EDITOR’S NOTE: South King Media Founder/Publisher Scott Schaefer serves on the Board of Directors for the Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce.

Pregnant in the Midst of Pandemic

By Renatta Emerson

Right now, the entire world is shifting, stretching, and growing–much like an expectant mother, incubating new life in the womb. People everywhere are experiencing the accompanying range of emotions that cycle between discomfort, hopeful expectation, weariness, excitement, exhaustion, and pain. These are all feelings that hit close to home as I prepare to bring a new child into the world. Many often say running a business is like having a child and, having personally dipped my toes in the entrepreneurial waters, I can attest that your business is your baby.

When Governor Inslee first declared Washington to be under a State of Emergency as a result of COVID-19, I had just recently announced my pregnancy. It has now been 16 weeks since the Governor’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy Order, but those first weeks felt like complete emotional chaos. Like most of our local business owners, I experienced a rollercoaster of responses that I didn’t quite know how to process. Despite this being my third child, being pregnant during a pandemic has brought new and unfamiliar challenges; and though we are 4 months into quarantine life and may have settled into a sort of “new normal” routine, it still feels so much like uncharted territory.

Then, in the midst of all this, came the sudden social unrest with the preceding widespread awareness of our nation’s systemic racial injustice. The resulting media, activism, and discussions–while heartening–have brought an additional level of overwhelm to an already confusing time, especially being a person of color.

People who are pregnant are familiar with the concept of Braxton Hicks contractions–the squeezing of the womb to prepare for the feat of giving birth. It’s a sort of “practice” the body often endures before “true labor.” They can range from barely perceptible to feeling like the real thing. I can’t help but notice the parallel in what our world seems to be been going through in 2020.

During this time my Braxton Hicks (which I’d been experiencing mildly for several weeks) became painful and concerning. Like life around me, the life in me was unsettled and constantly shifting in what felt like violent ways. It became clear that my mental/emotional state was impacting my child–just as the health of a business’s leadership impact the health of that business. And while there’s much talk and advice on the topic of business resiliency, a major factor in this lies in understanding how to be resilient as an individual.

I came to realize there were key tools I needed to apply in order to break out of my cycle of emotion and overwhelm in order to ensure health for me and my baby. Here are a few of the lessons towards personal resiliency that I am continuing to learn during this time, which I hope will be helpful to others nurturing their own babies–both literally and figuratively.

  1. Acknowledge the situation – It’s clear that we are no longer in a time of operating “business as usual.” Acknowledging this is both wise and necessary for advancement in these times. This involves recognizing the good things as well as the challenging. In addition to taking stock of what’s different around us, we have to be aware of our individual internal states. How has your physical and mental health shifted? How have current limitations impacted your ability and capacity for productivity? Purposely take moments to be self-aware, again, looking at your strengths and weaknesses as they currently exist. It’s completely reasonable to put fewer expectations on yourself right now in order to focus on doing what you can with the knowledge and resources you have.
  1. Connect and Seek Help – Identifying our areas of strength enables us to reach out for help for filling in the gaps. Lean on the network of relationships and resources available to you–including that of the Chamber–to aid in supporting your efforts. Since the onset of this pandemic, there’s been a tremendous outpouring of care and generosity in our communities as people recognize we’re all trying to navigate these same tumultuous waters. People want to help! Just as “it takes a village to raise a child,” it takes a team of people who nurture, invest in, and care for a business–and its owner(s)–in order for it to thrive.
  1. Stay Open and Innovate – In order to receive help, you must be open and willing to accept it. Adopting an open mindset is beneficial in so many other ways, such as allowing you to reimagine success, strategize creative ways to pivot, and take advantage of new innovation. By now, we’ve seen countless examples of how people and companies have found clever ways to connect with each other, fill gaps, have fun, and meet needs. This is only possible for those who are open to new thoughts.
  1. Make Time to Recharge – The phrase “self-care” has become a buzz word in the mom world. It’s the idea of making time for your needs as an individual person–separate from the needs of your family. This concept is equally important in the business realm, where owners and leaders typically carry the weight of their staff, team, and stakeholders on their shoulders. It’s as fallacious and dangerous to separate one’s business from their personal wellness as it is to try and separate a developing baby from its mother. The two are inextricably connected. So be sure to care for yourself, so that you are able to put the energy and care into your business.
  1. Practice Patience and Keep Hope – Despite the pandemic, the emotional strain and stress of the unknown, things are still moving forward. Seasons are changing, life continues, and we each still have so much to process and work through. The horizon signaling the end of this pandemic is blurry and ever-shifting. And that’s okay. If there’s one thing mothers and business owners both know, it’s that you never have all the answers. We know that the delivery date will ultimately come. In the meantime, we do the best we can each day.

Personally, I have zero expectations of “going back” to the person and the life I knew 9 months ago. My world is different now. I’m different now. And to me, that’s an exciting thought.

This article was written by Renatta Emerson, the Membership & Programs Manager for Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce, “A voice for business, a leader in the community.” Seattle Southside Chamber has served the communities of Burien, Des Moines, Normandy Park, SeaTac, and Tukwila since 1988.

For more information about the Chamber, including a full list of member benefits and resources, please visit their website at www.SeattleSouthsideChamber.com.