I've been given many offers of help while on bed rest, and they all warm my soul. The offers range from the specific ("can I pick you up some Burgerville?") to the broad ("is there anything you need?"). I've had a hard time responding, because it's hard to figure out what, exactly, do I need? What do women on bed rest really want?
After mulling over things for a week, and being stuck a couple of times wanting stuff I didn't have (but it was a little last-minute to ask), I've come up with a list of things that I, and most pregnant women with kids who are put on bed rest, would love. Maybe next time you have a friend, wife, partner, daughter or colleague who's forced to stay abed for weeks or months of her life, you'll have some ideas of specific things to offer - or even, just give.
- Getting up in the morning, alone, is one of the hardest parts. I'd love someone to come over in the morning, bearing a pastry or sausage egg biscuit from Burgerville, plus a treat for Everett, make coffee or tea, and make the bed and change Everett's diaper while I do my early-morning bathroom duties.
- Hard part #2 is putting Everett to sleep at night. If daddy can't be there for bedtime, see if you can fill in some of the gaps - reading a story, giving a bath, changing a diaper, preparing a bedtime cup/bottle of milk, carrying a heavy toddler to bed.
- I rarely drink enough water, partly because I'm lazy. Having someone get me a big, cold glass of water every few hours - whether I ask for it or not - would be good for me and the baby. Hydration helps prevent contractions, too, so if I was threatening early labor it would be even more needed.
- Before you stop by for a visit, or while you're at the grocery store or driving through the neighborhood, call first to see if there's something you can pick up - a gallon of milk, some Haagen-Dazs, artichoke dip, a good book at the library or bookstore, a video, toilet paper, bath salts.
- Kids' energy is too much for a mama who isn't allowed to run, pick up heavy things, or jump on the bed. Come by and take her children for a walk, run to the park, or just engage in a wild game of peek-a-boo. Pick them up for playdates or trips to the zoo. Make sure someone is doing this, even for 30 minutes or so, every day.
- Of course, mama needs to eat. Every mama needs her favorite treats on bed rest, but an unborn baby cannot live on Burgerville doublecheeseburgers and Haagen-Dazs coffee ice cream alone. The absolute best thing I received was from my sister-in-law's friend, who owns a whole-foods style restaurant. The delivery consisted of packages like: BLT kit, complete with whole-grain bread, bright lettuce leaves, hefty tomato slices, applewood-smoked bacon, and a big side of mustardy aioli. Marionberry walnut crisp. Ready-to-bake spanakopita. Salad of baby lettuce, big chunks of fresh carrot, tomato and red pepper, deliciously al-dente peas, and two freshly made salad dressings. A box of feta cheese and hard-boiled eggs (probably meant for the salad, but which I ate with the spanakopita, it was delicious). A big carton of Hungarian mushroom soup. Irish oatmeal cake with cream cheese frosting.
Everything was healthy, easy to prepare, delicious, and kept extremely well. Unhelpful are huge portions of the same thing, even if mama loves is - a gigantic vat of chili, or a family-sized double pan of lasagne. Those things are very generous options if she has a big family to feed (which might be the case, of course). But with one mama and a toddler who only eats bars, peanut butter toast, hamburgers, sausage, yogurt and fruit - much of it will go to waste. If it's too much for you to make on your own, try locating a restaurant like Old Wives' Tales and enlist the chefs to help your cause. And remember - even if dad's around, he may not be the creative cook mama needs right now.
- The house will be a mess. My mom asked me to make a list, and I did - do the laundry, put away the Christmas tree ornaments, clean out the fridge, go to the bank, vacuum the floor, make cupcakes (I had a craving). Every time she came, she'd look at what I'd added and start in on the list, picking up other tasks along the way. It's a great way to get things done - every woman has her hot buttons. One may care about the dust on her picture frames, another may only care about the stinky vegetables in the back of the drawer.
- Sure, you've taken care of all the immediate issues (which makes you a fabulously wonderful person deserving of sainthood, by the way). How about those things that have been niggling long before bedrest? They're oh-so-much-more annoying now. Figure out what's on mama's honeydo list and figure out a way to get one done. Leaky faucet need replacing? Vacuum cleaner ready for the garbage heap? Bulbs need to be planted? Lightbulbs in the closet burnt out?
My most fervent desire right now is for someone to install a shower surround/halo/whatever-it's-called around my strange clawfoot tub, get me a couple of new shower curtains to go around it, and start knocking off the gross leaky tile and grout that currently keeps the water from dripping through the floor to the kitchen counter below - badly. I need the motion lights we bought before Jonathan left for the army installed outside. I need my shop-vac to be cleaned out so it sucks better. It would be cool if someone would come over with a new baby book for the little one and help me set up my supplies so I could start writing my thoughts and pasting in photos.
- Does mama have a regular meeting/outing/get-together that makes her happy? Knitting night, board meeting, bible study, dinner party, book group? Arrange with the other participants to come to her, and make sure someone forgiving gets there early to help clear the toys away and watch the kids while mama takes a bath to get ready. And be sure and leave lots of treats behind.
- If you're leaving a bedridden woman alone, make sure she's set for a while - the child's diaper is changed and his cup of milk/plate of snacks is full; all the remote controls, cordless phones, and beverages are within reach; Brita pitchers are re-filled; coffee or tea is made; and you're taking a small errand with you (taking film to the photo lab, or a deposit to the bank, or a letter to the mailbox, or a borrowed item back to its owner). She may be alone for hours, or all night, but she'll feel loved and secure.
I'm lucky, most of the items on my list are being done for me, especially since I'm bedridden without a husband in town. And now that I know what I need, it's easier to respond if someone offers help. And thanks to everyone who's offered or given help, support, or just kind emails - they've made me feel loved and safe in a lonely, frightening time.