Good Monday Morning Mamas!
Today we have a treat! While trolling the posts on our community, I came across a post by this very knowledgeable “Former Bedrest Mama”, Karen Gates. Her post was so full of good information, tips and triumph that I just HAD to speak with her! Being the gracious mama that she is, she agreed and here she shares her story of being on bedest for Placenta Previa with her second son. Listen to how Karen was able to intuit and support the needs of her husband, to receive help from friends and family and to overall Thrive while on bed rest! It’s an interview you won’t want to miss-especially if you are on bed rest during the holidays!
We all know bedrest is a beast, but we endure it with the ever pressing hope that at the end of the journey, we’ll end up with a healthy baby. Sometimes the journey ends up not quite how we expected. We deliver and our baby has to be taken into the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for special care. Even though all proceeds positively, it’s a tough pill to swallow that after the many weeks on bed rest, you actually have to leave the hospital without your baby. While most mamas on bedrest know that they have a higher than normal risk of delivering a premature infant, few are prepared for the feelings that ensue when they are discharged home from the hospital and their babies must remain. Many mamas describe a feeling of grief, a void and feeling like they didn’t really succeed in having a successful birth outcome. All of these are very valid feelings.
As a mama who had to leave the hospital without her baby, it was really hard to be wheeled down to the pick up circle in front of the hospital, all my personal items and flowers beside me, and no baby in my arms. And I was lucky. My daughter (a late phase preemie born at 36 w, 6d) only remained in the NICU for 5 days beyond my discharge. But it was still hard to walk into my house and to see her room all ready and to see the cradle and changing table in my room and for her not to be there. During those 5 days, I made the most of my time, created a routine with my husband and the order, quite frankly that feeling of control is what got me through.
Structure your days: Every day I got up, dressed and prepared a bag for the day full of snacks and supplies (breast pump tubing, bottles, breast pads, maxi pads and other personal items) and my husband would drive me to the hospital so I could be there by about 9 am. Once I arrived, I assumed most of my daughter’s care. I would weigh her, feed her, change her and weigh her again. Then I’d hold her and rock her, talking to her. My mother had come down to help out, so she would come to the hospital with me and we would take turns holding my daughter. While my mom held my daughter, I’d pump. I pumped every few hours and by the time she came home, we had enough stored breastmilk to take up nearly one quarter of our freezer. Occasionally during the day I’d take a nap in the rocker, but generally I hung out with my baby, holding her and caring for her as much as the nursing staff allowed. My husband would typically pick up my mom and I at about 7pm and he’d bring us home. I’d eat and pump and rest, my mom taking care of me, while my husband would go back to the hospital and hang out with my daughter until about midnight. We repeated this schedule daily until we brought my daughter home.
Now I am sure that many of you are thinking,
“Well that’s just fine for you. Your baby was only in the NICU 5 days beyond your discharge (10 days total). And you didn’t have any other children at home.”
To this I say, “You are absolutely right!” But the point I want to make is that when your child is in the NICU, it’s stressful. Many mamas feel as if the nurses are bonding more with their babies than they are! Personally, I was kinda pissed at the nurses at first. They held my daughter before I did. Although they had whisked her by me when she was first born, the NICU nurses were the first people my daughter really “saw”. I knew intellectually that they were doing the best possible for her, but frankly I was jealous. I wanted to be doing everything for her. I WAS HER MAMA!!! And as the days went on, and I was able to do more and more for her myself, those feelings of jealousy gave way to gratitude as I realized those nurses really were doing the best things for her at that time.
Get support: I live in Texas and my family lives in Massachusetts. My mom came down to visit and take care of me. It was a HUGE help. While she really didn’t do much (a few loads of laundry, made sure I ate, helped me move about comfortably), her presence meant more than I can say. She was there when we learned about a lot of my daughter’s lab tests. While most of them were negative and my daugther was progressing nicely, the anxiety that arose each time the neonatologist arrived was stiffling and each day that he said my daughter could not go home, mom was there to comfort me. Also, although I didn’t have other children at home, having my mother present would have enabled me to be with my daughter without having to worry about the care of my older children at home. Do what you can to have folks present to support you. Its invaluable!!!
Take Advantage of Available Services: Many hospitals offer a wide range of services to families with infants in the NICU (Social service consultations, assistance at home, getting medical devices and equipment for home if they are needed, counseling for parents if needed and so much more!). While I didn’t need many of the services offered, I did take advantage of the lactation consultations. My daughter had trouble breathing and that is why she was in the NICU in the first place. But she had difficulty breathing while nursing. The lactation consultant gave me tips on good positions in which to hold her comfortably, how to make sure enough of my breast was in her mouth to stimulate the milk let down reflex, and how to best help my daughter to be able to breathe while nursing.
Be present for all tests and ask questions about the results: There are a million and one tests done to make sure that your preemie is progressing and developing. As much as possible, BE PRESENT WHILE ALL OF THEM ARE ADMINISTERED!! There were a couple that they tried to tell me that I had to leave the room to have done. I refused. You have the right to refuse and be with your baby provided it poses no health risk to her or compromises the test. Speak up! And be sure to get full reports on all the tests and ask questions of the neonatologists when they do their rounds and present the test results to you.
Be patient: All babies go home. Some, like my daughter only spend a few days in the NICU. Other babies spend weeks to months. Whatever the duration of your baby’s hospital stay, know that they are getting the best possible care. And know that each day that they stay in the NICU is further preparing them to be home with you. One of the worst things that can happen is to get your baby home and for them to have some sort of complication that causes you to rush them back to the hospital. Be patient, allow the NICU staff to do what they do, and with time and grace, your little one will be home to stay!
Well, the holidays are officially upon us! I hope that you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and found a way to celebrate with family and friends.
Being on Bedrest during the holidays is not easy. In plain language, it sucks! Regardless of the holiday that you celebrate (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa) there is always a lot of preparation before the celebration, hustle and bustle and even though it is exhausting, the time spent with family and loved ones is priceless. This year, you are sidelined. There are no trips to the mall, no trips to specialty butchers, wine shops, cheese shops, etc… for the special ingredients for those special dishes. Some of you may wrap presents at home and witness the transformation of your homes, while others of you are totally out of the loop in the hospital. I know that this is maddening and hurts like the devil. I know because this Christmas I too am having a first-having Christmas without my children at home.
I don’t talk about it much, but I got divorced 2 years ago. As a result, my children alternate holidays with me and their father. For the most part, it’s not a big deal. New Year’s, Valentines, Easter, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day and Thanksgiving are all pretty generic so the switch is easy. We each get the children on our respective “parent” days, so the kids are with me on Mother’s Day and their dad on Father’s Day. We bite the bullet and spend time together on their birthdays. But Christmas is always hard. Seeing the kids bolt out of their rooms and tear into the gifts under the tree is an unexplicabale joy-one that I imagine is as difficult for their father to miss as it is for me. The year our divorce was granted, the children spent Christmas with their father. I couldn’t bear to be in our house by myself, so I bolted to my Sister’s in New York. I had a wonderful time and did not have to cope with the sense of loss that I felt. And once I returned home, the kids came that evening and we had Christmas again the next morning! Last year the kids were with me and we spent Christmas in New York with my sister and my parents. Again, sheer joy as my parents got the privilege of seeing not only all of their grandchildren (My sister’s sons and their wives were there!), it was my grandniece’s first Christmas and at 4 months, we all got a huge kick out of helping her open and play with her toys.
This year will be different. This year will be the first year that I spend at home without my children. We moved from our old house last year, so it’s not so eery when the kids aren’t at home. But by not traveling, I’ll have to really confront being on my own without them for the first time ever, on what I feel is the most major holiday of the year. Since I decided not to travel this year, I know that I will have to do something to make this Christmas memorable.
I know that some of you will see this as a completely different situation from what you are experiencing. Despite being separated from my children as a result of divorce, I do have options to go out and create a “Joyful Yule”. But you can have a joyous holiday! It will be different and you’ll have to do a bit more to create the vibe, but you can have a “Joyful Yule” (or Happy Hanukkah or Festive Kwanzaa) this year.
First, determine what is really important to you about the holidays. Is it cooking a big feast? Is it having a bunch of people over? Is it decorating? What is it about these winter holidays that really light you up? When you figure that out, then adjust the holiday traditions to suit your situation. If you love having a huge holiday party and you are on hospital bed rest, ask a friend, family member or even the hospital social worker to help you throw a holiday party for a few friends and family members in your room. With the internet, you can pretty much order anything that you could want or need and if you have a “willing accomplice”, you can have everything delivered to their home and then they bring the party to you. Yeah, it will take a few extra steps, but there is no reason that you can’t create a “holiday soiree” in your hospital room! Do it up, Mamas! Dress up, have sparkling cider (no alcohol, its not good for the little ones!), do a gift exchange, ….whatever you normally do, adjust it and do it from wherever you are! Want to make it even better? Collaborate with other mamas in the hospital and have one big, fat party!! You may have to be on bed rest, but no one says that you can’t get together and have a blast! Here in Austin at Seton Medical Center, We’re planning an ornament making party. Then we’ll decorate the AntePartum unit and have a holiday party for Mamas on Bedrest & their families!
This has the potential to be a really hard holiday but it doesn’t have to be. I’m already putting out feelers to see who will be in town alone. I plan to create a holiday soiree for those who must be away from home. Not sure yet if I’ll host or be at someone else’s house, but I do know, If I am home alone on Christmas, it’s because I choose to be-not because I have to be. And so it is with you. You may have to be on bed rest or worse, on bed rest in the hospital. But the joy of the holiday season is up to YOU!!
Mamas on Bedrest, do you need help planning a holiday celebration, decorating or gathering holiday cheer for family and friends? Hospitals, is your Bedrest unit lacking in the Joy department? Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond is available to help Mamas on Bedrest, loved ones and hospitals create a wonderous holiday atmosphere! Give us a call (512) 288-0827 or send us an e-mail (email@example.com) describing what you’d like to do for the holidays and we’ll get it done!