Photo by Vadim Pacev
By Tina Su
Two weeks ago, I wrote about optimism when things don’t go our way. Well, this week, I could have used some of that optimism. I think the honeymoon period of living in a hospital is over.
So, I’ve been at the hospital for a little over 3 weeks, on bed rest. It’s been two weeks since Jeremy returned to work, so I spend most days alone on my fancy multi-adjustable hospital bed, with 7 pillows, a laptop and the TV remote.
In the beginning, I thought I was at the Ritz hotel. Nurses remind me of when I should take my pills, I get to hear my baby’s heart beat twice a day, my contractions are being monitored regularly, there’s daily house-keeping and an array of food choices at the push of a button – just like room service, except, it’s free and no tipping.
Then, I found out a week ago that I had Gestational Diabetes (GD) – a common but temporary symptom for 16% of pregnant women during the third trimester (28 weeks until delivery). Which means I’m on food restrictions.
The nurse of the day happily walked in and handed me a new menu – it says “Diabetes Diet Menu“. Because I don’t eat meat or eggs, my choices became further limited.
I was frustrated. I felt sad.
On top of wanting to eat all the time, I was also getting lots of cravings for sweets. But gone are the days when I could gulp down a tub of ice cream. I checked, and chocolate cake is not on the diabetes menu. I now have to count my carbohydrate intake, and have my finger pricked two hours after every meal to monitor my blood sugar level.
Pre-GD, my breakfast added up to 110 grams of carbohydrate, which consisted of: oatmeal, two orders of fresh fruit, one slice of wheat toast, and a glass of steamed soy milk.
My new diet restriction allows me no more than 30 grams of carbohydrates. When I saw that the small bowl of oatmeal alone is 30 grams, I wanted to cry. I didn’t want to be hungry.
If you’ve never been pregnant or been around someone who was, the frequent hunger pangs feel as if you haven’t eaten for days. Usually, food at the hospital takes around 45 minutes between ordering and delivery. By the time the food shows up, I’m so hungry that it feels as if I could swallow the whole tray without chewing.
On top of being hungry all the time, I was also eating more. In Mexico, I was consuming more food than the 210 pound Jeremy, who watched in amazement and curiosity as my once 105 pound body (now 129 pounds at 31 weeks) took in more food than himself.
I know myself, and feeling hungry makes me cranky and unreasonably irritable. So now, my day revolves around carefully timing the ordering and consuming of my meals and mandatory in-between-meal snack.
I eat every two hours, and every meal-snack has to include a protein source. After the baby’s born, I don’t think I will be able to even look at Tofu or cottage cheese ever again.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009 at 7pm
After being curled up in a ball from contraction cramps, I was drifting in and out of sleep. Then I looked up at the clock, it said 7pm. I realized that my medicine (to stop contractions) was an hour late, so I called the nurse to remind her. I eventually got my dose of Nifedipine. This made me feel agitated. I felt the urge to blame the pain on her.
I felt really hungry and ordered dinner. Half an hour later, my food came – covered to keep warm.
Eager to eat, I adjusted my bed to a near sitting position – propped up by three pillows on my back – tucked a napkin under my chin, and was about to gorge myself. I uncovered the plates and saw that they had screwed my order up, again. But, I was so hungry that I started eating anyway.
As I was chewing my first bite, I felt sad, then thoughts of all the unfair things that happened this year came rushing at me all at once, I felt that everything was going wrong, I wanted to re-order the food, but I didn’t want to wait another 45 minutes. With my abdominals still hurting, I felt like a victim, and before I knew it, large tears started rolling down my cheeks. The tears quickly became sobs, and I couldn’t stop. It felt good to let it out.
But right then and there, sitting in front of a hospital tray, holding a fork and crying, I realized that I was lonely.
Just then, Jeremy came in, did his usual joke behind the hospital curtains imitating a particular softly spoken nurse, and peaked his face out from behind the curtains. His beautifully happy face quickly changed to that of sadness when he saw me – hair in a messy bun, sitting there crying like a toddler, in front of a tray of food.
His eyes turned pink, he quickly moved the hospital table away from me, shifted me over on the hospital bed, climbed in and held me. I felt like a baby being calmed by her mother. At the touch of someone who loved me, I felt safe, I felt understood, and I calmed down.
Jeremy said, “This Friday, we’re still gonna have our [pre-bed rest] date night, I’ll get take out from our favorite Indian restaurant, I’ll take you on a wheel chair ride, and I’ll get you a flower from Trader Joes [grocery store], and you can hold the flower on your wheel chair ride.” I began to cry again, but this time, happy tears, tears from feeling an enormous wave of love for this man, and grateful for all that I have.
My OB doctor once said that being pregnant is like going through puberty again. The hormonal changes can make you emotional, and crying is common. So that’s what I used as an excuse.
A Loner’s View
In college, people used to call me a hermit, because I didn’t go to parties, or spent a lot of time chit chatting with people. I actually preferred being at the library focusing my energy on school and getting good grades.
As an adult, I focused on being efficient with my time, and enjoyed being on my own. I liked having a door in my office, and it was always closed. I wasn’t exactly a “team player”, but I played the part when I needed to be.
If you met me in person, you wouldn’t think I was an introvert. I can be very interactive and animated when I speak, and can carry on conversations without awkwardness. But if I could choose, I would prefer not to speak, period. If I had to categorize, I wouldn’t say I’m an introvert either. I just don’t like to mingle, it feels like a waste of time, and sometimes very artificial. I realized that most things people talk about in social settings aren’t very interesting or relative, and are really spoken to fill the awkward spaces that we associate with silence.
Before I landed in the hospital, I spent most of my days alone, without much interaction with people. I worked from home, I rarely talked on the phone, and I avoided face-to-face meetings – sometimes even with close friends.
Since I’m a natural loner, I didn’t think being at the hospital on my own would be a problem… until that day, sitting in front of a tray of food, holding a fork, crying my eyes out. For the first time, in a long time, I suddenly felt alone.
The feeling didn’t last very long, but enough to make me want to understand what was causing me to feel that way.
At the hospital, most things I did were done lying down. As such, regardless of what I’m doing, it makes me very sleepy; I haven’t read much, simply because that’s the fastest way to put myself to sleep. So, I’ve been napping a lot, and distracting my mind with playing minesweeper on the computer, and checking craig’s list for baby stuff.
The other day, while I was on my tenth consecutive game of minesweeper, I suddenly felt embarrassed. The thought of “What would people think of me, if they found out this is how I spent my time?” kept flashing in my mind.
Aside from the hospital routines of medication six times a day and being put on the baby monitor twice a day, my day pretty much consists of eating, planning the next meal – every two hours, playing minesweeper, napping, watching educational pregnancy videos, and periodically flipping on CNN to see if there are any more development on the white house party crashers, or the number of Tiger Woods mistresses.
I felt pathetic. I felt guilty for not getting any work done. I felt uncomfortably unproductive. I felt regret for not having better spent my time on something more meaningful.
The thing with our mind is that once we start on a self-defeating thought, a string of similar thoughts follows, until you – the master of your mind – consciously decide to snip it off.
In the end, I realized that just because I am alone, it does not mean that I needed to feel lonely. And the idea of loneliness was the cumulative result of what I was thinking, and how I perceived my surroundings.
It’s amazing what a simple shift in perspective can do.
What I Learned About Loneliness?
Photo by Anna Kieblesz
I believe that loneliness is like many other emotional experiences, it is a product of what we choose to focus on and how we craft our perspective based on our external circumstances.
Beyond the initial emotion that comes with a change – such as hurt, or sadness – I believe that any prolonged emotion that lingers on continuously after the event is something that we have unconsciously chosen, without realizing it.
Here’s what I’ve observed and learned:
1. Repeated Suggestion
Every few days, someone would come in and ask if I felt depressed, bored or lonely. I would then be passed a telephone hot-line number if I needed help, and web URLs to find pen-pals – so we could complain about our sad situations together – no thanks!
Even today, the doctor shouted, “Have a boring day!” as he left my room. I think he meant to say, “Have an uneventful and relaxing day without going into labor.” But none-the-less, the word boring, after repeated repetition, has been subtly ingrained in my head.
Apparently, many people on bed rest have a hard time. There’s even a support group at the hospital for pregnant women on bed rest, and someone will pop in my room to ask if I need to go.
I was feeling great during my first week, but after repeated suggestions by nurses, social workers and doctors, I started to subtly and unconsciousness question myself, “should I feel bored?“, “Am I lonely?” When I was feeling down, my brain took the opportunity to insert, “I’m lonely” into my focus, even though, that wasn’t the real cause.
2. Aloneness is Not Loneliness
Feeling lonely is a state of mind that is independent from whether or not we are actually physically alone. One could feel lonely even when surrounded by people.
Often, we think that by finding a romantic partner or having lots of friends, we will no longer feel alone. So, we go on this goose chase for relationships or friends, in the hopes of feeling complete.
Once we find love or friendship, we may feel great temporarily, but in time, we would discover that something is still missing. This is why people still fall into depression even though they are in loving relationships.
3. What We Focus On Expands
Just like repeated suggestions by other people, repeating the same phrases or types of thoughts to our selves can convince us that we are in fact having that experience.
If we repeatedly tell ourselves that “I’m lonely”, soon we’ll start looking for and collecting ‘evidence’ that we are lonely. The evidence becomes ‘proof’ that further reinforces our belief. Before we know it, we’ll be convinced that we are in fact lonely.
The same is true for any phrase we repeat, if you believe and continuously tell yourself that you’re the luckiest person alive, you’ll start looking for evidence of auspicious events that occur to you. It is for this reason that I cringe whenever I see TV commercials for depression medicine – they actually encourage people to go into depression.
Whenever I feel lonely, I know that there are people who I could talk to, or techniques to shift out of this state, but I refuse to turn to them. In that moment, I feel the pain, but I also allow it to linger on, by choice. I do this, to reinforce my victim mentality, and this gets me the attention that I feel I need. This whole mental process, of course, happens quickly and unconscious when we are not in present moment awareness.
Next time you are starting to feel lonely or depressed or sad, try your best to observe your thought process. You know you have choices to get out of this state, but because you want the pain to linger just a bit longer, you choose not to use these routes to get you out.
How to Snap Out of Loneliness?
The following are techniques that I’ve found helpful:
- Realize Your Power – In the moments of despair, recognize that that you have choices, and you hold the power to choose what you focus on. You can choose to focus on thoughts that bring you down, keeps you in a low mood, or you can choose to focus on away from self-destructive thoughts. Take responsibility for yourself.
- Find Help – Talk to someone even if you don’t feel like it. Be open and authentic with your feelings and thoughts. If you have the choice, find someone who’s a good listener. It really is helpful to let it out and verbalize your frustrations to another person.
- Change your Physical Position – When ever you’re having an emotional experience that isn’t pleasant, remember to quickly change your physical position. If you’re sitting down and slouching, jump up from your seat and do some stretching, then walk to the kitchen to get something to drink. When you feel the feelings of loneliness emerging, stop what you’re doing and shift into doing something else that puts you in a physically different position. For example, while on bed rest, I would get up and take a quick shower.
- Meaningful Activities – I’ve discovered that certain activities cause me to be less conscious, and more prune to low mood. For example, if I watch more than 1-2 hours of TV, my mind will start to wander into the zone of self-destruction more easily. As such, other activities that raises my consciousness, helps me not only get out of the low mood, but also, results in me feeling more peaceful, relaxed and fulfilled. Try doing something more meaningful, something that feeds your soul, instead of distracting your attention – Reading something inspirational, meditation, go to a yoga class, writing down your thoughts and what you’ve learned, or painting. These are just ideas, but anything creative or spiritually fulfilling will lift you out of the negative spiral you were in.
- Physical Touch – If you are in a relationship, ask your partner to touch you (not in a sexual way), and hold you. Gentle caressing on the hands, arms, back, and face can do wonders. Even if you’re not in a romantic partnership, you could ask a friend to touch the back of your hands, stroke your spine, and give you a big hug. Sometimes, it’s the physical connection we need.
- Deep Breathing – a relaxation technique I use is this simple breathing technique. Start putting your awareness on your breath, inhaling and exhaling as slowly as possible, while keeping your eyes closed. Do this 10-20 times. Then imagine that you are inhaling and exhaling, also through the tips of your fingers, toes, and from the top of your head. Do this for at least 20 times or more. This technique will not only relax you, but also, bring you to a higher state of awareness. When you are more aware of this moment, you can make more conscious decisions, and can more clearly rationalize the situation you were in.
Photo by Kevin Russ
Based on past articles, people may think that I’m an extreme optimist. While, I do tend to lean towards being optimistic, I am just like everyone else. I go through ups and downs, I have bad days, and sometimes react in ways that I am not proud of.
The point of this article is to let you know that you are not alone. Our stories may be different, but at the emotional core, we are very much alike, and that there is always hope for healing regardless of what we are going through.
Regardless of where you are in the world or what you are experiencing, always remember that you are being loved deeply, and that the universal dance is choreographed such that whatever is happening to you is the best thing for you, even if you don’t recognize it, yet.
Treat every moment as a gift, even the ones that make you cry. Because in those moments, life happens, and growth happens – which will lead you into becoming a stronger version of yourself.
Now, close your eyes, and tell yourself silently, “I am whole, I am complete. I am deeply loved.” And feel the wholeness from the core of who you are, and feel the love pouring out of your big soft heart. Life is beautiful, huh?
* What are your experiences with loneliness? Share your stories and thoughts with us in the comment section below. See you there!
Tina at 26 weeks, compared over 6 weeks. Photo by Jeremy Sawatzky
At 31 weeks and 3 days, Ryan is measured at 4.5 pounds, and 16 inches long. He’s a very active little boy who interacts with us with his movement, when he feels pressure on my belly.
Since two weeks ago, Ryan also frequently has the hiccups. I can feel it physically, as my belly vibrates rhythmically. And if he’s hooked on the baby monitor, you can hear the tiny sounds of hiccups intertwined with the racing sound of his heart beat. Poor little thing, it must be uncomfortable… but it’s so darned cute!
Whenever I shift my lying position from one side to another, he too would shift his position. Upon feeling the turning of a little body inside me, I would touch my belly, and feel an unexplainable sense of love for this tiny person I can’t wait to meet, and gratitude for the experience of carrying a human life.
In a few days, we will be at 32 weeks (Dec 18, 2009), and we are expecting to be discharged from the hospital. After spending almost a month here – while I loved the room service – I am really looking forward to going home, and spending Christmas with Jeremy and our puppies under one roof.
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Other Articles You May Enjoy:
- Embracing the Unexpected
- The Ups and Downs of Life
- How to End Suffering
- 6 Steps to Eliminate Limited Beliefs
- How to Get Over Breakups
- The Secret to Self Loving
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