When my wife, Caroline, was pregnant with the triplets, she was relegated to bed rest for a total of nine weeks. The first one was spent in the hospital and luckily for us, coincided with a time our daughter was away at the beach with her biological dad.
The next four were spent at home and given Caroline's limitations, they were difficult, but not as difficult as they would have been had she remained in the hospital. Which is exactly why I knew I was in real trouble when her doctor ordered her to return to the hospital for what wound up being the final four weeks of her pregnancy.
The very first night, it dawned on me that I would be getting Alli ready for school the next morning - something I'd never done by myself. I reached for my phone and dialed Caroline's room.
"What am I gonna do tomorrow morning?"
"Um, help Alli get ready for school, maybe?"
"Obviously, but how?"
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"For starters, you have to make her take her reflux medicine, then fix her breakfast."
"She won't eat cereal, will she?"
"No. You'll have to make her something, but I'll walk you through it. Go to the refrigerator."
"Yeah, you know, that door in our kitchen that you open whenever you want a snack?"
"And here I was calling that thing a pantry for all these years," I said.
"Do you want my help or not?"
I needed her help, so I ended my comedy bit long enough for Caroline to walk me through the perfect breakfast for a picky six-year-old. Cantaloupe and cinnamon rolls I'd actually have to bake which was another conversation in and of itself.
The next morning, I went upstairs at 6:30 and lightly rapped on Alli's door.
"Honey? Time to wake up."
"C'mon, girl, rise and shine."
Still nothing. The girl who'd woken me up every morning at 5:00 that summer was suddenly sleeping in with the gusto of a college student. I finally roused her and together we traipsed downstairs to the kitchen where she ate her breakfast at the table and I ate mine on the fly as I gathered her homework folder, filled her water bottle and placed both of them inside her backpack. By the time she got her medicine down, we still had 15 minutes before we had to leave to make it on time.
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We went back to the master bathroom where I combed out her long blond locks and helped her brush her teeth before she changed into her school uniform. Things were going well, or so I thought until Alli rolled her lower lip, stomped her foot and glared at the bathroom floor.
"What's wrong, honey?"
"My panties are too tight. Mommy never get these out for me."
And I never field complaints about tight panties, but you don't see me bellyaching, do you?
I ran upstairs and retrieved a more user-friendly (?) pair of panties which Alli put on and our problems were behind us.
Until she brought up her hair. She wanted me to do a top knot "like Mommy does."
I called Caroline for a quick tutorial and hung up less than confident - with good reason. My first attempt left Alli looking like Pebbles Flintstone. On a bad day. But the second go round was much better.
We scrambled out the door and barely made it to school on time, but at least we'd gotten through our first commute together. Now that Caroline and I have five kids, I look back at those times and laugh. Because, truly, getting one child ready for school, at least compared to what we've got going on now, is a piece of cake.
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Yes, most things don't come very easily the first few times you do them. Especially when you've relied upon someone else to do them for so long. Which is exactly what made our bed rest era so enriching, for both Caroline and me.
Because Caroline learned she could, indeed, hand off some of her parental duties to me without the world ending. And I learned that it's really not that hard to rock a top knot for a little girl you love. And the fact that we learned both of these lessons in the name of keeping the triplets in the womb for as long as possible made those lessons more precious, still.
When you write as much in the realm of parenting as I do, it doesn't take you long to figure out that most women don't consider men their peers when it comes to parenting. And while I'm not going to get into any of that, per se, I will say the following two things:
First, as the father of five, I've changed way more diapers than the average mom. And brushed way more teeth, given way more baths, kissed way more boo boos and rocked a little one to sleep way more times. So, while it's not a contest, it'd be foolish to underestimate my "game," if you will.
But, second, and more importantly, I'm absolutely convinced that Caroline's 9-week bed rest help me advance that game. Helped me find my nurturing side. Helped me become a more versatile parent. And I'm also absolutely convinced that Caroline's 9-week bed rest helped her let go enough to allow me to do just that.
So if you or your spouse just got relegated to bed rest, instead of focusing on how restricting it will be, I hope you see the other side and appreciate just how liberating it could be. Just how many doors it might open. Assuming, that is, you're willing to walk through them. Which you should totally do.
I promise - you'll be glad you did.
- By John Cave Osborne
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