on pondering parenthood

posted on: Tuesday, March 25, 2014

being confined to bed rest for 10 weeks feels a lot like a prison sentence. i say this without hyperbole, if i'm being honest. there are lots and lots of people who can't get out of bed and are stuck in the hospital for one reason or another. but most of them don't actually feel like getting out of bed. there's an entirely different element of difficult in that, but to be confined to a bed when you feel perfectly fit for living life as usual...well. that's another matter entirely. 

the quickest way for me to feel hot tears springing to my eyes is for me to think about all the things i am currently unable to do. i won't make a list for you now, but let me assure you: it's very very long. 

the key to mental survival is diversion and distraction. keep your hands busy. think about things that are far enough in the future to be well removed from your mental to-do list that keeps getting longer and longer from all the things currently left undone. 

so i've thought a lot about parenting. 

ours is a culture that scoffs at those who would seek to prepare for big life events in advance. marriage. having children. being a doctor. these are things that one couldn't possibly know anything about until you're there. in it. doing it. we're much more likely to plan for a wedding, a birth, a med school graduation, than for the events that follow. but i would argue that it doesn't hurt to think about it. mentally traverse the road on which you're about to embark. explore different schools of thought. premeditate a little. so that when you're finally there and it's all hitting you at once, you've at least thought about it a bit. there's no way to fully prepare, to be sure. but a start is a start, yes?

Nick and I had a brief engagement--5 months. our med school schedules didn't really allow for any kind of formal premarital counseling, so we improvised. we bought a book with a stupid title--Don't Get Married Until You Read This!--and every Saturday morning, we cozied up in a Chicago coffee shop and thumbed through the pages, asking each other questions from the book. questions like who will handle the finances? when do you envision us buying a house? who should be responsible for cooking, cleaning, housework? and are you gay and just marrying me to cover it up? sometimes the topics seemed ludicrous. others spawned some really great conversations. it was one of my favorite things about that time we spent in anticipation of our life together--the way we both committed to preparing for our life together.

we've sort of taken to parenting in the same fashion. there are a few baby books we're committed to reading, but there have been other timely HuffPost articles, Netflix documentaries, Modern Family episodes, etc that have all sparked some great conversations too. 

there's a comfort in these conversations for me. especially when so much of the parenting is being done by me and me alone right now. talking to Nick about how we hope and plan to raise our daughter helps me to feel like we're in this together. it reminds me that, someday soon, there WILL be life outside the four walls of room 508. and that this is temporary. it should be my mantra: bed rest is temporary. parenting is forever. and to all who have admonished that your life is over once you have kids, i would argue that my life will begin again when hers does. bringing our baby girl home will be such a sweet, long-awaited moment for all of us. our lives will never be the same.

and thank god for that. 

photo: unknown, via Pinterest


  1. Hang in there. All of the feelings you're feeling were very similar to what I experienced with my hospitalized bed rest. As you said it is hard to be in the hospital when you FEEL fine. I was there due to a case of vasa previa. What got me through it was just keeping busy, visits from friends and the husband and just keeping my eye on the end goal - a healthy baby girl. I also really tried hard to enjoy that quiet/down time since many of my mom friends told me what the miss the most about their pre-baby life was time alone to think, to watch movies, to do your hobbies, all without feelings about mommy guilt. Now on the other side, I can attest I do miss that alone time a bit so as hard as it is to appreciate the moment and this forced relaxation, I encourage you to enjoy it. Youre a great mommy already and this sacrifice is just one example of that and the love you have for your little girl.

  2. Thank you so much for this, Dr. Em. I am in a place of baby-contemplation (or as my husband refers to it, baby fever) and I think that the culture surrounding "not planning" for life events is silliness. This could be driven by my need to plan EVERYTHING, but I think that mentally going through how you might feel, what could happen, and how you might handle it are good exercises. I am so glad for you and Nick that you have each other through this time of difficulty, and know that you are worth not a single iota less because you are on bedrest right now. You are growing a human and that is the most important job of all right now. Take care of yourself and of each other, and I'm praying for you guys!

  3. I often worry that I am not doing enough in preparation of the arrival of my little one. I have always been more of a "let's wing it and see what happens" person. Not my strongest quality! Ten more weeks does seem like an awful long time I am sure you will have time to contemplate lots of things. Maybe learn how to knit and make that sweet little one a blanket? Wishing you a speedy and healthy 10 weeks to go by quickly.
    P.S. your instagram of your dog coming to visit you made me tear up! Love that!!

  4. Prep all you want and ignore errrbody else. Love having those types of conversations... they're important and need to happen. It's better that you're doing it before, rather than later. It's akin to taking steps to prevent an infection in the first place instead of waiting to treat it once it's arrived. <--- look at that medical analogy! ; )

    also, package is still being assembled... get excited.

  5. You sound like such a wonderful couple. I am sorry that you are going through all this Emily, I can't imagine how hard it is....for what it's worth, I found myself, thousands of miles away here in London, England, thinking of you yesterday....wishing you & your baby girl well & hoping those days fly by Xx

  6. I was on hospital bed rest as well, and I just wanted to say that I felt exactly like you describe. I felt like I was crawling the walls. And I was able to do my HR work from the hospital. I was just used to being very active, and I had a really hard time mentally with not being able to. Hang in there. And I know that phrase is probably getting old to hear!

  7. I’ve wanted to send you a note for a while, and this probably isn’t the best forum for that - but until I find the “right” words.. I just wanted to let you know that I am thinking about you. I’m thinking about Nick. And I’m thinking about Lyla Mae. Every post I read of yours, I’m usually at work. and I definitely, 100% definitely always have my heater going because I freeze easily. And always, always (100% always) after reading your words, my entire body is in goosebumps. You really have a way with them. “My life will begin when hers does.” That is so awesome. and so true. Yall already have an incredible connection, and I am just so proud of you. So much love my dear!! God has a plan. God has a plan. God has a plan. xoxoxo

  8. I think it is great that you guys are already having conversations about parenting. Those conversations will continue as you watch your little girl grow. Pondering about parenthood never stops...remember (something sometimes I forget) there is no right or wrong in parenting...every one is different...just always try your best ;-)

  9. Just found your blog serendipitously - I am on staff at SAMMC and my office is probably within 400 feet of your room. Creepy/peculiar. Interwebs for ya. Wishing you an uneventful sojourn on the 5th floor.

  10. There is nothing wrong with contemplating and planning for what's ahead! In fact, I wished that more people read more and prepared better for marriage and parenthood. I commented earlier that one of my favorite moments of pregnancy was the last half hour or so before sleep when everything was powered down and I could really enjoy the pokes, flutters, punches and kicks. It really forces one to concentrate and truly relish the miracle of life. But in those quiet moments, that is when our husbands can be parents, too. And that's why I cherished these moments so much, because Joe and I could experience them together. Childbirth is our burden and our anxiety and our joy all at the same time. In many ways, I feel that men are cheated out of this connection (although some women may argue that it's the men who are the lucky ones).


  11. I just wanted to say the fact that you are shooting for 10 WEEKS of bed rest is amazing. Two weeks just about killed me. (the free food didn't hurt though ;) ) But, of course, looking back one year later, those two weeks were a blessing. I had a lot of "me time" to reflect on what was about to come and how much my life was about to change. I realized just how many people truly cared about me and my growing family, I grew closer to my husband, and I found a whole new confidence in my abilities to cope with anything that could and would be thrown my way. I'm so glad I found your blog and follow your story!!

    Parker Kabalan


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