My Own Backyard

Photography: Kadeklerk Photography

By Nelle Myrica Donaldson

Bed rest during my second pregnancy was like a cross between a staycation and jail. The intent to relax at home for an extended period made me think of the former, and the emphasis on, let’s say, limited freedoms, reminded me of the latter (though, to be fair, I’ve only fantasized about what a staycation might be like, and most of what I know about doing time I learned from Orange is the New Black). Still, I tried to look on the bright side: to embrace the gift of time to sleep, meditate, contemplate, and to binge-watch another season of the aforementioned series on Netflix. Let me restate: maybe it was more how I imagine house arrest to be (minus the ankle monitor, but also minus the liberty to, say, rearrange my closet several times over).

The Catch-22 was this: time alone; a prescription to do as little as possible –what mother wouldn’t celebrate ten days of that? On the other hand, it amounted to a lot of time alone, and just one thing to do: stay pregnant (the miracle of human reproduction doesn’t obey anyone’s to-do list, so I was ultimately helpless in this task). Bed rest was all about relaxing, in a certain sense of the word, but I didn’t find it comforting nor fulfilling. I felt anxious and isolated.

Bed rest was all about relaxing, in a certain sense of the word, but I didn’t find it comforting nor fulfilling. I felt anxious and isolated.

I will admit here that I spent some of my active worry during bed rest on something I often worry about as a mother with an ever-evolving family: community. When I think about how to help my family thrive, “community” is an idea that motivates and inspires me. It also troubles me, in this mobile, global age. Not only does everyone seem to be untenably busy (over-connected to their devices and over-committed, given the hours in a day), there is transience, even among those who have settled down. Families regularly hoist anchor as part of an educational or career move, to be closer to family, or to seek out a lower cost of living.

The concept of upward mobility is part of this reality. Personal freedoms and opportunities, ideals that underpin the individualism celebrated in Western culture, allow and perhaps drive us to seek out greater prospects for ourselves. This is how an individual gets ahead (of others). According to that cultural narrative, we each have the right to leave home and follow our dreams, to lose touch with friends and family because we are too busy chasing time and money, and to isolate our efforts inward because it’s overwhelming to get involved in other people’s lives.

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