When my sister-in-law was pregnant for the second time, an active blood clot formed between her placenta and uterine lining. If the clot got too big, it would separate the placenta from the wall of the uterus, effectively ending the pregnancy. The clot would bleed whenever she moved around too much, so she was put on strict bed rest immediately. From her twelfth week of pregnancy until halfway through her seventh month, she laid in bed, using a wheelchair to go to the bathroom or doctor visits. My husband and I sent her care packages of DVDs, books, and games, and I remember thinking, “how fun that she gets to rest and watch TV all day!” I was actually jealous.
Flash forward to my pregnancy. When my water broke at 19 weeks, I was put on strict bed rest. I was only allowed to get up to go to the bathroom. I was allowed a five minute shower if I had a shower seat. I needed to lay on my side, preferably my left one, at all times. Never on my back, and I wasn’t ever supposed to sit up because that would stress my abdominal muscles. Gravity was a serious issue since I was constantly leaking amniotic fluid. Suddenly I realized that my sister-in-law’s bed rest might not have been the vacation I’d originally thought!
So many people told me, “enjoy the rest, because when the baby comes, you won’t get any.” Anyone who says that has never been on bed rest! While everyone obviously meant well, it did little to cheer me up. For me, there was nothing restful about it. I was constantly thinking about my condition. I did hours of research on the Internet about babies born to women like me. I wanted to be prepared for anything. It definitely helped once my daughter was born as I knew what to expect, but there were so many things to prepare for that it totally messed with my mind. Pregnant women are a pretty paranoid bunch these days anyway, what with all the things not to eat, do, etc. Throw in a high risk pregnancy and I can guarantee mental breakdowns! I had a lot of them. Even though I had my husband and my family and friends, I still felt like I was in solitary confinement. I started to wonder what I could have done differently. I shouldn’t have been outside over Labor Day weekend since the weather was so hot. I ran too many errands and I was on my feet too much. When you have nothing to do but think, your mind plays terrible tricks on you.
The one thing I never expected was how totally draining bed rest would be. Because all I could do was lay there, I would sleep in small bursts. Thirty minutes here, 45 minutes there. No long stretches, ever, even at night. I became very knowledgeable on the late night television schedule! I had trouble concentrating on everything. And physically, it destroyed me. I could feel my muscles twitching as they atrophied. My hips and lower back are still totally messed up from supporting all my weight. I had a pillow top mattress with a memory foam pad, and it still felt like I was laying on rough concrete. The special bed in the hospital wasn’t much better. I was scared that I wouldn’t have the endurance to go through labor or the strength to push my daughter out (which ended up not being an issue since I had a C-Section).
I had some really low moments. Times I just wanted to give up. I felt like I was going to crack and I couldn’t do it anymore. I didn’t WANT to do it anymore. It was so hard, the enormity so overwhelming, that I just didn’t want to be pregnant and I didn’t CARE. I still feel guilty about that. Thank GOD I had my husband. He never judged me when I was at my most selfish, crying because I was uncomfortable or because I wouldn’t be able to do something. He never threw anything in my face. I never could have made it without him.
I taped up my ultrasound photos as motivation. I would remind myself, even during my low points, that every day I was on bed rest was a day my daughter wouldn’t have to be in the hospital. Instead of dwelling on everything I was missing out on by being on bed rest, I starting thinking about what I was gaining by laying there – my baby’s health. The sacrifices didn’t seem as big when I thought about it that way.
If you are on bed rest, I highly suggest moving your computer to your bedside. Read about your condition and get informed. Don’t dwell too much on what could go wrong. Ask your doctor if there are any stretches or easy exercises you can do in bed – you might even be able to get physical therapy. Find things to occupy your time – movies, DVDs of TV shows, books, computer games, word puzzles, anything. Above all, don’t be afraid to ask for help. I felt like such a burden to my family and friends, but they <i>wanted</i> to help me. They felt better knowing that they could do something for me, like cook or clean, and I felt better knowing that my house was still being cared for.
If you know someone on bed rest, DO NOT TELL THEM TO ENJOY THE REST!!!! It might seem like a good idea at the time, but stop and think about it for a sec – there is potentially something wrong with this pregnancy. Do you think your pregnant friend is feeling like bed rest is a vacation? She is most definitely scared out of her mind. Go over to her house, walk her dog, bring her and her husband dinner. She’ll always remember what a good friend you were to her in her time of need. I have a list a mile long of people I owe one to!
At the end of her bed rest, my sister-in-law gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy. She had the strength for a natural birth and, while her recovery was a bit longer because of her weakened condition, she was soon walking around like bed rest was a distant memory. My bed rest absolutely saved the life of my daughter. There is a light at the end of the tunnel!!