Pregnancy bed rest is a deceptively simple term for a prescription that involves a radical reconfiguration of a woman’s life. Having spent six months on bed rest between two pregnancies, I can say from personal experience that bed rest is a lot harder than it sounds.
Very well-meaning people would comment to me, “Wow, how nice! A vacation!” or “I’m jealous of all the reading you’ll get to do.” But bed rest didn’t offer me time in which to read my way through a literary bucket list. Instead, I was on a continuous supply of medicine pumped into my leg that made me jumpy and have trouble concentrating. I was worried, monitoring contractions all day for pre-term labor, and communicating with at-home health nurses.
Moreover and funnily enough, I was itching to get up and get my own food and tidy my house and go to work. It turns out that I like being busy and that being busy gave me a sense of meaning and purpose. It was hard to let go of that and make a mission out of staying still.
If your doctor gives you a prescription for bed rest, there’s a lot you and your partner, family and friends can do to make the experience less taxing. Try these strategies for surviving bed rest. (My two healthy, full-term bed rest babies — now in middle school — were so very worth it.)
1) Write a list of tasks that need doing in your household and keep it on the fridge. When someone asks what they can do to help, point them to the list. It can be uncomfortable to accept help but you need to practice; you can’t make it through bed rest without support and your partner will be exhausted from trying to shoulder all of the tasks alone.
2) Hire help when needed. Whether it’s Giant’s Peapod for grocery delivery or someone to come tidy up the house, you’ll need some support personnel to get your typical chores done.
3) Make a list of projects you’d like to do and have someone get the supplies. Ask for the Bookmobile to come to your house. Take up knitting from YouTube tutorials. Get your baby book ready to go.
4) Hook up with support from the organization Sidelines that helps women on bed rest. You can get an email or phone volunteer assigned to you who can offer support from the perspective of someone who’s lived through bed rest, too.
5) Keep a journal, reminding yourself each day that you’re fulfilling one of the most important missions there is: bringing a healthy baby into the world.
6) Take time for at-home dates with your partner, whether it’s watching a show together or ordering Chinese food. The time pre-baby is precious and though you’ve been way-laid from your usual activities, you can still enjoy special time as a couple.
7) Get the area around your bed established as Bed Rest Central, with a mini-fridge close by to keep hydrated and have access to easy snacks that you can get without asking, grooming items, things to do, and a phone and charging station.
Bed rest, while difficult, is very much like giving birth: it’s painful but it’s the kind of pain that you forget quickly when you’re holding your baby. Good wishes for your bed rest experience and for the best possible outcome for your baby.