Concerned for your baby’s health, your doctor may put you on bedrest. This may sound wonderful at first …
Ahhh … bedrest. It’s all the rage these days. Julia Roberts did it. Debra Messing? She did it, too. Lying around in comfy pajamas day after day. Catching up on the soaps, and reading all the books on the best-seller list. Having an excuse to be waited on. It sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?
Shirley Kawa-Jump thought so, until she spent several months of her pregnancy confined to bed. “At first, I thought it would be great,” she recalls. “I was tired anyway and was grateful for an excuse to slow down.” Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for the novelty to wear off. “I was worried sick about my baby’s health,” she says. “Plus, within a few days, I was bored out of my mind, crazy from thinking about how messy my house was getting and ready to be up on my feet.”
She’s not alone. An estimated 700,000 mothers-to-be each year spend some time on bedrest. And most find that bedrest doesn’t live up to its image of a relaxing break from everyday life.
There are lots of reasons why bedrest may be prescribed during pregnancy, according to Adelaide Nardone, M.D., Ob/Gyn and medical advisor. They include preterm labor, incompetent cervix, placenta previa, placental abruption, preeclampsia, diabetes and multiple babies. “Any abnormal vaginal bleeding will also warrant some degree of bedrest,” advises Nardone, “as will any chronic, severe or significant medical problem that may result in placental insufficiency.”
No matter what the cause, bedrest isn’t easy. But since it’s a part of so many pregnancies, all expectant moms should be prepared. Here’s what you need to know if you’re sent to bed. In the Beginning when you receive your bedrest prescription, you will probably have lots of questions. Ask every single one of them. Get the specifics about your condition and your limitations. And keep asking as the days, weeks or even months go by. “Each week when I talked with my doctor, I asked him exactly what I could do,” says new mom Kim Schillace. “Could I get up and go to a couch in another room? How often could I take a shower? Could I sit at a table for dinner?”
After talking to your doctor, you will need to contact your employer and fill her in on your situation. Decide if you will use sick days, vacation days, disability leave or unpaid leave, and complete any necessary paperwork as quickly as possible. Also, be sure to call your health insurance company and ask what expenses are covered and which ones are not. Remember that if handling these important, but unnerving, details stresses you out, delegate the forms and phone calls. You need to remain as calm as possible.
Decide where you will serve your time. Do you have to stay in bed or can you spend a few hours on the family room couch? Does a spare bedroom offer more sunlight, a nicer outside view or closer bathroom proximity?
Wherever you set up camp, make things convenient. Have everything you might need or want at your fingertips. Fill a basket with things like books, magazines, a journal and pen, craft projects, hand lotion and lip balm, and keep it by your bed. Make sure you have the phone and the remote control handy. Put a cooler or a dorm-size refrigerator within reach, and stock it with plenty of snacks and drinks.
When you’re confined to bed, there are lots of things you can’t do. Don’t be shy about asking for help. Keep a running list of jobs that need to be done, and another list of friends, relatives, neighbors, co-workers and others who are willing to pitch in. If you haven’t bought any diapers yet, mention to prospective helpers that you’re feeling unprepared for your bundle of joy.
If the laundry pile has become a mountain, point someone toward the washing machine. Give your neighbor a list, and ask her to pick up your groceries the next time she shops. “You’ll find that most people will be eager to help if you tell them how,” says Amy E. Tracy, author of The Pregnancy Bed Rest Book (International Thomson Publishing) and founder of pregnancybedrest.com.
Beating the Boredom Blues
Remember all those things you always said you’d like to do if only you had the time? Well, you have lots of it now! Yes, your activities are limited, but there is a lot more to do than stare at the walls or watch hours of TV. “Keep yourself stimulated mentally,” advises Nardone.
Get all those photos into albums. Rent or borrow a laptop. Arrange for in-home childbirth classes. Address envelopes for your baby announcements. Call or write to old friends. Learn something new. “I learned to crochet a baby blanket,” says Diana Smith, a former bedrester. “I didn’t even know how to hold the crochet hook when I started!”
A Family Affair
Bedrest is tough on the whole family. If you have older children, you will need to find child care if you don’t already have it. Friends and family are often eager to help in this regard, but if you need more assistance, you can hire a babysitter or send your child to a day-care center temporarily. Make sure anyone who cares for your child knows about your bedrest. “Our daycare provider took extra time to help out and gave our son extra doses of attention,” notes Francie Todd, a mother of two.
Make sure you give your child or children plenty of attention as well – bedrest can be confusing and upsetting for small children. You can ease your child’s concerns by making your bed-time special for him. Snuggle and read or watch a video. Have picnics together on the bed. Keep some favorite toys nearby so you can play together.
Most of all, enjoy this special quiet time with your child – and let your “big kid” help you feel better. “My 2-year-old brought me his favorite blanket as I was lying on the couch one evening,” Todd recounts. “When I praised him for his thoughtfulness, he ran into his room and brought out, one by one, each of his stuffed animals, blankets and favorite toys until I was buried under a sea of love.”
Acknowledge your negative feelings about being on bedrest – they’re normal and you’ll have lots of them – but try to avoid dwelling on your worries and fears. “Instead, think about all the things you are doing right, all the things that are helping your baby grow,” says Tracy.
Maintaining a positive attitude is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your baby. Remember that you won’t be on bedrest forever. “Considering your time in bed in relation to your child’s whole life really puts it in perspective,” says Nardone.
“Staying in bed to help your baby grow is one of the most important accomplishments you’ll do in life,” adds Tracy. And when you gaze into your baby’s eyes, you’ll be richly rewarded.
Carol Sjostrom Miller is a freelance writer and mother who was on bedrest three times during two pregnancies.
GETTING BACK ON YOUR FEET
Recovering from pregnancy and childbirth is never easy, but bedresters often find it even more difficult to bounce back. After spending weeks or months lying down, it takes a while to adjust to being up and mobile. “After my son was born, I had been on bedrest for so long that I was completely out of shape,” says Shirley Kawa-Jump. “Getting the mail winded me. It took me a really long time to get back to a normal level of activity.”
Although you may be eager to get back to normal, try to ease into everyday life slowly when your bedrest sentence is over. When you’ve become accustomed to staying home and staying still, real life can seem too loud, too hectic and too overwhelming – especially at first. Don’t rush into too many activities, and remember that this too shall pass.