How does pregnancy affect writing? Over the past few months, I have done a lot of research online, but have not found many articles on this topic. I’ve included links at the bottom of this post for the few that I found helpful, but thought I’d post my own as a bit of information on what to expect for mama-to-be authors out there needing advice.
With the cocktail of HCG (Human chorionic gonadotropin), progesterone and estrogen doing a number on your body in early pregnancy, it can be hard to stick to a writing schedule. If you’re one of the unlucky women to have morning sickness, there might only be one thing on your mind: throwing up your breakfast, not writing up a storm. Even nausea can be all-consuming, leaving little time for writing; I spent more time being queasy and sensitive to smells by day and fatigued by night. Not a lot gets accomplished: work, household chores, socialising – or writing.
What tip helped me? Whenever I found myself lacking the energy to write something new, I re-promoted something old: a previously published poem or story, or a published collection. This way, I was still being involved with writing, even if I wasn’t actually crafting anything fresh.
Just when you think you can say goodbye to nausea, a whole host of new symptoms set in, making writing take a back seat again. Progesterone production ramps up even more, causing ‘baby brain’: what some women attribute to their feelings of forgetfulness. It has been scientifically proven that a pregnant woman’s brain loses grey matter, with a significant impact in her first pregnancy; here’s a study done by Science News if you don’t take my word for it. But how does this affect writing? The loss of grey matter doesn’t directly relate: it’s more for increasing the mother-baby bond. Less is more, after all. But the increase in female hormones causing is more to blame; mood swings, physical changes including the start of a baby bump and round ligament pain can be distracting. Personally, I found myself at the library reading pregnancy books or Googling new symptoms rather than writing. Just as I thought I’d got the whole pregnancy-thing figured out, and had started a writing routine again towards the end of my second trimester, the third trimester hit giving a big batch of writer’s block.
What tip helped me? Even if I was becoming too distracted by a mind wandering onto ‘anomaly scans’ and looking up new words such as ‘lanugo’ and ‘vernix caseosa’, I made sure to spend time reading through manuscript drafts and adding notes to margins. This took a lot less brain-power and was more manageable for a dwindling attention span than writing something fresh.
Ah! The home stretch. Should be easy, right? Not so. First trimester fatigue returns with a vengeance, as do multiple trips to the loo, especially overnight, thanks to a heavy baby bump bearing down on one’s bladder. Sleeping becomes a problem as it’s hard to get comfortable when you’re dealing with pelvic pain and a beachball-sized belly. Insomnia plus reduced caffeine leads to poor concentration and grumpiness, which isn’t a great recipe for writing success.
What tip helped me? Chipping away. I got a sense of accomplishment at even writing a paragraph. A little was better than nothing and after all, just like a 9 month pregnancy, writing is a marathon, not a sprint.
Links to other pregnancy articles for authors:
Pregnancy and the Writer’s brain
[…] a novel from scratch during either antenatal or postnatal periods (see my post from 8 June 2017 on writing during pregnancy: baby brain and writer’s block for more on this). I had thankfully written the meat of my novel before pregnancy, so fine tuning […]