Dear Kerry,
I am on very strict bed rest with my second pregnancy and only allowed to be up 5-10 minutes total per day.  I have a house under construction, a working husband, and an active 19 month old.  What do I do?  Help!

Bed Rest with a Toddler?!

Dear Bed Rest with a Toddler,

When I was due to give birth to my third son and had two very active boys (ages 4 and 6), I didn’t have time for the bed rest prescribed by my doctor. I was knee deep into repair projects and remodeling to my house and big housewarming party I had already sent out invitations for.

After the initial shock, I decided I could see the restriction of bed rest as a prison sentence and sulk through it OR I could see it as a gift and look for the blessings that bed rest had to offer. I asked myself, “When will be the next time I can lie around, day after day, and have my husband’s blessing as he does the dishes and shuttles the boys everywhere?” I took a deep breath and laid down (as prescribed).

Besides being well-rested before the arrival of baby #3, I found two great gifts from my time on bed rest. The first was the opportunity to reflect on the normal pace of my busy life and to observe it from a horizontal, slowed-down perspective. In the book Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry author Katrina Kenison writes:

The adage of our age seems to be “get more out of life!” and we do our best to obey. Grab a snack, round up the kids, and we’re out the door – to do, or buy, or learn something more. We do too much and savor too little. We mistake activity for happiness, and so we stuff our children’s days with activities, and their heads with information, when we ought to be feeding their souls instead.” Just as our children depend on us for three meals a day, they also need us to prepare peaceful spaces for them in the midst of this busy world.

One of my favorite suggestions given by the author is to “create pause in our days.” Even if we can’t or won’t change the entire pace of our day, we can build in the little space of time to stop and exhale. Creating a broader margin in our days can take the form of arriving at piano lessons ten minutes early and sitting under a tree to watch the clouds. Or someone suggests tea before bed and the family gathers around the table, lights a candle, and drinks tea in the evening. As I neared the end of my bed rest, I renewed my personal commitment to leave some space around the edges of my days and build the margins to keep my days from being inscribed too densely.

The second big gift I received was from the amazing people around me who displayed how to truly help another person. The most comforting, supportive words that I heard were “How can I help?” What a different ring that has than “Let me know if there’s anything I can do.” When someone said, “How can I help?” and then waited for an answer, many times there actually WAS something that my family or I needed.

Several friends simply assumed different roles, without asking, saying things like, “I’ll be here to pick up the kids for school on Tuesday morning.” or “Have your grocery list ready for me tomorrow.” One friend was persistent, asking what I missed and craved, and finally found out how much I missed the treat of a bagel and coffee from the bagel shop – something I would have never asked someone to bring to me. But oh, how my friend lifted my spirits that morning when she dropped them off.

The biggest appreciation I had while on bed rest was for TIME. Time to reflect. Time to appreciate. Time to feel grateful for all the meals made, the errands run, the playdates extended, the projects done around the house.

So, knowing that it may be hard to let go of some of the responsibility you are currently holding onto in your life, being on bed rest can offer you something that you would have never otherwise gained – precious, elusive, ever-moving….. time.