The day I became a mother was not the day I gave birth.

Pregnant with her first child, this woman thought she was out of the woods. She was wrong.

We thought we were out of the woods. After several early miscarriages, I was finally pregnant with a healthy baby girl who had passed her amnio with flying colors. I’d stopped fearing the worst and was enjoying my second trimester, especially eating for two and flaunting my bump.

Then, during the 22-week ultrasound, I heard the technician say “Uh oh.” The baby was still fine, thank God, but my cervix wasn’t. It had shortened and funneled (I pictured the tornado from The Wizard of Oz) and could not be relied upon to keep my baby safe in the womb until her due date. I was at high risk for preterm labor.

I couldn't go up the stairs to turn off the alarm clock. It beeped for an hour.

It wasn’t good news, but I didn’t realise how serious my condition was until my doctor strapped me to a monitor to check for contractions. When I offered him a peek at our new ultrasound picture, he glanced away, muttering, “I probably shouldn’t look at that just yet.” I could tell he thought my baby might not make it, and I dissolved into tears.

The only hope for my baby was strict bed rest. I quit my job and settled into the couch on the first floor of our town house apartment. I was allowed to get up only to use the bathroom or grab a drink, and was told to avoid the stairs. Sex was forbidden. I couldn’t even do pelvic-floor exercises.

Bed rest might sound like a nice holiday, but when you’re healthy and energetic, laying still 24/7 doesn’t feel right. I was antsy and tense, unable to concentrate on television and magazines because I was so scared. I spent most of my time with my iPad propped on my belly, googling “incompetent cervix” and studying viability rates for premature babies. I knew I had to do whatever it took to save my daughter.

My first day home alone on the couch, I was startled by a loud, insistent beeping coming from my bedroom. I realised that amid all the bed-rest panic, I’d forgotten to turn off my alarm clock. Since I couldn’t walk upstairs, I had to listen to it beep at top volume for a full hour, and I felt like I was being driven slowly insane.

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Later that night, my heart started racing. It seemed to be beating outside my chest. I called my doctor and told him I might be having a heart attack. He said it was probably a panic attack, and suggested breathing into a paper bag. When I asked my partner to hunt one down, he brought me plastic—at which point, I may have accused him of trying to murder me. I could barely make it through one day on bed rest. How could I possibly manage four months?

As I made it closer to my due date the fear was replaced with relief.

Answer: I had no choice. I was a mummy now.

There were good days – like when I befriended my postman, and he started hand delivering the daily mail straight to the couch (it had its own zip code). And bad days, like a punishing late summer heat wave with no air conditioning. (I filled a bathtub with tepid water and spent hours pruning inside it—the world’s least glamorous spa.) Each night, I scratched off another date on our wall calendar, Shawshank style.

As I got closer to my due date, the fear faded, replaced by an intense excitement to meet my daughter. By some miracle, she arrived just four days early, perfect in every way. I wanted to name her “Get out of jail free card” but it didn’t fit on the birth certificate, so we went with “Vivien”. She’s three now, and my high risk pregnancy is but a distant memory. I still pee when I sneeze though. If only I’d been allowed to do my pelvic floor exercises.

This was originally published here and is republished with full permission.

Did you have to go on bed rest during your pregnancy? How did you stay sane? 

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