by Amy E. Tracy
When Kelli Campbell, of Dallas, Texas, learned she was carrying twins, she figured she’d have to slow down a little, but she never expected to land on the couch for nearly six weeks. After experiencing labor-like symptoms six months into her pregnancy, Kelli’s doctor recommended cutting back on her work as a web master and avoiding stressful situations, such as driving in rush-hour traffic.
But that didn’t stop the contractions, and soon 30-year-old Kelli was placed under house arrest—no going to work, no trips to the park with her two-year-old son, not even a drive to the grocery store.
“I tried to stay upbeat, but it was really lonely lying there all day,” says Kelli. “At about three or four in the afternoon, I would start going nuts. I just wanted someone to talk to or a project to do.”
Feelings of isolation and boredom are common among the over 700,000 women who are prescribed bed rest each year for pregnancy complications, including premature labor and multiple babies. A little preparation and planning can help pass those long days in waiting. Based on suggestions from those who have been there, the following guide can help you not only survive but thrive while staying off your feet.
What to Keep on Hand
Resist the temptation to get up by keeping these items within arms’ reach:
• A container of water and a drinking cup (to stay hydrated, try to drink at least eight glasses a day);
• A cooler or dorm-size refrigerator for snacks, meals and drinks;
• Toiletry items in a makeup case or other small bag;
• A tray or table for eating and writing (an ironing board can be lowered and raised to the right level);
• A telephone, personal telephone directory, and a local telephone book;
• Entertainment equipment, such as a radio, television, walkman, or computer;
• A communication device, such as a baby monitor, walkie-talkies, intercom, or bell;
• A storage container, such as a hanging shoe rack with pockets or a three-tiered storage shelf on wheels, to keep craft supplies, reading material, pens and paper, and other necessities nearby.
“When parents and children join forces during mom’s bed rest pregnancy, most children do just fine,” says Dr. Deborah S. Simmons, a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. Paul, Minnesota, who experienced her own bed rest pregnancy. “The key is to keep life as normal as possible, and to reassure your children that you’re still there for them.”
Sticking to a regular schedule, including meals, bedtime, and activities, is important. Also, try to follow the same family rules and rituals.
Giving children the opportunity to help you can also make them feel more in control. Even very young children can talk to the baby, rub your tummy, bring you items, and do some meal preparation.
Explain to your children that you can’t go to the park or play ball outside, but you can spend time together playing games, coloring, and reading. Some good choices: “And Mommy’s on Her Side: A Children’s Book About Bedrest” and “My Mommy Is on Bedrest,” a coloring book (available from A Place to Remember, call 800-631-0973; or order online at APlaceToRemember.com). Or, request the free “Mommy and the Hospital” coloring book by sending a self-addressed 8½ x 11 envelope with three First-Class stamps to: Beth Mosele, 2525 Maconda Lane, Houston, TX 77027 (you may download the PDF version free of charge from Sidelines.org).
Lifting Your Spirits
“Being trapped in your home or the hospital, not doing the tasks you normally do, can make you feel inadequate,” says Kristine Jablonski, a Placentia, California, psychotherapist who was on bed rest herself during two pregnancies. You also have too much time on your hands to worry about your family, household, finances, job, and your babies’ health. “For mothers expecting twins, it’s double jeopardy. You worry about two lives,” says Jablonski.
What can help, she says, is finding ways to gain some control of your situation. Try to keep to a daily routine: take a morning shower and change clothes; eat meals and snacks at regular times; schedule times for naps and visitors. Make to-do lists for helpers, and do small projects from bed that won’t cause added stress, such as folding clothes and organizing files.
Celebrating each day that passes can also help. Write a V for victory on a calendar, or light a candle at the end of the day. When a week goes by, share a movie or massage with a loved one. Try not to focus on the length of your bed rest sentence; a trimester or even a couple of weeks can seem unbearable. Instead, take it one day at a time—and soon, you’ll have those babies in your arms.
Learn Your Limitations
Bed rest orders can range from some activity restrictions and periods of lying down to strict bed rest at home or in the hospital. According to Dr. Judith A. Maloni, a leading researcher on pregnancy bed rest at the Bolton School of Nursing at Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University, “A woman must understand the reason her doctor is recommending bed rest, and she must get clear guidelines as to what she can and cannot do. A second opinion from a high-risk obstetrician is a good idea, too.”
Some questions to ask:
* Can I continue working full-time or part-time, or will I need to go on temporary disability?
* Can I take care of my children (specify ages and needs), or do I need childcare?
* What household chores can I do, and which ones should I avoid?
* How often and for how long can I get up during daytime hours? (Short walks throughout the day may reduce inactivity’s ill effects, such as muscle and cardiovascular weakening.)
* How often can I take a shower or bath?
* Can I eat meals at the dinner table, sitting up in bed, or should I lie down to eat? (A tablecloth thrown on the bed and a bib can catch those crumbs and drips.)
* Can I drive, or be a passenger in a car?
* In what ways can I be intimate with my partner?
Amy Tracy is the author of The Pregnancy Bed Rest Book (Berkley Trade, 2001) and a past contributor to TWINS™ Magazine.
Who to turn to:
Sidelines National Support Network
Mothers of Supertwins (MOST)
The Triplet Connection
Bed Rest in Multiple Pregnancy:
Pregnancy Bed Rest:
Moms on Bed Rest:
Pregnancy Bed Rest Web: