written by: Bailey Nicholas | Executive Director of High Risk Hope
When I heard about the thousands of poor passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship who were confined to their rooms with the looming threat of a serious adverse health complication, in this case COVID-19, I thought to myself, “I have an overwhelming empathy for them.” Then it dawned on me as to why. I too was confined to a small room for four weeks with major health threats to both me and my unborn twins when I was admitted on hospital bed rest with pregnancy complications back in 2014. And now, as my family and I completely self-isolate (I am pregnant with baby number three and have been told by my OB/GYN to avoid all contact with others—I can’t even go to the grocery store), I realize that many of the coping mechanisms I developed while on bed rest are helping me to cope with the new reality we find ourselves in today. Below are some of the ways bed rest taught me to deal with self-isolation, and I hope you will find them useful as well.
- Find joy in routine
On bed rest and in self-isolation it helps to create a daily schedule. Then, you are less bored, feel less scattered, and have less time for your thoughts to start spiraling down a deep, dark rabbit hole. In the hospital, I so looked forward to each meal (the hospital food was good, especially the chocolate brownie). In self-isolation, my husband and I have been enjoying ice cream together after the kids go to bed (I am sensing that dessert is a joy-giving constant in my life). The kids look forward to our evening walks after dinner and we have found fun ways to explore our neighborhood like scootering through the alleys. Try to find joy in the simple things.
- Look out the window
Even though hospital bed rest or a stay-at-home order might be keeping you mostly indoors, you will be amazed at what you observe by simply looking out the window. Who doesn’t love people watching? When I was in the hospital, my room overlooked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ training facility. I couldn’t see the players on the field, but a camera crew would set up on the roof to film practice, and they would put up a bright red umbrella to shield them from the sun. It was somehow satisfying to know that life continued on outside my hospital room. Likewise, in self-isolation, I find myself looking out the window of my home office. There are so many couples, families and roommates out walking the neighborhood right now. One day, every dog that passed by decided that our yard was the best one to pee in—it made me laugh! Life goes on, families continue to spend quality time together, kids laugh and play…and dogs do their business…despite the current public health crisis.
As social animals, we crave connection with others which is hard when you are confined to a hospital bed or to your home. When I was in the hospital, I loved having visitors. One of my good friends worked at the hospital and would visit me daily on her lunch break. Friends would bring me food from “the outside world”. Now, of course, we are to have no visitors, no playdates for the kids, complete physical separation from others when possible. Thank goodness for technology! Keep connecting with people however you can. FaceTime with grandparents, use Zoom (a new household name) for meetings. My kids’ teachers have been setting up Zoom meetings so all of the kids can see each other and feel more connected. I’ve seen quite a few Zoom happy hours as well. You can even send snail mail letters to loved ones and teach the kids about the good old days before cell phones. Get creative and keep connecting.
- Give yourself grace
On bed rest and in self-isolation, there will be good times and hard times. Don’t be down on yourself for wanting to scream, or cry, or huddle in a corner in the fetal position. When I was on bed rest, it was devastating when my health deteriorated and they had to put an IV back in just in case I had to be taken to labor and delivery for the imminent birth of my twins. I had to force myself to take a deep breath and take life minute by minute. My twins were not born that day. They were not born for another three weeks. Likewise, in self-isolation, I find myself panicking when I think about this being our reality for weeks, if not months. But I take a deep breath, cry a little if I need to, then wake up the next day and start over with a new resolve. Take it one day at a time and give yourself grace when you feel overwhelmed. It IS overwhelming but collectively, we will get through this.
My hospital bed rest journey had a very happy ending. My twins were almost born at 28 weeks but instead were born at 34 weeks. They spent just two weeks in the NICU with minor complications and they are now healthy 5-year-olds (remotely) completing kindergarten this year. And we will have a happy ending when we all emerge from COVID-19 isolation. We will know that we are strong and can endure even the most stressful scenarios that are out of our control. We will have connected with our families more than ever. We will cherish in a new way the quality time we get to spend with friends and family in-person when this is all over. And it will be that much sweeter to eat my ice cream physically IN the ice cream shop!