A lot of people ask me about what it’s like to be on bed rest. They have a sister/girlfriend/wife who has just been put on it, and they have no idea what to do. I had ten weeks of bed rest during my pregnancy with Madeline. When it started, it was only supposed to be for a few days, as a precaution. I was glad I would only miss a week of work. I was a bit worried about the pregnancy but since everything initially checked out okay I decided to enjoy not having to go out in the hot weather. Then, three days after I was put on temporary precautionary bed rest, I was put on full-time no-holds-barred bed rest. I was only allowed to get up to go to the bathroom. I was allowed a five minute shower but only if I sat down on a seat while I cleaned myself. I needed to lay on my side, preferably my left one, at all times. Never on my back, and I wasn’t ever supposed to sit up because that would stress my abdominal muscles. Gravity was a serious issue since I was constantly leaking amniotic fluid.
So many people told me, “enjoy the rest, because when the baby comes, you won’t get any.” Anyone who says that has never been on bed rest (and is kinda dumb, because you can’t store sleep). While everyone obviously meant well, it did little to cheer me up. I didn’t even know if there would BE a baby at the end of bed rest. I tried to stay positive, but all the doctors told us to expect a miscarriage at any time. Every little ache and pain was feared to be so much more.
Doctors shouldn’t call it bed “rest.” For me, there was nothing restful about it. I was constantly thinking about my condition. I did hours of research on the Internet about babies and mothers in our situation. I wanted to be prepared for anything. It definitely helped once Maddie was in the NICU as I knew what to expect, but there were so many things to prepare for that it totally messed with my mind. Pregnant women are a pretty paranoid bunch these days anyway, what with all the things not to eat, do, etc. Throw in a high risk pregnancy and I can guarantee mental breakdowns. I had a lot of them. Even though I had Mike and my family and friends (when I was allowed to take visitors), I still felt like I was in solitary confinement. I started to wonder what I could have done differently. I shouldn’t have been outside over Labor Day weekend since the weather was so hot. I ran too many errands and I was on my feet too much. When you have nothing to do but think, your mind plays terrible tricks on you.
The one thing I never expected was how totally draining bed rest would be. Because all I could do was lay there, I would sleep in small bursts. Thirty minutes here, 45 minutes there. No long stretches, ever, even at night. I became very knowledgeable on the late night television schedule. I had trouble concentrating on everything. And physically, it destroyed me. I could feel my muscles twitching as they atrophied. My hips and lower back are, I fear, still totally messed up from supporting all my weight in the same position for days on end. I had a pillow top mattress with a memory foam pad, and it still felt like I was laying on rough concrete. The special bed in the hospital wasn’t much better. I’ve had dozens of physical therapy sessions to help.
I had some really low moments. Times I just wanted to give up. I felt like I was going to crack and I couldn’t do it anymore. I didn’t WANT to do it anymore. It was so hard, the enormity so overwhelming, that I just didn’t want to be pregnant and I didn’t CARE. I still feel guilty about that. Thank goodness I had Mike. He never judged me when I was at my most selfish, crying because I was uncomfortable or because I wouldn’t be able to do something. He never threw anything in my face. I never could have made it without him.
Looking back on it all now, it seems like a lifetime ago. When I was on bed rest, I would remind myself, even during my low points, that every day I was on bed rest was a day Madeline didn’t have to be in the hospital. I wish I could have gone longer, that I hadn’t needed that emergency C-Section. My discomfort was merely a paper cut compared to what Maddie went through. That is my biggest advice to moms on bed rest – keep your eye on the prize. Every day you can keep your baby inside and out of the hospital is worth any pain you have to go through to make it happen.