Editor: My life changed May 8, 1998. That was the day I went for a routine sonogram and was told I had to spend the next five months on bed rest. My response was, “But I can’t … I have to work. … I have two little boys. … I have a handbell concert next week. …”
My doctor said, “Then you have a choice—you can keep your routine, but you will lose this child.” Obviously, it wasn’t a choice.
I was able to negotiate from “bed rest” to “couch rest,” allowing me to go downstairs once a day, stay on the couch, and then upstairs at night. I was allowed out of the house one day a month for my doctor appointment.
I was blessed to have my parents, in-laws and sister-in-law take turns staying with us to help my husband take care of me and our boys.
I was also lucky to be working for MCI at the time and allowed to telecommute (before that was a “thing”). With business call-forwarding my co-workers around the country didn’t even know I wasn’t in the office.
To have had today’s video conference calling back then would have been amazing, because being able to work from home during the week kept me sane. It was the weekends that drove me nuts.
So I found things to do on the couch. There were plenty of books to read, and I learned every song and word from “The Lion King” watching with my 4-year-old. I couldn’t lift my 18-month old, so the little guy adapted by getting his own diaper and wipes for me to change him on the couch.
I took the time to interview each grandparent to capture their family and medical histories, which have come in very handy. I also created budget worksheets that I still use today.
It was nice to get emails (before they were pervasive), but what meant the most to me during those many weeks were phone calls from family, friends and neighbors. They helped ease the sense of isolation.
Yes, today there are many more ways to connect with “social media,” but nothing can replace the sound of a voice. Being in telecom, I used three-way calling often to create a family conversation. With today’s smartphones it’s even easier to have a family call.
I wish I could say “couch rest” got easier over time, but it didn’t. With my congenital heart defect, it became hard to breathe by seven to nine months along. Some days I couldn’t even get to the couch.
The coronavirus quarantine has brought back all these memories. I’m heeding the CDC’s advice and staying home, but so thankful I’m not confined to the couch this time.
I’m glad consulting allows me to telecommute again, but I do worry about those who can’t. I’m concerned how small businesses without customers and clients will be able to make payroll. But it’s wonderful hearing about offers from neighbors to grocery shop for folks who can’t get out on their own.
My two boys are now grown; the grandparents and two brothers are now gone. I look back almost 22 years and don’t focus on the difficult months, but rather treasure the time I had with family.
At the end of the 19 weeks on the couch, I learned my doctor was wrong (or fibbed). Instead of having a third boy as we were told we welcomed a beautiful baby girl. In two months, that now lovely young lady will get her degree in biomedical engineering from UVA.
I listened to my doctors in 1998, and will do so again today. Because I know confinement is temporary. I know staying in contact with phone calls is vital. And I know 19 weeks on “couch rest” was worth every minute, because the cost of time to save a life—is priceless.
Maura Walsh-Copeland, Hillsboro