Give InKind recently sat down with Drs. Maureen and Lucas Terranova to talk about supporting a family when a woman is pregnant and on bed rest. Dr. Maureen Terranova is an Ob-Gyn, while her husband, Dr. Lucas Terranova is an anesthesiologist. In building their family, Maureen was put on both home and hospital bed rest over the course of two separate high-risk pregnancies. The Terranovas are now the proud parents of three healthy children. Here, they share the complexities of managing their personal and professional obligations – together with their first-hand experience of high-risk pregnancies.
It was Maureen who suggested that this article focus on how to help a partner or spouse cope with a woman who is on bed rest. In her estimation, the man or partner is too frequently ignored – even though the bulk of work falls to them.
“He gets home from work and the normal divisions of labor are completely blown up. There is a sense of high stress that the woman on bed rest is very specifically shielded from.”
– Maureen Terranova
When there are no other children at home, the partner still has to manage a household, which is a lot in any circumstance. Where there are children at home, the burden is amplified, but, so too is the opportunity to offer assistance to the family.
“ Guys don’t always know exactly how to offer support for a situation like a woman on bed rest. It’s hard because the second time Maureen was on bedrest we had a young child. And Maureen had gone into pre-term labor again. This was hospital bedrest. This felt more severe. It seemed like it lasted longer. I was worried for her, worried about the pregnancy, worried for the baby. But life has a pace and it cannot stop. People don’t really know what they need when they find themselves suddenly in a crisis.”
– Lucas Terranova
Lucas cast back to remember the things that could have been helpful had they been offered.
The things that really help are the usual – laundry, groceries, childcare, etc. Lucas and Maureen agreed that systematic effective assistance in organizing everything would have been extremely helpful. In particular, they recognized that the ability to build a complete and centralized care calendar would have been a mercy. Lucas noted, however, that it was important to communicate clearly with the husband or partner so that he was not further disempowered – no matter how well-intended the systematic offers of help.
Maureen also suggests that if there are children in school, that a parent-friend in the class be appointed the ambassador to the bedrest family. There is so much to remember when one is trying to keep up with the rhythm of life. Anything that can be done to scaffold the chaos in the appearance of normality if only for the sake of the child/ren is a win for the parent. For example, appoint one person in your son’s kindergarten class to text the partner every night about permission slips, show choir t-shirts, Ziploc bags of flour for volcano day and so on.
It is incredibly hard for a woman to stay in bed while watching things devolve. Said Maureen, “Bed rest is unusual because you’re generally not sick (unless you have preeclampsia) and so you feel guilty and helpless because you can’t feel useful."
Lucas reflected on the experience.
“Men don’t like to feel useless. It’s bad enough in a regular pregnancy and birth when it’s hard to feel especially relevant. But when Maureen was on bed rest? It’s hard to know what to ask for. And I’m a private person. It’s hard to share these feelings of uselessness.”
– Lucas Terranova
Maureen and Lucas remembered a few delivered meals. These were everything. The people who enabled child-to-mom visits at the hospital were similarly legendary. Equally, it was nice to have someone stay with their older child so that Lucas could visit Maureen in the hospital, enabling them to stay connected in their shared experience of crisis.
They agreed that the people who were the most impactful were those who stepped in to find the best ways to run the household. Laundry, groceries, visits – all of these got them over the finish line.
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