Pregnancy journal: On travel and my new normal

Revised version of a journal entry written July 26, three days after arriving in England (about seven weeks into my pregnancy):

Lisa and Erik arrive, exhausted, at Heathrow

July 24: after arriving at Heathrow, before going to Bournemouth

I wrote earlier, with surprised pleasure, that my mental state is a lot more relaxed now that my body is in charge. But in the past few days I’ve also discovered just how important it is to obey my body’s signals. This is rough while traveling, since there are so many factors outside my control. But I’m learning that it affects me badly when I get stressed or worn-out.

As I mentioned in another post, being pregnant is a lot like running a resource-intensive program on the computer. With my body working so hard at this unfamiliar task, everything becomes a little more challenging, even when things are otherwise going smoothly. It’s unexpectedly mentally draining as well, as my brain works to process the situation and learn the new patterns.

On top of that, I often experience more overtly distracting symptoms: queasiness or an unsettled stomach, gas, fatigue, emotional vulnerability, hunger that very quickly mutates into hanger.

Traveling, too, as fun and exciting as it can be, throws in a lot of other stressors — jet lag and general sleep deprivation (which also affect my body temperature and digestion), less-predictable mealtimes, the strain of having to cope with unfamiliar situations, sensory overwhelm — sometimes all simultaneously.

So if I’m having a particularly exhausting traveling day, and a particularly uncomfortable pregnancy day, both at the same time, I get extremely close to the threshold at which I’m no longer able to be composed and pleasant to people. (Which is in itself stressful, because part of what soothes me during travel is my ability to come across presentable and respectful.) Really, I never want to get even close to this state because that’s when I’m running on reserve battery power, so to speak. And as far as I’m concerned, one should always have some reserve energy available while traveling!

All of this is to explain why I had an almost-meltdown outside the Bournemouth train station…

Bournemouth train station in the early morning

photo taken on July 30, as we were leaving England

…when I discovered I couldn’t get data on my phone (in spite of what the T-Mobile people had assured me before departure) and my note-taking app had our directions stored only online. We were standing in drizzle with all our luggage, it was getting dark, we’d been traveling for nearly 24 hours (including a couple of hours of standing on a moving train), I hadn’t had a really good meal since the day before we left, Erik was just as tired as I was, and now, we had no access to our directions. Erik suggested I call the host, and I just spat out, “I DON’T WANT TO TALK TO ANYONE,” and marched off in what I figured was the right direction. Fortunately, it ended well, but I haven’t come that close to an honest-to-goodness tantrum in I don’t know how long.

This is when I realized that for the rest of this trip — all three parts of it — I had to really hoard my resources. Which meant that even on days when we had nothing planned, I should never try to do anything requiring more than a modest amount of my energy, because I never knew when I might not be able to summon any more than that.

Postscript written today (at 22 weeks pregnant):
I’m actually very thankful to these early-pregnancy travels, as tiring as they were, for forcing me to reckon honestly with my new physical/mental/emotional limits. I think if I’d been at home, it would have been easier for me to pretend everything was normal, but I always push myself a little while traveling and it was very very clear to me, whenever I pushed too far, that my body found it unacceptable. These travels gave me a lot of practice in pulling back before I got to that point — and in reminding myself what would happen if I didn’t — and this has stood me in good stead ever since. Pregnancy is a constantly changing journey and my limitations fluctuate from week to week, day to day. It’s good to be aware of what I can and can’t do, and submit to those limits in the knowledge that it is for my own benefit (and the benefit of all those around me!). As a wise, thoughtful friend said to me and my sister just the other day, “The best thing you can do for your baby is to take care of yourself.” She has two kids and I suspect she has learned this the hard way (and many times over)!