Warning, this post on my third trimester reflections (and doctorate program reflections), and on how I’m doing the best I can, is much bloggier than I usually write. No major takeaways necessarily, and much more reflectiony. You’ve been warned. 🙂
This weekend I hit the official “9 months” mark in my pregnancy — which sounds much more monumental than it should, since human gestation actually takes 10 months, not 9 (that we’re misled to think it takes 9 months to grow a kid is a cruel trick). This means we’re in the homestretch! So before that happens and our life gets flip turned upside down, here’s how my third trimester has been with managing the demands of this online EdD doctoral program.
My third trimester of pregnancy started around the middle of December, and since then, a lot has changed. Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly of all the new things in life (but in reverse order, because let’s end on a high note).
The good, the bad, and the ugly parts of the third trimester
The hardest part of balancing the third trimester with my doctorate has been adjusting to the (sometimes comically terrible) discomforts of being super-pregnant:
I’ve basically stopped sleeping.
Intellectually, I knew the third trimester would be a very trying time. But on a more real level, I was not truly prepared. I didn’t know I would be getting hot flashes all night, would be waking up every half-hour to an hour, and eventually, would kind of just stop sleeping completely, even with the help of doctor recommended sleep aids.
Naturally, this presented some challenges for me, because sleep is kind of important to, you know, everything, including concentrating on coursework.
This isn’t as “ugly” as the complete lack of sleep but…
I’ve been having pregnancy-related upper-abdominal pain (possibly muscular, still unclear what’s going on). I’m on baby-safe painkillers (which don’t actually do much) and am getting a lot of rest, but let’s just say there’s a lot of unpleasantness happening here (#pregnancyproblems). That said, this too shall pass, and I’m still in good spirits!
This presented some challenges, because being uncomfortable/in pain makes being productive hard. I’m still very grateful that I’m in good health. Obviously it could be so, so much worse. And I’m fortunate that I’ve had the kinds of supports that I’ve had these past few months, but it’s been kinda rough.
Real talk, the third trimester kind of sucks.
The one thing that helps the most is knowing this is temporary, and being able to see the finish line… which leads me to the good parts of the third trimester.
So much to be grateful for!
As always, the bad (and even the excruciating) is balanced by a lot of good. Here are 6 big things I’m thankful for during this third trimester period in my pregnancy:
- Fall semester in my doctoral program wrapped up, and now, in the Spring semester, I’ve been able to start planning (and working) ahead.
- We survived Jonas — but not without a classic “omg I think I’m in labor and we’re snowed in” scare, lulz.
- We went on a babymoon to San Francisco. My energy levels were pretty low on this trip, but we did get to do some of the fun obligatory tourist things like visiting Golden Gate Bridge, and sightseeing (from the comfort of an Uber usually), and I did manage to do more walking than I thought I’d be able to. We also got to do some great eating (we had the best Greek food ever at Kokkari in the Financial District, and some incredible Mexican food at El Farolito in the Mission District).
This was extra great because I got a break, and didn’t think about school, home, or work (or all the stuff we’d have to do when we got back – getting the house ready, getting a new car, finalizing my long-term sub plans, getting as much of my Spring coursework done in advance as possible… a vacation was a much needed final deep breath of air before diving underwater!)
- I got a bunch of stuff done. Winter break from teaching coincided with being on break from my doctorate, so we were able to finish (mostly) getting settled into our new house (and in related news, we also swapped our 2-door coupe for a more family-friendly SUV). Even more excitingly, we got Baby’s room done. While all of this was all a lot of work, crossing so many home-related tasks off my to-do list went a very long way in helping preserve my sanity. I do well in a calm and organized environment, and getting all of this out of the way has been helpful.
- I started leave. Just as things started to become harder physically AND just as the Spring semester in my doctoral program started up again, I started leave from work. This has been one of the most crucial things in making this final stretch manageable. I set up all my long-term leave plans with my replacement teacher, left the most detailed long-term sub plans in the entire world, and set off for this new adventure.
As to that last point, I’m extra thankful for it, because being home has meant I’ve been able to make more progress on my coursework before Baby arrives (while still resting). Which leads me to another thing I’m really thankful for…
- My professors and committee have been amazing about prepping for “maternity leave.”
This is another big reason I’m surviving: I’ve been really fortunate that my professors are working with me to try and get as much Spring coursework done in advance of baby boy’s arrival done as possible, since I’ll be disappearing from my classes for at least a few weeks when baby arrives.
But the thing is, there’s a lot to do this semester.
Assignments – One of my goals for this semester is to begin developing my methodology for my full-scale intervention this Fall… and I have the distinct fortune of taking my Evaluation of Educational Programs and Policies course with an amazing professor who also happens to be on my dissertation committee. She’s going above and beyond to adjust course assignments so they’re better aligned with developing my methodology, and with my research.
On top of that, she’s also giving me a ton of the coursework for this class now, so I can try to get it done before Baby arrives. This means I’m pretty overwhelmed with work, but it also means I feel a bit more in control.
In another one of my classes, on talent management and organizational finance, some of the coursework is case-study based, and requires collaboration — so a lot of how this is going to play out depends on when I actually have my baby.
If I go out in the next two weeks, for instance, I’ll end up having to do all the case studies for the semester independently; if I last until my actual due date, everything should be fine. So obviously, my inability to predict the future is causing me some anxiety about how this will play out if I do go into labor early, but since I can’t do anything about it, I’m trying to just accept that it will work out.
(To be honest though, it’s been challenging to get a lot done lately since it takes me longer to get into the swing of concentrating — that whole I-don’t-sleep-anymore thing is not conducive to being able to focus, or working at maximum efficiency. But I’m seriously so grateful to have whatever time I get before baby boy shows up to get stuff done.)
Just doing the best I can!
Occasionally, I’ve struggled with not being “my usual self” — at this point, I have a harder time focusing (or even just sitting up without hurting), and I’m just not as efficient as I usually am. But I have to keep reassuring myself that I’m not running at 100% right now (growing a baby is hard work), and that I’m doing the best that I can.
As my sister-in-law (who writes over at Auptimist.com) recently shared with me, we’re all just winging it.
And so, I’m trying to remind myself that since we are all just winging it, as long as I’m doing the best I can, it will get done and it will be okay.
Yes, I’m really uncomfortable, and have a hard time sitting up to do work lately, which means I need more breaks and it’ll take longer for me to get the work done. But it will get done. I’m doing the best I can. Yes, I’m sleep-deprived, and have a hard time concentrating lately, which means it might take me longer to understand what I’m reading or writing. But I will get there. I’m doing the best I can. Yes, sometimes I feel out of control, since I don’t know for sure when Baby will come, and consequently, I don’t know how much I’m actually going to get done before he’s here. But I can take it one day at a time — I just need to decide what to accomplish each day and just do that. And if Baby is early, I’ll still have done whatever I could ahead of that. It’s not in my control, but it will work out eventually. I just have to take it one day at a time, and remember that I’m doing the best I can. And once Baby is here, I’m sure I’ll have even more bouts of uncertainty and self-doubt, and I hope I can just keep reminding myself to take it one day at a time, and to have faith, and to just keep on doing the best I can.
I’m sure there is someone out there who could be in their third trimester, work on their doctorate, continue to work, and be have major discomfort/pain, and not sleep, and do it all without the support of awesome professors. But I don’t know if I’d want to do it. And maaaaybe someone can make it all just somehow work without remembering to cut herself some slack and reminding herself you’re doing your best. But I really wouldn’t recommend it. For me, those three things (support, remembering to be kind to myself, and being okay with just doing my best) were non-negotiable… and I’ve definitely made a mental note to remember these things for whenever we start thinking about Baby #2 (HA!).
That said, I’m only one person, and my experiences are just that — my experiences. Other people might have other insights, coping mechanisms, ideas, strategies, tips, or suggestions for making it work than I’ve shared… so if you can think of any, I hope you’ll share them below.
If you’re pregnant and working on your doctorate, please leave your tips for making it all work in the comments below. If you’re not pregnant and working on your doctorate, but you know someone who is, please consider sharing this page with them!