One of my friends is on bed rest right now, and I started wondering what I can do for her that would actually be helpful. People are lining up to bring her family lasagna. But when a mom is out of commission for a month or more, a family needs more than help with dinner. I learned this the hard way during my last pregnancy.
Then it occurred to me that the stuff that’s actually the most useful may not be considered to be in the best taste. I think what the world needs is a list of inappropriate (or marginally appropriate) but REALLY HELPFUL gifts for someone on bed rest.
These are the gifts that when you show up, your friend may be like: “Ummm… Thanks?” while thinking “Why the hell did you give me this, you psycho?” but then a few weeks later she will give you an awkwardly long hug and be all “You are the smartest woman and the best friend in the entire world and I want to sincerely thank you.”
So if you know someone who is on bed rest or about to go on bed rest, here are some suggestions for helpful gifts:
1. MAKE SURE SHE HAS IMPORTANT STUFF COVERED.
Lets not kid ourselves, if we’re talking about bed rest – it’s all about the holy trinity: TV, laptop and wifi. Make sure that wherever she’s going to be spending most of her time, there is a TV or a computer she can easily access. If she doesn’t have a laptop or iPad, see if you can borrow one for her. If there’s no wifi, make that schmidt happen – even if it’s only temporary. You can turn a cell phone into a wifi hotspot for less money (sometimes) than paying to have it installed in the house.
2. STUFF TO MAKE HER LESS STINKY.
When you’re on best rest, you don’t get to shower as much and your friend may feel “not so fresh”. If you’re baking a baby while on bed rest (as I was), you may also have that pregnancy trait where you can smell EVERYTHING, in the manner of a young bloodhound. And there you are, stuck in bed, having to smell yourself. It’s no bueno.
Be careful what scents you buy, though. What smells good to you may smell like yak urine to your friend, especially if she’s pregnant.
3. DRY SHAMPOO BECAUSE HER HAIR IS GOING TO BE A HOT MESS.
For the same reason as the previous “less stinky” gift. Showering can be hard when you’re on bed rest. And if she’s like “Really? Wipes and now this?” You can be all: “I CARE ABOUT YOUR FOLLICLES, STUPID.” And then you can tell her how not shampooing all the time is supposed to be really good for your hair. But it feels and smells funky after a couple of days, hence the dry shampoo. I like Suave because it’s cheap, it works well, and smells nice.
4. HELP MAKE HER SMARTER.
Bed rest makes you stupid. It’s kind of a scientific fact (I surveyed four people and they all said yes). But thanks to things like YouTube, Kahn Academy, Cousera, and what’re those other things (with pages? Oh right. BOOKS.) – your friend can actually learn something cool or master a new skill while she’s on bed rest.
Maybe she can improve her Spanish? Or perhaps she can learn how to knit an attractive sweater? Or master Calculus or basic Physics? There is so much out there. See if she’s interested in this kind of thing, then help her by finding resources or buying whatever materials she needs as a gift.
5. ALSO MAKE HER MORE STUPIDER.
Everyone else is getting her Downton Abbey, right? And buying her books like “Tenth of December”. You be the hotshot that balances it all out with some “Us Weekly” and some old 80’s classics. Her attention span is going to be shot anyway. So give her something silly to read or something she can play Words with Friends while watching, and not have to worry she’s missing a vital plot point.
6. BUY COOLER. STOCK COOLER. BE COOLER.
Unless your friend has the forethought to stick a mini-fridge next to her sickbed, she will really appreciate this. Get a small cooler, get some of those groovy cold packs, stock that thing with healthy and yummy snacks and drinks. Trust me, I WISH I HAD HEARD THIS IDEA. She can have her husband stock it every morning with stuff she likes and it cuts way down on the the amount of stepping and fetching that’s required throughout the day. That’s good for everyone.
7. GET HER A TEENAGE GIRL RIGHT NOW.
You know what she needs? She needs a 14 year old girl to come to her house a couple of afternoons a week to play Barbies and Legos and Wii with her kids. And help them clean their rooms. And pick up the playroom before dinner. And unload the dishwasher. All the stuff that she would roll her eyes at her own mother for – she’ll happily do for you because (1) you’re paying her $7.50 an hour and (2) 14 year old girls are wonderful and helpful provided you’re not their mother.
8. SEE IF SHE WANTS TO MAKE SOME CRAP – I MEAN “CRAFTS”.
By the time your friend is off bed rest, she could have made a bunch of these awesome boobie hats! Be sure to get instructions and all the necessary stuff, because its not like she can just run to the store if you forget the dark pink thread for the nipple part of the hat. Also consider: knitting, jewelry making, scrapbooking.
9. SOMETHING TO COVER UP THE STENCH OF HER HOUSE.
It’s no fun to have lay there, watching the crud around your house pile up, unable to do anything about it. You know those Febreze commercials where they blindfold people and make them sit in dumpsters and they think they’re someplace clean because it smells clean? THAT.
10. CLEAN THAT HIZZY.
n addition to Febreze, you can help your friend out by taking a few minutes to run the vacuum cleaner or wipe down those counters. Or if you want to be a super star, go in with some of your buddies and buy her a date with the Merry Maids.
11. TOUCH HER UNDERGARMENTS.
Get your mind out of the gutter, dirty bird. I mean help her by folding her clean underpants – because the laundry situation at her house is about to get all jacked up. I had a friend who came over once a week, caught me up on gossip and folded my laundry. Normally, I’m weird about people touching my drawers (clean or dirty – just don’t ). But in this case, she made me see it was an emergency. And I was so grateful, I just let her touch my underpants and it was awesome.
12. KIDNAP HER CHILDREN.
One of the worst parts of being on bed rest is the guilt of feeling like your kids are suffering. You can’t play with them and they can’t do a lot of the stuff that they want to (and are used to) because you can’t get up. So be a good friend and take her kids to the playground. Run them around until they’re happy and exhausted. The whole family will appreciate it more than you know.
13. SET UP HER HUSBAND ON A MAN-DATE.
When mom goes on bed rest, everything falls on daddy. He is going to be ragged from trying to take care of her, the kids, the house, dinner, laundry and trying to do his job at work. Give the dude a break. It may seem like a weird suggestion but take care of him, so he can take care of her. Offer to babysit so he can have some time off. Give him movie or sports tickets and tell him your husband will pick him up at 6.
14. GIVE A DOG A BONE.
Or at least take him for a walk. You could also arrange to have a neighborhood kid do it a couple of times per week. My poor dog was so neglected during my bed rest. The sad part was, he was so concerned about what the hell was going on AND no one paid any attention to him. So in addition to feeling guilty that I was a bad mom, I was also feeling like I was being a bad dog mom. A few extra dog walks also helps your canine buddy behave around the house, too.
15. HOW ABOUT A NOONER?
Even if you don’t have a lot of time, you can always squeeze in a nooner. That’s what she said. Just stop by with a Starbucks or some take-out. Your friend will really appreciate that you took the time to think of her. It doesn’t take a lot to brighten your day when you’ve been stuck on bed rest for a few weeks.
16. GIRLS NIGHT IN
Another way to treat your friend, and to give her spouse a well-deserved break, is to bring the party to her. Bring a couple of good friends, some tasty nibbles and wear your PJ’s. Just be sure to bring people who are cool, who will make sure she feels comfortable having them around when she’s feeling weak and her house is all dirty.
17. PJS SHE CAN ENJOY LATER
I like things that are comfortable to the point where I’m possibly part Hobbit. But if you’re going to get her PJ’s or a robe, get her something she’s going to want to wear after bed rest is over. Maybe not something sexed up or anything, but pretty enough that she will want to put it on in a year. And for the present, having something practical and pretty to lounge in for weeks and weeks might make her feel slightly less bored and yucky.
18. YOU KNOW WHAT YOUR FRIEND REALLY NEEDS? LEGOS AND COLORING BOOKS.
Your friend needs stuff to keep her kids busy, quiet and happy. Buy her a bunch of little “busy” gifts for her to give to her kids. It’s like a triple present: she gets credit for giving them toys, they happily and quietly play with their new stuff, and she gets a few minutes free from pestering and mommy-guilt.
19. GET HER A SPECIAL HOUSE CALL.
One of the things Rants from Mommyland readers suggested was getting your friend an in-home mani/pedi. This idea can be expensive and not every community may have a roving manicurist. But you can also do it yourself, if you’re fancy and good at that stuff.
20. BE A BOSSY COW. TAKE OVER.
Your friend on bed rest may need help keeping up with all her family’s stuff but may not feel comfortable asking for what she really needs. So sit down with her and find out week by week what she really needs help with. Then set up a Sign Up Genius with things like: take Suzy to Girl Scouts, return library books, and not just the regular “make lasagne”. So when well-meaning people ask “What can I do to help?” – she can just direct them to the sign up.
21. A GOOD, GROWN UP SIPPY CUP
Here’s one of the (many) things about bed rest I didn’t know. You’re going to need a sippy cup because you’re going to be lying down, but you’re also going to be thirsty. My favorite is the huge 32 oz flesh-colored, insulated mugs you get from the hospital. They’re the best. But failing that, get your friend a big, hard to spill or drip insulated sippy cup. They’re going to need it.