So you work in the Arts and Events industry and your pregnant……are you fucked?
Brief answer NO! not at all, but being near end of term of my first pregnancy i’d really like to take some time to reassure other artists, creatives and event peeps that it is actually ok to be pregnant AND work in the arts. it can happen! its ok!
Im only writing from my own experience here and one of the most important things to remember is that everybodies pregnancy is different! some people are still doing aerial circus at 7 months whilst others can be banished to the sofa for the duration - its about the pregancy not you and ITS NOT YOUR FAULT!
When i first realised i was pregnant, my first thought was absolute elation….and then total panic. I was in a muddy field, in the middle of a massive build welding bits of metal together in a series of 14hour days. I had a 20ft boat trailer to fully re-build and a 2 tonne steel spaceship to make safe and 6 weeks of full on touring ahead of me. It suddenly felt like I had a clear choice between mine and my emerging babies health or my career, my commitments to every job i’d signed up for and the crew i was working with. An additional stress was a miscarriage earlier in the year, with a possible cause (so somebody felt fit to tell me) of stress or zinc poisoning from welding up said spaceship.
Firstly, miscarriages happen in up to 1 in 5 pregnancies. Unless your drinking really heavily or doing something really dangerous you should never ever blame yourself or what you do, otherwise you will spend each consecutive pregancy in a state of complete and absolute panic. Just follow the basic safety guidlines and research any issues relevant to your particular field.
And i made it. it was a misssion but it was also great! I dont think pregancy should ever stop doing what you love, theres probably just a few extra things to think about.
What to think about first,
Once you get over the initial shock i think its very easy to panic about what you can and can’t do - suddenly the rules have shifted and wine cheese coffee and other lovely things are now your enemy. Try not to worry to much as the rules are constantly changing, just google for a basic list of whats ok and not and then make your own decisions.
With jobs like ours it can quite often feel like suddenly everything we do everyday is dangerous.
Its probably worth writing a list of all the things that make you nervous then research how dangerous you think it might be and how you are going to deal with it. If you worked for an employer they would write a risk assessment for you at your workplace so in a way you are risk-assessing yourself. It can be very frustrating about how little info there can be out there (probably because no one can test stuff on pregnant ladies) but ask friends who have had kids and just use your common sense. if it doesnt feel right, dont do it.
In my case welding, heavy lifting and paint fumes were an issue, Although theres no definite proof anywhere that welding has any issues on the development of the foetus I went and bought a really good respirator anyway. and i wore it (throughout both pregancies ) this covered the paint fumes and dust too, i made an effort not to get too hot and I took more regular breaks.
The first three months,
This can be in some ways the worst bit. you can feel sicker and more tired now than you do until much much later, but common wisdom says you are not supposed to tell anyone your pregnant.
In our industry this can be super tough. We are expected to work long days, do hard physical labour and quite often dont get much time to stop to eat or rest (both vital early on). It can feel like you are going to be unable to work or do anything other than spew up on the sofa for the next 9 months but it really does (in 99%) of cases get better.
For myself i found it easier to tell everyone i was working with that I was pregnant. people can have a mixed reaction to this but frankly fuck them! Your health and your pregnancy is way more important than what somebody else might think of you or your life choices. If people tell you off for telling people early well frankly fuck them too, at the end of the day if your working really closely with a group of people and something does go wrong with your pregnancy, they are going to need to know anyway, because trying to work a high-stress job and struggling through a miscarriage is one of the toughest things you can do ever.
Most people when aware of whats going on will endeavour to help you though this tough bit but it can be hard for people to understand that you are actually pregnant when your bumps not showing. This can be particularly difficult if you are touring or working in a job that involves lugging heavy stuff around. Dont let other peoples attitudes get to you but try and do what you can, where you can. Its hard not to let the pressure from other crew members get to you, you feel your not such a useful member of the team anymore but as someone who decided to do a lot of heavy lifting to keep my crew happy and then ended up with a big pregnancy scare i can honestly tell you its not worth it. If your crew is expecting you to lift heavy shit, they’re arseholes. Do what you can but dont hurt yourself for anyone elses attitude, it is ok.
It gets better,
Personally i found the second trimester loads easier than the first. You generally get a big burst of energy, you’ve had a scan and know alls ok and the sickness wears off. Your bumps also showing so you no longer need to constantly explain/excuse yourself to everyone around you.
i found working in this period really fun, particularly because being self employed meant I could pick my hours, I’d work in 2 hour blocks with a break in between and could often still get loads done. in the latter parts of your pregnancy being freelance can be a total godsend because you can pick and chose your jobs, its easy to be clear with employers beforehand and you can organise your work to suit you. you’ve had time to work out what your personal limits are and you can work around this. if your going a bit slower perhaps adjust your day rate to suit.
This is a good point to start planning your baby related finances. Oddly for the self employed maternity can be financially incredibly stable. Most self-employed women are eligible for 39 weeks of maternity pay at a rate of £139 a week. Even if you’ve made bugger all money over the last few years you will get this as long as you do your tax return and pay your class 2 national insurance for your test period (this is generally the previous year) - in short if you make a NI payment of £160 you get £139 quid a week for 39 weeks. you can owe NI payments or tax later back its all about just covering the test period.
You can apply for maternity pay after 26weeks of pregnancy - you need to get a form from your midwife.
you also get free dentistry and prescriptions - yay!
In addition to this as a Self-Employed person you are probably entitled to working tax credits and housing benefit too - or you will be after baba’s born. Theres also child benefit which everyone is eligable for. this is £20ish a week and again kicks in after you have the baby. A good way to check what you are eligible for is to use an online benefits calculator (like http://www.entitledto.co.uk/benefits-calculator/startcalc.aspx) that give you a rough idea.
The forms are a nightmare if your Self Employed but they are worth it.
The Final Stretch,
The other good thing about maternity pay is that you can get it from roughly 7 months. this can totally save your bacon if you work a physical job but just remember you still only get 39 weeks in total. You can also do 10 days of work throughout your maternity leave, these are called “keep in touch days” and can be really handy!
Personally in the final stretch i’ve had to slow down massively - you just get too big and tired! I worked part-time up to about 33 weeks and now am just doing bits of paperwork, writing stuff like this and planning. It can be really frustrating loosing your physicality but its probably a good lesson in patience for the long haul (right?) its also a good time to think about what you want from work in the long run - oh yeah and have a baby :) good luck with that!