Enjoy the excuse!
I’m very close to the end of my pregnancy and I can’t bloody wait to meet my baby and to not be so consistently uncomfortable that I might as well be a bra from Ann Summers. It would be an understatement to say I’ve not found pregnancy the magical experience that I’ve been sold, and I certainly haven’t ‘glowed’. But there is one thing (other than a baby) that pregnancy has given me that I am grateful for and intend to carry forward. For the last 9 months I have learnt how to put my health first.
There is a lot of encouragement around at the moment for people to prioritise their health and wellbeing. So many companies, especially in the arts, pride themselves on putting their employee’s wellbeing first (whilst still asking you to write a 3 act play to premier next week for 30 quid). As a freelance artist with a chronic illness I have struggled for a long time to find this balance between work and wellbeing. I often feel like I can’t say no to work, I can’t take days off projects even if I’m sick, I can’t tell people what support I need because this might damage my chance of getting that commission or working with that company again.
Pregnancy has changed that. I’ve taken days off when I need them, I’ve communicated what I need with my employers and I’ve cancelled plans when I’m too tired. This is all great, but why has taken having another human being dependent on my health for me to prioritise it? Not the years of chronic illness or anxiety? I’ve found it easier to prioritise my own health because other people finally have. The conversation has changed from ‘Hi I’m really struggling to get this work done, I’m internally bleeding’ could you take some paracetamol and get it in tomorrow? To ‘Hi I’m really struggling to get this work done, I’m tired’ oh that’s fine, you’re pregnant, rest! And the conversation hasn’t just changed in the workplace.
It took me something like 10 years to get diagnosed with endometriosis (the chronic condition I have been referring to). 10 years I was going to the doctor complaining of debilitating pain. I was dismissed over and over again. Even once I was diagnosed it was a battle to get any treatment. Although I was living with a long-term health condition that effected my entire life, I constantly felt like I was the lowest on the list of priorities when it came to medical care. Once I got pregnant the change in this was dramatic. I felt anxious, I was fast tracked for therapy, I felt tired, I was tested for low iron, I felt pain, I got a same day appointment. Once again… This is all great, but why has taken having another human being dependent on my health for them to prioritise it? Not the years of chronic illness or anxiety?
It doesn’t matter that women are unable to reach their potential in their jobs and have diminished quality of life due to lack of medical research or support. We aren’t valued enough for that. Clearly, we are valued on our ability to make babies. That’s when our health becomes important. Very soon, I am not going to be pregnant anymore. People tell me to ‘make the most of having the excuse’ but instead of that, I’d like to not have to have an excuse. From now on, I value my health, if I need a day off I’ll take it, If I need help, I’ll ask for it and my ‘excuse’ will be that I deserve to be well.