Pregnancy and Entrepreneurship – A dangerous combination?
The past 9 months have been a true rollercoaster for me personally and in my business (we are one after all) and for some reason I haven’t really felt inspired to share my journey. I do feel like I learnt so much, but just didn’t realize how important sharing my experience actually could be for others, so today I’m changing this up a bit and here’s why:
Ever since we shared the news that we are expecting, I have received a huge amount of negativity from all different directions, “I will not be able to grow a business while I’m pregnant/a new Mum, so why bother, I should just stop here. Also I will have to take a minimum of one year out when baby is here, so again why bother”… and more. I have come across very few people that honestly said, hey I took 2 weeks out to physically recover and then worked for 1 or 2 hours a day as and when I could. It was all doom and gloom. So I decided in true Gary V fashion it was time to document – not create. So here goes, today’s post on being pregnant and running a business and my experience (which may be nothing like yours).
The humble beginnings
As I’m writing this I am 36 weeks pregnant and waiting for D-Day to arrive. The first trimester now seems aaaaaages ago but luckily I journaled throughout the pregnancy, so I can track back quite easily.
When I decided to start my business at the beginning of 2016 and then finally followed through, I’d have never thought that it would take off as quickly as it did. So I couldn’t wait to finally hand in my resignation in my job – but well I didn’t expect to find out I’m pregnant about 2 weeks later! Initially I was of course thrilled but also reeeeally worried. I’d left the “security” of my full-time job to embark on the journey of entrepreneurship – or so I phrased it at the time. A little bit further down the line I realized that my job would definitely not give me anymore security and I still wouldn’t have any money anyways, so it didn’t even matter, but I did worry.
Coming to terms with your life changing
My first tip off the bat is to take some time out from your day-to-day stuff to just be and digest the information that you are becoming a Mum.
I read this quote a few years ago that a Mum becomes a Mum the day she finds out she’s pregnant and Dads become Dads when the baby is born. I never thought this to sound like it’s true, but I have worked out over the past 9 months that it really is. From day 1 your perception is starting to shift to the fact that you are now growing a person, your responsibilities are now different. You are not just taking care of yourself, you are taking care of your unborn child as well. For Dads this concept is often not so obvious until later, so don’t get cross when he offers you a beer that you really want, but you can’t have – particularly when you don’t look pregnant yet. They do forget. It’s a really exciting time and you want to shout it from the rooftops, but it can also be scary since you don’t know what to expect. So take some time for yourself spend an extra 15 minutes in the bath, go for a walk, relax, do whatever you like to do and just think and digest and acknowledge how you feel. I certainly wish I had spent more time acknowledging my feelings.
My personal story
So as I said above, I found out I was pregnant a few weeks after handing in my resignation. I noticed quite early on things felt different and it was obvious why. I kind of thought that pregnancy isn’t going to be too much of a bother until later, I mean how hard can it be, right? Well. In November we were on holiday abroad, and we toured Vienna for 5 days with loads of friends. Lots of walks, early starts, sightseeing, late dinners – and I was exhausted. It was like i was unable to cope with a bit of exercise. When we got back home, I felt faint randomly (once while at the neighbors – how embarrassing) because apparently my blood pressure was too low. I also missed my last 3 days at work and never got to say bye.
I assumed it’s a combination of being pregnant and it being winter now and very dark and gloomy (something that I don’t digest well as is). November turned into December and I was really excited to be full-time in my business and kick things off with a BANG. This was the first month that I would NOT have to split time between a job and the business and I wanted to kick arse. Well, I had my arse kicked and that was about it. I completed the projects that were booked – just, and then Christmas hit and I was like a zombie. I slept from 8pm till 6am and by 11am I needed a nap. I felt shattered and I couldn’t even explain the feeling of tiredness to anyone. Roundabout Christmas I was blessed with what I call “the smells” – a superhuman sense of smell that any superhero would be jealous off. I couldn’t bear the smell of smoke, smoked food, food in general, people, perfumes, deodorants, shower gels, guinea pigs, alcohol or anything else really. This became more and more intense throughout January. While I have never once been physically sick, I felt sick for about 1 month from eyes open till eyes shut. I tried to leave the house a few times, but the smells were so bad I had to stick my nose into bottles of juice and sniff that to blank out all the other smells around and not throw up. I had loads of clients and projects lined up for January and then just as I thought it couldn’t get any worse – it did. Dizziness from hell caused by looking at screens. Yep. Look at the laptop, feel dizzy, go and lie down. Look at phone, world is spinning, go and lie down. Watch TV? Nope. So I spent most of the second half of January in bed, with the smells and dizziness. I had to actually cancel most of those exciting projects I had booked.
Overall this left me feeling like a total loser. I love my work, I work a lot and I care a lot about what I do, and NOT being able to do it nearly killed me. I lived on bread and cheese that I couldn’t get out the fridge myself, because of the fridge smell. I couldn’t eat properly, entertain myself, hang out with the people that are important to me, or work. I was getting seriously depressed over it. And I know a few people have said to me to just tell the clients that I had to cancel on that I was pregnant – but there was another worry in the back of my mind.
We had an early ultrasound at 7 weeks and they couldn’t detect a heartbeat. So they told me to rest and come back for the 12 week scan at the end of January. So I worried every day from the middle of December until the end of January whether the baby was alive or not – and this did not make me feel particularly inclined to tell people why I cancelled their project. I felt like I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. To tell or not to tell?
And then it all stopped. Overnight. I woke up on the 26th of January feeling like an actual human.
In comparison to this the second trimester was a breeze. There were more worries about the baby (it was “too small”) but I could now feel the baby move and that made life a little bit easier, because every day you are reassured the baby is still there and it’s ok. I got my energy back, I could eat fine and I made some huge changes in the business to really take things forward and make up for the time I wasted in bed. All of this reminded me about how important it is to future-proof your business and make sure that you have a support network that can keep things ticking over for you while you’re away – something I have always told my clients to think about.
Throughout the third trimester I have also felt good overall, I’m not too big as yet since the baby is measuring smaller at around 2.2kg but I can slowly feel the tiredness coming back. I feel like sleep is not as restful as it was and also there are frequent toilet breaks at night needed 😀
I am now about 1 month away from giving birth and have started to take things easier at work and let me team support me more. This takes a lot of effort my from my side. I am constantly tempted to check in, pick tasks, check and reply to emails etc. but I’m telling myself not to. I’m trying to take some time to focus on me and baby, prepare everything at home and just be the CEO for a little while. I’m sure I will get there…
So, what are my top tips for surviving pregnancy while running a business?
Cut yourself some slack – immediately
As soon as you find out you’re expecting, plan for the worst. So assume you will end up throwing up with Hyperemesis for 10 out of 12 months of your pregnancy. What will you do? Who is around you to support you? How could they help you? What would happen to your business? Take some steps to inform AT LEAST those people around you that can support you that you are pregnant. I know a lot of us want to wait for the 3 months to be past, but you may need their support beforehand. I wish I had insisted on the hospital re-scanning earlier (as it is actually their procedure which wasn’t followed) and then I would have felt comfortable to be honest. When you are pregnant you can be quite emotional and it can be hard to make decisions sensibly, so talk to your partner about the situation and about how you feel.
Adjust your work environment
Pregnancy symptoms are weird. And they are different for everyone. I shared my story above, but you may experience something totally different, so you need to make sure that your work environment is set up so you are comfortable. Try and find a spot where you can work that helps you to be cozy. I remember feeling cold a lot, probably mainly because I was tired and sick and had low blood pressure.
Have food in the house you can eat
I went from being able to eat everything to having to throw all of Christmas Dinner away and eat bread for a month. Opening the fridge made me feel sick for 2 hours and left me unable to work, so make sure you have snacks in the house that you can keep close to where you work, so that you don’t need to open the fridge in the first place. Prepare your carrot sticks in advance when your other half is there and can help you. Buy packaged snacks if it helps you to get through things. I loved any sour sweets to suck on to help get rid of the sick feeling.
Ask for help and communicate
Here is one thing I’m not good at: asking for help. I should have done it more. Get your other half to help you, get things for you, so you don’t need to and communicate more with your team about how you’re really feeling. We felt it was more important at that time to NOT tell people we were expecting a baby, because we didn’t know if the baby was ok for ages – and I felt like I should keep that private to protect others around me from being upset if it’s not good news, but then I wished I had told people so I can get on with it, and let people know what’s happening. So communication is key, if you’re feeling off, the people that work with you NEED to know.
You are growing another person, so if you feel like you need to sleep or go to bed early, do it. Don’t let anyone judge you for it. Again you are your own boss and you can choose to work 6 hours a day instead of 8 and spend the other 2 hours napping. It’s your body, you need to listen to it. When I didn’t listen to it, I felt so bad that I couldn’t concentrate on work anyways.
Use the times when you’re feeling good
When you’re well (mainly in the second trimester) use the time to make all the progress you need to make to get to where you want to be before the third trimester is up. Plan for your maternity leave if you’re taking any, build a team if you haven’t got one. Don’t assume you have the full 9 months to get things in place, there is always the chance that baby decides to make a very early arrival and you don’t want to be caught off guard.
So overall would I recommend quitting your job and getting pregnant right away? Nope, but if it happens I trust that you can get through it with a little bit of support, so don’t let others make you feel like you can’t.
If you have a big event coming up and you’d like to discuss how you can prepare your business for it, book a strategy session with me and together we’ll hatch a plan.
If you’re considering to stat your own VA business but you have no idea where to start, then check out The VA Accelerator, my course that will help you to build your own VA business in just 90 days.