10 tips to survive bed rest from a former bed-rester

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Me at 22 weeks. Day 54 of bedrest.

When Mer and I embarked on our journey to start a family way back in 2012 we never imagined where that road would take us. We naively thought that every pregnancy led to a take home baby and that pregnancy complications were rare – so rare in fact, that we’d never be affected.

Sadly, we we became a statistic and were faced with cervical incompetence, repeat pregnancy loss, a uterine septum and then some strange form of secondary infertility that was never explained.

When we finally got pregnant again in 2015 the plan was simple: cervical cerclage at 14 weeks and strict home bed rest for 23 weeks with the threat of hospitalization if I didn’t follow the rules. My doctor was intense; she was on a mission to get my rainbow here full-term and so her plan was more conservative than most.

I took 22 pills per day, held my breath and gestated horizontally for 161 days.

I took one seated shower per week for a maximum of 10 minutes. I walked only to use the washroom and ate laying down. One day when I was bored I timed myself – I spent 17 minutes on my feet over a 24 hour period. 16 steps to the bathroom and 16 steps back.

It was hard. I’ll never lie and say it was easy. However, I do think I made the best of it by keeping my eye on the prize and reminding myself what the alternative could be. I was determined not to be a statistic again.

Here are a few tips that I’ve come up with. These are things I did that really contributed to keeping me sane and in the best possible head space considering the circumstances.

1/ Stations.

Mer set up bed rest stations for me throughout the house. We lived in a one floor apartment and the distance from washroom to the bedroom, kitchen, living room, patio and nursery was virtually the same. He hunted down a couple of lawn chairs that reclined back completely. This allowed me to eat in the kitchen, spend time outdoors and spend time in the nursery.

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The change of physical space was crucial for me. It gave me the opportunity to create a routine that made my days structured which normalized my unusual situation. When on bed rest small things like eating with your family, spending time outdoors or being able to read a book somewhere other than your bed is a huge highlight in your day.

2/ Routine.

Establishing a routine was key. My days included scheduled self care, internet use, reading, outside time, television, phone time, meditation and hobbies. Without this structure I’m positive my days would have been consumed by endless amount of television making the days longer and far more unbearable.

Every day, I sponge bathed myself and got dressed in real clothes. I then had breakfast while watching the morning news.  Late morning, I’d  read or color mandalas and then have lunch. Afterwards, I’d spend a few hours outdoors on the patio before coming in to surf the internet and make phone calls. After dinner Mer and I would watch a movie or catch up on episodes of whatever television show we were watching on netflix.

I also never napped because I did not want to disturb my sleep patterns. My doctor had warned me that sleeping away the day could result in sleepless nights so I never allowed myself to nap. As a result, I never dealt with sleeping issues while on bed rest.

3/ Community.

There are a number of wonderful online communities related to conceiving, pregnancy and high risk pregnancy. I became part of a community where I could go to chat with other women who were in similar situations. It was nice to discuss my situation with other ladies who understood and it was so incredible to be encouraged and supported every step of the way. My favorite community is Then Comes Family.

4/ Vulnerability.

Some days were harder than others. With Mer away at work most days there were moments where I felt so overwhelmed by my situation that I felt I couldn’t continue. In those moments – I became vulnerable and I told anyone who would listen to me how I was feeling. It’s okay to lose it sometimes, it’s okay to cry, to be angry or to be fed up. Bed rest isn’t normal – there’s clearly some element of grief that comes with a bed rest pregnancy. Grieving the normal pregnancy I  would never have made me angry some days.

Instead of fighting it I just allowed myself to feel those emotions. Usually, I’d get a grip on the situation quickly. I’d move through the anger and frustration by reminding myself that the alternative was far worse. What worked most of the time was reminding myself how fortunate I was to be growing a healthy baby. My “funks” would usually only last a few days and then I’d be back to my usual routine.

5/ Accepting Help.

Accept help. Ask for it. Ask anyone who will be willing to lend a hand. Take it and do not feel bad about. My husband, mom, mother in law, aunt, cousin and neighbours were a blessing. When you’re on bed rest your home life is thrown upside down. Mer now had to work a full-time job, care for me and care for the household all by himself. It was a lot and he realized really quickly that he couldn’t handle it all on his own. Tell people when you need something. If you’re chatting with a friend and they mention they are going to the drug store don’t hesitate to ask them to pick up a few things for you that you need. Most people are more than willing to help if you just ask. If you’re mother in law wants to come and do laundry – let her. If your mom wants to cook your meals- let her. If your neighbor wants to bake you something or lend you books – let her. Take all the help you can get and don’t feel bad about it.

6/ Take care of yourself.

I was limited to one seated shower per week for a maximum of 10 minutes. Greasy hair basically became the norm and I just had to accept that I couldn’t do much about it. Having said that, I made it a point to sponge bathe daily. Mer would set up a large bowl of warm water with soap and a wash cloth so I could clean myself up. I found this was such an important part of my routine because it helped me feel human. Feeling dirty which is inevitable when you are not allowed to shower really takes its toll on your morale. A small 10 minute sponge bath, combing my hair, putting on makeup and real clothes really helped me feel like myself. I also always felt I looked my best (my best with greasy hair mind you) so I could welcome in last minute visitors or anyone who decided they’d pop in to spend some time with me.

7/ Eating well.

Eating well while pregnant is so important. Eating well while pregnant and on bed rest is even more important. Being bed bound means you are burning far less calories and so to keep weight gain to a minimum it’s super important to have healthy meals and snacks ready and waiting for you. Our system for food was simple – Mer would prepare snacks (fruits, veggies, cheese, yogurts) and place them in a small cooler near my bed. He’d also prepare bottles of ice water so I could stay hydrated throughout the day. You’d really be surprised by how much water you consume. Most mornings he’d load up about 60oz of ice water to sustain me throughout the day.

8/ Counting up.

When trying to get pregnant I used an app called Fertility Friend. Once pregnant I used it to to count up my days of bed rest. I really looked forward to updating my progress- every morning I upped the number and reminded myself how lucky I was to still be pregnant an extra day.

Some ladies use calendars where they mark an X, others keep track by ticking off a chart – it’s just so important to see the progress so you can remind yourself how well you’re doing and how far you’ve come.

9/ Small achievable goals.

At one of my first appointments with my doctor I told her “I don’t know how I’m going to do this”. She told me to set small goals. My first goal was passing my loss milestone, then it was passing viability. From there I worked my way up to 28 weeks (the original goal my doctor set for me), then 32 weeks and finally 37.

If you approach it any other way the burden is just too hard to handle. Keep your goals small and attainable. Take it day by day and minute by minute if you have to.

10/ Accept what is.

This one was the most important for me. I had to accept that my pregnancy was not normal. I didn’t get to experience pregnancy the same way most women do and although it was hard to accept I did. I reminded myself frequently that despite the unusual circumstances I was carrying our miracle baby. I was so fortunate to be given this chance and there was absolutely nothing I wouldn’t do to get Margs here safely. We cannot change the circumstances we are given – we cannot alter the path the universe has handed us- we cannot control the past but we can accept the future and do the absolute best we can with what we have been handed. As a result, I followed the rules. I never broke bed rest. Never. I followed my doctors rules despite my aches and pains and restlessness some days. Bringing Margs home was my number one priority and I just did what I had to do.

I wrote this post after realizing that I’ve gotten a good chunk a traffic from people googling “bed rest tips” or “surviving bed rest”. If you’re currently on bed rest and need someone to talk to please do not hesitate to reach out. I’ve lived it and I know that it is probably the most emotionally draining thing you’ll ever have to do. There’s fear, anxiety and anger all wrapped up in a journey that should otherwise be full of happiness and excitement.  I can be reached via email at thistinybluehouse@gmail.com, on instagram and even on twitter.

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