As I write this I am laying in a hospital bed, 31 weeks pregnant with fraternal twins. I visited my doctor for a routine exam at 24 weeks, and he said that I had an incompetent cervix. I was sent straight to the hospital, and I’ve been here on partial bed rest since then. To say this has been challenging is an understatement. I have a toddler and husband at home, and the hospital is over an hour drive away from them.
I have just entered the 7th week of my hospital stay, and I've come up with some very helpful coping mechanisms to get me through this long, difficult, and boring process. Everyone’s situation will be unique and different from mine, but I hope these 5 points can be helpful to someone in a similar situation.
1. Create a Routine
Every morning I wake up at the same time, get dressed for the day, and do my makeup. This helps me feel put-together, like I've accomplished something before I've even started the day. I’m allowed to walk around the hospital, so I make it a routine to go for a short walk after every meal. I read my book in the early afternoon, and I watch Netflix after dinner. I've created routines that give me something to look forward to and make the days go by quicker, so the hours don’t just blend together.
2. Take up a Hobby
Do you crochet or paint? This is the perfect time for the hobby you've been meaning to pick up or the skill you've been wanting to learn. Maybe you've been thinking about taking an online course or learning a new language. This is also a great opportunity to get a head start on some thank you cards. I found myself hand-sewing stuffed animals from cheap felt for my toddler. Pinterest has been a constant companion for me lately. Think you might be having a preemie? Check out 'Octopus for Preemies Canada' and see if you're up for the challenge to crochet an octopus that can go into the NICU with your baby.
3. Find Purpose
When on bed rest, one can end up feeling pretty useless sometimes, and finding something purposeful can really help. Can you meal plan or be in charge of online grocery shopping? Is there another woman you might know in a similar situation that you can connect with and encourage? Or maybe you can organize the household paperwork and pay some bills online. I've put myself in charge of scheduling visits and babysitting, so it's one less thing for my husband to think about. Feeling purposeful is especially important when other people are doing everything for you.
4. Create Moments of Joy
If you're at all like me, comments like, "enjoy this time of quiet and relaxation," don't make you feel any better about your situation. Staring at the walls in a hospital room all day doesn't
feel like a trip to the spa. But I had people bring in flowers and pictures of my family, and my grandma made me a beautiful quilt that sits on the end of my bed. I try to indulge in some good food and drinks from the nearby cafe. I also try to get out of my room when family and friends come to visit and get a bit of fresh air every day. It's amazing how those simple little moments of joy add up and lift the mood.
5. Check your Mental Health
I struggle with anxiety, so this whole process has been extra challenging for my mental health. To help combat my anxious thoughts I've had to create realistic expectations for myself. I'm not able to be at home making sure the chores get done, the fridge gets stocked, or my daughter takes her nap on time. I've had to let that go and trust my very capable husband in those areas. Instead I focus on creating goals here: make it to 28 weeks with no complications, connect with another patient, or read 1 book each week. It's a bit tough in the hospital with very limited privacy, but letting myself feel all the feels once in a while has also been therapeutic, along with keeping a journal.
One of the most helpful things for both my husband and myself was to designate a "go to" person who could advocate for us, organize offered help and make sure the help was actually helpful, not just adding stress. Strangely enough, we decided that I was the best "go to" person for our situation, as I love/need to organize, and it helps me feel some control (and purpose) when I have little control over the rest of the situation.
How to Support Someone on Bed Rest:
Maybe you aren't on bed rest but you know someone in this situation. Babysitting, bringing meals, cleaning, and kind messages - these are all very helpful things at a time like this. But even gifts like cash and gift cards have been useful. Living at the hospital, most things are taken care of, but parking is expensive, and let's face it: the food isn't always fantastic. Even though it might not seem very personal, gift cards or cash for coffee, gas, or online shopping are amazing ways to support a person on bed rest.
All that being said, make sure you find out who the "go to" person is in the situation. Sometimes your intentions are full of love and genuine kindness, but they can add extra stress to the situation. Maybe offering to clean their house is overwhelming, or maybe their freezer is already full of food. Speaking with the "go to" person will help you find out how to best help the person.
Being on bed rest is not easy. Living away from home, family and normal routine is even harder. This is probably the toughest mental challenge I’ve ever gone though. But it's important to keep our eyes on the prize and remember that when the baby (or babies) are born, it's all going to be worth it, and finding healthy ways to cope is necessary to keeping you and your offspring healthy and safe.