Yesterday I was walking along Jamaica Pond, a beautiful little piece of nature in my new neighborhood in Boston, when I saw another pregnant woman. She was super cute, in this little short dress with her basketball belly sticking through.
I looked down at myself – then just two days away from my due date and feeling more like a (beautiful, empowered and intelligent) baby hippo than a fit cheerleader holding a basketball. The thought crossed my mind that I must be quite a bit farther along than her.
And then I realized: I’m probably farther along than pretty much everyone.
Suddenly I know what it feels like to be 105 years old; a “last unicorn”.
Friends who became pregnant after me have come and gone, their babies lighting up their Facebook feeds. And yet I’m still here, making the most of the pre-mom life that I know before things change for good.
In many ways, by this point, much of my work has subsided. The Wanderful team has been anticipating my “disappearance from the Internet” for at least a week now, and has learned to keep the ship running without me. It doesn’t make sense to take on any new tasks because I won’t be able to complete them. All I can do is read interesting articles, think about next steps when I’m back in June, and perfect my auto-response email for when I need to deploy it.
Even the Women in Travel Summit, my own brainchild through Wanderful and set to launch its fourth annual event this week, will be running full steam without me.
Though I feel sad to miss some important times in Wanderful’s journey, I also feel grateful to have been able to set us up for success while I’m away. It makes me feel confident that this whole “pregnant entrepreneurship” thing really is what we make of it.
That being said, I feel like I owe you all a few words of wisdom from someone who won’t be a pregnant entrepreneur for much longer. The past nine months have been filled with incredible lessons and personal growth, and it would be a shame to keep it all with me as I move closer to the next adventure.
For those of you who are pregnant entrepreneurs or plan to be someday, here are 13 nuggets of advice for you:
- Don’t read too much about parenting. Everyone is going to tell you their way is the best and it will get overwhelming and annoying. If you do read something, check out the super-interesting Parenting Without Borders. I know it sounds cheesy, but it basically chronicles a woman’s travels as she learns about different parenting styles in different countries.
- Be honest with your team. The more you talk about your pregnancy, the more normal it will feel. What used to be a “holy crap, what are we going to do when Beth is away for two months?!” overall team sentiment is now a “we totally got this. Can you leave now?” one. And nothing feels better than knowing your ship is operating on course without needing you to steer it.
- In those last few weeks, don’t feel like you need to do everything. People will request to meet with you. You will be surprised how understanding they are when you simply say, “I would love to, but I’m gearing up for maternity leave. Would you be open to scheduling something in mid-June instead?”
- Embrace – and never forget – the people who stick their necks out for you. They may do it in big ways, but they may do it in small ways too, like rescheduling an important pitch to make the timing more convenient for you, or being extra speedy with their side of a project in order to give you as much time as possible to work on yours. I have found both men and women who have been incredibly accommodating to my pregnancy without so much as blinking. They are the people who will propel the future of entrepreneurship forward.
- For the people who don’t seem to understand, forget them. Or educate them. In either case, it isn’t worth your time or energy to get bent out of shape. The road to parenthood is unique, and not everyone is going to have the same perspective as you. One day, should those people ever ask for added patience or flexibility from you, I hope you show them the kindness that you wish you had received.
- Take yourself out. You’re pregnant, not dead. If you feel up to it, continue to go to networking events and activities. Not only is it good for you to not draw away from society, but you’re an easy target for a conversation starter – and an easy person to remember if you cross paths with the same contact more than once.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. Running on a hard deadline will give you one magical gift – the gift of prioritization. You’ll be forced to decide what’s important and what’s not. Rather than stressing out about that, embrace it. It might be the best thing that ever happened to your company.
- Be grateful. People will be excited about your pregnancy. They’ll ask you questions, and some of them will have nothing to do with business. I know some people get annoyed by this, but I have always welcomed it. It shows that people are genuinely interested in your life and I find that sweet. When they offer unwarranted advice, just thank them kindly. You might actually be helping them more than they’re helping you.
- Have that second donut. This is seriously the only time you can do that [almost] completely guilt-free. Let yourself have moments of bliss. The discomforts of pregnancy will always be there.
- Don’t be afraid. I mentioned in previous articles that I feared getting pregnant and what it would do to my business. We need more pregnant entrepreneurs out there showing the world what we’re capable of. Tell people your story. Don’t worry about posting the gross stuff. Pregnancy should be more a part of society’s narrative. Let yourself shine.
- Old Navy maternity is your new best friend. I have literally bought every piece of maternity clothing, for work and pleasure, there. They have amazing deals (especially when you feel a little bit crazy buying a whole new wardrobe for just a few months) and everything has fit me incredibly well. I bet you didn’t even know they had a maternity section to begin with!
- Lean on others. Women have done this before you, and they’ll do this after you. Rely on each other for advice and support. Find a tribe of people who can help you out. Build up your resources as you would for any other new venture. You’ll be amazed about who will be out there ready to give you a hand.
- Travel. I used to wonder why travel was restricted when you’re pregnant. It’s actually much less restricted than you think. First of all, it has nothing to do with your or your baby’s safety and everything to do with airlines not wanting you to give birth on their plane. Second of all, and I think we all need a reminder of this from time to time — there is no country in the world, not a single one, that doesn’t have pregnant women in it. Being a pregnant traveler is a true joy and an experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. It’s amazing to see how other cultures view pregnancy from a first-hand perspective. Not to mention, you’ll be able to eat absolutely anything you want, and feel great about it.
I hope these tips are helpful to all of you who one day plan to follow the path that I am walking. It has been an amazing journey, and I’m so glad I took the leap that I did. Next stop: life as a mompreneur. Can’t wait to introduce you all to the little one when she’s here.