Bed rest
I like how the iPad looks like it's trying to cuddle with the laptop, which is obviously not interested.

Bed rest. Just say the words and women cringe. Then they offer to bring over lasagne. Sarah’s been having crazy pains all over her body, especially in that special contraction zone, which makes O.B.s awfully nervous—and ours, the unflappable Dr. Harth, finally told Sarah that if working was causing her pain, then stop working. So she has.

What does bed rest mean? For some women, it means no physical labor, no exercise, no walking, no bathing—no nothing—until either the doc says it’s OK or a baby comes out. Sarah is on “modified bed rest,” which appears to mean, roughly, “lie in bed and play around on Pinterest while I bring her water.”

Bed rest is the accepted practice for pregnant women in danger of premature labor, gestational diabetes, those with high blood pressure, an incompetent cervix, and/or buns on both racks of the oven. A friend of mine was on such draconian bed rest a few years back that she had to lie on her side on the couch, motionless for six months, sweaty and grumpy and watching a TV that her husband had turned on its side. Another had a cooler next to the bed, packed with all her food for the day. If nature called, she was expected to crawl to the bathroom or invest in a bedpan. She also needed to get a doctor’s permission to blink her eyes, smile, or breathe.

The whole idea is to keep the fetus in there as long as possible—and the best way to do that is by avoiding stress on the body. That may sound like a pretty shitty deal for the woman, but you don’t want to be working out and have the baby fall out on the cross-trainer. Those cross-trainers are expensive.

You want to know what else bed rest means? It means that for the next eight weeks, at least, I’m the one who shuttles the kids to school, the one who gets them dressed and bathes them and walks the World’s Dumbest Dog and does all the grocery shopping. OK, not the grocery shopping. I’m not Superman here. And not the laundry. Or the cooking, really. OK, I’m basically just driving the kids around more.

The other day I told the kids it was time for PJs, and they ignored me. In my best attempt at sounding authoritative, I repeated myself. Hannah looked at me sideways. “We don’t have to until Mama says so,” she said.

“I’m saying so.”

Hannah shrugged. “Mom is more important than you.”

What’s happening here is not pretty, but I am doing my best to fill a hypercompetent woman’s shoes. When a man used to being waited on suddenly finds himself the waiter, he generally looks forward to it at first, then grows to resent it, then realizes how much work his wife normally does to make a home and family run smoothly, then he feels embarrassed so he tries harder, then he says something stupid about how tired he is from all this work, and his wife dumps a glass of ice water on his head, and he can’t wait until she’s off this @#$%ing bed rest so things can go back to normal. So I’ve heard.


Photograph: Courtesy of Jeff Ruby