How sitting still for 2 months helped prepare me for motherhood.
At 12 weeks pregnant I started bleeding. The doctors at the emergency room discovered a large oozing blood clot in my uterus and told me I was now a high-risk pregnancy. I went home and stayed there, on medically required bedrest, for the next two months.
Life as I knew it screeched to a halt that day. Work, school and activities like grocery shopping and walking the dog all stopped. Rushing and busyness did too, as well as the importance of a clock, a calendar and all these props that have always kept me on track. I was off track now, uncomfortable. All that structure kept me humming and safe. With abundant tasks, a full schedule and a race for time, I felt purposeful, and my identity was all worked out: I was what I did.
“You’re grounded!,” my baby stated resolutely. “If you want me, I need to be your priority. Figure it out”. He may have been less curt than that, but I admit to feeling conflicted and angry at him for abruptly inserting himself and his needs into my life in such a way that derailed everything I had going on. But anger soon gave way to fear, and fear entered as my primary companion. No one could tell me that my baby would be ok. Everyone just looked at me with upraised crinkled foreheads and could say nothing conclusive.
I became desperate. I ached to connect in some way to my baby. I needed to see or feel him, to sense him in some way. Was I suffocating him with my fear? Was my body uninhabitable for him with all its coursing unrest, adrenaline and frustration? Everybody I knew sent me prescriptions that amounted to, “Don’t worry, be happy- it’s better for you and the baby,” which infuriated me further. How could I not worry? How could I be happy? My doctor gave me a tidy list of what I couldn’t do; it was a recipe for how to become an invalid.
Clearly, I had a lot of personal work and reframing to do. And fortunately, I had time to do it. First, it occurred to me that I might call upon my baby for some help. Eliciting his support -- making a team with him -- forged a line of communication between us. He needed me to believe in him, and I needed him to tell me he was ok.
So I set about checking in with him constantly and attempted to interpret his answers through the pulses of intuition I received. They came in as fragments of feelings, somewhere between a thought and a sensation. They settled in me like a peppering of snowflakes that melted on contact: a little rush of warmth, a momentary quietness, a sense of settling, a color, a symbol. I learned to trust that he would tell me that he was ok. I imagined that by believing in his ability to communicate this with me, I was helping him expand even further into being. As we evolved together, I was learning to become a mother and he was freed to grow into a safer place that now welcomed him and believed in his well-being.
The major piece of reframing that was useful to me was the idea that I had entered my postpartum phase prematurely. Once a baby is born, we all expect months of quiet. It’s a time when little can be accomplished, everything slows and all that matters is sleep and nourishment. New parents tune in to their babies as their babies tune into them. Observing, memorizing, imprinting. New forms of dialogue emerge. Focus is singular.
Although my baby had not been born yet, I had been launched into postpartum and its abundant lessons. This time was given to me to learn to just be, not do. It was delivered in this out-of-order sequence to make me learn how to be quiet, how to be in my body, how to put someone else first. I had to discover how to nurture my baby on the inside before he could join me on the outside. I had to get out of my own way and realize that my biggest accomplishment was not my work in the exterior world -- it was the infinitely wiser work that was in me.
The fact is that, bedrest can be an opportunity to begin transforming into a mother long before your baby arrives. It affords a quiet, focused time to synch up with your baby, to hone your dialogue and begin your teamwork. It gives you time to try on a new identity see how you do. Sometimes you’ll struggle and let your emotions blur the line of communication with your baby. That’s ok. You can take your time and be as sloppy and messy as you need to be. This is something of a dress rehearsal. Your baby doesn’t expect perfection; you, like he, are a work in progress. This ‘setback’ might well help you both shine all the brighter on opening night.