I was cleaning out my email inbox and came across an email I wrote months ago to a coworker of mine, who was placed on hospital bedrest at around 24 weeks, just as I was coming to the end of my own pregnancy. (She held on until 32 weeks, when she gave birth to twins, both now healthy and thriving.) It's basically some advice and moral support based on my own bedrest experience. Since I'm sucking at blogging lately, I thought I'd be lazy and throw it up here as a post, slightly edited, in case it might be useful to others. And if you've done bedrest and have any advice to add, chime in on the comments.
The first thing I can offer is a bit of motivation...I read that between 24 and 28 weeks, every additional day in the womb gives babies another 3% chance at survival. The math doesn't quite work out if you think that at 24 weeks there's just over 50% survival rates and at 28 weeks around 85%, but I tried not to think about that too hard--I just found it helpful to think that every single boring, frustrating, lonely day I was actually accomplishing something real and concrete. (It also helps to think of it day by day when meeting those bigger goals--28 weeks, 32 weeks--seems too far-off and impossible.) Then after 28 weeks, every day in the womb equals two or three days fewer in the NICU.
Second, keeping your mind occupied does help. Working, as annoying as it was sometimes, has helped me maintain some sanity and connection to the outside world. Otherwise I would have spent the last 4 months lying on the couch watching Food Network and feeling sorry for myself 24/7. Also, thanks to the internet, I had an extremely well-researched baby registry. :) Of course there's also DVDs and books, though I personally had a hard time concentrating on anything requiring more focus than Barefoot Contessa episodes (work seems to suck most of my pregnant brainpower out of me). I did end up knitting an enormous baby blanket and sorting 5 years' worth of loose photos into albums.
The most important thing, though, and I can't emphasize it enough, is to not be afraid to ask for help and support. I had a really hard time doing this, and my reticence combined with the fact that my family is far away and my friends kind of sucked (seriously, they really let me down in the calling/emailing/visiting department) meant that I spent too much time alone and probably got sadder and lonelier than I needed to be. If friends and family don't offer, don't be shy about telling them that you need visitors, or at least calls and IMs--especially if you end up at home on full bedrest, in which case you will really truly need people to come help you every day. (I didn't--was able to heat up my own frozen dinners and such--and maybe
that's why people didn't realize that I still needed company.) If you end up in the hospital for much longer, have your husband or a motivated friend organize a schedule for people to visit you on a regular basis, so you will have something to look forward to every day. It will feel lame and pathetic to ask people to come talk to you, which is why I didn't do it, but I really really wish I had. And maybe your friends are less lame than mine and will do this without being asked, which would be great.
You might want to check out an organization called Sidelines, which was recommended to me by an online friend (blogs and message boards kept me sane, too--what did women do before the Internet???). They offer support for women facing bedrest and high-risk pregnancies. I found the articles and resources to be really helpful (one of the articles is where I got that 3% figure), and they also offer a "bedrest buddy" service, where they hook you up with someone who's been through it who will call and/or email you regularly for support. I didn't sign up for support and in retrospect, I wish I had.
Finally, while staying positive is important, it's also OK to feel really shitty sometimes too. You may hear a lot of comments, meant to be reassuring, along the lines of, "well, just listen to your doctors and do what you have to do to keep those babies healthy" or "it will all be worth it in the end." (I am thinking here of what my mother-in-law would say when I would express frustration with being housebound.) OF COURSE it will all be worth it when you are holding your babies, OF COURSE you would do or give anything to keep them safe and healthy. But that doesn't change the fact that bedrest does suck, and you have every right to feel cranky and scared and anything else you might be feeling. Just because you make a sacrifice willingly and wholeheartedly doesn't make it easy or fun, and you have every right to complain.
I wish with all my heart that you didn't have to go through this, but I have faith that you and your babies will get through it. And it will be worth it in the end.