Mothering from the Sidelines


Bed rest, at times, has sounded heavenly to me—the luxury of having hours to read books, watch movies, organize photo albums, write letters, work on the children’s book that has been bouncing around my brain for more than a year now, sleep. But bed rest with a 2-year-old doesn’t allow for such luxuries. While it’s prompted a lot more snuggle time, quiet play, books and picnics in bed, morning check-ups with a plastic doctor’s kit and hugs, it’s also proven to be endlessly frustrating.

I’m on modified bed rest, which means I’m allowed to use the bathroom, shower daily and even get food from the kitchen. I go to a group OB/GYN practice and I’m a bit confused as to what my limitations truly are—one doctor has said sitting on the couch is fine, another implied my legs should always be up (I plan to clarify all this at my next appointment Tuesday). But they all agree on one thing: Caring for a 2-year-old is too much.

We’re extremely lucky. Andy’s mom, who works in Phoenix, AZ two weeks out of the month stayed with us during her most recent two work-from-home weeks—while Andy’s dad moved to Baltimore solo because of our situation. And now my mom, recently retired, has taken over, driving from Liberty Twp. (in rush hour) to our house every morning and leaving when Andy gets home from work, usually a little after 6pm. And so many friends have helped out, too—taking Sophie to the park, organizing play dates at our house (and then taking care of everything while I sit and watch), and watching Sophie during the few hours our moms weren’t able to be here. I’ve been sent a care package, treated with phone calls and e-mails, and have eaten several delicious meals cooked for us.

But still, I find myself frustrated. I blame my personality. I like to be in control. I, perhaps wrongly, put too much emphasis on what I accomplish during a given day. And while I know, I truly know, that every day these babies stay put I’m accomplishing something great (greater than anything else I could be doing right now), it’s not as tangible as I’d like—it’s one fuzzy thing crossed off my to-do list instead of the 10 concrete things I believe need done right now. And then, of course, there’s Sophie. She’s adapted quite well, I think. After being extremely clingy the first few days I was home from the hospital—and not leaving my bed—she now spends time playing with Gramma, Nini and friends, she knows to climb up on my lap instead of asking to be lifted, and she brings toys and puzzles and books over to me instead of asking me to come to her. But it still breaks my heart when she says things like “Mommy has to stay in bed” or “Mommy can’t pick me up” or “Mommy can’t take a walk.” Someday, I tell her. Someday soon.

Finally, there’s the ever-lingering knowledge that, within the medical field, there are differing opinions on the effectiveness of bed rest. Last night I read this interesting op-ed in The New York Times by Sarah Bilston titled “Don’t Take This Lying Down.” In it Bilston writes: “Although bed rest continues to be prescribed almost routinely by some doctors for mothers of multiples at 24 to 28 weeks gestation, a study in 2000 conducted by a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Adelaide in Australia linked hospitalized bed rest to higher rates of preterm delivery in mothers of twins.”

But of course, I’m not a doctor. I will do whatever I’m told and believed necessary to give these babies the best possible future, despite the fact that I can no longer pick up toys, practice yoga, clean the house, drive, do laundry, leave the house for anything other than doctors appointments, throw a ball with Tucker, garden, go on dates with Andy, scoop up Sophie. It’s akin to me giving myself two injections of Lovenox every day—no one knows for sure if that’s what kept me from miscarrying Sophie. But it worked. And because it worked, I’m doing it again. And I wouldn’t dream of not doing it again for that feeling of “what if” if I didn’t do it and something happened.

Looking back, this time spent mothering—living—from the sidelines will seem short, I know. And I’m sure, the first day I’m home alone with two crying newborns and an upset 2-year-old I will long for the moment when I was sitting on the couch, legs propped up on the ottoman, blogging while Andy wrestled with a laughing Sophie on the rug in front of me. But still, it’s difficult not to feel a little blue, especially on Saturdays when everyone seems busy doing things, especially on cloudy Saturdays, and especially on cloudy Saturdays when I realize something petty, such as the fact that I had planned on getting one last haircut before the babies come and now I’ll be a mom with too-big hair that desperately needs colored in many of their newborn pictures.

Today I’m 31 weeks pregnant. That’s good. Next Saturday I’ll be 32 weeks pregnant. That’s better. And if I would just stop looking at the clock I would realize how quickly spring blooms into summer and summer lazes into fall and fall tumbles into lingering winter and upon these babies’ first birthdays I know I’ll think, That wasn’t so bad—and totally, completely, worth it.

Still, for now, I’d rather be on the court than sitting on the sidelines—as would anyone who thoroughly enjoys the game.

“When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child.” —Sophia Loren