Monday, March 3, 2014

10 Tips to Survive Bed Rest

I've been on strict bed rest for a month now and I have anywhere from 0 days to 2 months to go! As someone who is normally very active, a workaholic, and a neat freak, this has been a 180-degree turn. Yet, it hasn't been as hard as I thought it would be. Just one look at my husband's concerned face reminds me that this isn't about me - it's about our baby and I need to do what I can to keep her cookin' as long as possible.

Easier said than done, though, right? So I compiled a list of 10 Tips to Survive Bedrest to help those in the same (horizontal) position:

10 Tips to Survive Bed Rest: You can do it!

1. Relax

Like, for real. For once you have an excuse to ignore that email or let the dishes pile up. Pick up a book or turn on the TV and truly enjoy some "you time" while you can.

2. Follow the 80/20 rule of eating

80% Healthy
You're not getting much exercise these days, plus you want your baby to be as healthy as possible. Aim for mostly good stuff. I know - boring.

20% Fun for Mama
You're amazing. You're bringing a new life into this world. And you're stuck on the couch. Your idea of excitement these days is the 10 times you're allowed to get up to go to the bathroom. Don't let the bed rest blues set in! Treat yourself to a little guilty pleasure now and then, like a whole bowl of popcorn or a double-chocolate chip muffin.

3. Stick to a (modified) schedule

I know I told you to relax. But I don't mean just lay around all day. Trust me, nothing will make the time pass more slowly than that, which in turn will frustrate you and you might attempt a prison break. I have a rough schedule for each day:

  • Drink coffee and check emails
  • Shower and get dressed
  • Pick something from my to-do list to work on: writing, blogging, pimping out my books
  • Free time (reading, watching TV, napping) until my husband and son get home

See? It's a relaxed schedule but it ensures I bathe regularly (you're welcome, world!) and don't just stare into space for hours.

4. Map out your week

Every Sunday I sit down (well, I'm already sitting) with my husband and plan the week. When do we have appointments? When will we do laundry? What one-off things need to be done (send a birthday card, change the water filter, fix the blasted stroller)? By planning in advance we can break the tasks down by day and divvy them up better.

5. Remember Google is not a doctor

You have way more time now to agonize over every little twinge and plenty of time to search for its meaning on Google. Don't do this.

Your doctor likely gave you a list of "If this happens, go to the hospital" (if not, then you have my permission to use Google to look for a new doctor). If what's happening to you isn't on that list, then either call your doctor or write it down to ask at your next appointment. When we look for medical information online, we tend to be biased. If a website says it's serious, we'll believe it. If a website says it's not serious, we won't believe it so we'll keep searching until we find a site that says it's serious. We'll get ourselves unnecessarily worked up and what does it change? Nothing.

"Why did this happen when I seemed to be in good health?" I wondered one day. After reading about my "incompetent cervix" and "uterine irritability" I was fuming. No wonder my uterus is irritable! You just called my cervix incompetent! Then I read an article that said there was no medical proof that bed rest was even necessary. Oh, so I'm suffering through all this for nothing? If I get up and walk around do you PROMISE my baby won't fall out?

Trust your doctor. Close your browser.

If you're on bed rest, don't Google any medical questions!

6. Ask for and accept help

This was the hardest for me. I felt so lazy asking my husband to get me water, juice, coffee, and yogurt before heading out the door in the morning. But guess what? Once he's gone I'll need a coffee refill and a water refill and will have to go to the bathroom about 8 times, and that's just before lunch. He can't help while he's not here and I need to limit the number of times I get up, so I'm grateful he helps as much as he can while he's around. But he won't know what to do if I don't ask.

I also have a good friend that brings me lunch twice a week. While she's here I ask for her help with stuff like watering the plants or changing the sheets in my son's crib (which I couldn't even do if I wanted to with my big belly in the way). I would never ask a friend to scrub my toilets but if friends can help with a few things, it's that much less work for my husband to do later.

Your friends and family WANT to help--just let them know how!

7. Do a "Count-Up" instead of a Countdown

I went into preterm labor at 25 weeks and 3 days. Here's a quick breakdown of the important milestones*:

<26 weeksThe Gray ZonePlenty of babies born before 26 weeks survive, but it's still a very risky stage.
26-32 weeksVery PrematureYour baby is thankfully out of the gray zone but will most likely need to stay in the NICU if born at this stage.
32-37 weeksPrematureMost people would be concerned if their baby was born at this stage, but for those of us who thought our baby would come before 32 weeks, we're ready to throw a party when we hit this mark. Your baby will likely need to stay in the NICU but could be out relatively quickly. My first baby was born at 35 weeks and 2 days and was out of the NICU after 11 days.
37-39 weeksEarlyIf you make it this far, you'll almost start wishing the baby would come already because you'll be HUGE and uncomfortable. But you'll be happy you kept the baby in that long.
39-42 weeksFull termDing! Baby's done cookin'.
* I'm not a doctor. If I was, I'd probably have a lot more money. These are just guidelines. Talk to your doctor if you have questions and don't sue me if I'm wrong - you'd probably only get a paper clip and some rotten bananas (and even then I'd probably make banana bread real quick and hide the paper clip, just out of spite).

I'm sure you've calculated how many weeks you have left. When I went into preterm labor with Baby #2, I was looking at 12 weeks of bed rest.

An eternity.

The first week I counted down the days. But I realized it was having the opposite effect on me - it was making me want this to all be over with as soon as possible. What a shame to miss out on the joys of pregnancy, like my baby's little kicks and hiccups! And what a shame to view it as something that I wanted to just be done with.

I decided to do a "Count-Up" and view things the opposite way. As an author who just released her first book before this whole preterm labor stuff started, I knew I wanted to write a sequel. What better time than when I was stuck on the couch for 2-3 months? I set a goal to finish my sequel before my baby was born. That way, each day she stayed in there gave Mommy another day to write.

When it comes to preemies, every day counts. It's not a countdown, it's a count-up!

What activity could you use for your Count-Up? How about: knitting a baby blanket, watching the entire series of Breaking Bad non-stop, organizing all your photos into photo albums, or learning to blow up balloons? And if you learn how to blow up a balloon, please teach me because I could spend the next 2 months trying and I would still never get it.

Pick a project that doesn't go against doctor's orders and you think will last slightly longer than the amount of time you have left on bed rest.

8. Drink lots of water.

You're supposed to spend most of your time on the couch, but you ARE allowed to get up to pee. Work it, girlfriend! Drink lots of water, and then on your way back from the bathroom, fill your glass up again.

9. Get fresh air

If you're on strict bed rest, you won't be allowed to leave the house. Open the windows for at least 10 minutes per day and let that fresh air circulate. It's the not the same but it's better than nothing.

10. Don't risk it

You know what you are and aren't allowed to do, missy. Don't say "I'll do ______ just this one time" - what if that was the time your baby came? You can't undo the "just this one time" so don't risk regretting it. Your husband or a friend can do the laundry/take out the trash/paint your toenails later. In the meantime, go back through this list and see what you can do instead of what you were planning on doing, you naughty little thing you.

You can do it! Good luck!

Update: Stella was born on May 4, 2014 (38 weeks and 5 days), healthy as can be. And Mama finished the final chapter of her book two days later.

Life's short. Laugh more. Buy my books at

Vicki Lesage, Author

Organizations to Support Preemies and Mothers on Bed Rest: