One of the hardest–no, the hardest–thing about being pregnant has been feeling isolated from parts of my identity I didn’t even realize were parts of my identity. I figured not running as much and not jumping in twilight 5ks (followed by a nice cold beer–a perfect summer evening!) would be a little sad. I did not anticipate how tired simply existing would make me feel. Or how sad feeling tired would make me feel.
I’ve been working on a longer, more polished thing (essay?) about this, but what I realized last night is that the qualities in which I take the most pride all have to do with my ability to work hard, often quickly, and on little sleep. It is this willingness (ability?) that is responsible for most of the modest success I’ve had in life (as a good student, a productive teacher, a dedicated post-collegiate runner) and that has most often earned me praise and admiration (two things I must admit to loving somewhat rabidly).
I wouldn’t say (I hope) that I go around bragging about being an overly caffeinated ball of productivity, but deep down, I do take pride in my indifference to physical discomfort in pursuit of goals. I remember discovering that while it might be physically painful to wakeup for a 3am morning run before vacation, the pain was brief (really only those first moments of opening your eyes if you didn’t let yourself hit the snooze button), and the sense of accomplishment lasted all day. The sense of shame and guilt I’ve trained myself to associate with “laziness” is much worse and can’t be cured with caffeine. Sort of like a sleeping version of that stupid eating disordered aphorism “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels:” nothing is as relaxing as feeling productive and accomplished.
I have been thinking that there must be a lot of other type-A women out there, for whom the concept of relaxing isn’t very enjoyable, or at least whose ability to relax is deeply tied to a need to have accomplished quite a bit first. These days, though, I really am too tired to be my usual productive, zippy self, and instead of doing what I would have done in graduate school and washing down my second coffee of the day with chocolate covered espresso beans, I hydrate and do my pregnancy yoga breathing activities. And wonder if this will give me the energy to put the laundry in the dryer.
Some of the things about my normal life that I’ve missed during pregnancy are insanely petty: my favorite outfits, a nice glass of rose, the convenience of being able to run on an empty stomach. But to feel tired and low-energy has been not only hard but also alienating for me. I miss myself. I’ve still been running, and I can read about pregnant runners, but few of my other (many) type-A crazy friends who figure pain is temporary and productivity is forever are or plan to be mothers, and even fewer are nearby.
A lot of the symptoms of depression and of pregnancy overlap: inability to focus, difficulty sleeping, extreme fatigue. At my last appointment, I found out that I’m a bit anemic, which, along with the stress of the school year wrapping up, certainly has contributed to the knocked-on-my-back exhaustion I’ve been feeling. Knowing that there is a reason for these feelings certainly helps the logical part of me, but struggling to get through the day without a nap certainly doesn’t feel any less foreign just because I can understand why it’s happening. It is frustrating, strange, alien, confusing, not to be able to count on the certainty that I will plow through. It feels disorienting and scary not to know if I’ll have energy to do something that matters to me, and to know that I’m responsible for making good decisions about how much is too much and when growing scone needs me to relax whether I want to or not.