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Coping With Bedrest During Pregnancy

by Alisa Ikeda |
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"Bedrest," she said, stoically. Incredulous, I asked my doctor to clarify. "You mean I can't go back to work?" "I mean you can get up to use the bathroom and to take the occasional short shower. Other than that, I want you lying on your left side at all times." Before I knew it, I was in the front office holding a packet of disability forms and scheduling weekly OB visits.

My husband and I started the car trip home in stunned silence, but we soon found ourselves joking about how I'd single-handedly keep the video rental store afloat, how I'd finally get to tackle that mountain of magazines beside the bed, and just how high I might be able to wrack up our phone bill. I'll admit to giddy pleasure that afternoon in alerting my boss that I wouldn't be coming in the next day -- or any day thereafter in the relatively near future. It felt sneaky and indulgent, a bit like cutting class back in high school, only this time I was armed with a legitimate excused absence, signed by the good doctor herself.

But as I put down the receiver and prepared to "go lie down," I looked around the house at all the things left undone -- mounds of dishes in the sink, the soon-to-be nursery that was still a catch-all junk room, the baby book that hadn't even been cracked open, my work bag brimming with half-finished paperwork. They taunted me. It became evident that being a forced lady of leisure wouldn't be all peaches and cream.

Singing the Bedrest Blues

Bedrest is a pain -- practically, physically, and emotionally. Typical bedresters include expectant moms experiencing preterm labor, preeclampsia, placenta previa, gestational diabetes, etc., all of which come with more than their fair share of worry, fear, frustration, and guilt. Sentenced to bed until your baby's birth, you have nothing but time to dwell on your anxieties.

Most striking to me and to many other fellow bedresters was the feeling of being robbed of a "normal" pregnancy. I resented that I couldn't show off my belly, which had finally reached that cute, clearly pregnant but not too big stage. I mourned the fact that we'd miss out on prenatal classes. I longed to be a part of the stories I'd read about where moms meet up in Lamaze, and they and their babies become lifelong friends.

Also overwhelming was the jealousy I felt -- of my friends, who still got together for girl's night out while I stayed in, and even of my husband, who continued on with literal business as usual as he headed out the door for work each morning.

Bedrest blues are natural and warranted. Expect them and accept them -- but listen hard for any cheery notes in between (such as the fact that you're likely to be much more intimately aware of your baby's every hiccup, kick, and tumble than your on-the-go, out-in-the-world pregnant mom counterparts). Revel in all the time you've been granted to talk to your sweetie, sing to her, read to her, dream of her.

Designing Bedrest Central

Whether in bed or on the couch, you'll want a few staples within easy reach at all times:

  • An amply stocked cooler (one with plenty of drinks and a variety of healthy snacks -- and a few naughty ones, too, just in case an irrepressible craving strikes).
  • A telephone and address book.
  • A computer with Internet access: get your home computer moved to your bedside or beg, borrow, or steal a laptop. The computer can be your lifeline, allowing you to browse articles, connect with others in chat rooms, bulletin boards, or instant messaging, build a free homepage, or just pass some hours with mindless computer games. You can even order your groceries and stamps online.
  • An extendable grabber to lend you a "hand" when you need something just out of reach.
  • I also recommend a squirt bottle or water pistol for when unsuspecting kitties act out!
  • A clock and calendar.
  • robe and slippers.
  • Paper and pens.
  • Lotion,
  • lip balm,
  • mascara,
  • nail polish and remover,
  • a brush,
  • a mirror -- anything that makes you feel pampered and attractive.
  • Cups and flexible straws.
  • Napkins.
  • A wastebasket
  • The remote control
  • and TV Guide.

What to Do While You're Doing Time

Many of the usual suggestions for bedrest activities (jigsaw puzzles, scrapbooking, reading the classics, knitting, or quilting) require a level of concentration and interest that I could rarely muster when I was on bedrest. I think the focus should be less on how productive you are and more on your approach to getting through this challenging time in your life:

Know your limits. For instance, don't tell your boss you'll work from home if you don't have the energy to do so; likewise, if reading a book seems too daunting when you're distracted by contractions or you're just grumpy or tired, read a magazine in short spurts or tackle a simple crossword puzzle instead.

Look into getting a break on your auto insurance. If you're not driving it, why pay for it? Get dressed. Some bedresters choose to get dressed every day to feel more "put together;" others take advantage of this chance to wear comfy pj's day and night. Try meditation. Books and online tutorials make it easy to get started in this stress-reducing technique -- and meditation may even help prepare you for childbirth!Encourage friends and family to come by (but don't book so many visits that you become overwhelmed). When friends and family offer to help, accept graciously and be honest about what specifically they might do for you. Let your husband know what you need from him. Whether it's a shoulder to cry on, fresh flowers, a massage, or a slurpee, be straightforward about what you want, and you're much more likely to get it. Learn the words to your favorite lullabies and practice your Dr. Seuss reading voice.Get good at doing nothing at all. Just be with your baby.

Even when you're seemingly doing nothing, rest assured that you're actually doing everything you can to ensure the arrival of a healthy baby -- each new day you carry your little one inside is an achievement to be celebrated, and each week is a tribute to your strength and love.

Alisa Ikeda is a writer and editor in Marin County, California, with a B.A. in sociology and a background in book publishing.

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