Please don’t hate me, but I love being pregnant! I know, I know! You’ve eaten nothing but saltine crackers and ginger ale for the past 10 weeks and you’re just about to put your fist through the computer screen to punch me in the nose! I know!
My Mother had difficult pregnancies and she was so big that she couldn’t even fit behind the steering wheel of a car by the ninth month. I, on the other hand, have some sort of genetic mutation that allows me to have a healthy baby while gaining only 15-20 pounds. I not only feel great, I feel better than my non-pregnant self. In my other life, I’m a dancer and my water broke during dance class with my first baby. This baby was a girl, so the water breaking was a dainty little trickle. I finished the class, went home for a hot shower and then drove myself to the hospital to check in for delivery. My husband was working across town, so he met me there a little later. Thank goodness my water didn’t break during dance class with the boy baby because that was like the Mississippi River and my fellow dancers would have needed an ark to avoid being swept away.
A Working Maternity Leave
With my first baby, I happened to have a little lull in work when she was born. I didn’t plan it, but it worked out well to have a little extra time to adjust to being a first-time mother. I started a new project a few weeks after she was born. I did most of the work from home with one or two in-person meetings a week. Here’s how we set the meeting time, I would call and say, “She’s awake! I’ll be there in an hour.” And she came to the meetings with me. It was awesome.
Pregnancy Must be a Work Magnet
My husband and I joke that if I ever hit a dead zone in my business, we’ll have another baby to get some work coming in. I was happy to have a couple of solid, established projects during my second pregnancy. This meant good pay with low stress. Then suddenly, six weeks before the baby was due, the phone started ringing off the hook. I have to admit that meeting with prospective clients at 34 weeks pregnant was nerve-wracking. Luckily, I don’t get very big when I’m pregnant, so it was easy enough to conceal with a blazer and strategically placed portfolio.
We had some unexpected medical expenses a few years prior and still had some financial ground to make up. We had a family discussion and decided that I would take on these new projects. My husband would pick up more tasks at home and take over most of the driving for our then nine-year-old daughter. I dove in head first on the new projects to climb the learning curve and get a good start before the new baby came.
Not Even 24 Hours of Maternity Leave with Baby #2
The baby was born in the morning after laboring overnight. The hospital was busy, so I didn’t get upstairs to my room until later in the afternoon. The little guy was fast asleep, so my husband headed home for a shower and a little rest. I was still keyed up from the morning so there was no way I could nap. I didn’t feel like reading or watching television, so I got out my computer and started working. I didn’t even take a full day off when the baby was born.
But Remember, I Am a Freak of Nature
To say I am an outlier would be an understatement. I am not superwoman, this is just my gift. This was also not my first baby. Most women have some trials and tribulations along the way. Be gentle with yourself and make sure you give yourself the same grace you would extend to any other mother who was struggling.
Blissfully Cocooned with My Family, Working All the While
Bringing home the second baby was much less frightening than bringing home the first, so I only spent one night in the hospital. I came home feeling good since I had such an easy pregnancy. I do a lot of my work remotely, so I didn’t have any outside meetings for the first couple of weeks.
I had worked on a project a few years earlier with a guy who had five kids. He and his wife had a policy of no outside visitors for the first two weeks. They believed the family needed that time to form a bond with the new baby. We did a modified version of this by putting off house guests and limiting visitors during this time.
The new little guy was very easy-going and slept well in a travel crib next to me in my office. I spent those early weeks blissfully cocooned with my family, working all the while.
The Surveillance Van Followed Me Everywhere for the First Couple of Months
My husband didn’t like the idea of being home with a newborn while the mommy is 30 minutes away. The mommy didn’t like that idea either. So, for the first couple of months, we would drop our older daughter at school and head off to whatever meetings I needed to attend. I would feed the baby right before I went in. My husband would watch Netflix in the minivan while the baby slept. I was a few seconds away by text message if anything came up. It never did but we all felt much better this way.
Avoid Expectations to Avoid Disappointment
My biggest advice is to avoid expectations about what your pregnancy, delivery or new baby will be like. You may be one of those lucky moms who push twice, and the baby is born. Or you could have an emergency C-section. I had colic my entire first year and my mom said I cried non-stop. But I made up for it by being an easy child after that first year. It’s very difficult to know how you are going to feel and what the temperament of your baby will be. With a little planning and an open mind, you too can have a joyful maternity leave.
Tips for Planning Ahead
I was lucky to have a fairy tale experience, but this is not the norm. Whether you like it or not, you may need to take some time off during your pregnancy or after the birth of your baby. Some contingency planning can smooth the road.
Consider the financial implications of time off. There is no paid maternity leave for the entrepreneur mom. If your business generates a significant portion of your family’s income, try to build up a reserve to cover some time off and search for ways to decrease spending.
I took on new work right before my second baby was born. I kept a close colleague in the loop about the project, so she could step in and keep things going for me in the event of an emergency. She was also on deck to pick up some of the work if I needed help in those early weeks. Can you add some “on deck” resources to your team? Is now is a good time to hire a virtual assistant to pick up some tasks? What can you schedule and automate to keep things running during your maternity leave? These things will make your business more efficient even if you don’t take any maternity leave.
This is Harder Than I Thought, What Now?
The baby is here and you’re feeling overwhelmed. Take a deep breath, be like Elsa and let it go. And again, take a deep breath, be like Elsa and let it go. Okay? One minute you’re elated with joy, the next minute you’re flooded with despair, and you cry at toilet paper commercials on TV. Welcome to the postpartum roller coaster. Be patient, give yourself some grace and ride it out.
Now is the time to call upon your tribe for support. This is not the time to be superwoman. The top priority is your well-being and the well-being of your baby. Reach out to your mother, sisters, friends, and colleagues. Tell them you need help. Don’t expect your partner to be able to read your mind. Be as specific as you can, but don’t let that stop you from asking. You may not know exactly what you need.
It’s not too late to grab some team members to help. Tap your business friends and tell them what tasks you need to be covered. Ask them if they see opportunities to automate and schedule. Work with your clients to reset priorities, due dates, and deliverables. Be patient, give yourself some grace and everything will work out.
The Entrepreneur Mom Defines Her Own Maternity Leave
When you work for yourself, it’s up to you to decide what maternity leave will look like. It can be whatever you want or need. Will you work a little or a lot or not at all? It’s all up to you. Of course, you’re the one paying the paycheck, so financial considerations will certainly factor in and require advance planning.
My clients had no idea I was expecting a baby. I do most of my work remotely, so it was easy enough to hide the pregnancy for a few live meetings. Careful wardrobe choices and a large bag were all it took. Sometimes I was able to arrive early and be seated at a table before anyone else was in the room. A person can be incapacitated by a medical condition at any time, so I didn’t feel an obligation to tell them I would be having a baby. I did not expect it to affect my ability to get the work done and it didn’t. I was lucky.
(editor’s note from Monica: Unfortunately, pregnancy has been looked down upon historically in corporate environments and can often hinder advancement. However, this is unfair and also illegal. Women should not have to hide the fact that they are pregnant to secure work. As Amy states, her pregnancy did not impact her ability to perform her job functions. I would encourage you to not hide your pregnancy and show up confident that you ARE the best fit for the job regardless of pregnant/motherhood status.)
With that said, other entrepreneur moms take several weeks or months of maternity leave completely away from their businesses. With some businesses, you can plan, schedule and automate so the business keeps working during your maternity leave. You can also scale back and/or get a team in place to cover some of the work.
The important point is that you get to set your own maternity leave policy and not have someone dictate it for you. And believe it or not, you and your business will be more efficient, more effective and more productive once you come out the other side. Whatever you decide, build in some flexibility because it’s hard to know exactly how you will feel and what the temperament of your baby will be.
Please join the Billable with Baby® Community for more ideas on how to handle maternity leave and working with a baby. We are a group of ambitious mothers starting and running successful consulting businesses. We empower working mothers to have meaningful careers with the flexibility to raise their children the way they wish.
About the Author
|Amy is a working Mom of two kids, ages 14 and 4. Amy has been a successful consultant for 15 years and she loves it! Now she wants to help you be Billable with Baby®. Take control of your career and have the flexibility to raise your children on your terms. Work when you want, where you want and how you want. Stay home with your baby AND earn executive level pay doing the same type of work you’ve always done. It’s easier than you think to get started, join the Billable with Baby® Free Course – 3 Action Steps to Generate Revenue NOW!|