From the Editor
Breakfast (and Everything Else) in Bed
[SEE UPDATE BELOW]
Today marks my 60th day of confinement. Or, to use the more common and pleasant-sounding term, bed rest. When I was just 24 weeks pregnant, an ultrasound revealed that I was at high risk of giving birth prematurely, so my doctors sent me home with strict orders to stay in bed for the remainder of the pregnancy.
For a busy professional like myself, with a boisterous toddler needing to be cared for, a monthly magazine to run and a full social life, the order sounded like a prison sentence. How could I possibly put my scheduled-to-the-hour life on pause for four months? Who would take over my seemingly endless list of responsibilities? How would I keep from sinking into a dark funk staring at the latte-colored walls of our bedroom and the 12-picture frame I’d meant to fill with pictures of my son’s first year of life, before I got so busy I couldn’t find the time to complete the project?
Turns out, it hasn’t been so hard.
The world has changed quite dramatically since the days of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, who in 1892 famously described her slow descent into madness while on "rest cure" in the short story "The Yellow Wallpaper." It’s now 2012, and in the United States alone, doctors order approximately one in five women — 750,000 per year — to rest in either their homes or hospitals for pregnancy-related complications ranging from high blood pressure to low amniotic fluid levels.
The difference for those of us stuck in bed nowadays is that we are no longer relegated just to staring at patterns on wallpaper.
We have the Internet. We have Facebook and FaceTime and instant messaging. We have Hulu and Netflix. We have iPads and smartphones and e-readers. The world is literally a fingertip away. For a generation already accustomed to managing their lives through a screen, what difference does it make where that screen is?
I work lying sideways most of the day, with an iPad propped in front of me. I communicate with our writers, photographers and designer through instant messaging and e-mail. I keep in touch with family and friends through Facebook, e-mail and texts. I manage our family’s bills online, order things I need — like cute pajamas, as that’s all I wear these days — on the Internet, and get my fill of entertainment in digital form: movies, books and music. Not only has my life not stopped, it’s barely slowed down.
This is not to say that bed rest is preferable to real life. I miss my son running into my arms every afternoon when I open the door to his day care. Looking at e-mail downloaded PDFs can’t take the place of seeing the entire mockup of an upcoming TRIBE issue printed out in full color in the office. Dinners with my girlfriends, a rare night out with my husband, feeling the warmth of the sun … there’s plenty outside my bedroom window that I miss and long to experience again.
I also know that while I’ve been able to make do, for some women, especially those confined to a hospital room, strict bed rest can be brutally isolating, physically detrimental and seemingly endless.
Take, for example, Jessica Fisher, a 30-year-old first-time mom-to-be from Agoura Hills. She recently marked her 100th day at The BirthPlace at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center. At 19 weeks, she was diagnosed with the same condition I have, except that her situation was slightly worse — carrying twins, she was already having contractions — so she was immediately sent to the hospital, sentenced to four months of confinement without possibility of parole. (I was hospitalized a week after being ordered on bed rest when I, too, started having contractions at 25 weeks, but after being stabilized and monitored for three weeks, I got to come back home to continue my sentence.)
Unlike me, Jessica can’t leave her bed even to shower. She spends 24 hours a day in the Trendelenburg position — her feet are elevated 30 degrees higher than her head.
She had to take disability leave from her work as a property manager, and her husband, who has to commute between Agoura Hills and Santa Monica to visit her, is not by her side every night, as mine is here at home. Her initial rush of concerned visitors has, predictably, slowed to a trickle as family and friends attend to their own busy lives.
"I had a breakdown the morning of my week anniversary here at The BirthPlace because it was the first day that was very quiet," Jessica wrote in her blog, "Broadway Babies" (broadwaybabies.wordpress.com), which chronicles her unusual pregnancy experience to the theme of Broadway show tunes. "The nurses were concerned about my sad state so they sent in the social worker and hospital chaplain to offer some guidance.
"Not only is loneliness setting in, but the loss of independence and freedom is equally as frustrating," she continued.
Yet, even on the most severe bed rest regimen, the new forms of social media have been Jessica’s lifeline.
"The one thing that really helps keep my sanity in check is this new Facebook group I started shortly after arriving here," she blogged on Dec. 31. She enlisted the help of the nursing staff to communicate with the handful of other women on bed rest at The BirthPlace, and they quickly bonded into a unique virtual sorority, sharing stories and trading advice, celebrating milestones together (when the life of your baby is at stake, your pregnancy isn’t measured in months, but in days, and you mark the passage of each week with great fanfare). Her blog has boosted morale on the ward, drawing the attention of hospital staff and administration, who could never, for privacy reasons, have initiated such a community.
Thanks to all this, Jessica has managed to stay optimistic and incredibly cheerful throughout what she called "an endless Shabbat" — a tradition, by the way that rarely found its way into her hectic life outside the hospital walls but has now become a meaningful part of her week. Unable to work, she has filled countless hours blogging and chatting on her laptop, catching up on movies and TV, and researching every baby-related product she could possibly need for her soon-to-be-born twins.
As I wrote these words, Jessica was 35 weeks pregnant – two weeks shy of what is considered full term. I am right behind her, at 33 weeks. Our babies are going to be just fine. We’ve made it through an experience that in previous eras drove women mad staring at walls. Thanks to Facebook, our generation has transformed the definition of walls from physical barriers to a means of interacting with the world.