First of all, congratulations! You’re having a new baby and that’s fantastic. However, your lady is on bed rest and that is less fantastic. Things are going to get rough, but you need to keep your eyes on the long game. For the next few months, everything you once knew is gone along with any trace of relaxation you formerly enjoyed. You are now a butler, chef, seamstress, waiter, bus boy, laundry attendant, psychologist, teacher, punching bag, best friend, father, gardener, executive assistant, planner, chauffeur and husband. You are going to do all of these things 16+ hours a day and you are going to do them without a shred of complaint.
My first stint as a bed-ridden spouse began quite suddenly. My wife was enjoying a normal pregnancy until one night, about 10 weeks from the due date, she started feeling small contractions. We went to the hospital assuming she would be administered a drug to stop the contractions, and we’d go home to enjoy the weekend. No problem! While being examined by the nurse, My wife said “Am I peeing right now??” Thus began my adventure. She didn’t pee, but I almost did…and then some. As it turned out, her “water broke,” or in medical terms, she had a premature rupture of membranes. She was immediately admitted to an Antepartum unit and was told she would need to stay here until the baby was born. I set up camp on the reclining chair in the hospital room and we didn’t see our house for 4 weeks!
The second time we had a pretty good idea that bed rest was a possibility since she was high risk, so we were at least somewhat mentally prepared. She went into pre-term labor at 20 weeks and the possibility became a reality. The next four months was strict bed rest. She could only get up to use the bathroom and to shower every other day. We quickly realized that all of that “mental preparation” meant nothing when compared to the reality.
This is when I gained a true appreciation for all the things that I never even noticed that my wife does. The bathroom doesn’t magically become clean, the income she used to pull in suddenly wasn’t added to the account and the bills she used to fret over became mine to manage (sort of). Oh, and if you already have kids, you need to quickly learn anything and everything that you routinely ignored. You’ll need to know school schedules, conferences, practice times, dance class starts, which schools don’t allow peanut butter, which child hates mustard, the “right” way to cut the bananas etc. Be grateful that this isn’t permanent because losing 50 percent of your collective parenting power is an atrociously huge loss. Single parents, I humbly bow before you all.
All of this is going to suck. And it’s going to suck so very very badly. But guess what? You just need to accept it with a smile because complaining about it, or making it seem like anything less than a pleasure to you, is going to just add extra stress to the lady that needs nothing but calmness. She is going to have rough days. Those pregnancy hormones don’t take a break because she’s horizontal. If anything, they take advantage of the position and start having hormone babies and invite their hormone friends over for a big hormone party where things get extra hormone crazy. You are not only her sole outlet to the outside world; you are going to be the focus of her wrath. It’s most likely not really you she’s mad at some of the time, but you are the person she will see 90 percent of the time, so if she’s feeling angry, you will hear it. But you, good sir, will man up and accept it.
Don’t forget, you have support out there and you’re going to need to rely on it. What’s that? You’re manly and you think you can do this all on your own. That’s very cute. Keep you mother in law on speed dial. We live in California and my whole family is on the East Coast, so they couldn’t be there with us throughout the ordeal. I for one would have never made it without my wife’s family. They were there whenever I needed them and picked up so much of the slack when things were just getting overwhelming. You’re going to need that help as much as your wife is. So get out there and find that support.
Your lady is in for a rough stretch of boredom. Sure, right now you might be thinking “I’d love it if someone told me to lie down and watch TV for a month,” and yes, even now it seems appealing to me. However, the reality of it is that most of us would only be able to handle a few days of it without going completely insane. So here are some of the things I did to help my wife stay mentally connected.
Date Nights: She can’t go out, but that doesn’t mean you can’t. Surprise her with a date every now and then. Dress up, light some candles in the room, use the fancy china you registered for that remains unopened in your closet somewhere (seriously, why do all marrying couples think they’re going to have so many dinner parties?). Get her favorite food, send an invite, create atmosphere. I even got a fancy restaurant close to the hospital to let me take silverware, linens and plates to the hospital for the night! I wrote extensively about date nights here (Valentine’s Date Night). All of those same rules apply even if it’s not Valentine’s Day.
Visitors: This is essential. We all know you’re incredibly awesome, but even you would get tired of you if you were all you saw for months on end. Nobody’s that awesome. Everyone is going to say that they want to visit, but not a whole lot of them are going to actually make it. It’s not their fault and you can’t begrudge them. They have their own lives and things to deal with so making it there isn’t a priority for them. What you’re going to need to do is find some of her closer friends/relatives and have a direct talk with them about when they can come and how important it is that they do. Set up times that they are going to come over on a rotating basis. Ask them to come prepared with things to talk about, watch, games to play and so forth. If they come in and all they have to say is “So what’s been going on with you?” they are helping no one.
Games: This one probably goes without saying, but head to the store and buy a bunch of games. Cards, Trivial Pursuit, Cranium, Risk (you have time for this one now). Pretty much anything but Operation will work. I get so nervous playing that game I feel like I’m about to birth a child when I get zapped. Stupid impossible wishbone. Also if you’re like me, you’re going to want to tone down your board game intensity. I’ve had victory dances that lasted for obnoxiously long periods of time. I’m a horrible sore winner. So when you dominate in the sports category of TP, maybe downplay the arrogance a bit.
Kids: If you already have them, this is going to be one of the biggest challenges you’re going to face. Your wife needs to spend time with them. It’s not just something she’s going to casually want. Her separation from them is going to be a physical pain that she’s going to acutely feel. And what is your job when it comes to your wife experiencing pain or stress? That’s right amigo. Your job is to alleviate it. Get things for them to do together in the bed. Playdough, puzzles, crafts. You can think of a million things. Just be sure to set aside time where the kids are going to be in there with your girl and she is going to be able to productively interact with them. Your kids might be too young to understand why mommy isn’t getting out of bed, and you’re going to have to help them to spend the time they need with her. My daughter was two during Bed Rest Part II: Revenge of Bed Rest. She will still refer to the time when my wife wasn’t getting up four years later, so make sure that time is special for them, because it will be hard for both.
For yourself, take steps to make things easier. Take an evening to bag snacks, snacks and more snacks. Buy a box of Ziploc sandwich bags and have ready to grab bags of Cheerios, Raisins, Graham Crackers, Goldfish. You name it. It’ll take a while to prepare, but will save you so much time when you’re running around doing laundry, serving bedside dinners and cleaning everyone’s dishes.
Entertainment: Regular TV is going to get old and it’s going to get old quickly. Consider investing the money in a device that’ll bring Netflix into her room. We get it through our Wii and also have a Hulu account. You should also get both. She’ll be able to watch movies and all the shows she could ever want. Attempt to be into re-runs of Gilmore Girls, so you can have something to watch together. Make frequent trips to your library to get books for her on all different subjects. Maybe even a few cookbooks. She can find a meal she wants and you can cook it for a date night. When it’s all over with, you might even have a few meals under your belt that you can easily knock out.
Make sure she knows about this website. My wife was on here constantly. It’s an online support community/social network for women who are on bed rest or who have high-risk pregnancies. It really helped her immensely to know that she wasn’t alone in what she was going through and what she was feeling.
Always remember to try your best to keep things fun. It’s going to be hard, but it’s necessary. After two weeks of hospital bed rest, my wife was given “wheelchair privileges” which meant that for 20 minutes, she could leave her room via wheelchair. One evening the sprinklers were watering a small patch of grass. Despite her emphatic protests, I made sure to walk her directly through them. She was soaked and laughing, and it helped break the monotony and baffle her nurses.
Here’s something to keep in mind when you think that bed rest is finally winding down and things are going to go back to normal (first of all, it’s going to end with a baby, so things aren’t going back to normal). But when bed-rest ends, it doesn’t end. Think about how you feel when you go to the gym after not working out for a while. It’s hard. It’s exhausting and it’s terrible. Now, that was when you were able to use all of your limbs to a certain degree. Your lady has just spent weeks not using her legs or abs. Maybe it’s been months. No matter what, she is still going to be very much incapacitated for a few more weeks while she gains that strength back. Short walks are going to seem like a marathon to her and you’ll need to hire a full-time Sherpa if you have stairs. So don’t start thinking that your duties have ended now that she can get up. It’s a long road to full recovery from this.
Another thing to keep in mind is her mental readiness. When my wife ended the four-month stretch, she had a very hard time adjusting to regular life again. Going anywhere in public filled her with anxiety. She wasn’t able to shop, she wasn’t able to be in crowds and it took months and months for this to pass. Of course this frustrated me and it’ll frustrate you too. You want it to be over, but believe me, she wants it more than you do. Remember, at this point it’s more important than ever to show emotional support. Shed your tough guy exterior and avoid being distant. It’s been a stressful period of time and you need to be there for each other. Hold her hand and make sure she knows that you are on her side and will help her work through it.
So there you go. Hopefully knowing some of this in advance will help you to get through it as seamlessly as possible. As a final note, when you need to complain, you’re going to call a buddy or find a private dad support group (there are many out there for dads you can use), but you will not complain to her. As long as she’s on bed rest, she will never catch wind of how tough things are for you or that you find yourself struggling some days (which you absolutely will). When she looks back on this, she’s going to see you as the magnificent gentleman that you are, and your successfully expanded family will be a testament to that.