Bedrest: a novel

Filed under: Your Pregnancy, Places To Go

My favorite line in Sarah Bilston's New York Times editorial on the prevalence and dangers of bedrest during pregnancy in the United States comes in italics at the very end. Sarah Bilston, a professor of English at Trinity College, is the author of the forthcoming "Bed Rest," a novel.

At about 32 weeks of pregnancy, I was put on bedrest for what ended up being six weeks. While Bilston's own "rest cure" included lying immobile on her left side 24 hours a day, mine was more like summer camp in my bed. Unlike the Victorian women who were on the receiving end of the first modern rest cures and were not allowed to sew, I did craft - knit, actually . I spent the majority of my bedrest working on Truman's blanket (he was going to be born really soon, due the same day as my own son) and willing coffee ice cream to come to me via visiting friends (which worked so often it was eerie). I even hosted Sarah's blessingway, violating my bedrest to vacuum the house! The rest of my time I actually laid down and rested, and did my HypBirth CDs. A visit to the midwife's office became like a thrilling trip to the moon, and I milked it by getting all dressed up and stopping for breakfast on the way.

At first I thought this was all pretty fun, and exciting since it probably meant that Binx would be born sooner rather than later. What I didn't anticipate was how physically debilitating it would be. As Bilston writes in the Times, "The change from an active,<p> fulfilling professional life to one of complete immobility left me weakened and depleted just when my strength was most needed for the rigors of birth and motherhood." Oh yeah. Exactly. I felt nearly dead with weakness already when I embarked on motherhood. As a (very amateur) athlete prior to pregnancy, I didn't realize until it was too late how hard the change would be on my mind as well as my body. My image of myself altered from an active, vital, full-of-life pregnant woman to a broken mess, so weak I could not - like Bilston - walk around the block.

Ten months later, I'm certainly in better shape. But I still haven't gotten my athleticism back, and I miss it. It wreaks havoc with my self-image. And while I realize any birth experience sets the body back and takes time to recover from, I can't help feeling that bedrest forced me to start from behind. Way behind.

As a women's studies minor in college, I loved Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper - a story about madness caused by bedrest. Bilston is very familiar with it, as evidenced by her editorial. I'm so glad Bilston's novel is coming soon. I can't wait for another literary treat on this debilitating, unproven and very  over-used "treatment." I can totally relate.

[Thanks to Elizabeth for the tip, and the US Library of Congress for the photo.]

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.