March 29, 2020: I have been in self-isolation for one week now. It’s reminding me of past experiences.
June 3, 1996: Twenty-seven weeks pregnant with twins I went for a scheduled ultrasound. I didn’t leave the hospital. Went directly from the ultrasound suite to maternity and got into bed.
August 2, 1996: My twins were born. The each stayed in NICU for a week. Not weeks or months, just one week.
June 11, 2006: Twenty-six weeks pregnant with a singleton. My obstetrician wants a repeat performance of my last pregnancy. This time I had time to pack a bag.
August 24, 2006: My youngest child was born. Healthy as most other full-term babies.
I have spent 20 weeks of my life lying in bed. In a room by myself. I did not have a cell phone or a computer. I did have television (thank you, Dad!). I showered twice a week and was allowed to get up to use the toilet. Other than that, my inhabited world was the size of a bed, and my visual world was the size of my room.
After lying in bed for about 10 days the first time, when some of the immediate terror had subsided, I had a day of rebellion. My breakfast arrived and I did not want to eat it then. I wanted to eat it later. And come to think of it, I didn’t really want to eat what was there at all. I had selected my food the day before, trying to imagine what I would like to eat. I wanted to change my mind at the last minute. I wanted to go to the fridge, take out some eggs and make them how I like them. I wanted to walk down the hall, go outside, sit up, visit friends, go to work. I got angry. I fumed. I had no control of my life. I felt helpless. I was lying there and everything was happening TO me.
When I started to calm down, I realized that I still had control over the most important aspect of my life: my response and attitude. Instead of seeing myself as a powerless pawn in the circumstances of life, I began to see myself as having control: I alone had the ability to make the decisions to give my babies the best possible chance at a healthy start to life. My continual choices to stay in bed gave my babies moment by moment, day by day, better and better odds of a good and healthy life. I felt empowered and active, even though physically I wasn’t going anywhere.
Our culture sees waiting and inaction as something to be abhorred. We chafe while standing in line at the grocery store. We get testy when stuck in traffic. We get antsy and angry when told to stay home and avoid contact with others. Why? Because our whole culture is geared to action: those who do, those who are active, succeed. When we are forced to wait or be idle, we feel like life is happening TO us and we are powerless. Like my rebellion (lying there in bed, immobile), we get angry when we feel powerless.
Today: I can move freely throughout my whole house. I am allowed to stand up, sit down, cook eggs, do jumping jacks if I please. If I keep my distance from others, I can even go outside! I can shower every day if I like, change my clothes several times a day should I care to. I can make myself food I like, hug those in the same house with me, talk on the phone, enjoy online gatherings with friends and family, connect with and do my paid work. My world is much smaller than it was a few weeks ago, but it so expansive compared to what I know I can handle, what I know we can all handle. It’s all in our attitude.
Stay home. Feel the freedom of moving about your house, interacting with your family (whether in person or online), doing laundry, enjoying the sunshine, hearing the birds (I didn’t hear those for two whole summers), walking the dog, cooking, baking, reading, listening. And decide that you are doing this important work on purpose. Choose, and continue to choose to do this. By changing your attitude from helpless to life-saving, you are giving others moment by moment, day by day, better and better odds of a good and healthy life. I can do this. You can do this. We can do this.