5 months. 20 weeks. 150-ish days. However you say it, it’s a long time!
4 months into my pregnancy with my first child, Kai, I started having contractions and went into preterm labor. “Preterm labor occurs when regular contractions begin to open your cervix before 37 weeks of pregnancy. A full-term pregnancy should last about 40 weeks. If preterm labor can’t be stopped, your baby will be born early. ” (WebMd.) Needless to say, I was rushed to the hospital where they were thankfully able to stop the contractions and the labor. I was subsequently placed on strict bedrest. Yep, STRICT bedrest for the remainder of my pregnancy. That meant only getting up to use the bathroom…for five months. I will discuss the controversy regarding bedrest in a later post – all I knew at that time is that it had been ordered, so that’s what I was doing. What I want to share with you right now is how I survived pregnancy bedrest without driving myself insane! 🙂 For me, it came down to 3 essentials –
1. Smile. Be optimistic and don’t feel sorry for yourself – I told myself that it was for the baby’s good, and that it was not a time for thinking “if only I could”. Knowing that it was for the sake of the baby, and not, say, a broken leg, completely removed any frustration. It’s amazing how your state of mind shapes your reality. In fact, according to studies done by positive psychology researcher Suzanne Segerstrom, “Optimism is an individual difference variable that reflects the extent to which people hold generalized favorable expectancies for their future. Higher levels of optimism have been related prospectively to better subjective well-being in times of adversity or difficulty.” Dr. Segerstrom wrote that when faced with uncontrollable stressors, optimists tend to react by building “existential resources” — for example, by looking for something good to come out of the situation or using the event to grow as a person in a positive way.”
Not feeling very optimistic? According to Licensed Master Level Psychologist Joe Wilner Here are a few ways to help change that:
a. Reprogram thinking: Reprogramming thinking can help us develop an optimistic outlook where we expect positive things to happen, and feel confident and positive about how we can manage our current situation.
b. Create a healthy support system: Our support systems can also offer more pleasant moments and positive experiences. Having kind and caring people in our life can help us feel grateful for what others offer, and give us a chance to do something kind for them.
c. Thinking creatively – There are always more solutions to a problem than appears on the surface. Sometimes we must use creative problem solving in order to make change happen. Creativity also helps us think bigger and expand our view of what’s possible.
2. Learn. While it was tempting to catch up on all of my favorite series and those reality shows we won’t mention here ( which I totally did, by the way), I made sure to balance every bit of entertainment with something educational. It could be a documentary on HBO, mastering photoshop skills, reading history books etc.. It was a terrible feeling to look up at the clock and realize the whole day had gone by to the tune of the Kardashians (eek!), so I quickly alternated the mind-numbing shows with things of value – those that I felt I left with something, some sort of accomplishment – it made me feel much more useful and satisfied, and as though I was utilizing my time doing something of worth. “Your mind may be the closest thing to the Holy Grail of longevity and happiness. Education has been widely documented by researchers as the single variable tied most directly to improved health and longevity. And when people are intensely engaged in doing and learning new things, their well-being and happiness can blossom.” Philip Moeller for U.S. News
3. Create. With so many hours in the day, you definitely need to give your eyes some rest from the tv, computer, and books. I loved painting and crafting and preparing things for Kai’s nursery. All those pinterest DIY boards you collect but never actually do? Well, there’s plenty of time for it now 🙂 I used a breakfast-in-bed tray as the actual surface onto which I laid out whatever I was making, and had a rolling file cabinet as my supply station. I painted all sorts of cute little wooden animals for the nursery, and I even did some needlepoint! It doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated – just something to keep your mind busy, and ultimately, happy. In fact, “Positive emotions and creativity make us feel interested in the world around us. The ability to be fascinated and allow ourselves to explore and discover makes us feel open and alive. It’s also what draws us to learn new skills, perspectives, and ideas—resources that we can draw on to solve life’s problems. This boosts our resilience and our satisfaction with life—both part of the equation for overall happiness.” (This Emotional Life, PBS.org)
Additionally, according to an article published in US News & World Report, “in terms of happiness, a close companion of learning is the degree of engagement people have with tasks that provide them knowledge and fulfillment. People who are intensely absorbed in a task can lose track of time and place. Hours pass like minutes. They may be tired by the task but emerge energized and happy. This condition is known as “flow,” a name coined 30 years ago by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
So there you have it – Optimism, learning, and creativity. Those five months were still trying at times, but went by surprisingly quickly. Even better? The little bundle of joy at the end of the bedrest tunnel!
Share your stories with us below! How did you stay busy during bedrest?