Hey there, it's me. It's been quite a while since I've posted, so I'd like to take this opportunity to dump a lot of thoughts, struggles and vulnerability. Please be kind as this is mostly my inner voice trying to help your inner voice :).
If you follow me on Twitter, then you kind of knew what was going on. If you didn't well, SURPRISE! Things started slowing down for me around month 6 of pregnancy, aka January. Here's the truth - being a pregnant developer was completely uncomfortable. I waddled to and from meetings, had to wedge my belly under my desk or type at shoulder level, had to hide the pain in my face of being jabbed in the liver.. and let me tell you about trying to code with pregnancy brain.
If you haven't heard about pregnancy brain, it's essentially a decline of cognitive ability. There are no studies supporting this phenomenon, so clearly it's just something pregnant women have conspired together about. ;) So pregnancy brain made being productive very, very hard. I was struggling to compete with myself and what I was able to produce prior to pregnancy. Although my manager and team were incredibly supportive, I couldn't shake the feeling of letting people down.. whether or not that's really what was going on.
Anxiety followed me throughout my pregnancy and got incredibly worse as my due date approached. Anxiety over missing out while I was gone, being productive and pushing forward while physically not being able to keep up. The dr's appointments, the additional tests my situation required, it was all so much on top of trying to keep up in a forever-growing field.
Furthermore, I was accepted to speak at Codemash! Speaking at Codemash has been a goal of mine for the last few years. Going into it, I was excited to represent women in tech in a different light, and I did (and killed it btw). Checkout this front row capture and my awkward mid-sentence picture, raising the krakens from the presentation.
What I really wasn't expecting during this experience was the feeling of imposter syndrome (and anxiety) that kept haunting me. "What if I forget what I practiced?", "What if someone calls me out after mis-speaking?" (hey pregnancy brain), "What if Xcode decides it's had enough", and the worst one "Do I know enough about iOS to be up here?". Yeah - after upwards of 6 years that thought still likes to barge in my head. Laughable isn't it?
Being on Maternity leave has brought a lot of emotions and thoughts to the table. For one, length of time off. I'm taking advantage of a very generous policy Expedia provides for new parents, whereas it's more industry-standard to return to work after just 6 and 8 weeks! Not to get too friendly, but my pre-pregnancy clothes didn't even fit at 8 weeks. And the hormones.. how do companies expect you to not only be productive, but act normal when you're crying in the bathroom because your code gave you an error?
I digress. The downtime I've had away from code, work, an adult schedule, and everything in between has given me a lot of time to reflect on past experiences. Things that have gone well and things that haven't. I want so badly to share these thoughts with you, to blog and to help others. Truth be told, I've written about 10 blogs in the past month that I have deleted out of imposter syndrome. Thoughts of "Who wants to hear this crap" and "Who are you again?". Imposter syndrome has only ever held me back. I've done well at combating it, but it always finds a way to suck me back in. Lately, it's been tag-teaming with my anxiety to really put on a show.
Furthermore, I've had time to reflect on where I want to take things with my career. When I go back to work, I want so badly to pick up where I left off, to pick up like I haven't been out at all. I know that's not feasible. There's been a WWDC in June, that I still haven't finished watching. There will be a new Xcode and Swift and various other frameworks this Fall. There will also be all the features and work I've missed out on that I'll need to ramp up. This is really just the surface, and I'm sure there's a lot I'll need to catch up on that I'm not even aware of right now, hey there developer community!
Sharing all of this with you has a few points I want to call out
- everyone experiences imposter syndrome, no matter how experienced you are
- it's ok to take time for yourself or your family, the world will still be here when you get back
- it's important to remind yourself of ^
- having a mental illness can be really inhabiting. It has hindered my career more than it has helped, and if you're in the same boat, I hope you can find a way to cope or overcome.
- if you're tired, take a break before it's too late. I've been ready to quit tech more than I'd like to admit, but having this time to focus on personal things has left me feeling recharged, refreshed, and ready to tackle what's next.
- if you need to step away for personal reasons, you are supported more than you realize. Take the time you need for yourself, because you can't perform your best if you're not feeling your best.
Thank you for taking the time to read, or skim. I'm hoping that sharing these vulnerable thoughts will give myself permission to get back to blogging, and will hopefully help someone else in the same position.