Saying So Long to My Favourite Coworker, Caffeine

I’ve been pregnant for exactly 139 days. This implies a bunch of amazing, strange, miraculous things, including one admission I like a little less than the others: I’ve been missing my cappuccino fix for exactly 139 days.

Upon suspecting I was pregnant, even before hitting the books (including mummy-to-be bible What To Expect When You’re Expecting), I knew I’d be breaking up with my favourite, most supportive, most inspiring co-worker: Caffeine.

But can’t pregnant ladies have caffeine? Yes, some caffeine, thank god, but it must be limited. NSW Health’s Mothersafe quotes that the recommended intake of caffeine when pregnant is less than 200 milligrams a day. For perspective, a cup of instant coffee usually contains about 95, but a cup of brewed coffee contains the full 200 mg. So here’s the issue: I like strong espresso. I like lots and lots of espresso. (Also, I don’t like maths.)

So, for the most part, I broke up with caffeine. Luckily, my withdrawal didn’t feature the cornucopia of nasty symptoms many experience, including migraines, mood swings, sleepiness, irritability, lack on concentration. (Correction, in the spirit of full disclosure: I MIGHT have experienced *some* of these symptoms, but refuse to blame them exclusively on my oldest, dearest co-worker/ally.)

But I did discover, to my surprise, an entirely different, unforeseen symptom — one that’s lasted far longer, and cut far deeper: My writing routine has suffered. But I truly think it has nothing to do with that bittersweet-percolating-heart-rate-inducing-focus-serum-elixir-of-the-gods. Nope. It has to do with the ritual in attaining and preparing it. It has to do with what I’ve grown to think of as THE THOUGHTFUL PAUSE.

I realise now that what I really needed was the mindless walk to the kitchen, or the stroll to the nearby coffee shop, or, if I was feeling particularly naughty, the quick drive to the really, really good coffee shop. I needed to stand, to move, to escape from that tormenting line on that tormenting page that wasn’t allowing me to move along with the storytelling task at hand. I needed the thoughtful pause.

A dear writing mentor shared that she experienced the same thing in the late ’80s when she decided to really, fully kick smoking cigarettes. She said she realised the experience of peeling the plastic, opening the lid, lifting the perfect cylinder to her lips, lighting up, exhaling, staring aimlessly out of the dirty window — all of it — brought her peace of mind and clarity that had nothing to do with nicotine. It was just a go-to, knee-jerk ritual that allowed her a break, without fully breaking thought. Because you know what really, really doesn’t work? Facebook. Or Twitter. Or perusing other marvelous, fun, informative stuff on Mumtastic. Or phoning a friend. Or watching one (or five) reruns of Frasier or How I Met Your Mother.

Creative work, I’ve found, is like a jealous boyfriend, or a leaky tap, or a horrible haircut. Ignoring its glaring flaws only allows the problems to escalate, the damage to spread, and, worst of all, if you show it to anyone in its compromised state, asking, desperately, “Is it really as bad as it looks?” they’ll say, “Noooo, of course not,” but mean, “Yes, yes, I’d say it is.”

In a nutshell, creative work can be temperamental, as can pregnant me on deadline, so with my triple grande cappuccino ritual hijacked for now, I’m trying out new tactics. Wish my sleepy self luck.

Did you give up caffeine when you were pregnant?

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Image: Abbey Cleland