When my sister-in-law was pregnant with my second nephew back in 2006, she developed an active, bleeding clot between her placenta and her uterine wall. If the clot got bigger, it could cause a placental abruption, ending the pregnancy and seriously risking her life. Her doctor put her on strict bed rest from her fourteenth week of pregnancy until late in her seventh month – basically, five months of bed rest. And even though I was a little nervous for her, I mostly thought five months of bed rest sounded awesome. I was such an idiot, and I apologized profusely to my SIL when I was put on strict bed rest the following year.
Bed rest for a pregnancy complication is, quite simply, awful. It’s not like being confined to a bed while you recover from surgery, or are sick with a terrible flu. It’s not fun. It’s not a vacation. You don’t get to sit around and read and watch TV and eat bon bons. You are in bed because something is wrong with you and/or your baby. I put that in italics but I think I should bold it, too: You are in bed because something is wrong with you and/or your baby. Does that sound fun or relaxing? My ten weeks of bed rest during my first pregnancy were some of the worst weeks of my life.
When I was on bed rest, I couldn’t get out of bed except to walk two steps to use a portable toilet. I could shower for five minutes, as long as I was sitting and someone was right outside the stall.
When I was on bed rest, I could only sleep in small bursts because all I did was lay in bed. I was in a constant fog and couldn’t concentrate on anything. I couldn’t read a book, or a magazine. I couldn’t learn how to knit, or catch up on TV shows or movies. I could barely carry on a conversation.
When I was on bed rest, I couldn’t do anything for myself. I needed help getting up to use the toilet. I couldn’t make myself food. I needed help turning over in bed. I went on disability for work. I had to let my husband do everything around the house. And I didn’t have another child at home that needed care and attention, which would have compounded things significantly.
When I was on bed rest, my body fell apart. My muscles atrophied, my hips screamed in pain, and my back was hunched.
When I was on bed rest, I blamed myself. I couldn’t safely carry my baby. Something was wrong with me. My baby was going to die, and it was going to be my fault.
When I was on bed rest, I wanted to give up. I didn’t care about being pregnant. I didn’t care about anything. I wanted it all to end. And I am one of the most positive people I know.
So if you know a pregnant woman on bed rest, don’t tell her to enjoy it. Don’t tell her to stock up on sleep, don’t bring her knitting needles or crossword puzzles. Know that what she is going through is TERRIBLE. She feels like a failure. She has what feels like an insurmountable amount of time stretching out in front of her. Always call before you visit. Send her emails and texts every day.
Know that she is terrified, and absolutely nothing about pregnancy bed rest is “fun.”