How I Survived Bed Rest During My Pregnancies

written by EMILY SHEPARD
Source: Cottonbro Studio / Pexels
Source: Cottonbro Studio / Pexels

Looking back, the 100+ days I spent on bed rest were the beginning of my transformation to motherhood. During this time I unlocked an inner strength I didn’t know existed. 

I walked into the hospital that warm April day, 26 weeks pregnant, believing I had a UTI or some other minor problem. In reality, the discomfort and cramping I was experiencing was early labor. I left the hospital three days later, still pregnant but at risk for preterm labor. 

Because of the labor contractions, I had already started to dilate and I also had a positive fetal fibronectin test, which meant labor could be soon. I had to do everything I could to keep my baby, who weighed less than two pounds, growing until she was full term.

My doctor put me on strict bed rest. I couldn’t return to my high school teaching job, I couldn’t coach softball, I couldn’t drive or walk up and down stairs. You can move from your bed to the couch and that’s it, my doctor told me. She said she didn’t even want me to cook! I was also put on medication that made me sleepy and disoriented, which made functioning difficult. 

I went from teaching full-time, coaching, and working on the weekends to months of constant pain and immobilization. I’ll never forget this challenging experience and how it prepared me for the most remarkable adventure of my life: motherhood. 

This is how I survived bed rest.


Writing Letters to My Unborn Daughter 

I wrote a letter to my unborn baby almost every day that I was on bed rest; sometimes short little notes, but often long, rambling explanations of all my trips to the hospital (seven hospital visits!). Here’s an example: 

Dear Darling, you made it to 32 weeks and 2 days! The doctor says this is a huge milestone. All your vital organs are developed, your skin isn’t transparent anymore, and thanks to the steroid shots, you might be able to breathe on your own if you arrive early. Now you just need to gain weight. Grow, baby, grow! Bed rest is certainly challenging, but there are perks:

  • I discovered a new author I love—Kristin Hannah. (We are going to have so much fun reading together!) 
  • I have time to write (obviously).
  • I get to spend all day with the dogs. 
  • I’ve learned A LOT about pregnancy.

You need to stay put for 56ish more days. Can you hold out a little bit longer? I can if you can. I love you! Love, Mom 

Writing letters was so therapeutic for me. Writing has always been my outlet, but this routine helped me feel more connected to my little girl and helped me process all my emotions, frustrations, and fears. 


bed rest

Source: Amina Filkins | Pexels


Practicing Gratitude

The effect that gratitude has on my mood is truly magical. Part of my routine was to send Thank You cards to everyone who helped me through this process. I wrote to my doctor, the nurses who cared for me, and each of my family members. My mom stopped by once a week to make me breakfast and keep me company over a cup of coffee. My sister called every day and met me at the hospital on several occasions. My mother-in-law set up the nursery with my husband.

I even wrote a Thank You note to my husband! I thanked him for doing ALL the chores, grocery shopping, cooking, and holding my hand every night while I groaned in discomfort. This practice filled me with so much appreciation for all the people supporting me and our very impatient little girl. 


Goal Setting 

Surprisingly, I was able to accomplish quite a bit while on bed rest, even though productivity wasn’t the goal. My body adjusted to the medication and I learned to find windows of time when I could focus and work. I missed teaching and my students terribly, so I stayed in touch with my co-workers and kept my sub plans updated. I also completed nine hours toward my master degree and published my first article in a magazine.

Every morning I made a list of things I wanted to get done, which provided me with purpose and kept my brain sharp. I pursued dreams that I never had the time to pursue. I kept one of those rolling carts next to the couch with my laptop, journal, sketchbook, colored pencils, and whatever book I was reading at the time. This little cart held everything I needed to still feel productive… while not moving. 


Surviving Bed Rest Round Two 

I wish I could say that this pregnancy was an isolated incident. My husband and I were both hopeful that my second pregnancy would be different. I did not go into preterm labor during my second pregnancy, but painful contractions began early in my second trimester. I was put on “modified” bed rest by the fourth month of my pregnancy and given steroid shots for my baby’s lungs. “Modified” bed rest meant that my doctor wanted me to do as little physical activity as possible while taking care of my toddler. Every day I had to balance trying to be a good mom to my two-year-old while also trying to prevent preterm labor; this was a challenge, to say the least, and is a story for another time. However, I continued writing letters to my daughters (both of them!), practicing gratitude, and building my writing career to take care of my mental health. 


bed rest

Source: Charles Deluvio | Unsplash


What I Would Have Done Differently

I made the same mistake in both of my pregnancies: I let my fear of early labor or losing my babies consume me. I kept a journal with me at all times to keep track of contractions, my hospital bag ready, and my husband on high alert. I thought things like, I am terrible at being pregnant. I’m not cut out for this. When my family checked in on me, I told them how miserable I felt without reservation. 

I recently read a quote that I now remind myself of every day: “Your words (and thoughts!) become the house you live in.”

I should have trusted my body more and focused on my strength and determination to bring both my babies to full term. I also should have meditated, incorporated a mantra into my daily routine, and done pelvic floor therapy. Physically and mentally I felt so weak, and I wish I would have focused my energy on keeping my thoughts and words more encouraging and confident. 


How Bed Rest Prepared Me for Motherhood

You know how everyone loves to scare new moms about how difficult motherhood is? You’ll never sleep again! Enjoy the peace and quiet now. Blah blah blah. Well, I had already experienced my fair share of challenges while pregnant. Delivering my first baby and everything that came after felt like a vacation compared to what I had been through. I wasn’t in pain any more, I could go on walks and to the grocery store, and I didn’t have to be medicated. Most importantly, I could finally breathe a sigh of relief because my five-pound baby girl was safe in my arms.

Managing sleepless nights, overcoming breastfeeding challenges, being constantly needed… these obstacles didn’t feel like obstacles at all, just more opportunities to snuggle my baby. I sang “Simply the Best” by Tina Turner to my baby at all hours of the night. “Take my heart and make it strong, baby. You’re simply the best!” This was the vibe at my home.

It was as if the fog had lifted and I could become the woman I was meant to be, the mom I was meant to be. Now I could live, and I couldn’t wait to share my life and this wonderful world with my daughter.

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