of myself during my pregnancy, I did not have that option. My husband was a stay-at-home dad, and we relied on my paychecks to pay the bills and put food on the table. I could not quit. Something had to give, and when the tears burned down my face as I silently considered an abortion, I knew I was in trouble. After deciding to take depression meds, I found the strength to tell my boss that I was pregnant so he wouldn’t equate my absences with laziness. It felt better to be able to breathe, but knowing my maternity leave was about 5 months away, the pressure was on to show these lawyers that I was worth their time. I started working on the weekends and sleeping during my commute to steal a few more winks. The more I began to show, the harder I worked to prove that I deserved my position.
At this point, I could try more foods and was sleeping regularly. My husband was putting our son to bed every night, and my mom was cleaning and cooking during the day. I could finally ride the train without it feeling like torture, and my mood was getting better. With all of these improvements, I was able to deliver quality work, think clearer, and even socialize with coworkers at office functions.
Though it’s still challenging to go to work every day and not have thoughts of self-doubt, I do not regret making the decision to take care of myself first. I’m still physically uncomfortable and a bit sleep deprived, but I’m constantly shifting and rearranging my life so that I’m never disappointing my job or family. My schedule does allow me to fit in birthday parties, girls nights, exercising, volunteering, shopping and more, so I can testify that it’s possible, just not easy. And it can be exhausting.
To the other pregnant mothers out there struggling to stay above water in both of their worlds—just know that you can do it, too.
About the Author
Originally from Florida, Susana now lives in wintry Minnesota with her husband, son, and two dogs. With a background in mechanical engineering, she is currently working as a technical advisor to patent attorneys at a prominent law firm. Susana loves swimming, watching ‘Friends’ and ‘The Office’, eating pizza, and scrapbooking. Her writing has appeared in newspapers, magazines, websites, and technical manuals. She recently created a blog to share the whimsy of her life as a working mother with bipolar depression. Follow Susana on Twitter and read more on her blog Singing and Screaming.