Her Lawyer founder Courtney Bowie describes her struggles with hyperemesis gravidarum (severe morning sickness) while pregnant and running a business…
2019 is shaping up to be a big year here at Her Lawyer, and for more reasons than one. My husband and I are thrilled to be welcoming a baby boy in September!
The last couple of months have been some of the happiest of my life, but also some of the most difficult. Let me explain why…
At 6 weeks pregnant, I ended up in the Emergency Department after 24 hours of uncontrolled vomiting, dehydrated and in ketosis. That night, I was diagnosed with a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG).
If you were a client on the receiving end of a sudden “Could I just pop you on hold for a moment?” mid phone call, now you know why!
What is hyperemesis gravidarum?
I imagine most of you reading this are familiar with hyperemesis gravidarum, but just in case you aren’t, it’s a condition that causes constant nausea and vomiting in pregnant women, sometimes until (or even after!) they give birth. The last 7 weeks have been some of the toughest of my life, especially given the fact that I run my own business. I’ve written this blog in the hopes that sharing my struggle might help others to keep going, even when it seems impossible.
Here are my 5 tips for how to run a business while you’re suffering with hyperemesis gravidarum:
1. Get plenty of rest
This is true not just for HG sufferers, but for all pregnant women. You’re going to need a lot more rest than you used to. Even I – a prolific sleeper – have had to get used to needing more than my usual 10 hours a night.
Time to stop burning the midnight oil (if you’re a night owl, don’t expect yourself to be jumping out of bed for a dawn run anytime soon).
We all know that sleep is critical for health and for optimum performance (just ask Arianna Huffington), but it seems to be the thing that we constantly let slide. Not this time. There’s no time for down time like when you’re constantly queasy. Plus, when you’re asleep you’re not vomiting!
I’ve put sleep at the top of this list because without enough rest, you won’t be able to think clearly enough to implement any other changes that could help you on your journey.
2. Lean on your team
Now is the time to stress test the support system you’ve built up around you in your business. You’re going to need to rely on your team to take some of the weight of the business off your shoulders. That will most likely be achieved by delegating – either by increasing workloads, expanding roles or even hiring or finding temporary support.
If you’ve done the ground work and have a team of people happy and excited to come to work, they should be happy to help out. Think of it as a chance for them to grow in their role and demonstrate their value to the business.
Just don’t forget to explain what’s happening, why the changes are necessary and manage expectations, as well as give your heartfelt thanks for the extra support.
If you don’t have a team at work (or even if you do), it’s time to lean in (or on) people at home. You’re going to need more support from your loved ones as you adjust to your physical limitations. This might mean a re-shuffling of chores or asking for help from other family members. Now is not the time for a brave face. Your loved ones want to help you. Let them.
3. Adjust your schedule
Part of the reason many of us go into business for ourselves is to have more flexibility. And yet, we often find ourselves slaves to the business, working harder and longer hours than we ever have as an employee. It’s a paradox that’s almost funny in its irony. That is, until you find out you have HG.
Adjusting your schedule to actually take advantage of the “flexibility” of owning your own business is as much about a change of mindset as a change of calendar entries.
Try to figure out when you feel your best and worst and plan your work schedule around those ups and downs. Don’t be overzealous with it – if things change, be open to going with the flow.
4. Be realistic
You’re a go getter. A dreamer, even. It takes guts and a leap of faith to start your own show. But when you’re this sick, you’ve got to be a lot more realistic about what you can achieve right now. Your plans to disrupt your industry or take over the world might have to go on the backburner for a little while.
Knowing this is one thing. Accepting it is another. You’re a high achiever. The backburner is not familiar territory for you. It takes work to lower your own expectations of yourself, but you need to do it for the sake of your health. Trust me – if you’re setting goals for yourself beyond what you can realistically physically achieve, you’re setting yourself up for constant disappointment.
Break your big, lofty goals down into smaller, bite-sized chunks. Give yourself 3 things you need to achieve every day that will bring money into your business or help to move it forward in another way. Let the rest go. Accept that your to-do list is going to be unconquered for a while. It’s OK, you’re not going to be pregnant forever.
5. Share your struggles
Part of my reason for writing this blog has been entirely selfish. I need the catharsis of writing about my own experiences and sharing them with you.
Hyperemesis gravidarum can make you feel incredibly isolated and lonely. If you struggle with anxiety and depression like me, this is a recipe for disaster. Reaching out is really important to stop the spiral.
Share your struggles with family, friends, colleagues, even clients. There’s also amazing support online. The internet is amazing for its ability to connect people all over the world with common interests (or in this case, illness). And perhaps most important of all – don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help. There’s no shame in asking for help if you feel like you aren’t coping.
So that’s it…
Being a business owner is hard. It’s also rewarding and amazing, but at times, it just seems really, really hard. Being a business owner and being pregnant is harder. Being a pregnant business owner with hyperemesis gravidarum is even harder. I think it’s important to realise that even though we’re lucky to have our own business and blessed to be expecting a little one, it can also be one hell of a struggle.
My final words of wisdom
The main learning I hope to impart (as much as to me as to you) is to try to be kind and gentle to yourself. You’re a high achiever. You wouldn’t have your own business if you weren’t. You have high expectations of yourself. Now is the time to lower those.
Work hard to come to terms with the fact that your business goals now have to share time, space and energy with your health and the needs of your baby. Once you can do that, you’ll reduce your stress levels, which is good for you, good for business and good for your baby.