New reality requires action

New reality, call for action

It was a shock. First, weird and then a shocking realisation. Not so much the news of the pregnancy; this was surprising but not unexpected, as we were planning to expand our three-member family- dog included. 

The school doctor prohibited me from continuing working due to the high risk of infection from the coronavirus, a decision taken by the Senate of Berlin for teachers. But the long-term work abstention due to my pregnancy and the covid-19 pandemic had a substantial impact on my psychology, one that I did not forecast. Due to the typical early pregnancy symptoms, nausea and tiredness, I thought that I was lucky I didn’t have to wake up early anymore and spend eight hours in a very noisy and full of stimuli environment, such as a school is. I was grateful to lie all day on my couch with my eyes closed and in complete silence, trying to overcome the first-trimester sickness. 

After years of full-time working weeks, when weekends seem to be the light at the end of a never-ending tunnel, the paradise awaiting at the end of yet another chock-full week, I had to deal with a brand-new to me reality. I needed to edge out my daily routine -wake up, wash, dress, coffee, commute, coffee, work, coffee, meetings and emails, coffee, back home, tired- and do whatever takes my fancy. Shocking. However, my new reality included disagreeable feelings, as my body was getting accustomed to hosting a new human being. So not a variety of choices for enriching my new life. This novel reality was initially welcomed, only before my anxiety kicked in, ‘And what am I supposed to do with all this time in my hands?’. 

As my work ban started in June with the summer break and our already carefully planned holidays beginning soon, there was not adequate time to ponder my future as a stay-at-home-pregnant-woman. The real shock started in August with the commencement of the new school year, of which I was not a part after several years of welcoming students in their new class. Or before that, getting ready for the new academic year in the university as a student. There was always something, work or study related to August-September. But this year was by far different for me, with no job, a gradually growing mummy tummy and lots of free time. Lots. And now? 

For a long time after that, I was under the impression that I was cheating the system by staying at home, that I was doing something wrong, that people criticise me for getting pregnant amidst a pandemic and therefore having to stop working in a virus-risk environment, while they had to. As a naturally active and involved person, I was feeling lost. I was feeling guilty and on the wrong side of things. Like I did not have any legal right to pause from work due to specific circumstances. How could I relish my free time? At the same time, I was trying to rid myself of such thoughts and rationalise an already rational decision inside me. Is it society that has made us believe that even justified absence from work is inappropriate and has planted inside our minds guilts, or was it just my mind trying to get used to this new perspective? Or both? 

For me, pregnancy was not the most significant change in my life at that moment, but having free weekdays that are paid by my employer, as usually, month in month out. Well, that was a first.

Priding myself, though, as a resourceful person, I was determined to use this skill to make the best out of this gift of duty-free, fully paid time. And I want to believe that I did the best I could at that time. No reason to waste my time drowning in guilts. It was finally time to explore my passions, skills, improve my personal and social relationships, be a good friend and enjoy it all. And maybe find a way to channel this optimistic vibe to others; so many ideas and so much time. This break was worth it.

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