I prayed nonstop and finally, it happened. I was going to get a brother. However, my mother’s pregnancy took a turn for the worst during what should have been a regular, routine checkup. At this point, my mother was 20 weeks pregnant. After the doctor made all his routine checks, my mother requested that a “placenta previa” exam be completed because it had caused my aunt some difficulties in her pregnancy with my cousin. The doctor’s face dropped halfway through the exam and he informed my mother that she was about to go into labor right then and there.

“With each minute that passed, we were closer and closer to losing the baby because of the extreme prematurity of the birth,” my mother explained.

They quickly hospitalized her and hung her upside down on the slope of a hospital bed. In the meantime, my father left all his assignments at work, picked me up from preschool and sped off to the hospital. Once there, I overlooked the fact that my mother’s face was only a few inches off the floor. Instead, I scampered to the top of my mother’s hospital bed, or her “mountain” as I called it, and began drawing a picture.

My mother, Pamela Rotto, on the telephone in the hospital. (Photo by Knute Rotto)

After about an hour, I hopped down from the mountain to show my mother. On the page was my mother, father, new baby sibling and myself carrying three gifts for the baby. My mother started to explain that it was too early for the baby to be born, but I quickly replied that my picture wasn’t about that day. I told her that this picture was about the next time she would be in this same hospital. Considering that the baby had a miniscule chance of survival at this point, just saying that the baby would be born safely was quite a bold statement to make, let alone saying that the baby would not be premature. My mother later remembered this picture as one of the ways that God spoke to her and gave her peace during this time.

A few hours after she saw my picture, the doctors told my mother that if they did not operate, the baby would not survive because she was so far along in her pregnancy. However, if they performed a surgical procedure called a cerclage, which would close my mother’s cervix, then the baby would have a 0.04% chance of survival. Surgery was the only chance to save the baby, so my parents prayerfully decided to proceed with the operation.

My mother waiting for test results in the hospital. (Photo by Knute Rotto)

By God’s providence, the procedure was completed without a hiccup. Only ten days later, my mother wanted to go home. Even though the doctors thought it would be too risky for her to leave the hospital, she felt that it was the best option for taking care of myself and the baby.

“There’s something to be said for being in your own home and being able to take care of your child,” my mother explained.

Reluctantly,  the doctors allowed her to return home, but placed numerous stipulations on her regarding  bed rest. For example, she was only able to stand up a few times each day to go to the bathroom and could shower once every three days. She had to be in bed at all other times to minimize the amount of movement the baby would feel and reduce the pressure on her cervix. Across the nation, this is a fairly common practice for women having difficulties during pregnancy. However, given my mother’s situation, it was made unique given the fact that she was on bed rest for over four months. With that said, when the doctor would ask her how she was doing, my mother would simply reply, “I’m praying and laying right now and that’s all I can do.”

In the medical field today, doctors are divided about the effectiveness of bed rest. Dr. Robin de Regt, MD, a medical director of Evergreen Hospital Maternal-Fetal Medicine Program in Kirkland, Wash., believes bed rest helps expectant mothers. She explains that because the mother’s movements are restricted, she will contract less often, ultimately reducing the risk of miscarriage. In addition, she says that it can reduce a woman’s anxiety about her pregnancy and, in some cases, stop or slow cervical dilation.

Other doctors, like Dr. Laura Riley, MD, a medical director of labor and delivery at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Mass., do not agree as full heartedly due to the fact that the mother loses a significant amount of her muscle tone. Also, it increases the mother’s chance of getting a blood clot in her leg or lung.

My mother with her newborn son, Elijah (Photo by Knute Rotto)

Furthermore, those opposed to bed rest state that it can put a strain on familial relations, especially if there is already an existing child who needs to be cared for. In the example of my family, I was five-years-old and an only child at the time. I remember a conversation with my mother about how she was going to be home while on bed rest. As a young boy, this news was cause for celebration, especially since my father worked outside the house full time. When I came home from preschool every afternoon, I would bring the lunch that my father had packed the night before up to my parent’s bedroom. We would eat it on the bed, being careful not to spill. We would then spend the rest of the day reading books, playing with toy cars and boats and watching a daily episode of the kid’s television show, “Arthur.” For me, the experience of my mother on bed rest gave me time and opportunities to enjoy life with her that were not possible when she was working a full-time job. The bed rest, though long and sometimes painful for my mother, strengthened our mother-son relationship and gave us experiences that will always unite us.

Pubmed.gov, an online site that comprises more than 25 million citations for biomedical literature, recently did an experiment about bed rest for women who have high-risk pregnancies and found that most women became frustrated by the process. Some of the women were able to find outlets for that stress better than others. The most important methods of dealing with the frustrations that may arise are social support and coping. The former was a largely important aspect of my mother’s effective bed rest as many people in the community were praying and volunteering to help my family. Ladies at the church brought us meals throughout the week, my mother’s friends came to visit, and my father did everything in his power to make the process as painless as possible, despite the fact that he was working a full-time job all day.

My new baby brother and I as I hold him for the first time (Photo by Knute Rotto)

My mother also took it one day at a time and set goals for herself. With credentials that include a doctorate in psychology, she understood the importance of a strong and active mind, even while on bed rest. She continued to do a large majority of her work from the bed over the telephone and her email during the times of the day when I was not home. A combination of these methods allowed my mother to make it through the grueling four-month process of her bed rest.

Because hindsight is 20/20, my family can now look back at those times fondly because of March 15, 2000, when my mother returned to the hospital that my drawing had predicted to give birth to my little brother, Elijah. My family was able to see the results of bed rest firsthand and the impact on our family is unmeasurable. Not only did my mother’s bed rest miraculously allow my little brother to be born, but it also brought our family closer during a time when some siblingless children start to become jealous that they will have to share the limelight with another person. This was never the case for me and to this day, I am forever grateful for my mother’s bed rest and my best friend that it produced.

Our first picture as a new family (Photo by Knute Rotto)

“It makes me feel good to know that my mom cared so much about me that she spent all that time immobilized at home just to give birth to me,” Elijah, who is now 15-years-old, explained. “I am so blessed that God placed me in a family that is so loving and supportive. The grace of God has been shown through my family on many occasions over the years, and bed rest is one of the best examples of this love.”