Mamas on Bedrest: Check Out Our “Hit Parade”!

September 23rd, 2013

I got the most fantastic surprise when I opened the Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond Facebook Page.  It is a veritable hit parade of babies!!!

If you are familiar with our community, you know that we are big, I mean BIG on supporting mamas who are really “going through it”. Now that’s not to say that every Mama in our community isn’t facing challenges with her pregnancy. She wouldn’t be in our community if she weren’t.  But some mamas have really difficult times and we all come together in virtual support of these mamas on need.

Most recently Mama Amber was fighting for her life and the life of her little man Christian. Amber developed a very serious case of pre-eclampsia and her blood pressures shot up so high that her own life as well as that of her son’s was in jeopardy. Her godmother Ronna contacted us and we mamas got busy. Mamas prayed, sent healing thoughts, did meditations, sent messages, whatever they could do from afar in order to support Amber and Christian. And after about a week and a half, Amber delivered a very tiny but feisty Christian. Since then, Ronna has kept us up on Amber and Christian’s progress, and has been sending up photos of this every growing little man.

As I have said before, this is nothing new for us here at Mamas on Bedrest and Beyond. We held space for Jessica-Lyn while on bed rest and she was able to have a fabulous water birth/midwife delivery of her darling daughter. We comforted Mamas Trista and Haley when their babies decided that they liked bed rest so much they weren’t coming out! (Both were well past due dates but fine and dandy once they decided to make their appearances!) And the stories continue. Mamas chime in from around the globe with love and support for their “sisters in the struggle”. Germany, Belgium, Ireland, India and  Australia are just a few of the countries represented by our Mamas.

But even with all the stories and interactions, sometimes I wonder, “Is this really doing anything?” Tonight I got my answer. I opened the Facebook page for something and there they were-babies, babies everywhere! Beautiful, robust, healthy babies-all from mamas who had been on bed rest and who have been in our community. I have to admit, all their sweet faces brought tears to my eyes. To think that I may have played even the tiniest role in their coming into this world is heady to say the least.

So if you get a moment, take a look at our Facebook page. There are beautiful babies all over it and they are the love and joys of “former” Mamas on Bedrest. If you can’t see them, look on the right hand side of the page under “Recent posts by others”.  Scroll down, look around and see the beautiful babies of Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond. 

Mamas on Bedrest: We Provide “Soft Support”

September 13th, 2013

Mamaonbedrest-on-the-phoneTGIF Mamas!!

Once again I had the opportunity to educate someone about bed rest and bed rest support. I was speaking with a woman and she asked me what I did. I explained that I support high risk pregnant women on prescribed bed rest. Like most people who have never intimately known a pregnant woman who has had to go on bed rest, she responded glibly,

“What’s so hard about that? I’d love to be home in bed!”

I know that I am speaking to the choir here, but bed rest is anything but restful! Pregnancy bed rest is long, hard, stressful work. Women prescribed bed rest during their pregnancies are fraught with fear and anxiety for themselves and their babies.

Let’s look at the facts. Some 750,000 American women annually are prescribed bed rest for a portion of their pregnancies. The intention of bed rest is to prolong the pregnancy so that delivery occurs as close to 39 weeks as possible. There are many reasons for the bed rest prescription including, cervical insufficiency (short cervix), pre-eclampsia, preterm labor, placenta previa, intrauterine growth retardation, gestational diabetes, pregnancy induced hypertension, multiples(twins or more) and others. While some women have medical history that may predispose them to preterm labor, the vast majority of mamas prescribed bed rest have no readily identifiable medical history that would indicate they’d experience complications during pregnancy. Likewise, most mamas have done nothing to bring about the complications they experience. In a nutsell, pregnancy complications just happen.

This is extremely frustrating for mamas who want answers. Why is this happening? What is wrong with her body? What could have been done to prevent the complication and the ensuing bed rest? What can a mama do now to make the situation better? Will this particular complication or others occur with subsequent pregnancies? Is a mama “once a Mama on Bedrest always a Mama on Bedrest?” These questions raise a mama’s anxiety, something that we don’t want at this very important juncture in her pregnancy.

Maternal Fetal medicine is great at monitoring the health and well being of mamas and babies experiencing complications during pregnancy. Historically, hospitals and physicians were not as good at managing the emotional or “soft side” of complicated pregnancies; i.e. the emotional strain, the stress on the family dynamics, the financial woes and other “psychosocial” aspects of bed rest. Increasingly, hospitals and health care professionals are taking pyschosocial issues into consideration when managing Mamas on Bedrest, but there is still much work to be done. And while the March of Dimes is on the forefront of addressing the emotional and behavioral needs of Mamas on Bedrest in the Hospital, Mamas on Bedrest at home and the needs of their families continue to be set aside. In our very mobile world, Mamas on Bedrest seldom live near family and often don’t have a strong community support system. This further increases mama’s stress and anxiety and potentially puts her health and the health of her unborn baby at risk. It is no small matter when a Mama on Bedrest is concerned about her existing child’s safety coming home from school gets up to retrieve the child because she has no one to meet and escort the child for her.  Some will judge her harshly, stating that she is putting the life of her unborn child at risk. But what of the health and well being of her existing child? What mother can choose?

Husbands of Mamas on Bedrest often take on (or try to take on) the work of their spouses in addition to their full time jobs. While this is admirable, it is often not optimal and can result in stress and strain within the family and for the couple.

Then there is the emotional strain which often manifests in depression. Depression is never good for a pregnant mama-on bed rest or not-and providing support and comfort is essential.

So yes, Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond provides “soft support” to Mamas on Bedrest. We don’t provide medical care or advice. We don’t really focus on Mama’s physical health at all, leaving that to licensed health care professionals. We help mama navigate bed rest emotionally, offer tools and tips to help Mama and her family nagivate bed rest and provide Mamas on Bedrest with a community of people, other mamas, who know exactly what she is going through! Soft support? Maybe. Substantial support? Absolutely!

Mamas on Bedrest: When Mamas Pray For One Another…

August 5th, 2013

I’m on a bit of a high.

Last week I received a frantic message from a relative of a mama on bed rest. Mama was in critical condition with pre-eclampsia and none of the medication was having any effect on her sky high blood pressure. At just shy of 27 weeks, both mama and baby were struggling. This loved one found the Mamas on Bedrest community and posted her plea for prayers for her goddaughter. And the mamas got busy.

In a matter of moments some 695 mamas had read the post. Several responded that they were actively praying. Others, I can only assume, were quietly praying or sending healing vibes towards mama and baby. But none the less, there was action. And the action, in addition to the excellent medical care, paid off. In the most recent post from the relative, mama’s blood pressures are normal, mama is off meds, baby is fine and mama is now at 28 weeks gestation!

In the past several weeks we have had a bevy of activity in our community. Mamas have come and shared their experiences, their needs and their triumphs. We have seen babies born and mamas doing well in what would seem like the most unlikely and unfortunate circumstances. What initially looked like catastrophe often ended up being the very best outcome! More “logical” minds would attribute this to modern medicine and serendipity. But I believe that something stronger, and yet simpler was taking place. In nearly every situation, when a mama shared with us her situation, her fear and her immediate need, the rest of us got busy; praying, sharing words of encouragement or simply holding the mama in our hearts.

It seems to have ignited something within all of us and I like it! I believe that we are seeing the power of communalism, the characteristic identified by Dr. Cleopatra Abdou in her study, Communalism predicts prenatal affect, stress, and physiology better than ethnicity and socioeconomic status. According to Dr. Abdou, communalism is,

“A cultural orientation emphasizing interdependence, to maternal prenatal emotional health and physiology and distinguished its effects from those of ethnicity and childhood and adult SES.”

In simple terms, Dr. Abdou and her colleagues looked at how bringing women together during pregnancy, especially women who share common backgrounds and experiences, to share ideas and to support one another positively affected birth outcomes. She found that women who had social support, community, fared better during pregnancy and had better birth outcomes-regardless of their age, race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status,

“…communalism was a more robust predictor of prenatal emotional health than ethnicity, childhood SES, and adult SES. Communalism also interacted with ethnicity and SES, resulting in lower blood pressure during pregnancy for African American women and women who experienced socioeconomic disadvantage over the life course. The effects of communalism on prenatal affect, stress, and physiology were not explained by depressive symptoms at study entry, perceived availability of social support, self-esteem, optimism, mastery, nor pregnancy-specific factors, including whether the pregnancy was planned, whether the pregnancy was desired after conception, or how frequently the woman felt happy to be pregnant. This suggests that a communal cultural orientation benefits maternal prenatal emotional health and physiology over and above its links to better understood personal and social resources in addition to economic resources.”

When I first read Dr. Abdou’s findings, I was excited and still a bit skeptical. Can women coming together really affect birth outcomes? But after the last few weeks, seeing mamas going to term and beyond, having the births of their dreams, giving birth at all and all the babies coming into this world, I am more than convinced that a supportive community is at least in part responsible and necessary.

So how will this play out for Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond? We’re going to keep doing what we are doing, but increase our efforts. I will be calling on you from to share your experiences, your wisdom and expertise, (yes, you are now all experts!!) with mamas “in the trenches”. Mamas, we have an incredible power to see one another through pregnancy difficulties and beyond. What you may see as a monumental mishap in your own life, may provide the very answers another mama needs to navigate a similar situation in her life. But we must come together and share ideas. Isolation is our enemy and as I have written previously, the initial experiences with “the bed rest prescription” more than bore this out!

We are a powerful community and we are growing by leaps and bounds (with mamas in our community from as far away as Belgium, India and Australia!!) ! Let’s keep this momentum going! Congratulations to all the mamas who have delivered and welcome to all the new babies who are gracing us with their presence!