Only Pregnant on Nights & Weekends
I’m at a buzzy party in SoHo as part of NFT NYC week. Everyone is wearing black, or neon. Someone in a corner is making jokes about how to “come out” to your mom about working in web3. Someone else is pushing her friend through the crowd asking everyone if they are the name behind the pseudonymous persona she knows from Twitter.
Having already made the rounds for the evening, I’m making my way slowly toward the door, drink in hand as I try not to collide with others in the dark room. That’s when I feel it coming on — my first Braxton Hicks contraction. I sidle over to a booth in the corner instead with a few other folks deep in conversation.
“Mind if I sit down for a few minutes?” I ask, gesturing toward my belly.
“Of course, of course!” says one of the friends. “Do you have enough room? Are you doing okay?”
“Carry on, I’m fine,” I quickly clarify to the group. “This is my ‘nights and weekends’ pregnancy.” A brief pause. I dive right back in: “Now, tell me: What are you all building in web3?”
There’s a lot of power in the idea of only being pregnant on nights and weekends.
It’s my way of acknowledging that, while yes, I’m still pregnant, no, it’s not the only thing I need to think about. Honestly, it’s kind of freeing.
I’ve noticed we have a tendency to talk about pregnancy like some progressive “sickness” whose worsening symptoms only serve to hold us back for nine months. Fatigue, bloating, cravings, getting bigger, being unable to breathe, being unable to think, and ultimately, being unable to move. Perhaps this perception problem is why the most common question a pregnant woman is asked is not, “How are you doing?” It’s: “How are you feeling?”
Rather than think about pregnancy as an ailment, I prefer to approach it as an opportunity. After all, a pregnant woman receives a unique, nine-month window to test out a new operating mode for herself — no strings attached — followed by a months-long period of reflection and recalibration. Framed this way, pregnancy starts to sound a lot less like a lockdown or a prison sentence and a lot more like a cheat code to leveling up, a startup sprint cycle.
Consider this: If you had a chance to recalibrate your world over nine months, all without fear of anything becoming too permanent, what would you do? Who would you become?
I shook the ice chunks off my boots and dragged my suitcase up a single flight of stairs, jostling the key gingerly.
On the second try, the door hinged open, revealing the “cozy one-bedroom apartment” I’d booked on Airbnb. I left my suitcase idly in the hall as I clocked in on what essentials I’d have at my disposal for the next four nights. A small fridge, a single burner, a few plates and utensils, a heater, and at least three extra blankets tucked inside various drawers. I’d later note in my review that they should probably add a wine opener to their utensils drawer, even though I had no use for it.
My first-trimester food cravings kicked in, and I devoured a granola bar and some cheese my mom made me bring along, then set out to work on locating the closest restaurant that could deliver me Thai food in under 30 minutes, reflecting briefly on what it took for me to take this solo sejour between Christmas and New Year’s.
“We’re really looking forward to seeing you for the holidays,” my mom had said by phone, just a few weeks earlier.
“Absolutely,” I acknowledged. “Lydia will be thrilled to spend time with everyone and her cousin too!”
“I was thinking, maybe on the 27th or the 28th, we could all go downtown to Philly together and see the holiday lights at Macy’s.”
“Actually,” I interjected. “I was kind of hoping to head upstate then.”
“Oh, but we’ll miss you!” she said. “We really want to spend more time with our granddaughter.”
“Well…” I started, trailing off a bit. “I was also hoping I could leave her here with you for a few days.”
“So you want to go on a trip alone? Will Jason be with you?”
“No, he’ll be working back in New York.”
“And you want to leave your daughter here?”
“I just need to get some thoughts in order.”
I unzipped my backpack and dumped the essentials onto the small writing desk table in the room. Laptop. Noise-canceling headphones. Three brand new pens. Two lined notebooks. Then I opened up the Notes app on my phone and scrolled through the list I’d started for myself in between naps on the Amtrak train up to Kingston.
Titled, “Working Sessions,” it included sub-topics ranging from my personal mission statement & values to my business services, personal branding, operations, journaling topics, and a sketch of which project I intended to invest my time into over the next seven months.
After all, all good transformations start with a little bit of planning.
As a journalist by training, I’ve always worked really well with a hard deadline.
So when I got pregnant with my second child, I set my watch ahead nine months, looked at the calendar, and asked: “What can I accomplish by August 1?”
At the time, I’d just moved back to New York after six months abroad, with my husband and 18-month-old. While I was working full-time at an early-stage tech startup, I’d already started dabbling in other areas of interest, including non-profit educational initiatives and the deep rabbithole of web3 and DAOs. I wondered: Can I take the leap to independent work?
By the time that test came in positive in November, I knew I needed to step up to the challenge. It wasn’t “now or never” exactly. But it was “now, or…in two years.” And I wasn’t willing to wait that long.
Within a month, I announced my intentions to scale back my startup job to only 30% time, and I simultaneously aggressively pursued 1–3 other side projects to supplement not only the lost income, but also for extra coverage I’d need by losing out on the benefits of full-time, paid maternity leave. Mind you, this was on top of the requisite first-trimester fatigue that can completely knock the wind out of you.
“Are you sure this is the right time to do this?” a lot of people asked me, over the holidays, 1–2 glasses deep into a bottle of Pinot Noir.
I just sipped my non-alcoholic beer, looked them straight in the eye and asked, “Why not?”
Can we be open-minded to not just give each other permission to survive pregnancy — but to thrive?
Two months later, I’m officially independent.
I’m one week post-COVID, and at my first real tech conference in over two years, in Denver.
“There’s someone I’d like you to meet,” said my new acquaintance, grabbing the arm of a friend who’d been watching the latter half of a chess game happening at the table behind us.
“This is Bethany. She does… well, a little bit of everything. There’s a web3 community project, a non-profit education initiative for the city, a talent marketplace startup…did I get that all right?”
His friend looked at me, open-mouthed and a little confused. “That seems like…a lot of jobs?”
“Oh, and I didn’t mention this earlier,” I laughed, nodding back at the first person while reaching out for the elbow bump. “But technically, it’s four jobs. That is, if you also count the fact that I’m 16 weeks pregnant. Anyway, it’s great to meet you. What do you do?”
I’m giddy and nervous at the thought. But it feels really nice — for once — to operate outside of a label.
Of course, I’d be lying to say it’s been a total breeze to pull off this persona of optimal productivity for so many weeks on end.
Like it or not, there’s a physicality to pregnancy that you sometimes can’t avoid. There have been whole days, whole weeks, even — where I’ve succumbed to nothing more than a pile of mush on the floor, or in the bedroom, unable to fathom the possibility of ever feeling good again. The two weeks we all had COVID at the end of the first trimester. The week-long exhaustion following two back to back conferences that I’d pushed myself a bit too hard to attend. The week the war in Ukraine broke out. The week of the Uvalde shooting. The week Roe v Wade was overturned. The day my husband left town for a month, leaving me and my toddler alone, to make it though my ninth month of pregnancy largely alone.
It was a holiday weekend, which meant no daycare that Monday. Somehow I was already late leaving the house after the babysitter handoff, which quickly snowballed. Twenty mins late to my third trimester prenatal appointment, which meant I missed my first work meeting and showed up late to the second. Eventually I just gave up and went to lunch, but returned too late in time to catch the virtual-parent teacher conference for my toddler. I tried logging in for the last five minutes but of course my headphones failed to connect. I stayed on the line, staring into a daycare classroom I’d never set foot in myself, watching teachers smile and laugh with my husband as the call wrapped, but hearing nothing. The call ended and the screen turned to black. I sat still for a moment, opened a new browser window then quickly booked myself a conference room. I walked in, closed the door, and just sobbed. I didn’t leave that room for the rest of the day.
When I got home at exactly 5 p.m. having barely accomplished anything, I relieved the babysitter and jumped right into cooking dinner for the two of us. Lydia was calmly coloring at her desk, and I relished at least a moment of parallel play. But a few minutes later, I heard whining, pounding on the desk, then all-out tears. I went over to see what was wrong. It turned out that she had been organizing all of her crayons by colors in neat rows on her coloring book. But since the coloring book didn’t lie perfectly flat, after she lined up four crayons in the crease, the fifth crayon slid off the book and onto the floor.
I suggested that she use the table instead since it was an all-flat surface. But another five minutes passed and then she erupted in cries of frustration all over again, pounding on the table again, crayons flying everywhere. I took one look at her red-faced frustration and determination, fresh off my own from all afternoon, then burst into tears all over again.
“The crayons don’t all need to line up perfectly, babe. It’s okay, I promise. You’re doing great.”
At that point I couldn’t tell if I was talking to her anymore. Or to myself.
During my first pregnancy, two years earlier, in an attempt to prove to myself that I wouldn’t let my child-bearing years take away my ambition, I naturally gravitated to a place of quiet productivity nearly every night and weekend.
I’d stay in, not watching TV, but puttering away at side projects and writing, one word at a time. Forty weeks later, when all was said and done, I looked up and realized I’d written nearly 50 essays, totaling some 80,000 words, in addition to conceptualizing, recording, and editing a 10-episode podcast season. This time around, I decided to point my kinetic energy externally, rather than internally.
It makes some sense that pregnancy can lead to greater productivity. We are, after all, walking around with an “extra life” at our disposal, every single second of every single day. We’re pumping extra blood, producing extra immunity, and literally preparing our bodies to nourish and feed another human with only our own bodily fluids. Pregnant women are essentially superheroes walking among us. Seeing as women don’t get a lot of layups in life these days, I say we take whatever competitive advantage we can get.
That’s why I wake up in the mornings and I count the number of weeks remaining in this mode of supreme experimentation. I observe the projects in my sphere of influence as distinct orbs that each draw me in a new direction and hope they will ultimately collide into one more cohesive outcome. But I don’t worry too much about the future. I only need to plan nine months ahead. And until then, my only job, is to go as deep as I can, as fast as I can, until time stops and the whistle blows, letting me know that it’s time to head into the locker room to catch my breath for awhile.
“Will you have a third kid?” people ask me, as if anyone can really know or expect an honest answer to that question when you don’t even have two kids yet.
“Honestly, the hormones are so good, I might do it again just to get another creative peak in my life,” I tell them. I wish I were kidding.
As of today, I’m 37 weeks along with less than two weeks to go until my induction date.
I’m wrapping up three simultaneous work projects, solo parenting my toddler for a month, and still trying to deny the fact that things might in fact be starting to get a little bit uncomfortable. But I still only allow myself to settle into some of those cliched pregnancy woes late at night, and on the weekends. During the work week, I’m on fire.
My unborn daughter has already accompanied me to the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, to an abortion rights rally in Manhattan, and to two major cryptocurrency conferences. She’s listened in on Broadway musicals and board meeting minutes, kicked me onstage throughout two live panel discussions, biked over 20 kilometers with me as I took in tulip fields outside of Amsterdam, attended a high school graduation in the Bronx, and sat with me through countless coffee dates all over NYC.
I’m not going into the next wave of infant care as a denouement moment from a 40-week-long dirge. I’m seeing it as a hard fork from the 100 miles-per-hour pace I’ve been operating at for the better part of a year, a time to let the thoughts settle and jumble around in my head, to give my brain some space to meander, and to come up with something new.
That’s the opportunity we have as child-bearers to lean into this unique period — this nine-month sprint. We can change what we want, move a crazy idea forward, and then give ourselves the space to evaluate and reflect, before diving into what’s next.
As fellow women warriors, we have done a great job reminding each other to have a little self-compassion, to ease up a bit, to let things be as they are, particularly when we are pregnant. But I wonder: Can we be open-minded to not just give each other permission to survive pregnancy — but to thrive?
There just may be a competitive advantage to motherhood. And I suggest we start to use it.