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Bed rest and I were not friends. In fact, we were enemies. There’s not a bad word strong enough to explain how much I hated it.
Bed rest was keeping me from my family, yet it was the only thing (they told me) that was keeping me pregnant. I hated the one thing that I needed to do to save my baby.
In general, a pregnant woman who is diagnosed with a high-risk pregnancy is prescribed either one of two types of bed rest:
- Modified bed rest (MBR) requires a pregnant woman to rest as much as possible, but it does not mean she has to remain in the bed at all times. Every doctor has a different definition of MBR, but for the most part it means that you can walk around your house, shower and take basic care of yourself. Usually you are told not to do laundry, not lift any heavy items (or children), and not vacuum or scrub the floors. There may be an extra order of pelvic rest, as part of your MBR, and that just means no intercourse of any type. This can be a bummer for many moms, but if you are suffering a high-risk pregnancy it may be the furthest from your mind anyway.
- Strict bed rest (SBR) limits a woman to bed for most of the time, usually with the exception of bathroom needs, unless you are asked to use a bed pan for many weeks, like I was. Any situation where periods of standing are necessary should be avoided.
I was put on modified bed rest at the very beginning of my fourth pregnancy due to moderate bleeding. Fast forward to my 17th week, when I hemorrhaged in the middle of the night and thought I lost the baby. From that moment on, everything changed. I spent most of the next six weeks in a hospital bed, being transfused and fearing not only that I would lose my baby, but that I would lose my life and leave my three small children without a mother. Talk about stress!
After a few weeks of hospital bed rest, I started to become depressed and slightly insane. I say “slightly,” but my husband and best friend would probably say I was “totally insane.” People (trying to make me feel better) told me that being on bed rest was a gift. Who wouldn’t want to hang out in bed all day, with their meals served to them on a platter, receive a sponge bath and have their hair washed like in a salon, and have their husbands take care of all the family needs?
I am not a stay-in-bed person. I wanted to be a part of my children’s lives, not watching from the sidelines. Actually, I couldn’t even watch from the sidelines because I was stuck in a hospital bed. It was my five-year-old’s first season playing soccer, yet I couldn’t attend one soccer game. I couldn’t go to my seven-year-old’s hockey games, or anything else for that matter. This was the first time I had ever missed anything in my sons’ lives. I felt like a bad mother and a prisoner.
In hindsight, I know that I needed to be in that bed. I know I needed to be transfused to keep up with the blood I was continuously losing. But at the time I felt like I was robbing my children of their mother when they needed me to be active in their lives. They were three, five and seven at the time.
I had to be creative and figure out ways to still be a part of my children’s lives from a hospital bed. None of this was easy, but I can say that I did my best to stay involved, and I hope that my suggestions will help you along your journey and make your time on bed rest a bit more tolerable. If you’re lucky, it will continue to your 40th week of pregnancy and give your baby a healthy start to life. It won’t last forever.
Here are some things that you can do to stay sane (although I’m not sure that I was totally sane) and stay involved in your children’s lives while on hospital bed rest, and also a few things you can do for yourself and your relationship with your partner:
- FaceTime or Skype with your kids at home. Sing them a bedtime song or read them a book or just chat about your day. You can have someone get you two copies of some of the hottest new children’s books, and you can read one to them as they follow along. You can also Facetime with your partner from your hospital bed. Enough said on that.
- Decorate. Have your kids make decorations for your hospital room and hang them up so they see them and get excited when they visit. You can have someone take them to the party store to pick up decorations for whatever holiday is coming up, or just grab decorations that they think would make your room look cool.
- Prepare to celebrate the next holiday in the hospital bed. It is not what you dreamed of, but it will only be one Easter, Christmas, or Hanukkah, etc. I was in the hospital over Easter and it made me super depressed because I always went crazy setting up the house for my kids on Easter morning- so I did it in the hospital. My best friend went out and bought over 100 plastic eggs and candy and made it a girls night and filled them. The nurses were so great and helped me hide the eggs in my room and all over the floor so that the kids could come to visit Easter morning and have their egg hunt. That was a happy day.
- Pamper yourself. Have a friend, partner, or your kids grab you some cool nail polish colors and give you a mani & pedi in the hospital bed. It will brighten up your day.
- Start watching Netflix, as if you haven’t already!
- Have a date night with your partner. You may not be able to get a massage, and you definitely won’t be able to “you know what,” but you can still sip sparkling cider and watch a movie and snuggle. Touch is important and it will relax you, and you both need some time to connect since you are living apart.
- Prepare for baby…if you can. Some bed rest moms love to search for baby names and photos of nurseries. That is a great idea if it keeps your focused on your mission. That was not the case for me, because I wasn’t sure I would be brining a baby home. So only do that if you can handle it, and don’t feel bad if you can’t.
- Stay off of the Internet. As far as searching about what can happen to women with your high-risk condition or what can happen if you deliver prematurely, it may be best to steer clear. Believe me, I understand. I read every possible outcome of my placenta percreta and what could happen to my baby if she was delivered prematurely, and it just terrified me and made me feel more depressed. Don’t do it. Ask questions to the doctors and be educated, but don’t read every single bad outcome you can find online.
- Or search for success stories. If you are looking for hope and inspiration, you can search the Internet for success stories. There are a lot, and mine is one of them. I spent six weeks in the hospital and endured four life-threatening hemorrhages, each requiring more units of blood then I can count. My daughter was born at just 23 weeks gestation, weighing 1 pound and 4 ounces. She is now six years old! It was a long road for us both. I almost died in surgery, and she spent 121 days in the NICU, but we are both here today. If you are on hospital bed rest, there is a reason, and I want you to know that you should have hope and you need hope to get through it. Hope is a good thing, and without it we wouldn’t go on.
Being on hospital bed rest is not quite the same as being on bed rest in your home. It’s serious and it most often means that either your life or your baby’s life (or both, like in my case) is in danger.
There is not one thing you can do to make it ok.
It’s not ok.
You did not ask for this to happen.
You did not cause it to happen, and you cannot make it go away.
But please remember that it is temporary, and it will end when the baby is born.
I’m with you on your journey, and I’m sending you love and light.
Hang in there.
Jennifer’s latest book, Stuck in Bed: The Pregnancy and bed rest picture book for kids…and moms, co-authored with Angela Davids, is available on Amazon.
About Jennifer Degl
Jennifer Degl is the mother of four, including a micro preemie who was born at 23 weeks gestation and the founder of Speaking for Moms and Babies, Inc. She is also the author of two books, a member of The International Neonatal Consortium, the Preemie Parent Alliance, and she serves on the Board of Directors of The Morgan Leary Vaughan Fund, which is dedicated to preventing necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) in premature babies. Jennifer is also a writer for Huffington Post Parents and The Mighty and has spoken on Capitol Hill on two different occasions to promote legislation on behalf of premature babies. You can learn more about Jennifer at speakingformomsandbabies.com.