I wanted to be pregnant even before I wanted to have a baby. I couldn’t wait to experience the miracle that the magazines, books, and movies had shown me throughout my 30 years. I saw myself rubbing my belly lovingly and whispering to my unborn child. I pictured crying with joy when I felt the baby move.
The reality? I enjoyed pregnancy for approximately two weeks before I’d had enough. Waylaid by the nausea and staggering fatigue in the first months, I subsided on a diet of Sour Skittles and minestrone soup before dragging myself to bed at eight o’clock each night. Then, just as those symptoms were starting to fade, I started having contractions in my 24th week of pregnancy.
My doctor loaded me up with anti-contraction drugs and announced, “I’m going to put you on bed rest. You need to be lying down all the time, but don’t worry, I’m going to let you go to the bathroom.” (What were the other options? I thought.)
Fast forward a few years, and I’ve become a bed rest pro. True, it’s an expertise not many people would want, but after two pregnancies and over six months spent on my back, I’ve learned a thing or two about beating the isolation and loneliness with these survival skills:
Give up as much control as you can
I ended up letting my grandmother fold my laundry, which meant having her sit in front of me and hold thongs up in the air as she tried to figure out what to do with them. My first instinct was to say, “Please stop!” but then I realized the laundry needed to be folded one way or another.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
People want to help but often don’t know what to do. Ask for what you want, even if it seems trivial. For instance, I couldn’t stop thinking about chocolate Blizzards with Reese’s peanut butter cups. I spent weeks thinking about them but felt too selfish to ask someone to go out and get me one. When I did ask my neighbors to pick me up one on their way home from work, they were happy to help, and I was ecstatic. It’s the little things that will help you survive. Another thing that made me so happy was when my mother put out my window boxes. I knew in the scheme of things window boxes were not that important. Rationally, I knew it was more important to have a clean house and food to eat. But I lay in front of that window all day, and I love spring. It took everything in me not to run out and fill the windows with flowers. Finally, when I told people what I was thinking, they did it. Life and death? No. Happiness? Yes.
Make friends with the mailman/woman
I made friends with the Fed Ex lady, the mailman, anyone who wandered down my sidewalk. I looked forward to when the mailman came because many times his was the only face I saw all day. Like a puppy, I lay on our couch in front of our big bay window looking to see who was walking down our street.
After a couple of days on bed rest, I thought I had my chance to write the great American novel. Instead, I read People magazine, did crossword puzzles (had never done them in my life), read mysteries (had never read them), and watched Ellen. In the meantime, I felt guilty that I was not “putting my time to good use.” After all, I thought, when would I have three months of solitude and silence ever again? (Apparently, now with two kids, never again, but that’s beside the point.) Looking back, I realize why I couldn’t write a novel. I was uncomfortable, stressed, and jittery from all of the anti-contraction drugs. Yes, I had quiet, but my mind was not at peace. To write or accomplish big tasks, you need to be able to be fully present, which I was not. So, do whatever brings you peace, be it reruns of Desperate Housewives or The Bachelor.
Unfortunately, I did not learn how to meditate until after I had finished bed rest. Now that I know its benefits, I think it would have been perfect for me while under so much stress.
Feel sorry for yourself sometimes
I know, no one ever really advises this. People say to look on the bright side, remember the positives, etc. And I think you should as much as possible. But, if you are in a stressful situation such as bed rest for months, at some point, looking on the bright side becomes a little bit of denial. During my first stint of bed rest, I was so busy telling myself how lucky I was to still have a healthy baby inside of me that I would not even admit how sad the whole situation made me. I was like a robot programmed to say, “But I’m so lucky!” even though I spent every day alone and worried. By my second bed rest, I had learned what a great benefit it was to tell people how sad I was. Because, it’s true – even though you do have a healthy baby, you are still missing out on something you probably had dreamed about. Many women look forward to pregnancy and the community that comes with it. But with bed rest, there is no shared community. It’s OK to grieve that you’ve missed out, even if you realize that you’d do anything for your baby.