I don’t know how it’s possible, but I’ve never written a post on how you can help a friend who’s on bed rest. I get asked all the time for ways to help, so I went through all of my emails and put this together. Between Madeline and Annabel’s pregnancies, I’m a bed rest veteran (I somehow dodged the bed rest bullet with James), so I definitely have some advice.
What NOT to say:
DO NOT SAY to the woman on bed rest how jealous you are that she gets to lay around all day. Seriously. I made that mistake when my sister-in-law was on bed rest for five months with her second child. “You get to relax all day, that’s amazing!” Face-palm. It’s not amazing. It’s terrifying – she’s on bed rest because something is wrong with her and/or her baby. I don’t know how I didn’t have a heart attack from stress and fear every single day. I was put on bed rest a year after my sister-in-law, and after a week in bed I emailed her and apologized profusely for telling her it sounded fun.
What TO say:
(Like anything else, follow your friend’s lead on what she’s comfortable with.) Some of the things I wanted to hear were:
~Do you want to talk about it? (Sometimes I did. It depended on the day)
~Are there any updates you feel like sharing? (If I’d just gone to the doctor, I always wanted to discuss it.)
~Can I pass any info on to anyone so you don’t have to? (My dad was the point-person for our family.)
~Is there anything I can fill you in on? (I LOVED when friends and coworkers would give me gossip and news.)
~This sucks. I’m thinking about your baby all the time. (I liked when people remembered the reason I was on bed rest.)
What you can DO:
~If she has older kids, step up. Help with transportation, entertainment, etc.
~If she has pets, help with their care (my friends would walk Rigby for us)
~LISTEN. And if she doesn’t want to talk, just be there. My friend Brianne would come over and sit there while I napped, just so I didn’t have to be alone. I’ll always be grateful she did that.
~Housework. It’s boring but she can’t do any of it and if she has a partner, s/he is completely maxed out. Unload the dishwasher, clean the counters in the bathrooms, fold some laundry, maybe even mow the lawn if they have one.
What you can BRING:
This one really depends on the mom. The only thing I could concentrate on was medical stuff. I’m one of those people who wants to know every possible outcome and every possible question to ask, so I wanted all the literature about my condition and preemies that I could get my hands on. I couldn’t focus on anything else. I could barely pay attention to an entire TV show, let alone a book or magazine. Anything that took longer than five minutes was too long for my brain. I was in a fog. That being said, some people want to be distracted from their medical woes, and everyone needs some necessities.
~hair ties, headbands, chap stick, lotion (clear the scent with her first), dry shampoo, hand sanitizer
~meals, snacks, drinks, straws, reusable water bottle, other groceries
~bed tray, extension cords, body pillow, reading light, extra-long phone charger
~back scratcher, books, magazines, movies, membership to Netflix streaming
~children’s books, coloring books and crayons, other things she can do with her older kids
What if you live far away?
~Check in often. Send brief emails and texts, and always let your friend know that she doesn’t have to respond. Connect with someone local and see if you can send gift cards for food, or contribute to a maid service or gardener.
~Check in on the partner. Mike was soooo incredibly stressed out when I was on bed rest. He was working, taking care of me, and out of his mind with worry over the health of his babies and his wife. His friends would come by to take him to dinner or hang out with him, and I was always so appreciative.
I know a lot of you reading here have been on bed rest, so please leave advice in the comments!
(And don’t forget to leave a comment to help save a child’s life!)
Alisen Markham says:
The only thing I would add is to ask when a good time for visitors is. I loved that people wanted to come to see us but there were chaotic testing times in the morning when I would stress about people being there. Other times we were meeting with doctors or special tests has been ordered and while I felt bad, there were times I didn’t want to come back to a room full of people. I wanted down time to just deal with my emotions. I completely agree – there was nothing fun about bed rest!
Dyann issakainen says:
Happy to leave another comment to help save someone’s life.
Leaving my comment to save a life. The hyper link for this purpose is not working at the end of your post.
It’s working now!!!
This is great advice. I will remember, just in case.
I was placed on bedrest for 5 months due to placenta previa and a host of other problems. I was so stressed and worried about my son, but people just kept saying to calm down, it would all be ok. While it was ok in the end (after a harrowing emergency c-section), that was the last thing I wanted to hear because it didn’t feel like it would be ok at the time. Just listen to the persons fears and ask what, if anything, you can do. I needed that.
So helpful, Heather – thank you! I happen to have a friend who was put on hospital bed rest last week, and we’ve been scrambling a bit to figure out how best to help her and her family. Sharing this list!
Pat R says:
will use the advice. thank you
I was on hospital bed rest for a month with my second and had a 3 year old at home. I had a NURSE tell me that I should “enjoy the vacation” before I had the baby. I still feel rage when I think of that comment. I would advise friends and family not to feel upset if the bed rest momma doesn’t want to see or talk to anyone. Like you I was in a fog and couldn’t concentrate on anything. Hand lotion, lip balm (high quality chapstick not lipstick- something she wouldn’t ordinarily buy for herself maybe like Kiehl’s, she doesn’t need 20 chapstick brand tubes), and Evian face spray are nice little gifts.
While I can’t provide advice on bed rest per se, I can provide advice from the perspective of a manager. If you are a co-worker providing support to a mom on bedrest, please do not mention how “crazy” things are at work. Many employers (certainly not all, but many) make it clear that pregnancies, child care and complications therein are a burden. The last thing any mother-to-be needs to worry about is work-especially if there is a crisis with her health and/or that of her unborn child. If you are a manager in contact with an employee on bed rest, please make an effort to let the employee know that work will be covered and not to worry about anything.
This is a great comment.
Thank you, Cynthia.
I just gave a co-worker this “lecture”… she’s carrying twins and will most likely go out soon as she has blood pressure and pressure in general issues. She was so worried about work, and I told her to forget it. Work will be covered just like she has helped others.
Exactly! I am always happy to cover for someone in these situations. Just part of having humanity. My biggest problem as a manager was convincing people in this situation to stop worrying about work! It was a relief for me to know they were following doctors’ orders and I could at least pitch in at work and do something!
PS-And for crying out loud, don’t try to make bed rest “work from home”. It’s about the mother and her baby, not the work.
PPS-I made the comment above because I actually had people trying to give me work to do to, “pass the time” while my husband narrowly escaped death in SICU. You’d be surprised what some people will do.
Jerilyn: that is just horrible! Seriously!! What are people thinking??
I’ve never been on bed rest but I was surprised that you did not mention music given your love for music. Is that something that would have been welcomed?
That’s definitely a good suggestion! I personally didn’t listen to a lot of music during that time (I’m not sure why) but an iTunes gift card or something like that is a great thing to give to a woman on bed rest.
Commenting to save a life!
Hi Heather! Commenting for Blogust…nothing to add other than that.
The link is broken… I believe we have to leave a comment on her previous post .
It’s working now!
Great advice, I haven’t known anyone close to me on bed rest, but if I do, I’ll remember this post. Vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate!!!!
I am currently in my second week of what I anticipate to be 10 weeks of bed rest with twins. Thank you for this!
Oh my goodness Jennifer! I am pulling for you xoxo
Kelly Daniel says:
Jennifer, I was on bed rest with my twins for 6 weeks. We’ll be thinking about you, and if you need an ear, feel free to contact me (Facebook is easiest. I am Kelly Hobbs Daniel.)
Love this advice! I fortunately have not experienced bed rest but I had a troubled pregnancy that ended at 10 weeks a few weeks ago. The one thing that is most forgotten is the partners so I loved that you added that. I was constantly going to the Dr., to the hospital, staying home from work etc. But he was just as worried and devastated when we lost the baby. I wish people would remember that just because it’s not in their belly Dad’s love that little one just as much. And they have the added burden of taking care of their sick and emotional wife.
So sorry Melissa. Many prayers for you and your hubby.
So very sorry, Melissa. Praying for you and your husband as well.
I was on bed rest for 2weeks with a 2.5 yr old. All my family lived out of state. I did my best but it was so hard. Thankfully it was only 2 weeks.
What great advice Heather! I was on bed rest for over 4 months and managed to get all the way to almost full term but it was really tough. No cell phones, no computer, this was 25 years ago. The thrill of every week was getting to get up and out of the apt and be taken for my weekly ultrasound. My tiny little baby had some very long leg bones and it was so cool to get to see those ultrasounds and know he was growing. He’s 6′ 5″ now! I don’t remember anybody bringing over any meals or anything, it was all on my husband and my 11 yr old son and my husband was working and my son went to school. I would have so appreciated any of the things you suggested. One big thing too, would be somebody offering to change my sheets at least once a week! That wasn’t my husbands priority and I have to say that sometimes I did sneak up and change them. I’ve never been good about asking for help and maybe he would have if I’d asked. A lot of women are like that, not wanting to ask for help but would love it if somebody would offer to do it.
I appreciated this and the timing as I have a friend that has been on and off bed rest for a few years with a chronic illness. It has been so long that it seems friends disappear and I’m trying hard to hang on and do what she needs most. I would love to tackle her house as I don’t think it has had a good cleaning in a long time due to reasons you list, i.e. husband is trying to survive with teens. I will talk gingerly at first to get a feel because you know us women sometimes don’t like someone else seeing our mess Thanks.
LOL, comment above is from Susan and not Heather. Just because I kept seeing your name I put Heather. Yikes
I do stuff like that ALL THE TIME! No worries!
It sucks! I was also on bed rest with my son and when I look back now, I don’t know how I did it. I think it would be harder for me now with my anxiety issues.
Another comment…I was in bed for a month due to illness and your advice is spot on. Now, that time is almost a blur to me…I think tuning out some was the only way to survive it!
Having been on bedrest I agree with all of the ideas! I would also suggest a magazine subscription or a gift card if they have a Kindle. Another biggie would be to help set up the nursery. Offer to paint, set up furniture etc so that it all gets done. A couple of friends helped get ours set up and I was so grateful! Another friend sent me a box with three little baby outfits all sewn together and ready to smock along with needles, embroidery floss and smocking designs so that I could make something for my daughter. So fun!!
Kimberly O'Connell says:
Don’t say to someone “keep those babies (or baby) in there”. I wanted to slap everyone that said that to me. Obviously I want to keep them in there, that’s why I’m laying here!! Thanks for the support when I was on bed rest Heather. Xo
I would never say that to someone! What the Hades are people thinking? I think they get nervous, want to say something constructive, and then craziness comes out. Ugh.
Shawna Liles says:
Good advice for those who are working so hard for their babies!
Vaccines all around!
My sister-in-law suffered a serious illness that required an extended hospital stay and very little activity for months afterward. She really appreciated local friends who have just showed up to keep her garden going — weeding, pruning, etc. She loves to garden and loves the fresh produce that it will eventually bring, so friends keeping it going until she is able to get back to it was really appreciated.
Mostly posting for vaccines but I was on bedrest for almost 8 weeks with my second son (my first was 2-1/2 yrs old and my husband was working out of state). I was lucky to have family (they took 1-2 week shifts) fly in to help me so I was okay with house tasks and food. TV irritated me to no end so I appreciated reading material (including short, easy-on-the-brain magazines), visits, and people who would help give my mom/MIL/sister a toddler break for an hour or two.
This was such great advice! Thanks so much for doing this post!!
I just wanted to say thank you for using ‘partner’ and ‘s/he’ because, yeah, not all pregnant women have husbands or boyfriends. I know y’all care (hi Cool Kyle!) but it’s the little things for equality which make me happy.
My ex had spinal surgery on her neck and was on a form of bed rest for a few weeks. My mom lent us an Aerobed so I could sleep in the same room (I mean, our apartment had the bedroom and the rest of the space, but still) but not disturb her. Her mom worked from an armchair during the days when I was at work, bringing her two Greyhounds along to provide entertainment. The adjustable lapdesk/tray table thing was very helpful for the computer. We went through many straws.
Great points! Thanks for waking me up to the thought that it might not be all fun and relaxation watching daytime TV!
All excellent points!! I would also add that if the mom and baby come out healthy from the bed rest don’t ever say to the mom ” well maybe that bed rest wasn’t all necessary”…..2 kids, both with bed rest > 6 weeks and my mom still thinks it was a vacation for me
I was only on bed rest for a week (should have been 4, but then we had to deliver early) … and I went so incredibly stir-crazy. One of the best things for my recovery was relatively often changes of scenery once my son was discharged. Obviously trips to the store are an option, but just going to a friend’s house was probably the most healing thing I did for myself in those early weeks.
So I’d offer the advice to friends/family of new moms who were on bedrest to remember that maybe you coming over to visit isn’t the best offer (then again, maybe it is). Just ask. See if they would like to take a trip out to your house. Sure, hauling a new baby across town isn’t easy — but I know, at least for me, it was a LIFESAVER to have friends that would have us over … screaming baby, breast pump and all
I will always be grateful for the support that you gave me during my bed rest pregnancies. Very few people understand how difficult it is! xo
I was on bed rest for 4 months with my twins. It was physically miserable in addition to the mental misery. I would’ve greatly welcomed a back or foot or leg massage. Or a manicure. Or a head massage.
I would’ve also really liked for people not to pressure me to come to their parties / events….As though I had a choice in the matter.
Don’t ask what you can do to help, just figure out what is helpful and ask if it’s okay to do it. I was on bed rest for 26 weeks with my third and it was overwhelming in the beginning to try to even figure out what we might need and when but when someone called to say that they do their grocery shopping every Wednesday and if I could email them my list the night before they’d do ours too it was amazing. Likewise when a friend called to say she’d plan on after-school play dates twice a week with my then preschooler, or when friends organized people to send home dinner from school with my daughter twice a week and wanted to know which nights we’d need it most it made such a difference. I never would have thought to ask for those things (or felt comfortable to). It saved us at that time. I spent a lot of time on boards for mothers on bed rest with my condition (subchorionic hemorrhages) and so many lost their babies, especially those with other children and life demands that made it extremely difficult to adhere to extended strict bed rest. I genuinely believe that my son made it to term in large part because people made it possible for my family to be down one parent for almost 6 months and still function.