Thursday, June 21, 2007

Tips for surviving bedrest

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.


Anonymous Kath said...

Dear Electriclady, those tips are wonderful. I'm sure they were a great help to your friend, and will be to others as well. And it will also be educational for those who have a pregnant friend on bedrest...

3:53 AM  
Blogger Erin said...

Those are fantastic tips for your friend, and for many others as well. I'm sure that lots of people will use them.

9:37 AM  
Blogger Brave China Doll said...

These are great tips! Thanks so much for sharing. BTW, I have found your blog invaluable to me while going through infertility with a UU and PCOS. Our stories have so many parallels. I just had my first IUI (not successful), but went back to your posts to gain encouragement and hope. Thank you so much! I have started a blog as well.


Take Care!

10:18 AM  
Blogger May said...

Oh, all of these are so very true. Bedrest is awful but it can be getten through, one long, boring, but oh-so-valuable-for-the-baby day at a time.

I don't have a whole lot to add regarding general bedrest, but I do have some hospital-specific insights, I guess.

My tips... hmm. I did join Sidelines and got a phone buddy. We didn't click very well. Nothing wrong with her; our personalities just didn't mesh. I'd definitely do it again though, and just hope I got luckier with my match.

If you're in the hospital, do your best to GET OUT of your room. Nag your doctors for wheelchair privileges. Have your husband wheel you outside for 15 minutes on Saturdays. Join the support group if there are enough other bedresting moms to warrant one. Exchange room numbers with the other prisoners... er patients, so you can chat on the phone. A woman down the hall from me and I spent hours on the phone together and are still in close touch 2 years later and 3 time zones later. Anything you can do to keep your sanity will be good for both you and the baby. It's easy for everyone to be so focused on what's best for the baby that they forget to safeguard mom's sanity.

If possible, get a midline catheter ASAP instead of a peripheral IV so you don't have to get re-stuck every three days. Plus, at my hospital, the nurses will disconnect the midline and hep-block it so you can enjoy your daily shower without IV tubing snaking out of the stall. Plus then you can wash more of your arm and you don't feel so icky.

If possible, get a wheelchair tour of the NICU and meet the staff there in advance. You can ask questions and see babies born at whatever gestational age you're at. This was a huge motivation for me to stay pregnant as long as possible, no matter what it took.

Ask for them to send in someone from physical therapy to teach you exercises so you're not such a wreck when you finally get out of bed. Do the exercises religiously. Also pay attention and follow what they teach you regarding positioning in bed. Your back won't get so sore. Don't be shy about bugging people to bring you as many pillows and rolled up towels as you need to feel comfortable.

Ask your doctor to put a do-not-disturb order in your chart for whatever 8 hours you'd like to sleep. Otherwise people will wake you up several times a night to take your temperature and blood pressure. This gets old fast.

It helped me a lot to be positive. I had my low points, sure, but I forced a positive attitude as much as I could and made jokes and tried to be upbeat. Several of my doctors complimented me on this and said they thought I'd done a great job of making the best of a bad situation. It was better than wallowing. (I did have my days for wallowing, though, don't get me wrong.) I just tried to seem happy when I could in the hopes that it might rub off. Plus, then the people around you are happier to see you and it feeds back.

Once you get to know some nurses you like, get their work schedules from them and start asking your current nurse to request your favorites for you right before the shift change. A nurse you click with makes a huge difference in your day.

Well, I guess I've hijacked poor electriclady's blog enough for one day.

7:00 PM  
Blogger Watson said...

What great advice, I wish I'd seen this when my little sister was on bed rest!

(And here's hoping I can avoid it, but keep this link for friends!)

Hope you're well :-)

7:30 PM  
Blogger Cathy said...

As someone on week 2 of bedrest/week 26 of pregnancy, it was great to have this entry. I'll go check out sidelines now. Thanks!

5:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All the tips given are great. I am on my third pregnancy with bedrest! I have found that keeping busy with the laptop, books, and TV make the time pass so much more quickly. My only tip that I would add...get dressed every day if your at home and put on a little make up. I find if you look good, you feel good.

3:28 PM  

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