Upon suspecting I was pregnant, even before hitting the books (including The Healthy Pregnancy Book and mommy-to-be bible What To Expect When You’re Expecting), I knew I’d be breaking up with my favorite, most supportive, most inspiring coworker: Caffeine.
But can’t pregnant ladies have caffeine? Yes, some caffeine, thank god, but it must be limited. Most sources recommend less than 200 milligrams a day. For perspective, an eight-ounce cup of brewed coffee usually contains about 95. But here’s the issue: I like espresso. I like lots and lots of espresso. (Also, I don’t like math.)
So, for the most part, I broke up with caffeine. Luckily, my withdrawal didn’t feature the cornucopia of nasty symptoms many experience, including migraines, mood swings, sleepiness, irritability, lack on concentration. (Correction, in the spirit of full disclosure: I MIGHT have experienced *some* of these symptoms, but refuse to blame them exclusively on my oldest, dearest coworker/ally.)
But I did discover, to my surprise, an entirely different, unforeseen symptom — one that’s lasted far longer, and cut far deeper: My writing routine has suffered. But I truly think it has nothing to do with that bittersweet-percolating-heart-rate-inducing-focus-serum-elixir-of-the-gods. Nope. It has to do with the ritual in attaining and preparing it. It has to do with what I’ve grown to think of as THE THOUGHTFUL PAUSE.
I realize now that what I really needed was the mindless walk to the kitchen, or the stroll to the nearby coffee shop, or, if I was feeling particularly naughty, the quick drive to the really, really good coffee shop. I needed to stand, to move, to escape from that tormenting line on that tormenting page that wasn’t allowing me to move along with the storytelling task at hand. I needed the thoughtful pause.
A dear writing mentor shared that she experienced the same thing in the late ’80s when she decided to really, fully kick smoking cigarettes. She said she realized the experience of peeling the plastic, opening the lid, lifting the perfect cylinder to her lips, lighting up, exhaling, staring aimlessly out of the dirty window — all of it — brought her peace of mind and clarity that had nothing to do with nicotine. It was just a go-to, knee-jerk ritual that allowed her a break, without fully breaking thought. Because you know what really, really doesn’t work? Facebook. Or Twitter. Or perusing other marvelous, fun, informative stuff here on Momtastic. Or phoning a friend. Or watching one (or five) reruns of Frasier or The New Adventures of Old Christine.
Creative work, I’ve found, is like a jealous boyfriend, or a leaky faucet, or a horrible haircut. Ignoring its glaring flaws only allows the problems to escalate, the damage to spread, and, worst of all, if you show it to anyone in its compromised state, asking, desperately, “Is it really as bad as it looks?” they’ll say, “Noooo, of course not,” but mean, “Yes, yes, I’d say it is.”
In a nutshell, creative work can be temperamental, as can pregnant Abbey on deadline, so with my triple grande cappuccino ritual hijacked for now, I’m trying out new tactics. Wish my sleepy self luck.
Did you give up caffeine when you were pregnant?