I think a lot of us overachiever folks fall into the trap of thinking that we are our accomplishments. I grew up in a family where a lot of value was placed on getting good grades, engaging in extra-curricular activities, and being an all-around good egg. I wouldn't say affection was ever withheld exactly, but my parents had high expectations for me and things went a lot more smoothly when I performed as they expected. As a consequence, I developed this idea that my worth was directly proportional to what I accomplished.
And over time, capitalist infrastructure did nothing to dissuade me that this wasn't true. After all, you're a better worker if you're obedient to the structure of Getting Things Done. You create less fuss in the system if you're compliant. And honestly, I have the kind of brain that likes checking things off a To Do List anyway, so it all kind of worked together fine for a long time.
Until it didn't.
Before I begin, sorry about burying the lede, but: I'm pregnant. Super pregnant, as it happens -- I'm getting pretty close to my due date, which is why I feel okay to talk about this now. And let me tell you, pregnancy really tanks your productivity.
Sure, there are ladies that manage to do it all -- Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg are the most touted examples of the ilk of new mom that holds down a tech job, manages a smooth transition into maternity leave, and then goes back to work shortly after the birth of her kid, and excels at mothering and full-time work.
But, let's be honest: there's an inherent amount of privilege there. Those women can afford extra help. They work at tech companies that are leading the charge to offer better leave and family-supportive policies. For the rest of us, it's pretty tough to be pregnant and a new mom, and keep up our productivity.
In my own experience, I'm having to reconcile the very real limitations being pregnant has put on my productivity. There's the normal stuff that I think many pregnant women experience: the head fog, the limits to focus, the extreme exhaustion. That impacted me at work, and in my personal projects as well. I just haven't had the adventures, new interests, and creative output during pregnancy that I had before.
Emotionally, I'm far more sensitive and have varying flexibility, depending on the day. With my mom's health challenges and the many losses of 2015, my ability to show up and be there for my loved ones has been stretched a lot.
Physically, this is a high-risk pregnancy, given my history of miscarriage. When I found out I was expecting, I immediately stopped going to CrossFit, stopping picking up anything over 15 lbs, and was pretty dang careful about the level of activity I engaged in. I also set clear boundaries with everyone around me about what I was and wasn't willing to do.
I got some push back on the limitations I set for myself -- I think folks in the fitness community are sensitive to the antiquated advice that says that women in normal pregnancies shouldn't work out at any intensity. This is fodder for another post, but generally, I agree with them: women in normal pregnancies can work out at whatever intensity is appropriate for them. But for me, in my high-risk pregnancy body, that just wasn't a risk I was willing to take on.
I have to admit, it was a head trip. I think we all define ourselves by what we repeatedly do, and it took some adjustment to not lift a heavy barbell several times a week. I had to reframe fitness over and over, from "I can do physical therapy, the elliptical trainer, yoga, and walking" to "I can do yoga and walking", to "I can do pre-natal yoga, and some walking", to "I can do prenatal yoga and the walking that doesn't bring on contractions or pain." It was a big change. And it fucked with my head no small amount.
So what do you do when you've predicated love from others and for yourself on achievement?
You start by loving yourself as a baseline to everything else.
I love myself for trying again after losing my first baby. It's the hardest thing I've ever done. No contest. I love myself for setting clear boundaries and not stressing myself out by getting sucked into the accomplishment regime. I love myself for keeping on during all the triggers and anxiety of pregnancy after loss. I love myself for going to work during this pregnancy, even when I can only cross one thing off my To Do List in a day. I love myself for being a flawed, imperfect human, with lots of feelings that I am managing the best I can. I love myself for being thoughtful of my loved ones' feelings, even as I have a lot of my own. I love myself for doing the best I can and letting that be enough, because it is enough, more than enough, always.