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Bed Rest

alec vanderboom

My family went to Sunday Mass without me this morning. It feels so weird. I'm on strict bed rest until I deliver the baby. I knew before I checked into the hospital, that my OB wanted me to be extra careful once I got out. "No errands," he said. "Only get out of bed to pee or make dinner." When the nurse went over my hospital discharge instructions and asked me if I could put a plastic chair in our shower, I got a little freaked out. There's bed rest and then there is "assigned to the prison of my bed room for the next three weeks."

This morning, I woke up. I made coffee for myself and my husband at 8 AM. Then I stayed in bed for the next 3 hours. I watched CBS' "Sunday Morning."  I co-directed the whole "preparing for Mass melee" in the morning for 5 kids. I fixed pony tails from the bed and gave directions to brush teeth. I'm still shocked that my kids are obeying me, especially the little ones. I can't get up and physically put a toothbrush in their hands if they start to balk at my commands.

I lay in bed and I problem solved as backup for my hard working husband. "Don't forget to return the library books while you are out." "Tess still doesn't have on her shoes. Try looking for her sandals in the TV room." I feel like this weird voice-only app on an I-Phone. I can't actually do any work from my bed, I can only help my spouse remember which items need to be checked off before a minor family trip.

Bed rest feels super weird to me. I'm used to being active. It's so surreal to sit on my bed, in my first floor bedroom that is right off our kitchen. To be part of the family, yet set apart. I feel lonely when my family goes off to Mass without me.

At the same time, this cross is such an antidote to my anxious, perfectionist nature--that somehow gets whipped up into a more intense frenzy in late pregnancy. I realize that the most important thing I give to my family is this gentle, emotional presence. For three days, I was in the hospital. Even though my kids had their Dad, their house, their pets, their Minecraft games, their whole world went upside down. I had never seen a 2 year old happier, than when I came back home to my bed. She grabbed my cheeks and squeezed them with a smile. Then she promptly drifted off to a deep, contented sleep. She could rest now that her Mom was back.

At 6 AM on Friday, my husband went back to work. It was hard and scary. My husband is a super-commuter who works 70 miles from home. I'd gotten checked out thoroughly at the hospital the day before. We had cellphones. We had a back-up plan with friends and neighbors in case I had an emergency. It wasn't dangerous in fact, but the distance felt scary and dangerous. I think the only reason we decided to send him back to work was so that we could have a "practice day" before he resumed work for 5 days in a row the next week.

My life felt lonely and scary until my kids woke up at 8 AM. I was shocked at how critical my presence was in our house, even though I was useless on my bed. My being home, instead of in a hospital room, meant that Jon could go to work. My kids got back on their homeschooling schedule. I taught my 11 year old how to do laundry. I reminded my 10 year old to walk the dog 3 times a day. Fights between the little girls got solved. Fights over the computer time among the big kids got solved. We all ate dinner around the dining room table at a normal time. About the only thing that got skipped because of my bed rest, is that I couldn't easily drive to Target to buy us more paper towels as soon as we ran out.

I'm promising myself that I will remember what it feels like to be "useless" on a bed. I am not useful to my family, I am critical.

The seven of them (counting my husband and our youngest baby)  are a pretty remarkable bunch of people. They are all independent and feisty. They are capable of totally directing their own lives. They are also capable of great kindness towards each other. My job as the mother isn't to do every task in their life. (Even my 2 year old figured out how to make her own bowel of cereal this week.) My husband's ways of parenting are not always similar to mine, but his ways really do work! Bed rest has really forced me to take a side-line approach to parenting. I'm impressed how much my respect for my husband has grown this week.

All this letting go of the practical stuff of mothering, has made me appreciate how much I am my husband and my children's heart. The older kids need someone to listen intently to a detailed recap of the new Maze Runner Movie. They need encouragement to practice reading every day. My husband needs hugs at the end of a long day. My little girls just need someone who is emotionally present enough to react to whatever intense emotional delight or emotional trauma they are facing in the moment. (Mirroring, I think, is the fancy psychological term.)

Bed rest feels like a weak point during my normal vocation as a wife and mother, yet it also makes me feel much stronger.

St. Teresa of Avila, patroness of the sick, pray for me!