There is no more crushing blow to a mama than the realization that the little one she has been carrying-even if only for a few weeks as had been the case for me-is gone. With the loss of that little soul also comes the loss of hopes and dreams not only for that little one, but also for the entire family into which that little one was to be born.
That loss happened 10 years ago. I had my first miscarriage on June 25 2001, a year before the birth of my daughter. I think of those souls often, and wonder, “What would you have been like?” Would you have been boys or a girls? Who would you look like, me or your father? What kind of personalities would you have? Sometimes I just give into, “What if?”
And yet, I know if the baby I “lost” on November 1, 2004 had lived, I would not have my now 8 year old son, the little guy who just makes my heart full and who can zing me with his uncanny perception of the truth and his quick wit. If I had had the baby I lost on June 25, 2001, I would not have my daughter. I may not have experienced that trials and tribulations that I experienced having her which ultimately have lead to the “birth” of Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond.
Both of my children are my greatest blessings. I truly cannot imagine my life without them in it. Yet it wasn’t an easy path to get them here. Several people have asked me over the years if I had to do it again, knowing my path to parenthood, would I do it again? I have to honestly answer, I don’t know. I know that I definitely would want to have my children, but, weenie that I am, I don’t know if I could knowingly go that path to getting them here again.
Mamas on Bedrest, each of you will travel a unique path and have an exquisite story to tell about how you came to be a mama and how you brought your baby into this world. For some of you, this path may be so overwhelming that you don’t trod it ever again. No worries and no judgement. Other mamas will go on to have other children, sometimes going back on bed rest, sometimes progressing just fine without life restriction. Some of you will go on to write books, start businesses, start non-profit organizations or do some other sort of humanitarian work as a result of your pregnancy and birth experiences.
It’s all good. It’s all perfect. Everything is as it should be. That is what I have learned over the years. While I still get a tiny sting in my heart when I think of the souls that moved on so quickly, I also smile and thank the Gods above for the delightful and dynamic souls that I live with each day. I learn so much from ALL my children. From those with me I learn patience and to not take myself so seriously. I also learn humility as they are often quick to point out my faults or mirror them back to me.
From those that have gone on, I have learned that life goes on. I will always remember them and for me, I honor them by serving other mamas and babies. Their gift to me is my service to you, to ensure to the best of my ability that each mama has the support and resources she needs to safely and successfully deliver a healthy baby. I thank you all for allowing me to honor my children.
“I lost my first child at 23 weeks due to an icompetent cervix. I am now 6 weeks pregnant and will have a cerclage at 12 weeks, not sure how much bed rest the doctor will prescribe, but l am very hopeful that the cerclage will let me carry to 37+ weeks.”
I am always so excited for mamas when I get these messages. Having lost a pregnancy prior to having each of my children, I can hear the trepidation in Cate’s voice as she “hopes” she’ll make it to 37+ weeks (and most of all come home with a healthy baby!) But what’s a mama to do? At 6 weeks along and with a history of a miscarriage, you don’t really want to go broadcasting your pregnancy. Yet it is at this critical time that you need support to wait those long, agonizing, 6 weeks more to cerclage, then onto bed rest for what may be the bulk of your pregnancy. This conundrum plagues many a mama. What’s a mama to do when she doesn’t know what to do? I say, take the situation in bite sized chunks. Here’s how.
Chunk #1-6 weeks to 12 weeks. In this first “chunk” you’re waiting to see if the pregnancy will hold on to the cerclage. On top of that, you may be dealing with morning (or all day!) sickness, fatigue and general malaise. During this chunk your mission (should you decide to accept it) is exquisite self care. This is the time to give your body all the rest that it needs. As your body forms and develops your baby, it is expending a tremendous amount of energy. Daily naps will be a must-whether you want to take them or not! Most mamas in this stage find that their bodies simply “clock out” mid-late afternoon, so if at all possible, see if you can somehow arrange at least an hour of rest during the day. If you have not already begun taking prenatal vitamins begin doing so (and I can recommend an awesome prenatal vitamin if you don’t already have one!). Pay super attention to your diet and do your best to eliminate the fatty, sugary and processed foods. (Your body may already be restricting what you can eat. If this is the case, get down what you can and do your best to make it as nutrient dense as possible!) And because this is such a stressful scenario, get support. I’m going for shameless self promotion here-Get thee to the Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond Facebook Community! It’s free, you don’t have to be invited and the community is full of mamas at all stages of pregnancy and bed rest who have gone before you, know exactly what you are going through and can offer better tips and support than any doctor or social worker! Visit often, chat it up, ask questions. Share your journey so that we can support you, cheer you on in the good times and lift you up when you’re down.
Chunk #2-12-approximately 20 weeks. In this chunk of time, you get your cerclage and have a few weeks of feeling pretty good before being prescribed bed rest. Typically the morning sickness has subsided and you are able to eat a more balanced, nutrient dense diet. The fatigue has mostly subsided as well. While you may not be showing, mamas who make it to this point often feel a real sense of accomplishment and begin telling friends, family members and co-workers that they are pregnant.
If you haven’t already, begin telling friends and family members your situation and start garnering support. If possible, set up a care and visitation calendar for when you are on bedrest so that you can not only have help for your family (partner) but also a regular stream of visitors to help pass the time and keep your spirits up. Talk with your employer’s human resources department as you may be eligible for some paid maternity leave. This will depend on the state you live in and the generosity of your employer! Learn what you are entitled to from your company and get any necessary documentation into the proper representatives. Get your affairs in order so that while you are temporarily “sidelined” your “life” will proceed as smoothly as possible. You may want to prepare some meals and put them in the freezer, pay up bills or at least get them onto online accounts, gather items you may want/need while on bed rest; extra pillows (a body pillow is a must!!), small bedside table, a small refrigerator or cooler for your bed room, a movie subscription, books or e-reader subscription, craft items and wifi so that you can keep up with the other Mamas on Bedrest!
Chunk #3-The Bedrest Prescription: 18-20 weeks. This usually comes somewhere around 18 -20 weeks, but I have seen women go as long as 22-24 weeks before being put to bed. The first few days to weeks are bearable, but for many women, as early as 2 weeks gets them feeling antsy. This is the time to put that care calendar to the test. Have that list of family members and friends handy and initiate that visitors schedule. Spend time online speaking with other women on bed rest. You may also want to start a blog or other memory marker to chronicle this journey and later share with your baby.
Chunk #4-20-26 weeks. This is the next big hurdle. If you can make it to 26 weeks, if you were to deliver, although small, your baby will have a fairly good chance of survival. He/she will spend a long time in the NICU, but they can survive. This is the first bed rest milestone to attain. How to get here? Great books, movies (netflicks or Amazon instant videos are lifesavers!), craft projects help pass the time. When you get to 26 weeks, be sure to celebrate with your mama friends online.
Chunk #5-26-28 weeks. 28 weeks is the next big marker. 28 weeks marks the onset of the third trimester. If you make it to 28 weeks, your baby is even stronger and more likely to survive should you go into preterm labor. Celebrate this important milestone-with your online community and with family and friends.
Chunk #6-28-32 weeks. The next big marker is 32 weeks. Again, the further along you go in the pregnancy, the better for the baby. Start winding up your projects as your bed rest time is drawing to a close.
Chunk #7-32-36 weeks 6 days. You may be thoroughly sick of bed rest by now, but getting this far along is a HUGE accomplishment! Your baby is growing and growing and his/her little organs are getting stronger and stronger. You may have your cerclage removed and the bedrest restriction lifted as most babies born after this point do well. But of course, The longer they stay in you, the less time they’ll need to spend in the NICU. If your baby is delivered during this time period, there are a few things you should know. If you are released from bed rest, “get your nesting on” as your little one will be coming any day!
Chunk #8-37+ weeks. Mama, you got this!! You have done an AMAZING FEAT!!! Your baby is “term” and has excellent chances of survival and excellent chances of having few if any complications. Barring any unforseen complications, all should be well! Congratulations Mama! Well done!!
If you found this “Bedrest in Chunks” approach helpful, tell us so in the comments section below. Did we miss something? Leave something out? Tell us that as well. Got a Question? Need more information about a great prenatal vitamin or other recommendation? e-mail us at email@example.com.
I hesitated to write this blog as I didn’t want to be a “downer”. But loss is a part of life. I experienced the loss of 2 pregnancies and was devastated. And while I will in no way attempt to compare the loss of my 2 pregnancies with my friend’s loss of her 20 something daughter, I feel a pain in my heart for her as a mama.
The loss of a child is unfathomable, yet each year thousands of mamas endure this heartbreak. We, the friends of my friend, are doing what we can to surround her with love without being smothering. Right now there is a lot of family around and arrangements are being made. So we have made the decision to be present, but for now, to step back and to allow my friend and her family to do what they need to do. Then, in the coming weeks when all of the “formalities” are complete, be present as much as she’ll allow.
One of the things that was critical for me when I was moving through my miscarriags was to have people to turn to and to lean on much later in the grieving process. People are wonderful intially. But I found that months later I was still sad and many people didn’t get that. I am so grateful for the friends who, even 9 months later, were willing to sit with me and allow me to cry over my loss. My friend is going to need a lot of support in the coming months, far more than I needed and perhaps even professional help to navigate this process. It will likely take my friend years to come to terms with the loss of her daughter – if she ever really does. My aunt says that she still feels sadness over the loss of my cousin and he passed away at 43 years old in 2001.
So what does this have to do with Mamas on Bedrest?
Our commmunity has been very VERY fortunate in that we have not experienced many losses. To date, I know of only one mama whose bed rest experience did not result in a live birth (if there are others, please let us know how we can support you.). We support eachother, offer tips and to date, it seems to have had a positive impact. Granted, we are a relatively small community, but I do believe that our community has played a role in mamas being able to survive the rigors of bed rest and to endure the unending days of boredom and monotony.
I have written about pregnancy loss and the loss of a child before. For those of you mamas who have lost a pregnancy or a young child (infant) I want to call your attention to some grief resources found in a previous blog. They are wonderful and while not for every one, perhaps you’ll find something of benefit. Lastly, I’d like to invite you to join our community. We are a wonderful group of women and the love, support and wisdom never ceases to amaze me. Feel free to post comments here on the blog or send private messages to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please keep my friend and her family in your prayers. Thanks so much.