To anyone not on bed rest, the concept sounds like nothing short of heaven. Forced to lounge around all day in your pj’s and not do anything? Hell yes. But the reality is vastly different from the fantasy. The very reason you’re confined to the bed, for one thing, is that your baby is at risk. This fact alone sucks any possible bliss right out of the scenario. It’s unbelievably scary—and on top of that, you’re bored, uncomfortable, and feel frustratingly helpless (which is made worse by the fact that many of the people who say “let me know what I can do” are terrible at follow-through).
If you’ve got a friend whose journey to motherhood includes an extended ride on the Mattress Express, here are a few ways you can help her make it more bearable:
Offer up some empathy. Now is not the time to tell her how envious you are of her current bed-bound status, even if you’d give your left boob for a few days between the sheets. Remember that she’s worried about her baby, and let her talk about it if she wants to. Listen to her fears and complaints, because they’re all completely valid. Let her know you realize it isn’t fun, because there are probably a ton of people telling her how “lucky” she is.
Your presence is a present. She’ll need some human interaction, and being there for her is the best thing you can do. Catch her up on the latest gossip. Keep her up to speed on what’s happening outside her four walls; she’ll be grateful she’s still in the loop. Organize a roster of friends to drop by in a regular rotation—and if you can find a time to get together all at once, group visits are awesome.
Keep her cozy. As crazy as it sounds, bed rest can literally be painful, so she’ll be aching and uncomfortable (as if pregnancy weren’t achy and uncomfortable enough). She will appreciate handheld massagers, plushy pillows, buttery-soft blankets and fuzzy socks—anything that makes her bed a more inviting place to be. Even better, spring for a visit from a professional masseuse.
Banish boredom. With so much time on her hands, she’s gonna need stuff to do, and flipping endlessly through the channels just won’t cut it. A Netflix subscription can be a boon to a bed-resting mom. Introduce her to a series she can binge-watch. Buy her a gift card so she can virtually download a few new books onto her tablet or laptop, or some time-sucking games (Candy Crush, anyone?). Bring her the latest issues of her favorite magazines. Stop by regularly with games you can play together. Arrange to Skype or chat via a messenger app when you can’t be there in person. If she’s not in the hospital, arrange for a group of girlfriends to have a sleepover. Even when you’re a grown-up, there’s nothing more fun than a pajama party!
Provide some pampering. Nobody feels their prettiest when they’re chilling in rumpled pj’s and haven’t had a proper shower in longer than they’d like to admit. Bring her some nice (roomy!) sleepwear or a robe that will make her feel presentable when company comes. Gift her with dry shampoo or lotion in her favorite scent. Come in and treat her to a mini DIY spa day, complete with manicures, pedicures and facial masks. A little beautification goes a long way.
Consider the children. If she has older kids, they’re probably missing Mom’s attention. Bring coloring books, puzzles and games that she can keep at her bedside, so she can still spend quality time with them. Take them for ice cream or a romp on the playground. Chauffeur them to soccer practice or dance class when needed. Also, keep the impending baby in mind: Help with the nursery by painting walls, assembling the crib, or organizing clothes and diapers in the closet, things she would be doing if she could.
Keep her mate in mind. With your friend virtually incapacitated, chances are her partner is working double-time to pick up the slack. (And chances are, your friend feels really guilty about it.) Ease the burden on both of them by doing what you can to help. Offer to do the shopping, or just pick up things they run out of quickly, like milk or bread. Drive her to appointments. Watch the kids while her partner does something enjoyable for a few hours.
Help the household. Domestic duties still pile up, even when her ability to tend to them has come to a grinding halt. She (and her significant other) will feel a lot better knowing that someone is dropping in a few times a week to take over laundry duty, haul the trash to the curb, walk the dog, change the sheets, mow the lawn and anything else that needs doing.
Hang in there for the long haul. Some women are only on bed rest for a matter of days or weeks; some end up bedridden for the entire duration of pregnancy. In the beginning, people might be coming out of the woodwork to offer help, and stopping in with cards and flowers and balloons and presents, but as the time drags on, the support can dwindle. Your friend will appreciate you staying attentive to her needs, no matter how long she’s laid up. And if you can’t, organize a group effort to make sure everything is covered for the whole time and doesn’t fizzle out after the first little bit.
Bottom line, bed rest sucks—especially since the majority of people who aren’t enduring it seem to think it’s some kind of vacation. Support is crucial and appreciated much more than you’ll ever realize. Assure her that you’ve got things covered in her absence so she doesn’t need to worry about anything but safely incubating her growing bundle of joy.