Last month I had a little pregnancy scare. At the time it was pretty frightening, because I was afraid I was going into preterm labor at just shy of 31 weeks. And I knew that baby girl was transverse (sideways) so would not have been able to come out on her own at that point. I had a busy day and was doing a thousand things with the girls and when I finally got us in the car to drive over to my parents' house I realized that I was extremely nauseous and just didn't feel right. Shortly after we got there, all of a sudden my Braxton Hicks contractions (harmless, not real 'labor' contractions that most women have throughout their pregnancies) became intense, and started coming frequently and regularly. It got worse and worse and then I started to get sick. I hadn't had much to eat that day so before long the sick episodes were just heaving up bile (sorry, graphic) and they seemed to trigger contractions too. It was pretty horrendous. Instead of a nice afternoon of playing with the girls at Nana and Papa's house, it turned into me pretty much sitting on the floor of the loo, waiting to get sick again. Over the course of a couple hours I went from feeling pretty nauseous to having regular, intense Braxton-Hicks contractions, repeatedly vomiting, worse and worse chills, and a whole lot of trepidation.
My dad drove us all home since there was no way I could drive, and stayed to help me get the girls in bed. I spent some time on the phone with the out-of-hours answering doctor for my OBGYN and he suggested I try to hydrate as best I could, and see if I could keep fluids down. (Apparently if you become dehydrated in pregnancy it can cause vomiting and bring on contractions - I did not know this!) If I couldn't keep fluids down, I'd have to go in for IV fluids, and if I did keep fluids down but the contractions didn't stop, I'd have to go in to triage. He kept telling me not to worry yet because I am not considered at high risk of preterm labor, since both my girls went nearly to term and my blood pressure is generally low rather than high.
Even with that advice, it was so hard to keep calm, especially with M still out in Arizona for work and not due back until the next day. I half didn't want to tell him what was going on because I knew he'd worry, and I knew he couldn't catch an earlier flight than the one he already was scheduled on. And I kept telling myself that it wasn't labor, it wasn't labor....but all I knew was I felt the pain and pressure of regular, frequent contractions, and I just kept remembering that the last time I went into labor I didn't realize how far along in the labor I was and nearly didn't make it to the hospital in time. I was feeling so weak and lightheaded from the frequent vomiting episodes I just couldn't see how this was going to improve. I managed to drink half a glass of water, which came back up faster than I got it down. It was looking grim. My mom arrived to relieve my dad so he could go home and take care of their horses, and she settled in to spend the night. (Thank God for my parents being nearby, and so good at rolling with the punches!) She in all her motherly wisdom said to stop drinking cold water and take tiny frequent sips of tepid water instead.
I was finally able to keep some fluids down and had an hour or two without getting sick, so I was told to try to get some rest and see if the contractions slowed down at all. I slept for maybe an hour or two but spent most of the night wide awake, worried, and supremely uncomfortable. I finally was able to fall asleep around 5 am, only to wake at 6:15 with Bug. Thank God by then the contractions had returned to an irregular, infrequent pattern of 'typical' Braxton-Hicks. I felt like I'd been hit by a truck but really, since emptying my stomach so much the day before, I'd only been able to drink maybe a glass and a half of water and a few sips of a Pedialyte solution, so I was still dehydrated. I was so relieved that I didn't have any indications of labor any longer but I could barely stand up for any period of time.
The next few days were pretty low. I laid on the couch for most of them, feeling like I was operating at about 15% capacity. I canceled my trip to Nashville as I was supposed to leave less than 24 hours after the contractions finally slowed down, and I was so disappointed to miss my trip - my last solo venture before this little babe arrives, and a chance for a weekend of girly chat and catch-up with my friend Emily - but it worried the both of us that something could go wrong with me being so far from home. Turned out to be a wise move since there was no way I could have managed walking around various airports, changing flights, dragging luggage around - I couldn't even stand up to make lunch for the girls for a few days. And then since recovery was going so slowly, I had to miss my NYC bestie's newest babe's baptism :( and a chance to see her in person too! I won't lie, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself for a couple weeks there.
Here's the thing: self-care is a phrase that gets tossed around a lot, and it obviously does mean taking care of yourself. But most people invest a lot of their own time and love and energy into relationships with the people they care about (be they children, parents, spouses, friends, whatever!). And one of the critical results of proper self-care is that you're rejuvenated enough to continue caring properly for those around you. I certainly see it when I take a few hours to do something outside of the house on a weekend - my patience level sort of resets, so I can begin the new week without any of the frustrations from the prior week resting on my shoulders. In pregnancy, you are so interconnected to that tiny life growing inside you that self-care is even more important. Something as simple as forgetting to drink enough fluids for a day or two turned into a worrying situation, and ultimately could have resulted in preterm labor. Thankfully it did not! But I was reminded that I can't put myself on the back burner as I usually do, when I'm focusing on the kiddos and getting things done around the house, because putting me on the back burner also puts this little growing baby on the back burner - and that's unfair. I'm the only one taking care of her - it's all on me.
Don't feel like you're being selfish. When you brush aside the idea of taking care of yourself first, remember that everyone around you also feels those positive effects of you taking care of yourself. Remember - it's not just about you!