Years ago I said to myself “If I’m ever on bed rest I’ll learn calligraphy.” Random thought on a lot of levels but on March 5th I found myself faced with indefinite bed rest. Just two weeks before I found out I was pregnant but then the joy and excitement quickly faded when I was informed of complications that had no treatment except rest. What was I to do now? The time was broken into three sections.
Before I get to the story of what I did next, a little French healthcare background. There is this magic piece of paper you can get when you have a CDI (full-time work contract) called Arret de Travail issued by your doctor which is the best sick note one can have. It legally allows you to stay home from work and receive full pay for the designated time on the document. You send one copy to the Security Sociale office, one to your employer. Any like magic, your financial situation does not skip a beat. I would like to mention that some people who do not have my type of work contract (CDI) still can received some benefits, but that is a complicated paper-work menagerie that I am lucky to not have to navigate.
Phase 1: Three-Week Arret de Travail. During this time I still thought I could carry on with my regular work and was allowed short walks around the neighborhood not longer than 10-15 minutes, no stairs and no heavy lifting. It was well within my rights to send in the Arret de Travail, put on my out of office message, and close shop. But that is not how I operate. Since I was at home and couldn’t really do anything, why not work? As it made the day go by more quickly. Also, I didn’t want to be seen as the weak pregnant woman who was now going to let this get in the way of her job. I also thought this couldn’t last more than 3 weeks, I am way too healthy to be on bed rest at 3 weeks pregnant. To my shock, the Friday before I was to return to work, my condition not only had not improved, it had worsened.
Phase 2: One-Month Arret de Travail. During Phase 2, the walks were cut and I went from the bed to the couch, depending on if I was reading, listening to a pod cast or watching TV. These were the worst weeks of them all especially after I read how some women spend their entire pregnancy on bed rest. At the start, friends tried to tell me to look at this as an opportunity. To do what? I’d ask. I couldn’t organize the basement or go to a matinee, it was one resting non-active activity to the next. The first book I bought was about fitness and pregnancy, not bed rest and pregnancy. What I’ve realized is inactivity breeds inactivity. I didn’t even have the energy to knit and that requires almost no physical activity. It was depressing that this little thing could already be up heaving my life. I thought I’d have 9 months to get ready, but no, I had to stop my entire life without any notice. To keep some normalcy, I’d wake each morning at 6:30 and prepare breakfast for Maxime and me. It was then next 11 hours that were a challenge. I can now report that cats do sleep most of the day. I would pester my poor husband with pictures of Chaussette throughout the day napping on my lap, napping on the rug, napping by the window, investigating a box or looking out the window. She became my example of how to accept a life of lounging and relaxation. Some days were more productive than others. I read 2 – 600 page books “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” (he was a total bastard) and “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle” (a book for dog people, not cat people). Then there were the days that I would watch hours of TV series (True Detective, Scandal (so bad), Modern Family, Orange is the New Black, Breaking Bad (so good), Downton Abby) or listen to hours of pod casts Roderick on the Line (love it) and Fresh Air. I held hope to the Wednesday before I was to return to work for the green light. But again, I was side-lined with another month. At this point, I had a back-up in place at work and people were used to my absence and Maxime was in the groove of doing it all.
Phase 3: One-Month Arret de Travail. During Phase 3, I started having a Kinésithérapie (physical therapist) come to the apartment for a 30 minute light massage which was a life-saver. I also was allowed to leave the apartment again for short neighbourhood walks. But no public transportation until the last week. The first day I went on a 20 minute walk and the next day my legs were sore. That is an indication of how my muscles became total mush. This last month went more quickly as I knew that the doctors saw it as a safety month since I had been home already for 7 weeks, what’s another 4. So I settled into a nice routine with walks and had a more positive attitude. The light at the end was that when I did go back to work, I would be through my 4th month and out of the first danger phase, though as I come to learn, there is never a time when pregnant that you really are out of danger. The week before I went back to work there was a vide grenier (a very organised side-walk sale) at our Mairie 15eme (our neighbourhood city hall) that was all baby and kids stuff. We took the bus and had such a fun time finally feeling that we could start enjoying being pregnant and that the almost 3 months of home confinement was worth it. The only person who is upset that it’s over is our first little baby, Chaussette.