It was pure hell.
After seeing those two pink lines on that pregnancy test and feeling all the initial excitement and joy of finding out I was a mom-to-be, it was abruptly followed by a diagnosis of a condition called Hyperemesis (the same condition Duchess Kate helped put on the map), where I endured debilitating, unrelenting, extreme nausea and vomiting all day for the entire nine months, six months of which was spent on bed rest. AKA the most exhausting six months of my life.
When family and friends would ask me how this oddly named disease felt, I would share this with them: think of the worst case of food poisoning that you’ve ever had, combine it with an epic hangover, the worst you’ve ever experienced, then multiply that by about a million and that’s about one second of what it’s like to live with Hyperemesis.
During my bed rest stint, when many well-meaning family members and friends would call, email or come to visit, they would often, unintentionally, make the kind of thoughtless commentary that to a suffering and hormonal pregnant woman made you want to lose your mind. Literally. Or at least lose my lunch. Oh wait, I already couldn’t keep that down anyway.
There are many reasons that soon to be mothers might end up on bed rest, but regardless of why, there are some common remarks guaranteed to upset even the most patient soul. If you have a friend or family member on bed rest, here is a helpful guide on what to never say and how to really understand what she needs.
1. “I WISH I COULD LAY IN BED ALL DAY”
Nothing makes a sick pregnant woman feel more misunderstood than when she hears this comment. Bed rest is not an opportunity to lounge around all day and watch Netflix, eating yummy snacks like one might during the happily unemployed bliss following winning the lotto. Bed rest is the equivalent of carrying the most precious thing you ever had across a high-wire spanning a skyscraper. Your pregnancy is hijacked by illness and an assortment of debilitating symptoms, and that time is spent filled with doubt and isolation, teetering on the edge and hoping you make it through and that your precious cargo is healthy.
Bed rest is feeling removed from the real world, isolated, and giving up all the things you used to do. Basically, there is nothing “restful” about bed rest.
Sometimes, a little empathy really goes a long way. A simple, “I know you must be feeling so cooped up inside by now; is there anything I can do to help?” makes all the difference.
2. “I HAD A ROUGH PREGNANCY, TOO”
This is often relegated to moms on bed rest as an attempt to empathize and let them know you understand what they are going through. While we do appreciate that, truthfully, unless you were severely sick, in the hospital, and/or stuck on bed rest for months, please know that it is just not exactly the same.
If you were still at work and out doing things when you were pregnant (I wish!), then this attempt at shared empathy doesn’t always come off as understanding and can feel more like a dismissive, “pregnancy is always hard” sentiment. For those of us going through this bed rest ordeal, it is waking up each day feeling sick, knowing you are stuck inside, can’t work, see friends, got to the gym, get a coffee, take a walk, pretty much do anything, and it can really make a woman feel miserable. It often feels like your own private hell, understood by no one except you.
When people would say to me while I was on bed rest that they had morning sickness too, I would scream on the inside, “This is not morning sickness; this is ALL day, every second sickness.” We do understand that this is just an attempt to share that you also had symptoms while you were pregnant and that you understand how hard pregnancy can be, but at this moment the best thing to really say is just how crappy you know this must feel and you are here to help in any way that you can. And letting us know we are totally kick ass for getting through this is always appreciated.
3. “CAN I GET A DRINK?”
If you are coming over to visit someone on bed rest, please remember that this is not a time when she can really play host. She can’t serve drinks and food and do all the things she normally would. If a woman on bed rest is in the thick of her illness but has to keep getting up to do something and try to be a good host, then she is only reminded even more of what she can no longer easily do — that even the most basic tasks may now be beyond her ability.
Instead, offering to bring over lunch, drinks or something we like is always an appreciated gesture. Even if we just end up throwing it up, the thought really goes a long way.
4. “IT WILL ALL BE BETTER AFTER THREE MONTHS”
For some reason, this theory seems to apply to just about everything when women are in their first trimester. No matter what they are suffering from, everyone always thinks it will magically go away after three months. But truthfully, this logic is often based on nothing.
The very nature of why we are on bed rest is because the doctors can never actually predict when something may resolve. Just a bunch of guesses and maybe this or maybe that. A large number of women have conditions that place them on bed rest that lasts well past three months. Since we have no way of knowing how long we are in the waiting game, this statement just reminds us even more that there is no definite date for when we will feel better.
Plus, even if it did only last three months, three months is still quite a long time to be sitting in your bed, staring at those four walls. The best way to approach this is to offer to do something to help pass the time. Bring over some movies, music or an amazing book. Anything that helps us get through the day and recognizes the slow crawl of each moment when you are stuck in bed.
5. “YOU LOOK GREAT; I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU ARE REALLY THIS SICK”
Ahh, the compliment hidden under the doubt of “can she really be that sick?” When women are on bed rest, people always assume they must look like night of the living dead, fangs out and all. But many of us feel worse if we are lying around looking like death, so we still try to shower and brush our hair, freshen up, put on clean pajamas and try to feel some semblance of our old selves. I pretty much could only leave the house when I had a doctor’s appointment, and once the doctor remarked, “You look nice; are you going to a party after this?” Ha! If only…
The kindest thing you can say to a woman at this time is just that despite all she is going through, she is handling it like a superhero — a pregnant superhero who, even with all of these challenges, still manages to look great!
During my time on bed rest, a friend once brought over some yummy candles and lotion and body scrubs, and it was the closest I was going to get to a spa day at that time. Even better? When she painted my nails since I couldn’t go to the nail salon, it was a mini home spa day and cheered me up for the first time in weeks.
Pregnancy can be a roller coaster for all of us, and for those women living in the confines of their beds, it can just feel endless. Sometimes just hanging out with us, watching a movie, talking, and letting us know you are there can go such a long way in making us feel connected to the outside world.
Of course, bringing over some delicious chocolates always helps, even if we can’t keep any of them down!
This article originally appeared on pregnantchicken.com