Saying no: balancing pregnancy, business, and relationships

Most mothers will tell you that being pregnant -- and then being a mother -- is nothing like you would anticipate. And yes, I have to agree: being pregnant is nothing like I would have anticipated.

I always thought that one day I might have a child, but that time seemed far away. My life has been one big ball of changes for the past five years, and I couldn't envision myself with enough "stability" to raise a child. Well, the universe decided the time was now, whether I was "ready" or not.

When I found out I was pregnant (a crazy story for another time), I had just accepted a full-time job in an entirely new field while my former position had also made it clear that they needed me for at least another six months to help with their organizational transition. So, for my entire first trimester, with all the fatigue and vomiting and hormonal changes, I was working two full-time jobs and trying to help my husband get our new business off the ground. Oh, and we moved four times in three months.

Yes, there are women out there who can work an 80 hour a week corporate job until the moment they give birth (and then jump right back into it 3 weeks later), but I am not one of those women. In retrospect, all the health issues I ran into during my first and second trimester were not because my body "didn't like" being pregnant -- it is because I was trying to do too much.

But when you are used to being everything for everyone, doing things just for yourself (or even for your unborn child) feels like it's not enough.

And so, I worked myself to the ground until I was crying every day. My husband looked at me as I was cresting the 4-month mark, and he genuinely asked, "Baby... how on earth are you going to be a mom working like this?"

He was right. I wasn't being the mother I wanted to be. I wasn't being the friend I wanted to be. I wasn't being the person I wanted to be. And how could I expect to magically transform into that person just because a baby popped out of me?

With a lot of hand-holding and tears, I began the hardest task I have ever undertaken: 

I started saying no.

I razed all my prior commitments; I quit all the jobs; I put a halt on potential collaborations; I found a quiet tiny house that no one but my family has been to; I even changed my phone number. 

To do all that, I had to face my deepest fear: that if I said no, I would become irrelevant. That if I said no, our income would dry up, and we would become homeless and hungry. But none of that is true.

While this transition toward doing less has been incredibly difficult internally, we are consistently being met with unexpected blessings and abundance. Rather than "doing it all," I am being schooled daily on patience and faith. We aren't making nearly as much money as we were before, but we sleep better.

If we base our lives on fear and what ifs, we miss out on contentment.

We are still figuring out the balance between how-much-energy-do-I-have-while-pregnant and how-much-should-we-be-doing-for-this-growing-business and how-do-we-still-have-time-for-friends-and-family. The variables change every day, and so rather than trying to create a "system", we've slowed the pace of our entire lives. We are learning how to listen to what is possible today and not worry about tomorrow.

Now, I can see the person I want to be, and some days, I actually embody her. 

Since life continually in transition, there will be infinite opportunities to raze the ground and start fresh. I invite you to try it. Once you get through the terror of it all, it's pretty damn liberating.

And, from personal experience, crying less is way better than having more money in the bank.

(If you are pregnant or are considering getting pregnant and run your own business, please check out Sarah Kathleen Peck's Startup Pregnant -- it's such an inspiration. Yes, you can do this, and no, it will not look anything like you thought it might.)

mamahoodCJ Howard