Mommy Vortex: How Bed Rest Taught Me Patience in Parenting
Over the past few weeks, I have eagerly read a friend’s regular Facebook status updates about how she was (im)patiently awaiting the birth of her first child. We were all waiting to hear the good news.
Every one of us who has given birth can likely remember how difficult those last few weeks, days, and hours of pregnancy can be. We want it to be over, we want to meet this person we have loved for so long already. We are understandably impatient. Over time, I’ve come to understand waiting time as a not-so-subtle lesson every mom—every parent!—needs to learn: patience.
When my doctor ordered me to bed rest during my second pregnancy due to various complications, I still had about five months (more than half of my pregnancy) left to go. While this physical respite was necessary for both my and the baby’s health, it waged mental and emotional warfare on my mind and spirit.
Luckily, for my and my family’s sanity, my employer allowed me to telecommute. And I got to spend time with my three year old son, reading and doing puzzles. But the late afternoons and nights were long, and I was too upset to read, watch TV, or even communicate much with others. I cried. A lot.
I simply couldn’t wait for November to arrive. I was so impatient that it brought me to tears.
Truthfully, I’ve been impatient my entire life, a quality that grew stronger as I got older. By the time I was married and contemplating a family, my patience quota was zilch. I couldn’t even stand behind someone in a coffee shop while they contemplated their order before asking if I could move ahead of them while they took the luxury of time to think about what kind of coffee they wanted. Who had time?
There were trains to catch and meetings to attend. My life was a perpetual whirlwind, and I never had the time, patience, or inclination to slow down. Even after my first child was born, I would hurry him along as he tried to explore the world around him. I was always moving forward, always looking to the next place I had to be.
And then I found myself staring at my bedroom ceiling for hours on end, waiting, waiting, waiting for November to arrive. The wait was torture for me. But November finally arrived, and I had done my job: the baby was healthy, a better ending than some parents have to endure. It was finally over; I was grateful.
And I was inexorably changed.
There was value in being forced to wait on bed rest. It allowed me to learn patience, truly understand it, and to think of others’ needs before my own. It made me a better mother.
That revelation has removed any taste of bitterness left from over from that ordeal. Instead, it has made me grateful for that time in my life, and it changed who I am for the better. We are all constantly growing, changing, learning. And there are lessons for us everywhere as parents . . . sometimes before our children are even born.
It has taken a few years for me to look back on that time with anything but bitterness. And yet, I have to admit that without that forced waiting, I am fairly sure I would not be a patient mother of two. My former self could never wait for a three year old girl to pick out an outfit, try to dress herself, and figure out how to put on her shoes. My former self would never have listened patiently, intently even, to a seven year old boy sharing every last detail of his school day. No, that person would have tried to speed the boy’s story up and dressed the little girl herself, in the interest of time, not allowing the kids to learn, grow, and become more independent.
Parenting takes patience. A lot of patience. Without it, we could not survive the feed/change diaper/beg- the-baby-to-go-to-sleep cycle. We wouldn’t be able to carefully teach our toddlers how to eat properly or hold a crayon. We’d lose it more often when that crayon ended up decorating a freshly painted wall. Hell, we’d lose it a lot more often, period. It’s definitely in the kids’ best interest that we parents have patience. And lots of it.
Rosemarie Coppola-Baldwin is a practicing attorney and a dedicated mother of two children. A Georgetown University graduate, Rosemarie has practiced law at a major New York City law firm and for the City of New York. Rosemarie has been a guest lecturer on women’s civil rights and related legal issues at St. John’s University (New York), and offers pro bono legal services to a variety of entities.