Anna Maria Locke

Thomas' Birth Story!

2019Anna Locke
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Ben and I welcomed the arrival of our baby boy, Thomas Adriaan, on Friday August 9th at 10:49pm, one day past his estimated due date! He is named in honor of Ben’s late father Tom, and my dad and brother’s middle name.

A bundle of squishy perfection, I never knew I could be so obsessed with anything. My love for this little human is so intense that it’s been hard for me to process and handle it.

I love hearing birth stories even more now that I’ve lived through my own, and have been wanting to share mine for the last 6 weeks, but of course in true Anna fashion I didn’t want to leave anything out, and new baby survival vortex + perfectionism procrastination is not the most effective combo.

But here we are!

Also in true Anna fashion, I am going to keep it real. I didn’t experience any major trauma and had an overall positive experience so I don’t think I need to add a trigger warning to this post, but if you are currently pregnant and prefer your birth stories filtered with magical golden rainbow light of baby wonder and joy so you can remain in denial of the realities to come (which is TOTALLY UNDERSTANDABLE!) — you might want to pass on this one for now.

The “Birth Plan”

I didn’t have much of a birth plan because luckily most of my preferences were standard procedure with our hospital’s policies and the certified nurse midwives group I worked with. Things like delayed cord clamping, intermittent fetal monitoring, being able to move around the room in labor, etc. I also loved that the c-section rate of the midwives was 9% (vs 20-30% of typical hospitals in the US) and that our hospital allows you to eat and drink anything you want and also is the first in Chicago to offer nitrous oxide as a pain management option. I don’t have anything against drugs, but knew I didn’t want an epidural unless my labor stopped progressing and I needed to rest. I’ll share more on my epidural stance at the end!

Since we live five minutes from the hospital, I also wanted to labor at home as long as possible, which I discovered is one of those “be careful what you wish for” things.

(my very last bump pictures, on our EDD 8/8)

How it all started

I felt absolutely fantastic until I hit 39 weeks. That Friday (August 2nd) I started to feel a shift in my energy and some light menstrual-like cramping, which I experienced off and on the final week as well as tons of Braxton Hicks and a little more low pelvic pressure as baby dropped. If you’ve ever noticed that dreamy-like zone you feel right before your period starts, it was kind of like that only more intense to the point that I decided to stop driving, stopped walking, basically went into hermit mode. It’s like I was in a constant state of deep meditation and calm. 

Physically, I think I’ve blocked that last week out of my memory because all I remember was feeling really uncomfortable and anxious to not be pregnant anymore!

As any 38+ week pregnant woman will tell you, you hit a point where all your fear of labor goes *poof* and you find yourself googling all the things you can do to inspire baby to GET THE HECK OUT ASAP! Not much is scientifically proven to naturally induce labor, but it felt good to at least feel as proactive as possible even though it’s impossible to tell what “did the trick” since the baby will come out eventually.

Here is what I tried to prep for and naturally induce labor:

-I ate 5-6 dates every day from about 36 weeks on, which is clinically shown to help cervical effacement (it worked! This is the #1 thing I would recommend to all pregnant women in the last month. Plus I have lots of delicious recipes here.)

-I had also been doing “Labor Prep” workouts from the Bloom Method to strengthen my core and pelvic floor connection. This worked too, at least when it came to pushing! Click here for my affiliate link to try a month of their pre/postnatal workouts.

-I drank 16 oz of raspberry leaf tea every day the last few weeks, which is anecdotally supposed to stimulate contractions, and drank this noxious extra strong brew at 40 weeks (to be honest I will NOT be doing that again because my contractions were extremely intense and I can’t tell if this played a role. Plus it was absolutely vile.)

-Walked with one foot off the curb to rock my pelvis and attempt to move baby into optimal position (he was always in a great position the last couple months so not sure if this did anything, but it was a fantastic booty workout!)

-Membrane sweep (THIS ultimately did it! More below…)

Our estimated due date was Thursday August 8th, and Ben’s mom had to fly home the following Monday so obviously we all wanted him to be born before then, although I was trying not to put any unnecessary pressure on myself.

I had a feeling that he would be born the week of his due date, and I swear I had an even stronger and faster intuitive connection to my baby and could transmit messages from him. Yes this sounds nuts, but it was the coolest thing ever. So I asked him if he would come before Pat (my mother in law) flew home and instantaneously heard him said yes, he wanted to meet her.

But as the days ticked by I started to get more impatient and doubt my intuition.

At my 40 week appointment on Thursday (my estimated due date), I opted for my first cervical check and was dilated 1 cm so I decided to get a membrane sweep. This means the midwife/OB sticks a finger inside your cervix and manually detaches your amniotic sac from your uterus, which can stimulate labor but isn’t guaranteed. Yeah it’s uncomfortable, but at that point I was so uncomfy in general I didn’t mind at all and figured we might as well give it a shot. I had more cramping and spotting the rest of the day but I wasn’t sure if it was actual pre-labor or just side effects from the sweep.

That afternoon my friend Amanda came over, I chilled on the couch chugging my swamp water aka labor day tea and binge watching Say Yes to the Dress to get the oxytocin flowing.

(Amanda will want to interject that her presence is what triggered labor, since we tend to be together during all times our uteruses spazz out, anything from miscarriage to IUD clots.)

That night around 9:30pm as we went to bed I noticed the cramping was starting to align with my BH, and the cramps woke up at 3:30am, when I went to the bathroom and passed a bloody chunk of mucus, which was really exciting to me because it was a sign that things were happening!

Side note: during and after labor your body will eject every imaginable kind of discharge: mysterious liquid, blood, clots, slime, poop, urine, so be prepared for it and just surrender to losing all control of your bodily functions. Laugh about it if you can. If I didn’t know about the mucus plug, I think I would have freaked out.

I tried to go back to sleep but that was obviously impossible. Every book that tells you to relax and sleep through early labor has obviously never gone into labor.

A little after 5am I felt my first “real” contraction, which was significantly different than the general menstrual-like achiness. I can’t describe lt except by saying that it felt like a brick wall hitting my entire uterus, it was unmistakeable and I instinctively recognized what was happening.

Everyone says that during labor the front part of your normal rational “thinking” brain gradually shuts off as your primal animal brain takes over, and that is 100% accurate.

My next instinct was to hop in the shower to wash my hair and put on make up so I felt somewhat normal and not a complete hot mess and could maybe get some semi-cute post delivery pictures. HAHAHAHAHA. I do recommend showering because it feels good, and washing your hair because it might be the last time that happens for the foreseeable future, but if you are planning for a first time unmedicated birth just prepare yourself as if you’re about to run an Ironman triathlon because that’s how you will probably look and feel afterward (if anything, waterproof mascara!)

Around 7 am I woke Ben up with the classic “I think I’m in labor!” moment, and he sprang out of bed and proceeded to panic clean the entire apartment while I continued to lay on the couch watching “Say Yes to the Dress” to distract and get the oxytocin flowing. I also remember finishing packing my hospital bag with random shit I wouldn’t end up touching, and remember Ben telling me I looked really good. So I guess the make up was worth it for that moment.

Laboring at home

I was prepared for the sensations of early labor, mainly irregular contractions many minutes apart, with periods of rest in between. For some reason which will eventually be revealed, my early labor felt like the description of active labor which was extremely confusing.

My contractions were intense enough by mid morning that I couldn’t talk through them, lasted 45-60 seconds, and my uterus never released in between so I had a hard time knowing when one contraction began and ended but they seemed to be hitting 2-4 minutes apart. I wasn’t able to rest and relax in between so it was hard to distract myself.

My favorite position was bouncing on the ball, or laying on my side in bed with my top leg drawn up to my chest with a pillow under it. I tried to remember the whole point of labor is to be as uncomfortable as possible because that means the baby is descending and things are happening. This is tough mentally when all you want to do is find relief from the discomfort!

This continued allllll day. I knew I should eat as much as possible but felt like I was in the middle of a race, my appetite was gone and all I could tolerate was juice and smoothies.

Our doula Celia came over around noon and tried to mentally prepare me that this “early labor” could last a while, potentially days, and I didn’t know how I would make it!!

She had me try a walk with Ben to keep things progressing and we made it one block and 2-3 contractions before I could barely move anymore.

I was so in the moment that time actually passed much faster than I anticipated, and I remember looking at the clock at 5pm and being relieved and excited I’d made it 12 hours at home. For some reason that felt like a milestone, and I knew that it wouldn’t be too much longer.

Since things seemed to be progressing really fast, we called Celia again and she came over and had me run a bath. Before I stepped into the tub I sat on the toilet to pee and with an immediate GUSH my water broke! Ben was relieved he didn’t have to clean it off the floor. I was proud of myself for having such great timing and aim. #winninglabor

I immediately knew I didn’t want to sit in the tub because I couldn’t move, so I got out after a couple more contractions and more of my mucus plug dropped out like a jellyfish onto the bath mat. Good times.

Contractions started coming fast and furious after this and I was experiencing more and more pressure as baby’s head dropped into my pelvis, so I knew I NEEDED to head to the hospital and things started to feel extremely urgent. Celia told Kate (the other doula we worked with who took the evening shift) to meet us there. The car ride was rough but not unbearable, thanks to our proximity.

It was around 6:30pm at this time.

Check in and triage was rough, as I was having nonstop extremely intense contractions. Apparently it was a busy night for babies and they had to wheel me to 3 rooms to find an empty triage room to take my vitals and check on baby. Apparently during this time Ben drove the car back to our street so he didn’t have to pay $4 for hospital parking, and then sprinted back to the hospital — he has no idea why he thought this was important when his child was about to be born, but it’s kind of funny.

I met the midwife on call, Kim, who told me I was 4cm dilated but 100% effaced — YAY DATES! I wasn’t discouraged that I was “only” 4cm because I think I knew things would move fast from here. How could they not??

Our doula Kate had me walk to the delivery room to encourage the baby to keep moving down, which felt like the worst idea ever and I was that stereotypical pregnant woman moaning in agony, doubled over every few steps as another contraction ripped through my body. Did you ever notice there are railings on the halls of the hospital? NOW I KNOW WHY! After walking what felt like miles, we made it to the delivery room and I felt a bit of emotional relief, like yay this is finally happening.

Kate encouraged me to try different positions with Ben and her for support, which all felt like torture and the worst idea ever but I went along with it and my fave was sitting on the bouncy ball leaning over one of them sitting on the bed.

Before labor (“BL”) I assumed I’d like to lean up against the bed or be on my hands and knees, but by this time I was much too exhausted and shaky to do any position with my legs supporting me. I even ended up getting an IV since I felt so depleted and lightheaded. So it turns out I didn’t need or even want to move freely around the room at all (my “birth plan”) since I labored so long at home.

All I cared about was wanting to know that I was progressing, and I remember I kept begging Kim to check me every time she came in the room. I think I was checked at 6 cm not long after?? Before too long I started getting an all-consuming urge to push, and Kim came in and said contractions seemed to be extra intense, I think she told me to do 3 more of those “push” contractions before checking again.

By then I was at 7cm, and baby’s head was just really really low. I was using the nitrous to try and get some pain relief, but not sure if it helped at all?

Kim told me we needed to wait until I was fully dilated at 10cm before I could start pushing, so my cervix didn’t get injured. It felt completely unbearable to go through the most intense transition contractions while resisting my body which was going into “MUST PUSH NOW” overdrive.

This is when I hit the wall of self doubt, and didn’t know how I would make it.

Kate tried to remind me to focus on one contraction at a time, instead of freaking out about how many hours were left, but it was impossible not to panic and feel trapped in the unsustainable all-encompassing pain.

I mean, I had no illusions about childbirth going in but nothing can really prepare you for it. My entire body was wracked with the intense pressure, and still I felt like I could never get a second of relief in between contractions.

My mind gave up and I decided to toss my idealistic “natural” birth plan out the window and ask for the epidural. In the back of my mind I remembered learning in birth class that you shouldn’t ask for pain meds at the peak of a contraction, so like a good student I waited until one ended and made what I considered a really well thought out case for myself, LOL.

I remember cry/yelling “THIS IS AN EMPOWERED CHOICE!” to Kate and Ben.

So the nurse took my bloodwork and started the process, but Kim was great at encouraging me to stick with my natural birth plan and try different positions etc, reminding me I’d only been admitted like 3 hours earlier (obviously the last things I thought I wanted to hear). I knew I didn’t want to get back in the tub, I just didn’t wanna move, everything was excruciating.

Looking back, I appreciate having the support of Kate and Kim so much. Kate and Ben played the role of support, “do what you need to do,” while Kim played devils’ advocate while still honoring my decisions.

Since it was such a busy night in L&D I’d have to wait at least an hour for the anesthesiologist, and when they told me I’d need to hold still for 10 mins for the insertion I knew I wouldn’t be able to since contractions were wracking my entire body almost constantly. (Kim knew we wouldn’t have time before I was ready to actually push).

I distinctly remember bouncing on the ball with my head in our doulas lap, deciding to ditch the epidural, “OK let’s do this!!!”

This was my most empowering moment, and when my own energy and adrenaline started to shift.

So I got back the bed with a peanut ball between my legs and continued to suffer (doula reminded me birth is supposed to be survival mode) through a few more contractions while resisting the urge to push. I can’t even describe how intense this was, and it’s hard for me to type it out in words. Still couldn’t find any relief or rest between before the next wave hit. Had to scream through the peak, then breath nitrous, then horse lips to blow out urge to push, but I also knew by now that the end was in sight and I had a goal to work towards.

Basically this was the “gone primal” moment, and my voice was hoarse for two days haha.

While in my dying animal zone I kind of registered a rush of activity as more nurses came in and the incubator was turned on and I knew we had to be close which gave me another surge of confidence and motivation.

Then Kim told me I was at 9.5cm and just had a small cervical lip getting in the way of the baby’s head. She offered to try manually pushing the lip to the side while I tried a push and that sounded like salvation and ended up being my favorite contraction. IT FELT SO GOOD. Like, you know when you have to poop sooooo bad but it’s really huge and so the gas/size of the poop painfully stretches your rectum but also is the best relief? Imagine that x100. Like your poop log is 6 inches wide. And coming out of your vajay, not your butt.

And it worked! And then it was push time!

I was so relieved to finally be able to let my body follow its instincts I’d been overriding. I didn’t fully realize the double pain of this phase since you push during the most intense kind of contraction plus feel your baby’s head stretching you beyond all limits, but I welcomed the burn as a familiar kind of pain I felt I could actually handle.

BL I had assumed I would want to push on my hands and knees or an “alternative” hippy position but by that time I was so beyond exhausted I don’t know how I could have even moved, so it actually felt best to push on my back. I assume the bed was tilted up a bit for gravity to assist?

Ben and Kate grabbed my legs (so Ben’s plan to stay by my head kind of got trashed too), I grabbed the railings and pushed with literally my entire body. I was so ready to get this baby out I would have pushed nonstop for as long as it took, but Kim reminded me to take a break between contractions to let my body stretch and I appreciated her coaching because I had no idea what was going on down there.

Around this time it occurred to me that the love of my life and father of my child was also in the room, and had a distant thought “I should look up at Ben to share the moment” (like you see in the movies??) so I did for like one second, then went back into my zone. Hilarious.

What does it feel like to push? First it felt really weird to feel the bulk of my baby’s body moving through my pelvis, and also felt like my rectum was literally turning inside out. I definitely pooped on the table, and think I said “I’m pooping!” and Ben and everyone reassured me it was no big deal assuming I was embarrassed, but how could I be embarrassed after everything that had already happened? HA! Mostly I just felt concerned about laying in my own shit. Somewhere deep inside under all the intensity and adrenaline and pain I wanted to laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation.

At each contraction I just desperately wanted it to be the last. It felt like I pushed for hours and just wanted to hear the cliche “there’s the head!!!” but all I heard was Kim say “oh, it’s a hand” and then all of a sudden I saw my baby being pulled out of me, screaming and covered with blood and dropping his load of meconiun (tar like newborn poop) all over me as they placed him on my chest.

Apparently I pushed for 15 minutes and the baby was born with his hand next to his face!

Thomas Adriaan, born 10:49pm the day after his due date, weighing 7 lb 8 oz and around 19 inches long with curly hair.

We had two hours in the delivery room to deliver the placenta, do skin to skin while I got stitched up (getting shots of lidocaine in your inner lady parts that had just been ripped apart was unpleasant but after going through labor I didn’t even care), attempt breastfeeding, allow the nurses to run Thomas through the battery of newborn pricks and prods, and help me hobble to the bathroom to pee (they like you to prove your bladder still works) and teach me how to assemble my mega pad/ice pack creation.

By the time they wheeled us over to the postpartum recovery room it was about 2 am and I was still pretty much delirious. I remember sitting in the wheelchair and looking over at the bassinet holding my baby being wheeled next to me. 

The most surreal experience of my life!

We ended up spending only about 36 hours in the hospital, and I barely slept an hour for about 4 days straight. I remember almost panicking because I didn’t know it was humanly possible to go that long without sleep and not die, but the adrenaline and mother instincts are fierce. The hospital stay is a complete blur to me, I remember the gush of blood and fluids every time I stood up to go to the bathroom (and the subsequent murder scene when trying to pee), feeling insanely weak and dizzy (I barely had the energy to pee and re-assemble my pad, much less pose for those awesome “look at my postpartum bod in my awesome mesh undies!” selfies you see on Instagram), and asking for endless cups of ice water. Out of all the things I meticulously researched to pack in my hospital bag, I ended up using only the juice boxes and snacks, make-up, toothbrush, and body wipes to feel somewhat human, annnnd that is literally all. I couldn’t even fathom taking a shower until the day after we got home (no energy), and since I was still leaking so many fluids didn’t really want to change out of my hospital gown. 

And Thomas’ grandma Pat was able to come visit us at the hospital and again at home before she had to fly back, yay! 

Things that surprised me the most about labor/delivery:

-Your contractions//early vs active labor might not feel like the textbook descriptions you learn about. This shouldn’t be surprising but it was.

-ALL THE BODILY FLUIDS. Mucus plug, blood, amniotic fluid that would gush at each contraction, urine, poop. So messy. But you won’t even care.

-I spent so much time figuring out the perfect items to pack in my hospital bag and literally touched NONE OF IT except a couple toiletries. You are going to be discharging so much bodily fluid and doing skin to skin/non stop breastfeeding, you don’t even need clothes just wear the hospital gown and rock the topless look, tres Euro chic.

I have so much more to share!

But I’ll save it for future posts since this is already a novel.

I thought I’d miss being pregnant, but although I cherish the memories it’s a huge relief to have my body back, and to have my baby here! What a wild rush.

Healthy freezer meals to prep before baby!

2019Anna Locke
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I’m currently 3 days from my due date, bouncing on my bouncy ball in the “nurffice” (nursery/office), feeling pretty uncomfortable, trying to remain present and calm and go about life as if everything is COMPLETELY NORMAL but gosh it’s hard not to obsess about every little twinge in my uterus.

The cliche “nesting instinct” that supposedly hits women at the end of their pregnancies is so real. All last week I had this desperate need to deep clean the apartment and stock up on food, Ben keeps joking that we’re preparing for nuclear winter but honestly that’s how I feel! As if we don’t live in the age of Amazon Prime and aren’t surrounded by an incredible village of friends and family who will take care of us...the fact that my shower gel bottle is half empty is legit stressing me out and I needed to purge the house of every last speck of dust. Like, NEEEEEEEEDED!!!

Ben has been a great sport about it all and has fulfilled all my deep cleaning whims. I love him!

My mom came to visit a couple weeks ago and deep cleaned the freezer and grossness behind the fridge which was the best pregnancy gift ever.

And this weekend I re-filled the squeaky clean beautiful freezer with several crockpot dump meals and batches of baked goods! This sight literally gives me a hit of oxytocin warm fuzzies, can you hear the angels singing?

Baby Locke, we are ready for you!

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I’ve read that warming, nutrient rich meals are best for postpartum recovery. Even though it’s August I figure we’ll be keeping the air conditioning cranked, and I know I’ll be drinking alot of smoothies too because they’re easy and I’ve been craving them, so all the meals I prepped are frozen crockpot dump bags. The crockpot also makes life easy and doesn’t heat up the kitchen!

If there’s meat involved, it will take a little bit of forethought to partially thaw in advance (for food safety it’s discouraged to slow cook frozen meat) but I didn’t feel up to actually cooking food to freeze. I’ll leave that to our friends and family!

I found my biggest inspiration from this blog post from Eat, Live Run, and this post from Pinch of Yum. Ben’s manager also shared this epic assembly line style crockpot meal prep spreadsheet.

Here are the crockpot “freeze and dump” meals I ended up making! I used a sharpie to write any cooking or serving instructions so anyone else in the house can make the food for me:


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At ALDI we grabbed a couple boxes of bone broth to add to the crockpot recipes before cooking because it has more protein and nutrients than water or regular broth. We also stocked up on dry goods like pasta, brown rice, and some crusty bread to keep in the freezer to serve alongside the meals. I figure we can use Instacart or have my mom or a friend make a quick run to the store to pick up any fresh foods we need.

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The baked goods I made:

  • Lactation cookies 

  • Zucchini oatmeal muffins (increased oat/flour ratio to 1 c oats and 1 c whole wheat pastry flour)

  • Corn muffins (haven’t made these yet but we have all the ingredients and they look easy so I”m going to print the recipe and have it on hand for whoever is available to whip some up to go with the chili and soups)

  • Bran muffins:

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The bran muffin recipe is from my mother in law Pat and it’s one of my family faves. It’s the best because you make a giant batch of batter that keeps in the fridge for several days, so you can either scoop some out and bake a few muffins on demand, or else bake them all and pop them in the freezer. I decreased the sugar to ½ cup because the cereal has sugar as well, and they end up very sweet. Next time I might even omit added sugar altogether. I’d rather bake less sugar into my muffins and add honey if needed. They also have TONS of fiber, which I imagine I’ll appreciate ;)

Pat also made us an enormous batch of tortellini soup and is planning some breakfast burritos, so we have those on deck as well!

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And in the meantime as we wait for my uterus to call time and eject bebe, I whipped up a batch of these raw brownie energy bites because I’m trying to eat as many dates as possible to soften my cervix.

WE WILL NOT STARVE!

Hope this is helpful if you’re prepping for a new baby or want to help out a preggo friend!

xo Anna

How I'm planning for maternity leave as an entrepreneur and life coach

2019Anna Locke
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It’s crazy to be able to finally say that my baby is due next week !!

I guess I’m ready? At least I feel like I’ll be ready if we can hang in there through the weekend, ha!

One of the questions I’ve been getting is whether I’m taking time off work or how I’m managing maternity leave being self employed.

Maternity and paternity support in the US is an issue in itself, but planning for maternity leave as a solo-entrepreneur and first time mom is uniquely tough because there are no established policies or standard procedures to follow, and although I can learn from the experience of my entrepreneur/new mom friends, everyone’s business, relationships, babies, and financial situations are different.

Honestly, the whole thing has given me a lot of stress and anxiety, especially since I am a Type A control freak and like to have everything planned out. Obviously when it comes to having a baby there are so few things that are actually in your control, so the process has also been a big lesson in letting go, trust, surrender, and practicing what I preach as a life coach. Mainly, that breakdowns come before the breakthrough. Oh my gosh SO MANY BREAKDOWNS.

I’ve approached this whole trying to conceive/miscarriage/pregnancy/matrescence season of life as a personal and spiritual growth journey which has given me a really great perspective and allowed me to feel more or less grounded as I navigate the anxiety, emotional breakdowns, hormonal rollercoaster, and the general fears that pop up when you grow a baby.

I’m not really taking an official “maternity leave” because my work and business is an extension of my everyday life, so there’s really nothing to leave from. However, I am making conscious shifts so that I can be as present as possible during the first weeks and months at home bonding with our baby.

I’m thinking of these first few months more as a baby sabbatical than a leave.

Luckily the way my business is set up gives me complete flexibility. But it’s also kind of terrifying to venture into the unknown.

I’ve always wanted to be a work from home mom, so I’m not afraid of navigating work/life balance or figuring out the actual nuts and bolts of WORK.

For me, the biggest stress has been the financial aspect of giving myself time off, while allowing for a flexible schedule and lots of change and transition.

We depend on my income, so I don’t have the luxury of taking an extended time completely off. But I also want to make sure the hours I’m spending on work over the next several months are as productive, efficient, and income generating as possible.

After months of stressing, obsessing, listening to podcasts, crowd sourcing entrepreneur friends, and trial and error, I’m finally feeling good about navigating this next season of business and new motherhood.

Whether you’re having a baby, dealing with a health crisis, or simply want to take an extended time off from work, I believe one of the biggest perks to self employment is having flexibility and freedom over your schedule.

And personally, one of my primary motivations for being self employed is to work to live, not live to work.

Looking back on the last six months, I can distill the whole messy process of planning for self-employed leave or sabbatical into three components:

  1. Mindset work (bigger vision as well as finances and money)

  2. Plan for your return

  3. Creating and implementing systems

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  1. Mindset Work

Vision

Before diving into the “how” and all the details, it’s always important to start with your bigger picture values and vision for how you want life to look and feel like through the changes ahead.

What do you want your maternity leave to look and feel like? Do you want to completely unplug, have flexibility, how much time do you want to take off? If money were no object, how would that influence your decisions? What are your childcare options? What if your baby needs extra care and attention and you aren’t able to follow through on your back to work plan? Do you want to work up until you go into labor, or slowly decelerate and start your leave at the middle or end of pregnancy?

In January I invested in a 6 month spiritual womens’ leadership mastermind with Sara Avant Stover, and with her guidance and mentorship decided that my number one priority for this year was to create a work environment that centered around my pregnancy so I could feel mentally, physically, financially, and spiritually supported through this immensely powerful initiation into motherhood.

My ultimate goal is always FLEXIBILITY. I want to be able to focus on my baby and recovery with no pressure to make money or keep up to date with my inbox. I don’t know how much time we’ll need or want, but in a perfect world I see myself coming back to limited part time work hours by the end of the year, and then working flexible part time hours from there. I’ve always wanted to be a work-from-home mom, to be able to be home to raise my kids while also maintaining a personal creative outlet through work that fulfills me and allows me to make a difference and feel connected to the world.

At first I wanted to have all systems in place, projects completed, and feel comfortable with unplugging the last several weeks of my pregnancy so I could focus completely on resting and self care, but in reality I discovered keeping busy with a little bit of work combined with baby prep has felt the best to me, and has kept me from feeling too isolated or impatient with the waiting game.

Abundance mindset

One major personal lesson I’ve been learning the hard way is that whenever I’m stressed or overwhelmed (which happens a lot when pregnant or going through any major life change), it dredges up all my insecurities and fears around money and triggers my basic survival instincts around needing to feel supported...which in turn triggers obsessive worrying and feeling like I’m not good enough/not earning enough/not doing enough/won’t have enough. 

Some women turn to emotional eating, drinking, shopping, or other outlets when reacting to overwhelm, but I start to compulsively freak out about how much money I’m earning or not earning, even if what made me feel overwhelmed in the first place had nothing to do with it.

So LET’S TALK ABOUT MONEY!

I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset ever since I was in grade school, and LOVE earning money by selling things I create or do for others. The thought of my earning capacity being limited by a newborn really freaked me out and sent me down a desperation spiral of “MUST MAKE ALL THE MONEY BEFORE BABY IS BORN!”

But then I caught myself, because that’s a horrible energy to come from!

So when it came down to planning my work schedule over the last months of pregnancy and into the second half of the year, I had to be careful not to be motivated by my scarcity mindset and ego, and instead kept asking myself:

“If money wasn’t an issue, what work would feel fulfilling, supportive, and fun for me right now?”

In addition, I’ve been focusing on a lot of inner work around abundance mindset, and learning that true abundance isn’t just about earning or manifesting more money, but about releasing emotional attachment, and shifting from a scarcity mindset of “never enough//I need to control it” to a belief that money is energy ultimately is sourced and returned to a divine source.

If you’re sick of all the law of attraction//manifesting//just work harder dogma and interested in the spiritual and energetic aspects to money, I hiiiiiighly recommend Tosha Silver’s book It’s Not Your Money.

When we stop stressing out about having enough, our nervous system relaxes and this allows us to receive.

I’ve seen this happen magically over and over. Unexpected rebates, gift cards, hand me downs from friends, Facebook marketplace deals, extended payment plans with zero interest financing, generosity of our “village” of friends and family, we have been supported every step of the way.

I wanted to save more money than I did, but I am trusting I’ve saved enough.

I wanted to have more clients lined up than I do, but I am trusting they will be waiting when I am ready.

I wanted to be able to pay off my credit card balance before baby, but I trust it will be paid off in perfect timing and in the meantime it is a lesson in being ok with a little debt and re-writing old money stories and family beliefs about what it means to be “responsible.”

So most of my work prep for baby has revolved around doing energy and mindset work around my bigger vision, abundance, and shifting into a state of receiving, but obviously we live in the real world and need to make tangible plans as well.

It’s hard to find examples or blueprints of how to structure a sabbatical or extended leave as an entrepreneur because everyone’s business is unique and looks different, but in case you’re curious I wanted to share my plan and how I’m making it work in a way that feels good, which brings us to the next step:

2. Plan for your return to work

I think this is something I heard on the Startup Pregnant podcast and it is a GAME CHANGER:

Instead of getting caught up in the maternity leave itself, start with the end in mind and plan backwards from where you want to be when you plug back IN to work. This way, you won’t feel completely lost when you return and will be able to maintain or build momentum so hopefully your return to work is seamless and supportive.

I decided that what felt best and made the most sense would be to keep my Beachbody business “simmering” through the rest of the year, plan to enroll up to three private life coaching clients by November/December, and let everything else go.

3. Create your systems

This is where the details, strategies, and nuts and bolts come in. What moving parts, ongoing projects, or loose ends do you need to complete or delegate before baby?

I have three sources of income, and would recommend to any entrepreneur to diversify your income streams so you aren’t dependent on any one source.

Here is how I’m shifting biz around so I can still maintain base levels of income, while setting myself up for a successful return to the part-time working world when baby and I are ready:

Beachbody coaching

The majority of my income actually comes from my health and fitness accountability biz with Beachbody, and is about 85-90% residual (subscriptions and bonuses), and 10-15% new sales. I know everyone has their own thoughts on network marketing, but Beachbody has been the KEY to making things possible for me to back off my work hours, because I know no matter what happens, I have dependable income coming in every week due to the organization I’ve intentionally built over the last 5 years. This has been such a blessing and relief!

(and am now required to share the disclaimer that Team Beachbody® does not guarantee any level of success or income from the Team Beachbody Coach Opportunity. Each Coach's income depends on his or her own efforts, diligence, and skill. See our Statement of Independent Coach Earnings for the most recent information on the actual incomes of all our Coaches.)

What I’m doing

Since the majority of “work” for Beachbody consists of sharing my life on Instagram, focusing on my own self care, and chatting with other new mom friends, I’m not really planning to completely disengage but am giving myself permission to view it as a positive outlet for my mental/emotional/physical health, and not a necessity. I don’t want to feel pressured to show up and work when I am not ready or don’t have the energetic capacity, so I have set up systems to support my team and customers while taking a backseat for a couple months. 

I’m collaborating with a few leaders on my team to keep our groups fully supported, our team calls covered, our new coach trainings are on autopilot, and BECAUSE DIVINE TIMING ALWAYS COMES THROUGH there’s a brand new program with 20-30 home workout and a no-impact modifier releasing October 1st. Pending a smooth recovery this should be perfect timing for me to ease back into exercise, so I know my personal postpartum fitness plan is covered and I will open up my accountability coaching then for any other women or new moms who want to join me.

Life coaching

This income stream is partly from group programs and digital courses, but mainly from 1:1 private clients

What I’m doing

I’ve turned three of my most popular group programs into evergreen digital courses. I’m most proud of my signature program Wild Synchronicity, which will teach you how to plan your life, work, and self care around the cyclical energy of your hormone cycle.

Since I obviously won’t be able to be present for client sessions, I’ve phased out my 1:1’s and am putting my life coaching business on hold until later this fall or winter once we’re all settled in and I know I’ll be able to get baby care a few hours a week. Life coaching fills me with so much energy and joy, so I can’t wait to get back into it! My plan is to start with just 3 new clients this winter, and see how it goes.

(click here to join my waitlist to be the first to know when I open those spaces!)

In the meantime, I’ve set up an email series sharing my best posts on mindset, self care, and authentic biz from my blog archives, which will be scheduled to my email list and Facebook page over August, September, and October. I’m excited to share this valuable content with my community while not having to be physically or energetically present to create new posts or newsletters.

(click here to subscribe to my email series for free)

Etsy shop 

The Anna Maria Locke Etsy Shop started as a way to fund my yarn and fabric addiction, but has evolved into a really fun creative outlet and small income source, bringing in about $2,000/year. 

What I’m doing

Because it is so labor intensive (and not actually profitable when you account for the time I spend cutting fabric, sewing, and packaging orders), I am closing down the shop for the foreseeable future. This decision sounds kind of bittersweet but ultimately feels very freeing to me and not a loss at all. I’m easily inspired and could see myself shifting into the baby accessories market in the future… but for now I want to spend at least the rest of this year getting used to actually having a baby! And if miracles occur and I have a spare 20 minutes to sit down at the sewing machine, I want to be able to spend that time making things for my little nugget or my friend’s babies.

Final thoughts on prepping for a sabbatical or leave as a self employed creative entrepreneur

Overall I feel really good about this “plan.” It feels good, expansive, achievable instead of overwhelming and scary. I think the key is to remain completely flexible and detached from the outcome.

I’m learning it’s important to make plans, but even more important to hold them loosely and be open to things working out differently.

I am choosing to believe everything will unfold even better than I could predict or plan myself.

That having a baby will make my business EASIER, my overall life BETTER, my days more full of joy and happiness, and will launch me into greater levels of personal growth, service, and income.

And don’t hold back from asking for support, investing in a virtual assistant, and receiving help from others! I know it’s hard when you’re a solo-preneur and want to control everything, but trust me, you don’t have to do this alone.

Finally, a reminder for my fellow coaches: every time we grow and evolve, we bring that growth into our work so our clients get to benefit from our experience. Every time we are stretched past our breaking point, we gain resilience and a deeper capacity to feel and relate to others. 

So lean into the breakdowns, the overwhelm, the panic attacks, feel the feels, honor the sacred unraveling of everything you’ve known until now.

The very fabric of your business, identity, body, and life is shifting and integrating into something even stronger and more powerful than you’ve ever experienced before.

Trust it and let go.

Remember that in the end, this too shall pass :)

xo Anna