Pregnancy Brain + Writer's Block--The Unexpected Woes of Writing While Pregnant
Updated: Sep 8
"Finish your book before you have kids, or you'll never do it!"
How I've dreaded hearing these words. Pregnancy brain and writer's block. The answer is yes, they are both a thing--and boy have I experienced both throughout my first pregnancy. My dedicated writing routine remained intact and safe when I first found out the news I was expecting. I’d been fueled by the giddiness of finding out: “I’m officially a mom now. I’m going to be a bad ass mom who writes a book and can cope with pregnancy.” By week eight through twelve morning sickness rendered me bed-ridden, vision swayed when walking across the kitchen, and lit screens triggered photosensitivity similar to what I experience with migraines.
The following is a brief description of pregnancy brain from the perspective of a pregnant woman who makes no claim to being a medical professional. Pregnancy brain, also referred to as “momnesia” is the result of neurons in an expecting mother’s brain being affected by high surging levels of progesterone and estrogen. The culprit of course is always hormones. Another frustrating side effect of raging hormones is lack of sleep, which definitely contributed to my cell phone ringing from the inside of my refrigerator more times than I’m willing to admit. Another time, my frozen yogurt melted on top of the dryer–an unfortunate incident I didn't notice until my cat was licking little white globs from her whiskers an hour or so later.
Now take all of that and add it to your occasional bout of writer’s block you experience. Unless you’re the writer out there who claims, “Writer’s block is a myth, it’s not real.” To which I respond: “Well, congratulations to you [insert the name that annoys you most here] and your unparalleled confidence in your own writing. I don’t share that sentiment.”
Fast forward to my second trimester, also known as (mercifully also in my case) the “honeymoon period” and I’m back to feeling a little more myself minus the expected aches and pains. My desktop and laptop screens no longer blind me and I’m back to a writing routine. Not the same caliber of output from before, but enough to ease my dread of having gaps in progress on my passion project. Let me pause a minute to say thank the LORD for NaNoWriMo.org. My approaching due date means there’s no way I’ll be participating in national novel writing month in November this year. A tradition I don’t ever miss even though this leads to me habitually finding excuses to redraft sections of my book. It’s all thanks to the existence of Camp NaNoWriMo. Surprisingly, this was my first Camp NaNoWriMo (July 2023) that I won with a self-imposed fifty-thousand-word count goal. Sure, I had an extra twenty-four hours to complete this goal because there’s an extra day in July versus November but after an entire trimester of struggling to scribble notes on paper, it felt good.
Actually, it felt great.
At this point in my pregnancy, I am in my third trimester and have encountered a few more pregnancy woes. There are a few new ones and a few I recognize from a few months ago. If you've read this far, here's where I answer your inevitable question:
"Good for you but why should I care?"
To be honest, it may not be a topic of much interest, but instinct brought me back to my keyboard after a lengthy pause on blogging in general for the following reasons:
Online searches for articles or blogs on the topic are far and few between
Online communities of expecting mothers aren’t very populated by authors
The world is vast, especially online and maybe—just maybe I’m not the only one web searching for advice on the matter. Maybe the way to find the answers I’m looking for is to offer some answers in return. The answers I have to offer, are the ones I have to the following question:
"How did you manage to write during the pregnancy woes?"
Every pregnancy is different but every single one is going to come with sick days. Don’t bully yourself on days you should be sleeping off nausea, fatigue, aches, pains, etc.
Actually take every family member, friend or writing buddy’s advice when they tell you “be kind to yourself.” Any amount of writing you manage—whether hand-written scribbles or entire pages on your word processor—is progress well earned.
Ditto accepting the reminder that you’re literally making another human being. Prioritize rest or you’ll end up like me and wake up to five pages full of “w’s” on your word processor because you fell asleep at your keyboard. That doesn't count as progress.
Our stories evolve and go through changes just as we do in life. It’s ok if pregnancy is slowing progress. Your story—a life partner you’ve invested in up until now—will wait for you.
Outlines, even chicken-scratch ones, are great for storing ideas to flesh and write out later. I have pages in my journal of scene-by-scene lists that are how I want them to be, and I’ll draft them between doctor’s appointments and planning for my baby.
Take full advantage of the second trimester “honeymoon period” if you’re blessed with it. Mine lined up with Camp NaNo’s July session (while I was sick and traveling throughout the April session) and I made a ton of progress with a self-imposed challenge.
Don’t stop going to your critique group even if you have nothing to bring. My inner critic and my raging hormones have banded together to bring me down and frequently seeing writing other than my own has helped quiet them both.
Read a good book during your sick days and moments of pregnancy brain or writer’s block. Analyzing good writing helps immensely as both a distraction from the stress of not being able to write and a break for much needed inspiration.
Maybe I’ll follow up this post with another once my baby is here. The next phase of motherhood that involves my intensive schedule revolving around my newborn. Though this inevitably prompts the question for me:
"Where do I go from here?"
Well, maybe into further self-contemplation or start a search to connect with other writers in my community who are mothers themselves. Maybe publishing this blog post to the world wide web will cast a line someone will be willing to catch. Who knows? Maybe I need look no further than my critique group for some ‘motherly’ advice. No, I’m not sorry I made that pun. Puns are the sprinkles upon the soul I cherish and shower upon others whether they enjoy them or not.
The pregnancy woes certainly prove a hindrance when it comes to a writer’s creativity but, in my experience, it's not an obstacle that can’t be overcome. I questioned if I should write this blog post at all, but in retrospect I’m glad I did. Maybe there’s something in my above post someone needed to see. Maybe whoever reads this has something I desperately need to see. If any mothers out there have advice to share, I’m eagerly awaiting the comment notification bell to go off on my blog. Leave me a comment even if you’re in the same, confused boat I am and let’s talk about it!
Until next time, from the Writing Nook!