It’s official: I’ve entered the Uncomfortable Stage of pregnancy. After breezing through the first and second trimesters with (nearly) nary a whimper, the third trimester dawned with a triumverate of complaints: my back hurts, my ribs hurt, and I have to remain in a locked and upright position for two hours after a meal or else be destined to taste it all again, if you know what I mean.
At work, the staying-upright part is pretty easy, mostly due to the fact that no one has yet installed the hammock I’ve been requesting for years only half-jokingly, but the other two ailments—the back and rib pain—are causing me quite a bit of trouble. I have a desk job that on most days keeps me in my chair for the duration (save lunch and bathroom breaks and trips to the water cooler), and most of that time is spent reading for hours-long stretches, either on the computer screen or on a hardcopy manuscript on my desk. In the past, this arrangement has really appealed to the lazy part of my personality, but these days I think being sedentary in this particular way is only aggravating my already taxed bodyparts.
By noon every day, my ribs hurt so bad I can barely breathe. By 1 p.m. my back aches not just when I waddle to and from the restroom but while I’m sitting perfectly still with my shoulders down, frame aligned, feet elevated–textbook posture from head to toe. If it’s warm, by 2 p.m. my feet have swollen so much that I need to loosen my shoelaces (or have someone else loosen them for me!). By 3 p.m. I’m wondering if maybe instead of a hammock I should start pushing for an office masseuse. By 4 p.m. I’m counting down the minutes until I can leave, and by 4:30 I’ve reached my limit and am out the door early, on the road, and that much closer to a couch, an icepack, and the freedom to go braless.
How much of this can be solved with the usual office ergonomics overhaul–a reassessment of desk configuration, chair support, monitor height, and perhaps the introduction of wrist braces, pillows, footstools, and a keyboard that looks like a spaceship–and how much of it is just that I’m seven and a half months pregnant and simply no longer capable of keeping up with the already ridiculously low-impact demands of my office job? It can’t be that…can it?
Last week I worked from home two days in a row due to construction in the office (toxic fumes, etc.), and you know what? I felt great. Each morning I curled up awkwardly arranged myself in a big red chair by the fireplace and read for six hours straight (save lunch and bathroom breaks) in my pajamas. I got more done in those two days than I normally would in a week, and I also wasn’t groaning and reaching for the Tylenol by 2 . Fewer distractions (no computer, no coworkers) were a part of that increased productivity, for sure, but I was also so much more comfortable at home and therefore not preoccupied with my pain, or with looking at the clock every three minutes to see if it was time to go home yet. I could lie down if I needed to, step out for some fresh air in the garden if I needed to, take a nap if I needed to…I could breathe.
Obviously, working from home works for me, but considering how sensitive a topic pregnancy can be in the workplace, I’m hesitant to make it a habit (let alone my official M.O.). I don’t want anyone to think I’m demanding special treatment; I don’t want to be seen as a liability or less-than. I still want to do my full-time job and especially to make the most of these last seven weeks before I go on leave, but I worry that if I start fading away early my less-generous and -understanding coworkers will think that I’m just taking advantage of my situation—getting away with things because I can—or that I’m not actually as committed to my job as I profess, or that I’m just being a wimp and a whiner.
On the one hand, this is about pride; I don’t want to people to think I’ve been disabled by my pregnancy (although by some accounts I have been, albeit extremely mildly). On the other hand, I’ve heard the snarky remarks that circulate about other coworkers when they take long vacations or “mental health days” or time off because their childcare center was closed for a week, and I really don’t want anyone talking about me behind my already sore back, especially when I’m not taking advantage or trying to get away with anything, just aiming to be both productive and comfortable.
I’m not used to feeling this vulnerable, this much under the microscope, with so much to defend. Anyone have advice or stories to share?