At 12 weeks, I visited my OBGYN thinking this pregnancy would be relatively uneventful like the first time around. My husband and I were in the exam room where Doppler techs tried to find but were unable to detect a heartbeat. We were whisked away for an unplanned ultrasound. Many thoughts raced through our heads, but when we were told the heartbeat was found… wait… two heartbeats! We were ecstatic. “Honey, we’re going to need a van,” I exclaimed to my husband. As it turns out, we were going to need much more than a van. Not only were we having twins – we were having a very rare form of twins: mono-mono, meaning they shared the same placenta and amniotic sac – a dangerous situation because the umbilical cords can become entangled.
When the twins made it to 24 weeks in utero, we started daily monitoring. At 24 weeks, 6 days, following a routine Electronic Fetal Heart Monitoring test, I was admitted to the hospital for closer monitoring. I was in the OB Special care unit for 50 days on hospital bed rest. On day 51 I delivered mono-mono twin girls who spent 9 weeks in the NICU.
Here are my 8 tips to survive hospital bed rest:
1. Make a hospital plan
Once you are admitted in patient on hospital bed rest make a plan with your medical team. Mine was to do twice daily heart rate monitoring for an hour and twice weekly Non-Stress Tests. While your medical team will offer their requirements and recommendations, take this time to offer yours too. Read, research, and provide your requirements.
For my testing, sometimes the “hour tests” would take an hour – and sometimes the twins would not want to be monitored so it would take 3-4 hours! That said, setting a routine and asking your medical providers to agree to this routine will help maintain sanity.
At home, my husband was the lone parent to our 11-month-old. He would bring her every morning and again at night to visit and always had a plan of who would come watch her if he had to come in for emergency c-section.
2. Accept offers of help
Have a friend or two who wants to help while you are on hospital bed rest? Accept it. Have them coordinate nursey set-up and décor, childcare for you children, cooking and cleaning at you home and yardwork.
Provide a pre-approved list of individuals who you want to visit and ask a close friend to coordinate who brings outside food daily and keeps you updated on the latest and greatest real world drama. Schedule this around your tests – make sure your folks know in advance you may have to cancel last minute (This happened about 5 times due to longer lasting tests).
3. Visit the NICU
If you are in stable condition, ask to visit the NICU in the hospital (if you are permitted) just in case there is a chance your multiples end up there. It is overwhelming and scary to see and hear all the machines, monitors and constant beeping in the NICU. Have the NICU team show you the different types of breathing machines – oscillator, ventilator, CPAP, nasal canula, etc. At 25 weeks, they showed me the likely path and at32 weeks said they would likely be on CPAP. Good thing I visited in advance. Our 32 weekers ended up on the oscillator with nitric gas. It was incredibly scary, but I knew what was happening.
4. Visits from older children
Harder than being on hospital bed rest was being away from my daughter Molly (11-months-old). Have an activity to do with them when they visit – the hospital can be scary and boring – this way they will look forward to it even more. Our sweet Molly celebrated her 1st birthday and took her first steps in my hospital room. Every morning when she visited we would cuddle and share a banana. Every evening on the way home, she would get to play with her twin baby dolls who lived at the hospital. She loved it and to this day she won’t go a night without knowing where they are. Another idea is doing arts and crafts with the kids – and then you (or your husband) can put the art on the wall when they have to leave.
5. Get comfortable
Bring your own pillows and pillowcases from home while on hospital bed rest. My husband would bring replacement cases every few days but I loved having a pillow that smelled like home and additional ones that were supportive enough for my twin belly and strained back! My husband also brought my bathroom items, under garments and a robe to help me feel a little more like myself. He also washed them at home every few days!
6. Hospital food
When ordering hospital food, mix and match. If they have the ingredients – and you are nice to the person taking the order – chances are they will make it for you! After a few days I convinced the doctors, with the help of the nurses, that I was able to walk downstairs and visit the cafeteria to eat. This was my favorite because while I looked like a patient, I had a moment or two of what felt like freedom – and got to know the cafeteria team. It made my day to see them and get to know them. They were then there for me during the two months inpatient stay and the following 9 weeks of the NICU and continued follow up appointments. (My husband may or may not have snuck me out to the hospital sidewalk to get a little sunshine one Friday afternoon!)
7. Odds and ends to keep you busy
You will have a lot of time to kill while on hospital bed rest, so I suggest doing the following to make the time go quicker and lessen the stress:
- Make a TV Guide – I didn’t have one in my room, so I took an hour and went through every channel and wrote them down. My husband typed it up at home and brought me a nice copy – and one for the staff too! Turns out the docs who are on the night shift appreciated it more than I did!
- Coloring – I never colored before and I haven’t since but adult coloring books kept my mind busy every evening before bed when I needed it the most.
- Facebook groups – Use this opportunity to learn from other twin moms by joining your local moms of multiples Facebook group. I also joined a group for mono-mono twins – it was very helpful then and still is now.
8. Your Team
If you let them, the medical staff, facilities team and cafeteria workers can become your confidants. In my case, I would have never made it without their friendship, encouragement and kindness.
No matter how many people visit and call you may still feel alone and scared in the hospital room. You have two babies with you who are incredibly lucky to have a strong mom who is doing whatever it takes to give them the best chance of being born healthy. Every day you are still pregnant is another day for your babies to grow and develop. You are strong and the many moms who have gone through this before you are praying for you daily.
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Tori Sachs is a wife, mom to three under three and political advocacy professional. She is a public member of Michigan Board of Nursing and enjoys living in Pure Michigan with her family. You can follow Tori on Twitter or Instagram.