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Challenge: NICU Parenting

Surviving Hospital Bed Rest

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Hospital bed rest is not the worst that can happen — in fact, it exists to prevent the literal worst that can happen. But at the time? At the time it feels pretty fucking terrible. Imagine being a human pin cushion with a headache and a catheter. Not exactly a fun vacation.

Some people are not allowed to so much as step foot out of their beds. I have a friend who wasn’t allowed to wear underpants for the duration. I was lucky; for a lot of my stay I was able to get up and walk around. No two situations are alike, so pick out what applies to you.

I served a three-week sentence for severe preeclampsia, though we were planning for longer. It is a weird dichotomy, to hope to stay in such a terrible situation for as long as possible. I made it to 31 weeks and five days before delivery and another five days after. This is certainly not the longest bed rest ever, but it was definitely enough to give me some ideas and tips to share, should you find yourself in a similar situation.

Ask for uninterrupted sleep – If you have older kids, you have probably had the thought that maybe hospital bed rest wouldn’t be so bad. Oh, the peaceful sleep you would get if only you could have a few days away! I’m here to tell you that we are confusing hospitals with hotels. In hospitals, you live in a fish tank with a revolving door. Ask the nurses if they can put a sign on your door for a few hours and only interrupt you if it is medically necessary.

It’s OK to enjoy yourself – Bed rest sucks, but it isn’t all bad. Someone brings you food (and my hospital has surprisingly good food!) and you can eat it in bed! It is perfectly acceptable to sleep in the middle of the afternoon. Nobody expects you to do anything — no chores, no cooking, no laundry. Don’t feel guilty for finding the tiny bright sides. And on bad days, just thank goodness we live in a time of free wifi.

Get some fresh air – It gets stuffy and depressing staring at the same four walls day after day. I had a nurse offer to wheel me down to the courtyard near the main cafeteria. She gave me the phone number to the nurses’ station in case I needed her and left me in the sunshine with a book for a couple of hours. I wanted to kiss her.

Get organized – Get a notebook and a glue stick to keep track of all the business cards you’ll be given and to make notes about what you are told.

Utilize Resources – If anxiety and sadness start weighing you down, look through that notebook to find the card from the social worker — it’s what she’s there for. And speaking of depressing, make sure to ask for details about charity care financial options at your hospital. It can save you thousands of dollars. You have a ton of professionals at your disposal, so use them. My hospital had a peer advisory counsel for the NICU, and they brought me presents!

Cozy up the place – You may get shuffled between rooms some, but you can still do a few things to make yourself at home. Get a few pictures and easy decorations. Have someone bring some of your favorite toiletries — you’ll feel better if you get dressed and brush your hair and teeth. A pillow from home in a brightly colored pillow case is miles above the plastic hospital pillows. A small cooler can be useful so you do not have to buzz the nurses’ station every time you want a cheese stick. Hoard condiments! If food services forgets to bring you ketchup or salt, you’ll be out of luck unless you want to wait forever, in which case you’ll have cold food.

I hope some of these tidbits are useful to you. You are on a road you never planned to travel; it’s full of bumps, sharp curves, and the occasional mountain. Sometimes it is painful, and sometimes it is boring, but you’re where you need to be and you have teams of people looking out for you and your baby. Watch crappy TV and take lots of naps. You deserve it.


This piece was originally published at Sammiches and Psych Meds. Reprinted with permission.

Rhiannon Giles is an overwhelmed mother who only occasionally considers giving her children to the circus. She has a sarcasm problem and writes regularly at To keep up with new posts and see some of her favorites, join her on Facebook and Twitter.


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