We joke about it. My clients privately, laughingly, refer to embarrassing or unfamiliar lapses in memory and forgetfulness. At work, they do everything they can, not to accept its existence and carry on “as normal.”
Designed we believe, to be an asset during childbirth and the period leading up to this event, it’s not perhaps immediately obvious how a change in brain function can help in a work environment – where deadlines, details and discipline are the norm.
But what about looking at the right-brain derived opportunities for more creativity, growth and inspiration?
It can appear reasonably early in pregnancy, later for some, or apparently, not at all; although from the reading and research I have done, it appears everyone who is pregnant, has pregnancy hormones which slow down left-brain activity. Making it physically harder and less natural, however smart you are, to maintain focus on the logical, rational and the detail.
One of my most inspirational clients was one who told me that during her pregnancy she experienced the strongest sense of calm. After her baby arrived this feeling continued and when she returned to work her colleagues loved her serene and soothing presence.
When meetings were getting heated or reaching a impasse she would offer insights that just seemed to naturally flow into her consciousness. She stopped worrying, focusing and getting caught up in the details and the “why not’s”, and opened up to the solutions and the “let’s try this”. Because of her strong desire to be a mother and her overwhelming instinct to protect her unborn child she had no desire for conflict and less attachment to the outcome.
This isn’t to say she didn’t care. Not at all. She was passionate, loyal and committed to her team and her company, but was open to the transition and the changes she was going through and excited as to what was starting to unfold.
As a result so were her team and she was a valued member throughout her pregnancy and on her return to work less than six months after becoming a mother.
She was and still is, a happily high flying, successful mother of one and she planted the seed for me that we are missing a trick when it comes to pregnancy and overlooking “The Pregnancy Advantage” that women can experience and colleagues can enjoy – especially in business. It’s not to say she doesn’t have to make compromises, that changes have not needed to be made but her pregnancy and transition to motherhood was seen as something to be enjoyed and cherished.
In her latest book Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Happier Life, Arianna Huffington says: “Too many of us leave our lives – and, in fact our souls, behind when we go to work. Our current notion of success.. was put in place by men, in a workplace culture dominated by men. But it’s a model of success that’s not working for women and, really, it’s not working for men either.”
In a recent meditation program, Arianna shared her thoughts that quite often “women, in particular, feel they have to work harder and longer that men in their field, in order to prove their worth.” I’ve certainly been told by many of my clients that this is how they feel, especially during their pregnancy. In order to succeed they suppress more feminine associated traits but this is very tricky to maintain during a pregnancy.
For the career women I support who work in a predominantly male environment, maintaining their “intelligence”, their focus, their ability to perform is what matters. A tough call when your brain activity is changing.
Sheryl Sandberg in Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead says: “For some women, pregnancy does not slow them down at all, but rather serves to focus them and provides a firm deadline to work towards.” She cites her childhood friend who “never felt so productive” but admits for her “pregnancy is very difficult, making it impossible to be as effective as normal. She suffered very badly with morning sickness.
My experience is when women become pregnant, aside from the physical changes, their brain function does change – but this can be a gift.
A recent observation by Deepak Chopra that “Our future depends on spirituality and science working together” echoes the principles written over 20 years ago in his book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success – A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your Dreams which I feel sums up the new way we need to be looking at success, business and personal paths to happiness.
Deepak says: Success in life could be defined as the continued expansion of happiness and the progressive realization of worthy goals. Success is the ability to fulfill your desires with effortless ease. And yet success, including the creation of wealth, has always been considered to be a process that requires hard work and it is often considered to be at the expense of others. We need a more spiritual approach to success and affluence, which is the abundant flow of all good things to you. With the knowledge and practice of spiritual law we put ourselves in harmony with nature and create with carefreeness, joy and love.
Obstetrician, Dr Amali Lokugame discovered in her own pregnancy and cited in her book, Heart in the Womb that pregnancy hormones can “open a portal into greater right-brain activity, which offers women amazing gifts of consciousness that are normally suppressed in everyday modern life. Contemporary women often rebel against this state of mind, as it is particularly difficult to succumb to it whilst working and it is not well supported by modern society. There are cognitive therapies aimed at facilitating this consciousness through practice and conscious effort; however, nature itself endows this state to pregnant women – if only they are able to surrender to it.”
Whether you want to look at accessing your right-brain creative thoughts as connecting to spirit, source or just your own innate wisdom the bottom line is there are breakthroughs to be made.
As the imbalance of men and women in the City is being addressed with a reported Surge in women on bank boards after the credit crisis and Women now making up one fifth of top UK boardrooms I believe we need to really understand and work with the physiological and psychological changes that occur in pregnancy and see them as an advantage and of benefit to all, especially where we are trying to ensure gender diversity. Embrace these changes rather than try to hide them.
I would like to propose some new models and learn more of the current challenges that you face whether you are an individual planning on having a baby, a corporate organization involved in gender diversity and retaining your key women or are currently pregnant and working in a corporate environment or on maternity leave.
I am on a mission right now to help change the way we view and perceive pregnancy and motherhood particularly in the City of London. To encourage a greater understanding of the valuable contribution, both emotionally and commercially, women can make if we are able to be more flexible in our working arrangements and truly see the untapped power and skill set of the pregnant and mother mind.
If this is something you feel interested or passionate about join me in late May and early June for Lisa Barnwell presents “Bumps in the Boardroom”, a global conversation on the Pregnancy Advantage for Business.