Mamas on Bedrest: Are you creating a future Nobel Laureate?

November 22nd, 2010

For many mamas, when they are told that they have to go on prescribed bed rest they see it as some sort of personal failing.  They ask themselves, “If pregnancy is the most natural thing for a woman to do, any woman should be able to do it right? If millions of women will become pregnant and give birth each year without a glitch, why am I having all these problem?”  Mamas, if this is you, you may have fallen prey to the myth of  The Enjoli woman.

“I can put the wash on the line, feed the kids, get dressed, pass out the kisses and get to work by five of nine….’Cause I’m a woman-Enjoli! I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and, never, never, never let you forget you’re a man..’Cause I’m a woman Enjoli!”

Some of you may be too young to remember this commercial that aired in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. It was for a perfume called Enjoli by Charles of the Ritz. It epitomized the idea that women could do it all; take care of the house, the kids, work a full time job and still be the sex kitten that their husbands needed them to be. You may laugh when you watch this video, but this one commercial made Charles of the Ritz millions! Everyone knew the tune, the commercial and the product.  Heck, some 20 years later, as I was preparing this blog, it immediately came to my mind.

Why would such a cheesy jingle come to my mind when thinking of mamas on bed rest? Because the advertising moguls of that time, like so many other societal and cultural influences, have created and promote unattainable perceptions of women; that we can do it all and be it all and when we realize that we can’t, we beat ourselves up about it.  I was having lunch with a friend the other day and she mentioned that she tries to be like the woman in  Proverbs 31 in the old testament of the bible,  but just “isn’t there”. (Proverbs 31: 10-31. For those of you not familiar with this dynamo, she has her home if order, her kids call her blessed, she is somehow earning income and making her husband proud. But hey, no pressure!)

We could sit here all day and ask, where do these ideas come from and why do we women buy into them? But that isn’t really a productive use of time. The innuendos and influences are there. What we women have to do is to look at them, acknowledge their presence and then move on with our lives.

So how does this pertain to mamas on bed rest? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, your need to be on bed rest is not likely your fault! There are many reasons that women are prescribed bed rest; placental problems, cervical problems, preterm labor, pre-eclampsia and multiple gestation to name a few of the more common indications. Some women may chastise themselves saying, “If I hadn’t been working so much or moving this way or that…Then I wouldn’t need to be on bed rest.” In most cases, nothing could be further from the truth.

A brief literature search shows that nearly 20% of pregnant women will be prescribed bed rest at some point during their pregnancies. That’s 1 out of 5 women! So clearly the need for bed rest is more common than many of us realized. But what is distressing to me is that women blame themselves for having to go on bed rest. So right here and right now, I’d like mamas on bed rest to consider an alternative explanation for the bed rest prescription.

During pregnancy you grow a whole, complete human being. Think about it. Your body grows a whole other, fully functioning being. This takes an incredible amount of energy! Your body (your belly in particular) will expand to a size beyond what you may have ever believed to be physically possible. To support the pregnancy and the development of the growing baby, your body will increase it’s blood volume 45-50% by the end of the pregnancy so that it can deliver the necessary nutrients and oxygen to the growing baby while continuing to support your physiologic needs. Your musculoskeletal system will expand and adapt to support anywhere from an additional 20-50 pounds of pregnancy weight. Your kidneys and intestines will increase their efficiency to not only extract nutrients and wastes for and from mama, but also for and from the growing and developing baby. The adaptations that your body undergo during pregnancy are nothing short of miraculous.

The fetus that develops becomes a baby with the capability to see, hear, smell, taste, move and think. As the baby grows, he/she will grow not only is stature, but will gain gross and fine motor control, reasoning capabilities, communication skills and whatever other gifts and talents are bestowed upon them such as the ability to sing, draw, complete complex math equations, or to develop innovative products. All of these developments require energy, perhaps more energy than your body is normally used to expending to sustain yourself, let alone another being. By you slowing down, it gives your body the ability to divert energy from moving and sustaining you to making energy available for fetal development. Is pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure) your issue? Perhaps your blood vessels need a bit more energy and leeway to adapt to the increased blood volume and transport necessary to feed and nurture your baby, leeway that results from lowering your body’s needs so the energy can be shunted to your baby? Are you going to chastise and berate your body for needing a little extra energy to create something or someone brilliant? What if you are growing the next Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi or Michael Jordan? If you are a mother of multiples, what if you are growing the next version of the Wright brothers and your children will revolutionize how we travel? What if…..

The work that your body is doing is more than a construction crew and/or scientists could do in many more months. They say that to house all the information and processes of the human brain would require several football fields. Yet mama, you are creating that complex organ that will fit perfectly inside your baby’s small skull right now. The best artificial limbs and organs are nothing compared to the originals we have and mama you are creating them-right now! Go ahead, sit back and marvel at your creative self, you deserve it! You’re awesome!

Bed rest is hard. You may feel achy, bored and lonely. Your hormones may make you feel weepy. You will need help with the most basic tasks and that may make you feel incredibly vulnerable. But just remember all the phenomenal things that your body is doing at this very minute. What may seem like “laying around” may be creating the next Nobel Laureate. What if…

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