If you are one of the thousands of women who must spend the last weeks, even months, of your pregnancy on bedrest, time can stand painfully still. Here are some tips to get you through the waiting.
A few days ago, as my daughter and I were sitting in the front seat of the car, waiting for the light to turn green, a young woman with a sweet face and an enormous belly crossed the street in front of us. “Mom, did you look like that when you were pregnant with me?” Well, yes, I had. But in fact, although my belly was of course huge, I never walked around like that when I was pregnant. I, along with an increasing number of pregnant women each year, spent a good part of my pregnancy lying down.
According to Sidelines, a non-profit group offering support for women during high-risk pregnancies, one in four pregnant women will experience complications. These can include premature labor, high blood pressure, cervical changes, vaginal bleeding, poor fetal development, placenta complications and gestational diabetes.
For many of these women, doctors will prescribe bedrest. Bedrest can mean anything from an hour a day spent on the couch to complete bedrest with no bathroom privileges. My own complication was preterm labor, with no known cause. This is not unusual; sometimes contractions just start too early, for no known reason. In order to calm the contractions, I was ordered to go home and lie down for the duration of the pregnancy.
No matter what the reason, bedrest can be a stressful time for the new mom-to-be as well as for the spouse and other children. During my first pregnancy, I thought spending five weeks on the couch was an incredible feat. Then, with my second pregnancy I spent four months on bedrest. Perhaps unwittingly, I became an expert on surviving this difficult time.
So, if you are one of the ‘chosen ones,’ one of those who ‘get’ to lie around for a few weeks or months, how do you survive? And if someone you know has been put on bedrest, just how can you help?
Here are Some Tips:
If you are the mom: View this as your job. One day I was teaching a classroom full of Fourth Graders, the next day, I was lying in a hospital bed. Leaving an active, demanding job to lie down for a few months was one of the most difficult things I ever had to do. But once I viewed this as my ‘job,’ essentially growing a baby, it became less difficult. You may have just left the executive suite; you may have just finished your last shift at the restaurant. No matter, your outside job is over for now. Your job now is to lie still and let this baby grow.
Let yourself rest. Once I was put on bedrest, I thought I needed to keep up the same frenetic pace I always had, only lying down. I wanted to catch up on all the books that had been piling up on my bedside table. Problem was, I found that 20 pages into a book, I fell asleep. Then I tried working on my computer, but it was way too cumbersome for me to handle lying down. I had to give up on my list of things I should do. So, if you can’t get to those things that you’ve always been meaning to do (putting all the pictures in scrapbooks, organizing your recipes), don’t beat yourself up. Let this be a time of rest.
Get help. Accept help. Call your sister, call your mom, expect more from your partner. I found that people want to help, especially if you give them something specific to do. Ask your partner or your mother to delegate the jobs, since you most likely cannot do it from your bed. Call the friends that you know will be most helpful to you. Say “yes” when they offer to cook, to shop, to walk the dog.
Set up a comfortable place. One of the most helpful things my husband and sister did was set up a little ‘bedrest nest’ for me. On some makeshift shelves by my bedside, they assembled the telephone, along with my directory, the radio, the television remote control, the magazines, a snack and my water bottle. Have everything there at hand so that you can feel comfortable, and so that your caregivers can feel comfortable if they need to leave you!
Set up a schedule for yourself. Pretend this is your new work day. I found that if I planned my day ahead of time, that is, what time I watched a certain television program, listened to a radio show and phoned a friend, my day went by a lot faster. It was predictable, and I felt a lot less anxious.
Rent movies. Now is the time to watch all those movies you’ve been wanting to see. Have a friend take your list to the movie store, or order the movies from a company like Netflix (www.netflix.com), and have them mailed to you.
Make yourself presentable. Being on bedrest does not mean you are sick. I found that brushing my teeth, combing my hair and putting on a clean shirt lifted my spirits, and helped me start the day with a positive attitude.
Ask for professionals to come to you. My hairstylist was willing to come to my house to give me a very much needed, very quick haircut. Massage therapists are willing to come to your house, as are ministers, manicurists and decorators. Counselors are often willing to talk to you on the phone. All you need to do is ask.
Get childcare. Even though I was no longer working, we continued to send my daughter to her daycare. You absolutely cannot take care of children when you are on bedrest. It is not fair to you; it is not fair to the child. If your child is not already in daycare, find some kind of childcare arrangement, perhaps a local daycare, a preschool or even a neighbor who is willing to babysit.
Look up www.sidelines.org. This is the website of the Sidelines National Support Network. There you can order a copy of their magazine Left Sidelines, along with books which offer support and information to women on bedrest. In addition, there are numerous articles on high-risk pregnancy.
Go ahead and feel sad. Of course this isn’t how you wanted your pregnancy to go. It’s disappointing to have your baby shower postponed, to not be able to shop for those baby clothes. Let yourself cry, let yourself be angry. After a while, you’ll start to accept that this is just another way to do pregnancy. It’s not one you prefer, but it’s what your baby requires.
If You are the Support:
Don’t say to the mother on bedrest, “I wish I had the chance to lie around.” Everyone tells her that. You may think that you would love the opportunity to lie in bed for days, but you don’t. To have your freedom taken away, your ability to walk, to cook, to work, is a very difficult thing.
Call and ask how they’re doing. Call once a day and tell them what is going on out there. Moms on bedrest can feel really isolated from the world.
Call and ask if they would like a visit. Bring over a simple lunch for the two of you during your lunch break.
Set up a meal schedule. Get friends, family and co-workers to cook dinner for the family. It is impossible for the partner to work all day, take care of older kids, and tend to the expectant mom. Having a regular evening meal that you can count on is a godsend.
Set up a childcare schedule. Find childcare for the older children. Do not expect the bedridden mom to take care of kids. She cannot.
Make plans for the baby shower. Chances are the baby shower has been cancelled, which is a great source of sadness for the mom. In my case, my shower was postponed until after I had given birth to my daughter. When I was pregnant with my son, we had a ‘Bedside Shower.’ Either choice works, ask the mom what she would like.
Go shopping for the nursery. I was put on bedrest the week before I was going to decorate the nursery. My sister stepped in. She was careful to ask me exactly what I was hoping for. She put off purchasing the things that I wanted to pick out for myself. She came home from stores with two or three choices, let me pick what I liked and then returned the rejected items.
Give them projects to do. My friend taught me how to do cross stitch. I had never done it, and haven’t done it since, but it was wonderful having an easy project I could turn to every day.
Being on bedrest can be one of the most difficult times in a family’s life. But with a little patience and a lot of support, you and your family can get through this. And soon you’ll be holding that precious healthy baby in your arms, and it will all feel worthwhile.
Martha is a freelance writer and parent of two. See more of her articles and essays at www.marthawegner.us.
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