Am I crazy? Perhaps. But, regardless, I have continued to travel for my job throughout my third trimester. I scheduled myself to stay feet-on-the-ground for the four weeks before my due date, but up until then, there is work to do and that work sometimes requires getting on an airplane.
It is possible to travel for work while seven months pregnant, but some days are prettier than others... Well, let's be real, pregnant or not, I almost always travel dressed as the person on the right.
I am a fundraising and leadership consultant with The Episcopal Church Foundation. I get such joy from supporting my clients in envisioning their future and helping them realize those dreams through trainings and/or customized plans. My clients are churches, dioceses, and camp/conference centers around the United States, and there are points in our work together when a conference call just won't cut it. So, I go visit them.
Things I have learned during this month of very-pregnant-travel:
- People, even strangers, love to take care of a pregnant lady. "How are you doing?" "Do you need to sit down?" "Can I carry that for you?" "Let me grab that bag from the overhead compartment for you." In a normal travel situation, no one would even look at me twice, much less offer to help me. I am no longer Anonymous Traveler A; I am a celebrity, a spectacle. I am a (stubbornly) self-sufficient person, so letting people love on me has been something I have been conscientiously working on.
- Preboarding a plane is the best idea I have had in a long time. It is easy -- you don't even have to ask for permission. The gate agent calls "Let's preboard all passengers needing a little extra time or assistance in getting down the jetway," and you just show up with your pregnant self and your ticket. It allows for a peaceful boarding process in which you are not rushing to stow carry-ons, and if you are flying Southwest, it lets you snag an aisle seat to facilitate all of those bathroom trips.
- Swelling is a real problem. I was presenting at a workshop over the course of three days a few weeks ago, and the half-size larger than normal flats I had bought the week before suddenly no longer fit. My ankles and feet were lapping over the edges. Intellectually, I knew this would happen, but emotionally, I was not ready. Carry some form of blister blocker stick to rub on and be sure to bring some attractive-enough sneakers as a back-up.
- Pack all important things within reach in your carryon. Reaching down becomes a problem as your baby grows, so just remember that as you pack the bag you plan to place under the seat in front of you. If your work bag is sitting on the floor of the plane at your feet, it is no longer possible to reach that lipgloss, gum, or protein bar that slid to the bottom of the bag; just don't even try.
- Yoga or stretching helps SO MUCH. Walking through airports, stranding during presentations, cramming into airport seats, and driving distances in rental cars can take a bigger toll on your body than your normal routine does. Pack a lacrosse ball or other type of roller and run your feet on it as you brush your teeth. Wake up a few minutes early to do modified sun salutations (no upward-facing dog or cobra!). Do legs up the wall on your hotel bed before going to sleep. A little self-care can go a loooooong way to minimizing your discomfort.
- Remember to be mindful about what you ingest. Drink lots of water -- travel already dehydrates a normal person and your pregnant water-intake needs are already higher than average. Eat small and eat often. Don't gorge on the buffet line or mid-afternoon cookie bar just because it is there and you are ravenous. (Trust me from personal experience, it will come back to bite you!) Eat smaller meals and stash healthy and satisfying snacks in your bag to keep your energy up and your heartburn down. If you are struggling with heartburn in your pregnancy, pack Tums in your suitcase AND in your work bag. They are lifesavers! (And the mixed berry flavor isn't terrible.)
- Enjoy that hotel bed! As my belly grows, it is becoming increasing difficult to sleep well. Our queen bed, which was just fine before the pregnancy, is now sometimes a bit too snug for my husband and me to sleep in comfortably. If your pets sleep with you, I imagine the situation is even more dire for you at home. Get the room with the king bed. Surround yourself in pillows like a big, supportive cocoon. Turn the A/C down to a ridiculously cold degree. Sleep like a baby -- with your baby and only your baby.
- Realize your limitations and know that they have shifted. I pride myself on being a fit and able-bodied person, and it has been SO hard to admit that I do need to rest or that I should not walk any further or that I need extra time. I cannot haul a** through the Atlanta airport from terminal A to E in fifteen minutes anymore, and it took me a moment to accept that... Riding the train between terminals is not a weakness...Riding the train between terminals is not a weakness...Riding the train between terminals is not a weakness... If you see me quietly chanting that mantra to myself the entire ride as I rub my pregnant belly, just look away.
- But, remember also that you are not helpless. You can still do so many of the things you did before becoming pregnant. You are still the smart, capable professional you were before a baby started growing inside you, so don't back down or sell yourself short just because people see you as more fragile or different now. You didn't become helpless. If anything, you are stronger... just with some physical limitations.
- Leaving home might get harder each time. I started crying the last time I went to say good-bye to my husband, which never happens, as I do love traveling to visit my clients. Blame it on the shifting hormones, blame it on the increasingly poor sleep, blame it on what you will, but be prepared to feel differently about leaving than you normally do -- especially if you have a partner, other babies, or a fur baby staying home without you.
- Finally, do not fear the unwanted belly touching. In my experiences while traveling, strangers and new acquaintances do not touch you as much as rumor has it. I really have had only about three people touch my belly uninvited so far, and they are people I know quite well. So, while moms frequently warned me about the touching when out in public, I have not experienced it while traveling or at home.
Bottom line for third trimester travel: You can do it. Make adequate preparations, take care of yourself, and know that it won't be exactly the same as it was before. But, hey, that should probably be your mindset from here on out... From what I hear, it won't get any easier once baby arrives!