January 14, 2020
The first time I was pregnant, the smell of coffee – my coffee, your coffee, the coffee someone drank miles away – made me feel violently sick. The second time, the mere thought of an avocado was enough to send me running to the toilet. When my third pregnancy began, though, tastes and odors left me alone, as if to say, She’s about to have three under five, isn’t that challenge enough? I felt triumphant, sitting around with my lattes and sides of guac. I had beaten aversions, I thought. This time around, I wouldn’t have to change a thing.
My Phone Made Me Sick While I Was Pregnant. It Was the Healthiest Thing That Ever Happened to Me
Then one day, six weeks in, I picked up my phone. My stomach lurched and boiled.
I chalked it up to a fluke and spent the rest of the day in denial. Twitter made me nauseous – not the usual existential sort, I’m talking physical nausea. Instagram’s brightly-colored feed brought up my bile. I tried to answer some work emails – had the white background of the Gmail app always been this harsh?– and had to take a break, several times, to close my eyes and breathe away the threat of vomit. Just a weird day! I told myself. Probably the pizza I had for breakfast, or lunch, or second lunch. See – if I look at my phone through my fingers, I’m fine! Totally doable.
But then there were several weird days in a row, and I had to put down my phone. For the first time in a decade, I went hours and hours without it. I became virtually inactive on social media, logging into Facebook so infrequently I got deactivated from my moms’ group. I only answered texts twice a day – once around lunchtime, and once before bed – and I did it with a ginger ale by my side and zero superfluous banter. Emails waited even longer, sometimes for days on end. I didn’t even check them on my phone; I could only stand them on my laptop.What if one of my Friends noticed that I hadn’t liked their baby’s first birthday pic? What if all my colleagues were talking about my new sloth-like email response rate?I spent the first few days of this arrangement in a constant, low-level panic. At first, I misdiagnosed it as FOMO – fear of missing out. But what I felt when I visited my phone twice a day on the nightstand charger wasn’t FOMO; it was something more egocentric. I felt guilty that I wasn’t available, that I was letting correspondence pile up and that no one, since I hadn’t told anyone I was pregnant yet, would know why. What if one of my friends noticed that I hadn’t liked their baby’s first birthday pic? What if all my colleagues were talking about my new sloth-like email response rate? Didn’t the news need me to analyse it? Would the world get by without my hot takes?
I braced myself for the inevitable fallout: People would assume I was mad at them, then get mad at me for being mad at them. They’d find each other, all the poor ignored contacts from various parts of my life, band together and decide I was an asshole.
Something had to be done. As soon as I crossed the twelve-week mark, I told my whole extended family I was pregnant. I didn’t wait for the perfect moment – we were, in fact, on vacation, and in the midst of trying to get several existing kids to bed. The other two times I’d made this announcement, I’d been dying to stop keeping the secret. This time, I rushed directly to an explanation of my poor manners.
“I’ve had an aversion to my phone,” I said. “Being on my phone made me sick. That’s why I’ve been so shady with texting and stuff! I can’t imagine what you guys thought.”
They all looked at me blankly. Including my mother. No one had noticed a thing.Phonesickness wasn’t the only thing I was suffering from, it turned out. I’d also been gripped by delusions. As I continued on my “I’m having a baby/sorry I’ve been out of touch” world tour, the consensus grew. No one knew or cared that I had taken longer to get back to them.
Once I made peace with that humbling fact, I was almost sad to see phonesickness go. The day I picked up my phone and scrolled Instagram with a perfectly calm gut, I vowed to stick to the practices I’d picked up under duress – putting my phone away at night, reading more, not letting digital conversations interrupt the ones unfolding in front of me. All the nights I was sick, I felt like my parents in the Nineties, letting our landline phone ring during dinner. Nothing was so important it couldn’t wait ’til the plates were cleared. I liked that feeling.
So I got rid of my phone altogether.
I’m kidding! I wish I were that strong. I, of course, slunk right back to my screen-obsessed ways. But after an initial gorging return to Instagram and group texts and Gmail, I realised there was a way to maintain mental peace without getting offline. I didn’t have to give up my phone – just my sense of self-importance.I really, truly, let emails sit if they’re not urgent; I am a grown woman, after all, and not the world’s admin assistantThese days, my phone is by my side again, like a loyal little terrier. But I’ve filed down my Pavlovian reaction to its demands. Sometimes that means having to physically keep myself away from it – I’ll leave it in the other room, on purpose, and I keep it on silent all day. (Try it! A grunty little buzz isn’t half as tempting as all those twinkling chimes.) I really, truly, let emails sit if they’re not urgent; I am a grown woman, after all, and not the world’s admin assistant. And I choose the times that I write back to texts based on my own convenience, not some all-consuming fear that I am keeping someone else waiting.
It took severe physical revulsion for me to develop better digital health. But we shouldn’t have to be sick to let ourselves to be sick of our phones. And to me, 2020 – a brand new year, a brand new decade, a reminder that devices have been part of our lives a long time now – feels like the perfect time to reexamine our habits.
I’ll be here doing just that. If you need me, reach out, but be prepared for some out-of-office vibes. I’ll have limited access to my phone, because I’m limiting its access to me. There may be a delay in my response. For this, I do not apologise.
Megan Angelo is a journalist and author. Her first novel, Followers, is available now
Have a compelling personal story you want to tell? Find out what we’re looking for here, and pitch us on ukpersonal@huffpost.comMore from HuffPost UK Personal Black And Brown Mums Like Me Are Judged Differently. Here's How I Know When You’re A Woman Of Colour, Infertility Comes With Extra Stigma My Friends Keep Announcing My Pregnancy News To People We Know
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