This weekend my lovely sister-in-law started to experience early labor contractions. They were regular and close enough together that she moved to the hospital. As she's only 32ish weeks pregnant they gave her shots to develop the baby's lungs and medication to try to keep labor from progressing any further.
As of this morning she's at home, on bedrest, still rocking to the contraction beat. We're hoping that she can last at least an extra week or two, but the longer the better!
We went down to visit and help take care of the other kids while SIL stayed on the couch. Here are my tips for helping out:
1. Think about food: In our case, my SIL and her kids have some serious allergies, which can make bringing something to the house a bit dicey. Not to mention that even when we arrive the sheer numbers of family on her side mean we're outnumbered 2:1. So, we don't typically bring anything heavy or large to eat, since I know she'll have already thought about it. The same goes for another Jewish household where you may not know the kosher status. This weekend we went to a house where they don't serve milk and meat together, but when they had ordered pizza they got salad with chicken. This isn't a judgement (I feel like it's always okay to eat chicken and milk) but rather the moment to say that before you bring something, really think about it. You don't want to bring your non-kosher food to someone's house, nor do you want to impose your pastry on a paleo.
2. Prepare for crazy: If Mom's been on bedrest for even a day or two, especially if there are little ones around, it's likely that the picture perfect house has gone a bit crazy. After day two all the kids realize that the most Mom can do is yell and encourage- but she's not getting up to make sure those toys get put away. It can be hard to try to help a 4 year old understand that they need to be extra good and help Mommy- and even if you did succeed we all know it would be a fleeting moment anyways. So be prepared, and don't make any judgements. Even if she apologizes and brings it up, let her know you've seen worse, and that it's no big deal.
3. DO something useful: So, just pitch straight on in. Don't be afraid to step into the
kitchen, load the dishwasher and ask where to put things away. Mom
napping? Just put it where it makes sense, and they will find it. The
extra stress Mom sees when she walks into the crazy kitchen isn't worth
the extra 3 minutes it might take Dad to find the pot you put in the
wrong shelf. Maybe a load of laundry is in order- which is a wonderful help. However, if you do the laundry, do your darnest to put it away. There's nothing worse than not knowing if clothes are clean and feeling like you have to wash them again.
4. Take time to talk: Amid all the to-do items, it's important to take a moment and chat with Mom, Dad and the kids. Mom has had it stressful, and is probably still stressed. Seeing your house go crazy, and not being able to pick-up your kids can be hard. Sitting in one room, in one place, or one bed can also really stress you out. So, ensure that you have time to chat. Tell her how amazing she is (duh! She totally is!) and how much you care. Ask her if she wants to share, or just chat about something totally off topic. It's important that she gets to connect because watching TV by yourself with only bathroom breaks can be insufferable.
5. Watch your words: We've already mentioned that you shouldn't mention the state of the house. Beyond that make sure you tell her she's looking pretty- if you can't muster that then at least don't tell her she looks bad! Take her lead on whether she wants to talk about the baby, the pregnancy, options, etc. She may be thinking about that all the time, and you may be just the person to get her mind off the situation long enough to have a few moments of fun. Consider her kids and their ears too as you discuss things, we certainly don't need a more freaked out baby in addition to mommy.
6. Check back in regularly: This especially applies to a Mom who will be on bedrest for a while. When you first go on bedrest there can be an abundance of support and help. But two weeks later, everyone has moved on to their own lives again and there Mom is, still laying down in bed, and surrounded once again by the craziness that her family can get into without her. So, if you can, go out of your way to call her more often, text Dad, and maybe send an Amazon Prime gift package her way (toilet paper, paper towels, etc.) She may have months of this, and if that's so will likely figure out some sort of routine, but still- a call or a visit from a friend can do wonders to moral!
I hope you don't have to visit a mommy on bedrest, but I hope you don't shy away from it as well. My mom once told me a story about how a friend of hers had her father die when she was in 7/8th grade. She was so overwhelmed by what to say that they basically never spoke again. Don't let that happen to you!
At the end of the day, anything you can do to lend a helping hand will be appreciated, and knowing that there are more people in the world who care, are concerned and are there really helps a family out.
As for you Sister-in-Law. We love you, we're thinking about you and Baby H, and you know you can call anytime!