Let's begin by saying there's no right or wrong way to deal with the fourth trimester. What's best is to do whatever works for you, your situation and environment.
Here's why I chose NOT to take maternity leave and keep working full time through the 4th trimester:
- Personally, I am someone who needs to be mentally motivated. I am someone who LOVES to keep the brain fueled of ideas and creativity. What I do for a living brings me passion, keeps me going. And honestly, it comes naturally. I can't fully stop working for a whole day, because my brain always comes up with ideas for new pitching angles or client content. So for ME, the thought of stopping work completely, doesn't excite me.
- On top of that, my clients hire my services because I have a way of doing things. An eye. A creativity. A brand awareness. So although I can delegate more, there are certain things I would never delegate.
- Then there's also the TYPE of business I am in: I have 15 clients on a month to month contract/retainer, and I couldn't just stop the services for a few months. I couldn't slow down on the services. If you have a product business or a project based service business, then you may be OK taking on less sales/clients during those months. But the rhythm in my type of business couldn't stop. Of course, I chose not to accept any side projects during that time, but I had to keep up with my 15 clients, completely.
So with this said, what did I do?
- As soon as the 2nd trimester hit, I started to look for, interview, train and hire more people in my team, as well as I delegated more of my day to day duties (small things, but important and time consuming things like research, errands, calls, etc. You can see exactly what I delegate here). Those 6 months where the perfect time to train everyone to do everything, so that I would have to only focus on the big chores (pitching, writing, negotiating, etc). When Sofia was born, everything was on auto pilot.
- I also made sure all my chores where easy to do from home, so I could be cuddled up with Sofia working from the couch. Which meant to also be able to do as much as I could from my ipad, iphone, and laptop. So I made sure I had all the apps and every document needed in those tablets. So I did not have to use the desk/office much (newborns need the cuddles!). I had someone in charge of errands too (which I still, since then, delegate)! One of the most important things for me postpartum was that my BODY healed right, so even though I felt great from the start (as I did not tear at all and had a natural, epidural free birth), I wanted to move the least for the first month.
- I planned like no other. I am a planner, but heading up to child birth I needed to have everything planned perfectly: the house had to be ready (baby swings, diapers wipes and changing pads everywhere, etc) to make things super comfortable, and it was! I also had to plan work things in way more advanced (all the client newsletters, content calendar, events etc).
- I of course was fearful of the lack of sleep and my mind working. I did not know how that would go, because I was facing the unknown. I was someone who needed my sleep to function, and that kind of (really) scared me. It also scared me (because of what everyone told me) that I would not be able to do any work with a newborn. ESPECIALLY with my husband also working and, with zero (absolutely zero) family in town or help. Yikes! I never met anyone who did this, so being the first person to attempt to... was scary! What if it meant it was not doable?
And what happened?
Well, it was the best decision I made. Not only was able to manage to balance both, but I loved it. I feel like as soon as you become a mom, your whole life changes. You go from being selfish and doing things whenever you want, to doing everything around someone else. So keeping my mind working and keeping that part of who I was before Sofia, kept me sane. Also, newborns sleep ALL DAY. I mean, they wake up often, they poop often, they eat often, there's always something to do, trust me they do keep you busy and there's no time off. But, they do sleep constantly, so when she did, I worked or relaxed, and always with her. I don't think I could've enjoyed her more. I remember thinking that was the best, being able to be cuddled with her all day and enjoying her, while I also took care of my other babies, my clients. It felt great.
I love what I do. I love keeping my mind busy. And I love my daughter and taking care of her, hands on. So, for me personally. It was the best balance. It didn't stress me out because I planned right for it and I also kept doing tons of sef-care (in home massages, facials, nails, etc) for me, it was important to pamper myself because if I was working, it was to keep up with my income, so why not splurge and treat myslef with that money that I was earning! It also kept me motivated and feeling good!
Would I do it again?
Absolutely! And this is why I plan (or hope) to have my second when Sofia is 2-3 years old. I want her to be able to be independent and to go to preschool (which she can start at 2) so that I can have that one-on-one during the day with the next newborn. Of course I may have to do a couple things differently, with two babies, no joke, but, that's something that I will be able to tell you about in a year or two :)
So, what are your options if you are a freelancer/business owner and are pregnant?
1. You can stop working and:
a) Hire staff to do what you do (then you need to train them fully during pregnancy and, learn to trust & let go)
b) Stop earning for a few moths (if you don't have contracts and month-to-month clients like me)
2. You can learn to balance work and motherhood
Honestly, it does not get easier or harder. It's always different and it is a constant learning game, so why not start from the beginning?
It all comes down to your business type, and your personality.