I can’t speak for every pregnant lady out there, but for me, third-trimester “pregnancy brain” is REAL. Thinking through basic creative tasks, coming up with the right word, sitting upright at a desk (bad poster + pregnancy = boo), even having the focus to spend more than a half-hour on any task is suddenly becoming a lot more challenging. During my first pregnancy, there were weeks when I really worried I’d never write another story again, because it was like living in this exhausted fog of unfocus. Staring at a wall sounded GREAT. And I’d get so frustrated with myself for not being able to just rally and plunge forward, but the words just WOULD NOT FLOW. It’d take twice or three times as long to get even five-hundred words finished, when I was used to hitting 2k in 1.5 hours. Time slows down. My drive gets all wiggly-wobbly like the ligaments in my body. I mostly want to veg out, and my body is heavy and tired enough to accommodate (and appreciate) that desire.
It makes creating tough for me, but at least this time around, I know it’ll eventually pass. It may be a while–weeks or months post-birth, maybe even a year before I’m back to where I was–but it WILL return. That takes a little of the stress off, if not the frustration. With Bug in full-time school for the first time, I was really looking forward to getting as much done as possible before Goldbug comes post-Christmas. I’m quickly realizing that pregnancy has its own rhythm. All my big, ambitious plans (because I’m always a bit overzealous on goals) have come crashing down. I cannot write a rough draft short story a week, even with a lot of extra uninterrupted time. I probably won’t finish the novel rewrite draft I’ve started working through. I can’t expect 1k/day as was my comfortable go-to all last year. I’ve had to reassess how to judge my progress and how to reward myself even for simple things that in other years would have seemed laughably patronizing.
Right now: I’m back to 500 words/day. Punch out 500, and I can stop. I can always write more, but lately, just getting to 500 has been enough of a challenge. I’ve taken a good, hard look at how long this novel rewrite is going to take, and it’s going to go past my pre-baby deadline, which means, next spring, maybe next summer before it’s wrapped up. I’m looking at going back to my old sticker reward system for just getting words down, for hitting and exceeding word goals, and for resubmitting fiction on submission. I’m letting myself read a lot, which actually has been one of the upsides of the total loss of energy I’ve been feeling lately.
The one good thing, however, is that mental health-wise, I’m in a good place. I’m happy. I’m just flipping tired. And there are many belly-jabs per day to remind me why I’m so wrung out. I’m doing my best not to compare myself to others. I remind myself this is a precious time in and of itself, and that if I don’t get as much work done as I might like, that’s ok. This pregnancy is still going smoother than my first, so I’m hoping the bounce-back to creativity will be smoother, too, but even if it’s not, I know I can and will get through it. Patience is key. Recognizing the individuality of pregnancy (and creative output of all kinds) helps.
So for now: 500 words a day, every day but Saturday. I used to cut out weekends, but to keep what sluggish momentum I have, I need the consistency. I’ll get a sticker for hitting 1k in a day (double word count). I’ll get a “Get Out of Writing Free” Card for 2k (4x word count). I’ll get a giant star sticker for 3k or for selling a story. I’m still trying to figure out the reward for reading short stories, because that’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. Maybe a prize when I’ve read 10/20/30/40? That might be motivating.
Otherwise, I’m trying simply to appreciate the complex nature of this time of life, and not expect much beyond that. I’ll get done what I get done, and what doesn’t get done now, I’ll just have to tackle later. And that’s okay.