The latest in the What It’s Like To Be Retired series, chronicling day to day life as an early retiree. How pregnancy has ushered in a new chapter to retirement life (the good, the bad, and the Cheerios).
When I retired over a year ago, I had plenty of ideas of how retirement would play out. There would be fulfilling projects to work on, more time for friends, and leisurely excursions out to explore the best city in the world (and particularly all its culinary delights). I got a few things wrong about how it actually turned out, but after I went through a transition phase I ended up by and large with something not entirely alien to what I had been envisioning.
Well. Life: it’s a-changing.
Somewhere in my life plan with the Hubs there are supposed to be kids. And so on some distant level I was aware that at some point during my retirement I would need to get pregnant because, biology. The thing is, I had some pretty naive assumptions about how pregnancy would fit into my daily life. That is to say, I had made no accommodation for pregnancy in my daily life. I’d do all my normal things, just with a bigger belly! I’d make time for doctor’s appointments and reading parenting books and decorating a nursery, but they’d just be an extra ‘side project’ along with the rest of my schedule!
Well, I’m pregnant. And it’s decided it’s not just going to be a ‘side project.’
Here’s how my life has changed.
Pregnancy and Retirement
A Day In The Life of A Retired 20-Something:
- Mimosas and eggs benedict at a late Sunday brunch.
- Cute outfit
- Meet friends for a walk along the river
- Write a few blog posts
- Build a new spreadsheet for a potential rental (for fun)
- Stay up late playing video games
A Day In The Life of A Retired, Pregnant 20-Something:
- Cereal at home. On the occasional restaurant outing, stick to water. Frantically google phrases like “ham safe pregnancy?” “hollandaise sauce safe pregnancy?”. Order a lovely piece of steak and ruin it by requesting it well done.
- Wear your home t-shirt and shorts out. If it’s a nicer restaurant, change the shorts out for something with an actual zipper and a button.
- Laugh uproariously at the idea of walking for more than 10 minutes in the humid summer heat. Invite friends to a meal out instead, where you repeat bullet one. Or eschew friends in favor of laying on your couch and scrolling through pregnancy forums, getting increasingly wound up by others complaining about their nausea/cramps/weird pains.
- Open your word document to start writing and get hit by a sudden wave of tiredness. Nap on the couch and wake up to a blank document. Hmmm.
- Spreadsheets. Hah. I have the concentration of a lemming right now.
- Lights out at 9:30. Sometimes 9. Okay fine, also occasionally 8:30.
I’ve learned quickly about the the pregnancy trifecta: nausea, tiredness, and headaches. For the first few hilarious weeks, this was my quandary:
- Nausea comes. I can combat nausea by eating something to make it go away, but then I’d gain more than the recommended weight.
- Headache comes. It might be dehydration and I should drink water, but the taste of tap water makes me nauseous.
- Tiredness comes. I could take a nap, but then I’d wake up with a wicked post-nap headache, partially induced by dehydration. So I could fix the tiredness in exchange for a headache and immediate nausea from drinking water upon waking.
We’ve figured out a few tricks of the trade, but those first weeks were a doozy.
What This Means For My Retirement: On Happiness vs. Joy
Overall, pregnancy has made me reconsider how I view a successful retirement. If you’re pregnant and working, and you get through the day, you are a success no matter how miserably you felt through the experience. You are achieving your objective of bringing home the bacon and your objective of bringing a baby into the family. But how do you think about things when your ‘job’ of retirement is all about maximizing the enjoyment you feel? My day is heavily impacted by the nausea, tiredness, and headaches. So at the end of a day as a retired person, am I successful because I’m through one more day of pregnancy (which I chose) or am I unsuccessful because, honestly, I didn’t feel much enjoyment throughout the day?
It reminded me that there is a difference between joy and happiness. To me, joy is about feeling fulfilled. It may not be about feeling the absolute best in the moment, but working on and progressing towards something which is meaningful and fulfilling.
Happiness, on the other hand, is fleeting. It is about enjoyment of the present moment.
When I retired, my job was obviously to maximize both in the way that best suited my tastes. I could easily blend my activities to achieve the mix I wanted of deeper fulfillment and momentary pleasure. With pregnancy, I’ve been forced to think more closely about the trade-off, and my tools for blending the two have been blunted. Honestly, I could do with a little less joy and a little more happiness (read that as a little less nausea). Unfortunately, the baby is kind of an all-or-nothing deal and I can’t take an 80% pregnancy with only 80% of the nausea. I suppose I think of it more as chapters now instead of taking a single day as the measurement for my retirement. Right now I’m working on a chapter that’s mostly about fulfillment. And hopefully in a few weeks, these symptoms will abate and I’ll be able to move onto another chapter with a slightly different mix of happiness and joy.
Already – thankfully – I’ve seen signs of improvement. I got through three days in a row without a nap. I only felt the nausea for a small window in the afternoon and evening. Still, it affects my plans. I certainly don’t want to sign up for anything adventurous in case I feel like death when the event rolls around. The summer heat keeps me mostly indoors as it exacerbates the nausea and the tiredness. But overall, we’re ecstatic. Because we got to see the baby in our first ultrasound, and hear its heartbeat. And that was. So. Cool.
We are told that the second trimester is much better, and boy have I already rolled out the red carpet for it to come along. The husband couldn’t be a better support than he already is, going to the grocery store at 9pm to get me half a dozen cucumbers when I decided I had to pickle and eat them immediately and then getting rid of the sight, smell, and any traces of cucumbers in the house just three days later when I decided cucumbers were disgusting. Yeah, pregnancy.
The effect of pregnancy on my retirement were certainly unexpected, but we’re rolling with it. I have a feeling it will all be worth it. Look for exciting posts about the costs of raising children while retired. Coming soon!