Not long before reaching the 25-week mark of my remarkably pleasant pregnancy, we learned that I could be at a higher risk for preterm labor. After a strange and stressful 48 hours of navigating what, exactly, this meant, we (moi, my unflappable husband Anthony, my brilliant ob-gyn, and some incredibly supportive, well-connected, and research-savvy family members), had reached a sound, proactive, and reasonable plan that brought me great comfort and relief. This, I could do. This, we could absolutely handle.
As expected, I needed to change my ways. I could no longer engage in any activity that would raise my heart rate. I could choose a light task each day (a leisurely lap around a store, a meal/meeting out, or a visit to the library), but then I should return home to relax with my feet up. I would not be on total bed rest — what an extreme, limiting concept that is — but a highly-moderated regimen, which demanded most of my time be spent near-horizontal and melloooow.
“Like bedrest’s disobedient first cousin,” I said.
“However you need to frame it, sweetie,” Anthony said, carrying a hefty basket of my laundry to the basement.
I was (and still am) a writer who worked from home, but writing — real writing, on-deadline-writing, diving-in-full-force writing — is actually be quite taxing and physical for me. Besides, my wooden desk (and desk chair) are places for Serious Work and Serious Focus. On partial bed rest I had to “work” from the soft, supportive surfaces within my home: the leather recliner in the living room, our massive bed, the cozy guest room bed, the squishy upholstered chair in the dining room, and my office couch.
Naturally, my quiet stretch of lying low invited some unexpected reminders and revelations to my life:
1. Dear friends and family members call, text, e-mail, snail mail, and check-in on social media. Local dear friends stop by with thoughtful things you didn’t know you needed (a box of pregnancy-friendly tea, a bunch of handpicked daffodils from their garden, a petite, adorable stuffed tiger for the babe, a cupcake, a playful blown kiss from their toddler in her stroller, a smile, a hug). You will not forget their kindness.
2. Even chippy, splitty, subpar nails can grow ridiculously long and lovely when you do virtually nothing.
3. When you are forbidden from power-walking or prenatal pilate-ing or lifting light weights — activities you pursued occasionally since the positive pregnancy test (and after a brief “You’ll be glad you did it” self pep talk) — power-walking and prenatal pilate-ing, and lifting light weights sounds increasingly more appealing. File that under #grassisalwaysgreener.
4. We have approximately 6,000 TV channels. I watch four of them.
5. If you visit katespade.com often enough, everything (I mean everything) seems purchase-worthy. Yes, I think she would like those bird-inspired studs. Yes, I believe I would use a navy blue clutch (even though I’m a black-over-navy girl). Oh! Those flats that look like taxicabs are on clearance. Where is my purse? (Relief floods you upon discovering your purse is in the other room, and there’s no way you’re interrupting the perfect formation of pillows behind your back and under your toes. NOT. FOR. ANYTHING.)
6. You quickly develop a profoundly deeper compassion and empathy for people with more permanent physical limitations. You’d like to mail them each tea and stuffed tigers and daffodils. From your throne of pillows, you grow teary just thinking about them. Upon closing your journal that night, you say a prayer of gratitude.
7. Once in the third trimester, even if you exert virtually no energy beyond turning the pages of a book, a milkshake somehow feels earned.
8. You are in awe of your husband. Genuine awe. You know that you would do the same for him — the extra laundry, extra chores, extra incessant errands, all of it — but there’s absolutely no way you would shoulder it so well, with such strength, with such good humor, with such work ethic, with such patience, with such unconditional “whatever you need, love” LOVE. This is the beginning of his being a father. This is the beginning of you being madly in love with your child’s father. Your heart bursts watching him scramble eggs at the sink. You slide in beside him, bask in that familiar rush that gets you when you breathe in his cologne, and remember you cannot have sex with him (for the time being). You commit to not buying one damn thing on Kate Spade. You will buy him something instead.
9. Some people will say, “I’m sure you’re enjoying the downtime!” or, “Soak it up while you can!” or, “Sounds like a good day to me!” and these people, though well-intentioned, are not “your people,” for “your people” know you much better than that.
10. On that note, when someone sing-songs, “We just need that little one to cook a bit longer!” their flippant, casual tone will infuriate you beyond belief. After fighting the urge to slug them (this is definitely against doctor’s orders), you will want to tell them that even though you genuinely feel strong and composed, happy, even — as you keep things in perspective, and count your blessings (and insert additional, cliched Pollyanna phrases here) — there is ZERO room for flippancy. ZERO.