There is so much about pregnancy that is out of our control. We can follow the “rules,” but that doesn’t always prevent us from experiencing complications. Here’s one mom’s pre-term labor story.
I had a normal pregnancy up until I turned 32 weeks. I was working full time, commuting on my feet, cooking myself healthy meals, and getting out for walks.
But none of that stopped me from going into preterm labor at 32 weeks.
One mom’s preterm labor story
My hopes in sharing my story are to help others experiencing a similar situation. Know that you’re not alone, and there are things you can implement to help get you through this difficult time.
Content warning: this story contains descriptions of preterm labor.
Something started to feel off
When I went into preterm labor, I had no clue. I thought maybe I had eaten something wrong, or my morning sickness was coming back (as it can in the third trimester).
After speaking with the doctor on the phone, they sent me to Labor and Delivery, where they determined I was in active labor. I was rushed to a room, hooked up to IVs, and told they would do everything to keep the baby inside my belly.
I was given magnesium for 24 hours to slow contractions, steroid injections for my baby’s lungs, prophylactic antibiotics, and a liquid diet.
I was scared, nervous, and worried, to name a few. There were so many questions and thoughts running through my head.
- How did this happen?
- Is this my fault?
- Should I have called the doctor sooner?
- Will my baby be okay?
It’s not calm that I’m feeling
It’s so easy to become completely flooded with these thoughts. But after I was settled into my room, I also found myself shutting down. The nurses made multiple comments about how ‘calm’ I was, but the reality is that I was completely numb.
A part of that was the pure shock of what was happening, but I did not even know how to react. And not letting myself respond how I wanted to – which would have probably entailed complete hysterics and sobbing – how would I even bounce back from that?
I just kept telling myself I needed to ‘keep it together.’
When I moved to an antepartum room, my husband was not allowed to stay overnight with me. The second he left, I felt the anxiety and sadness wash over me and started asking myself, ‘if I can’t handle this, how will I be as a mother?’ ‘Am I cut out for this?’ ‘I can’t do this.’
I think it’s important to say here – even if you don’t have a complication with your pregnancy – it’s completely normal to have these thoughts, feelings, and anxieties.
In sharing some of fears, I hope it helps others realize that having intrusive or unwanted thoughts in no way reflects your ability as a mother.
As a perinatal mental health specialist, I think it’s imperative to acknowledge that not everything about pregnancy and postpartum is always happy, and that’s okay. We’re human, and we’re allowed to have a range of emotions.
Seven lessons I learned from preterm labor
And looking back on my hospitalization for preterm labor, I learned some lessons about myself and how I could keep some things within my control.
1. Call your care provider
Never, ever, ever hesitate to call your doctor, midwife, doula, or the nurse’s line. That’s what they’re there for.
Sometimes it can feel intimidating, but you are creating life, and it’s completely normal to have questions or concerns. Don’t wait to get those answers; call the doctor.
2. Ask questions
Have the medical team explain things as many times as needed and write down your questions before your appointment. You need to understand what’s happening and any implications that may have on your health and your baby’s health.
3. Advocate for yourself
If you feel you can’t do this, designate someone. Your partner, your mother, your sister, or your friend. It’s essential to have someone you trust who can provide that extra support if needed.
Read next: Ask an Ob-GYN: How to Advocate in Your Doctor’s Office
4. Feel your feelings
It’s easy to become flooded with emotions when experiencing any complication with a pregnancy. It’s essential to try and allow those feelings to pass through you.
Feel them, acknowledge them, and let them go. Because by holding onto our feelings or avoiding our emotions, we are only making it more difficult for ourselves because our feelings won’t go away unless we acknowledge them.
5. Trust the process
With a million worries and concerns running through your head, try to remember that you’re probably not the first case of preterm labor (or any other complication) to come across the hospital, have faith in that.
The doctors, nurses, partners, family, and support systems do everything to ensure you and your baby are healthy and supported.
6. Try to unwind
I chose to do this with Law & Order SVU (I know, questionable way to ‘relax,’ but something is comforting about a little Benson and Stabler). I also listened to music to fall asleep. Instead of spiraling down the worry and concern, I was feeling – I paused. I needed a break, and staring at my iPad was the short trick.
You can do this by reading a book or magazine, watching a funny TV show or movie, FaceTiming someone you trust, or listening to music.
7. Give yourself grace
We can be hard on ourselves, especially during pregnancy. When I was admitted for preterm labor, I kept asking myself – is this my fault? Could I have done something differently?
It wasn’t my fault – and the fact that I was even asking myself that was a good indicator that my baby was my priority and that I could do this. When you experience any complications with your pregnancy, remember that there is no right way to react.
Also, don’t forget the simple fact that you’re growing a tiny human, and you’re doing great.
From the hospital to bedrest
It was a relief to be discharged home after being admitted to the hospital after the craziness and commotion. I had ‘kept it together, and now, in the comfort of my own home – I fell apart, and bedrest became my new reality.
Being on bedrest comes with its own set of challenges. And while initially, I thought it could be a nice break and time to rest and relax – it was anything but that. I was worried and anxious about going back into labor; I was in constant pain, experiencing consistent contractions anytime I moved, and felt isolated.
I don’t think anything can prepare you for how bedrest might affect you mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Ten things that helped me navigate bedrest
1. Prioritize sleep
I made sure to go to bed at a regular hour. I also woke up at the same time every morning and didn’t allow myself to sleep in. This helped me sleep better at night.
2. Prepare snacks
I would make sure that I had plenty of drinks and snacks at my bedside to limit how much I was getting up. It can feel good to take part in things you can control, like what you’re eating and drinking.
3. Use gentle movement
I only got up to use the bathroom, and every couple of hours would do laps around the apartment, which is supposed to help prevent blood clots. Always check with your doctor, but the simple act of walking around my apartment felt like exercise, and it felt good to move my body.
This was a hard one, but I had no choice. I felt so helpless at this moment – it hit me that I needed to surrender and listen to my body. I needed to trust my doctors and support system and let things take their course.
5. Talk to a therapist
I think this would have been helpful to start processing some of what I had already gone through and what I was currently going through with that pregnancy. I certainly had the time, and the extra support might have been a bonus.
6. Lean on your support system
I definitely should have leaned on my support system more. So, my advice – don’t be afraid to reach out. People will be happy to be there for you in whatever capacity you need most.
No one can read your mind, and if it’s helpful to FaceTime someone or have someone stop by – communicate it.
7. Keep your mind busy
I learned this after the fact but it could be very beneficial for anyone else who is currently on bed rest.
Find an activity that stimulates your brain: a puzzle, crossword, or knitting. This helps take your mind off whatever anxieties you may be experiencing, but it also helps pass time.
8. Practice mindfulness and gratitude
Practicing mindfulness was helpful when I started to get down on myself and feel helpless in my situation.
When you notice yourself beginning to feel down or anxious – stop. Take a breath and focus on the present. Reflect on what makes you feel good and happy.
9. Positive self-talk
Sometimes, we have to be our cheerleaders. Especially when you may be home by yourself all day with nothing but your thoughts, I would implement some positive self-talk whenever I would start to think about all the bad things that could happen.
That looked like telling myself, ‘I’m okay – I’m healthy, the baby is healthy, and I’m doing everything I’m supposed to do.’
10. Listen to your body
My last piece of advice applies to my hospitalization, bed rest, and pregnancy in general – listen to your body.
We are creating and carrying life, our bodies are meant for this, and our bodies will inevitably send us signals and signs that things aren’t right or that it’s time to call the doctor.
And then my baby arrived…
I was able to deliver a healthy baby, which I will be forever grateful for. And with some of the above tools, my experience was more tolerable.
While there are so many things that can impact a pregnancy both physically and emotionally – you’re experience matters. It’s important to talk about, and it’s essential to seek out professional support if that’s what you need.
You got this, and there is always more support if you need it – one day at a time.
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Megan is Co-Founder and Therapist at Soulutions Therapy, LLC. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in NY and NJ, Certified in Perinatal Mental Health (PMH-C), and Mother. As Megan has furthered in her career, she’s grown a passion for prenatal and postpartum issues - one of her endeavors is to provide support and guidance to help women and families enduring the ups and downs of pregnancy, postpartum, loss, infertility, and/or trauma.