When I was pregnant with our triplets I remember driving to my 18-week ultrasound and telling my husband it felt like the babies were so low they were trying to find a way out. An hour or so later, propped up in front of the ultrasound screen, we found out just how right my intuition was. One of our triplets was dangerously low in my cervix, and I was showing signs of premature labor. By that evening I was flat on my back in a hospital bed, terrified to be filling out forms regarding my “birth plan.” I soon learned that the four walls of my drab hospital room would be all I would see until my babies were born.
To say bedrest during pregnancy is a difficult experience would be a gross understatement. Being cooped up and unable to care for yourself or your family at any time is tough. Throw in some pregnancy hormones and a pile of uncertainty about the welfare of your unborn child, and you are dealing with an emotional exhaustion on an epic level.
After a short time on bedrest I withdrew from taking phone calls and having visitors. I blame part of it on my introverted tendencies, but another part was due to the insensitive comments I kept hearing from people who clearly had no clue what to say to a pregnant momma stuck in a hospital bed.
These are a few of the worst offenses:
- Are you catching up on your reading/television shows/gossip magazines? Guess what, I’ve watched the entire season of everything I never even wanted to watch, and I’m still bored to tears. Yes, I’ve read books, watched TV and read magazines, but I’d much rather be able to stand up and take a shower.
- What are you going to do about your husband’s birthday/son’s kindergarten graduation/best friend’s book club? I’m going to miss all the things! They are running through my mind constantly, and I’m feeling completely useless laying here in this bed. I have no clue how to make up for missing all the things or how to pretend like I’m a normal person when I do talk to people.
- At least you have a good excuse not to exercise. Do you know how much I would like to be exercising? Okay, maybe not full-on cardio, but a walk down the hall that isn’t filled with guilt over what this activity may do to my unborn child would be glorious right about now.
- I wish someone would order me to rest. No, you do not. I promise you that while a nap or a day or two off is nice, having someone tell you what you must do makes you feel powerless over your own life. Bedrest would only feel like a vacation if it was within the pregnant woman’s control, but that’s not how bedrest works.
- Enjoy it while you can! There is no enjoying bedrest. It is an extremely difficult time in a woman’s life. You will not find anyone, even years after their bedrest is over, who will tell you they enjoyed being on bedrest. The reason she is on bedrest is that her health or the health of her unborn baby is at risk. That stress alone takes any possible enjoyment out of it.
If you would like to be supportive of someone on bedrest try these refrains instead:
- What day can I bring you a meal? The choices of what to eat are slim when you’re limited to hospital food. Offering to bring a meal and letting your pregnant friend choose what it is and when it’s coming is a great way to give her a little control and the chance to eat something she likes.
- I will do the laundry at your house/pick up your son from baseball/drop off your mom’s gift. Offer to take on a clearly defined task for your loved one. If you ask what she needs, it might be hard for her to pick something. But if you tell her something specific you can do, you’ll make it easier for her to accept your help.
- What can I do while I’m here? While you’re visiting your friend, she may need something that she can’t get up and get herself. Simple things like making sure she has the television remote, fresh water that’s cold, and the socks she likes to wear can make a huge difference.
- Do you want to talk about what the doctors have said lately or upcoming appointments? A mom on bedrest often feels like the only thing she is able to talk about is her or her baby’s health. She may not mention it because she doesn’t want to bore you, or maybe she’s holding everything in. Let her know you’re there to listen—even if you find looking at 300 ultrasound photos snooze-inducing.
- How do you feel about having a baby shower/family working on the nursery/the nurse on night shift? With others swooping in to make decisions, being on bedrest takes away a woman’s sense of control over her life. Opening up a conversation about everything going on in your friend’s life gives her a chance to have a say in something or at least vent some of her frustrations.
No matter what you do for a friend on bedrest, don’t give up on her, even if she seems to have turned into a different person overnight. Bedrest can be extremely isolating. Hang in there and support your pregnant friend however and whenever she needs it, and you’ll be rewarded with her eternal gratitude in the end (trust me).