I know there are many mom's who have gone through the trials of bed rest. They know, and I know, it's all for a good, marvelous, wonderful cause. As a mother of twin seven-year old girls, I could not shut myself in my room and expect everyone else to take over. I still fixed them breakfast in the morning, lunch, did projects around the house, and even picked them up from school. I prepared quick meals and rested "most" of the day. I had some help off and on, but was still trying to do as much as I could. One early evening, after picking up the girls from school and preparing a cake for a family member, the dull pain I had had all day became so intense that I made a trip to the emergency room. I had started premature labor and spent four days in the hospital, all while missing my family and hoping that I can hold on to my twin boys a couple more weeks. It was clear that I had to let go and let others help me. There would be time later to do all those mommy things and soon enough I would be busy with my boys.
My friend Amanda, from APstyle was told at 16 weeks that her identical twin girls had TTTS or Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome. Amanda put it another way, "We had 2 healthy babies but a very uncooperative, unfriendly placenta that statistically was going to take the lives of our unborn girls at any minute". While her home town doctors gave her no encouragement that her babies would live, Amanda took to the internet finding a doctor several states away that specializes in TTTS. His medical advice was bed rest with bathroom breaks only. While her local medical team thought it was a waste of time, she still wasn't going to give-up.
One thing I learned from hearing Amanda's story and even conversations with my own doctor, is that bed rest isn't always a guarantee. Now that my boys are at 31 weeks gestation, I feel much more comfortable that if I deliver them today - they will survive. Early in my pregnancy, it was much harder to have a positive outlook. Amanda put it perfectly when she said, "As I crawled into bed after that phone call, there were no guarantees my efforts would matter. Our local medical team thought it was a waste of time. But given I had no alternative, I stayed there for 15 weeks. I watched the days turn into nights, and the winter become spring. I wrestled sleep and found solitude a finicky companion. I befriended my worries and fears, and I sought hope and solace at least once a day."
Here are a few things to consider, to think about, to ponder, and do when faced with your own bed rest, or dealing with friends and family who must endure through weeks of uncertain bed rest:
1. Have clear bed rest instructions. I have been on varying levels of bed rest starting from my 8th week. When your doctor makes bed rest an order, have him or her be clear with the extent of your bed rest and if you are allowed anytime up and about. Can you climb stairs, take showers, have a few outings, eat dinner at the kitchen table? Understanding the extent of your bed rest will allow you to worry less and give family members a better understanding of what your doctor expects.
2. Realize you will need help. Let's face it, being ordered to bed rest means the normal things you do as a mom, could hurt your chances of carrying your baby to full-term. Even when you do not have children at home, you still may not be able, like Amanda, to get out of bed for any other reason than to use the bathroom. This means that someone needs to bring you food, take you to doctor's appointments, and keep the house running. There are many things you can manage from your bed, but you still need feet, legs, arms, and hands to accomplish these tasks. Extra help outside of your spouse and family may not be needed if you do not have children at home, but when you add children already at home and bed rest - think twice before saying no to the helping hands around you. If no one is offering, suck-it-up and ask.
At week 18, I was put back on bed rest after a month reprieve. I took bed rest lightly saying to myself that I am still a mom with two children that need me. I planned and prepared crock-pot meals, my husband took the girls to school and I picked them up. I ate breakfast with my family and a few other menial chores. Soon enough, however, I went into false labor and hospitalized for four days. I realized that I was the only one who could get these babies to a healthy gestation, and the only one ruining their chances of getting their. After my hospital release, I headed back to my bed where I have stayed since.
3. Divide and conquer. The shoulders of one person do not have to bare the brunt of a mom on bed rest. Make a list of all the people in your life you know are willing to help. It is more than likely these people have already offered up their assistance and all you have to do is ask. While I have had my mother with me for the end of my pregnancy, there were many times during the summer months I had to keep two six year-olds busy and fill there day with normal fun summer activities. I had many offers from friends for help. I bit my pride and asked. Suddenly, my children were playing during the days at a friends house and in the evening my husband would take over. My mother-in-law even helped while I was in the hospital and waiting for my mom to arrive.
4. Letting everyone in on the secret. Whether you are a first time mom or not, letting everyone know your situation is better than keeping it a secret. We have been very open with my girls about the need for me to stay in bed and the consequences if I don't. I've taken them to several doctor's appointments where they can hear first-hand why mommy can't go outside and "play" with them or why I can't make dinner and do other mommy things. My family knows my limitations, church knows why I haven't been at church in months, teachers at the girl's school call and ask how I am, and friends seem to know just how to help.
Letting everyone know your situation also allows you to be open with friends and visitors as to your emotional situation during your stay in bed. While you may be open to visitors and friends popping in and out, others may not feel up to letting anyone in during what can be a very hard and painful emotional time. Amanda said that she kept visitors to a minimum, "because of our daily ultrasounds and the emotional up-and-down tendencies of this complication, I had absolutely nothing left to give anyone else. My focus: getting our girls to 30 gestational weeks. It became a mantra". Even if you don't want help now, or your friend doesn't think she needs help, there will always be time after the babies are born and the stress of the pregnancy is over to reach out and lend that helping hand.
5. Getting through it. Getting through bed rest is easier said than done. The one thing that I can say is that it goes by more quickly than you might think. It is frustrating to sit and not be able to do the things you would normally do, including shopping and preparing for the new baby or babies! Keeping your time filled with books, visitors, journaling or writing can take much of the day. Also, using the Internet to create the nursery you desire is a great alternative to shopping in the stores. All you need is someone to put it together. There are many days I am surprised at how quickly the time passed, yet there are those few days when nothing can stop me from moping at staying in bed all day. There is no one solution, or one idea that will help. Searching the Internet for articles and ideas about bed rest can be comforting.
6. Celebrate the milestones. There was nothing better than passing 30 weeks gestation. It was completely comforting to know that my babies had made it that far. One friend of mine had a party every week her pregnancy progressed. Celebrate those milestones with acknowledgement, a special dessert, or something fun.
A special thanks to Amanda for her wonderful and thoughtful input. I am currently on my 31st week gestation and have spent 15 weeks on bed rest....and counting!