Najma Ali had been in the hospital for two weeks hoping to remain pregnant — and hospitalized — for 10 more weeks, when a special delivery arrived.
As KARE 11 reporter Lindsey Seavert entered the room, carrying a large basket filled with items to make a mother’s long-term hospital stay more comfortable, Ali perked up in her hospital bed.
“Visitors get me through the day,” said Ali, whose water broke prematurely at 22 weeks, landing her on hospital bed rest. “It has been hard staying here alone without my three kids.”
Ali is one of the first recipients of one of Seavert’s “Bedrest Baskets,” a project she started after she spent more than a month at The Birthplace at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital in the antepartum unit, a place where high-risk pregnant women live, often until they have their babies.
“Antepartum is this hidden unit, the unit you don’t know exists until you end up there,” Seavert said. “It’s filled with mothers lying in wait, not knowing if they’ll hold a baby or not.”
Early in her pregnancy with her second child, Seavert developed velamentous cord insertion and vasa previa, a rare condition that has a high fetal death rate if the mother is not hospitalized. During her hospital stay, Seavert was not allowed to leave the floor of the antepartum unit.
“I sat in that hospital room for all those days, staring at the walls,” she said. “But I also had this village of people lifting me up.”
While lying in her room, Seavert knew there were women down the hall who spent most of their days alone, feeling isolated. She would learn of the high rates of depression that afflicts patients in antepartum.
“We make great efforts to make the hospital their home away from home, but the reality is that many of these mothers live alone in fear and isolation,” said Rachael Stover-Haney, a social worker at the U’s Masonic Children’s Hospital. “The whole world goes on outside, but your world stops.”
The power of showing up
In 2011, Seavert had an uncomplicated pregnancy and delivery with her first child, Stellan. When Seavert had trouble getting pregnant again, and had suffered a few miscarriages, she and her husband decided to pursue fertility treatments. The fertility treatments were sidelined by the sudden death of Seavert’s father the week before Christmas in 2015.
Just two days after her dad’s funeral, Seavert found out she was pregnant and had conceived naturally.
“It was this divine timing,” she said. “In a way, one life went up and another came down.”
But a few months later, Seavert learned that her pregnancy would be anything but normal. Knowing her condition meant long-term bed rest, Seavert tried to prepare for her hospital stay.
“I remember searching Google for ‘what to bring on hospital bed rest’ and there was nothing out there aside from a hidden thread or blog,” she said. “I didn’t bring in a lot of the things that I needed, so I was constantly ordering things on Amazon or asking my husband and mom to bring me things.”
The kindness of others after the untimely death of her father and her long stay in the hospital surprised Seavert, inspiring her to do something to support other mothers.
“I had all these visitors coming in and out, and phone calls and Facebook messages, and people dropping off meals at my house. It was almost too much to process,” she said. “I learned the power of showing up and vowed to do something to show up in people’s lives in a more meaningful way.”
An idea to bring comfort
Seavert delivered a girl, Phoebe, at 34 weeks and she spent a week in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). During the NICU stay, Seavert received care packages from local organizations — snacks, an overnight toiletry kit, toys for her son, Kleenex and blankets — items that Seavert said would have also been helpful during her long hospital stay.
Over the next year, Seavert learned that Phoebe has profound hearing loss in one ear and now wears a hearing aid. She has some slight gross motor delays, but is close to walking at 16 months.
When Phoebe was approaching her first birthday, Seavert came up with the idea for bed-rest baskets.
“I didn’t want to ask people to bring birthday gifts; her life was gift enough,” Seavert said. “But I thought, ‘How can I honor all of the love and care I received that brought her to me?’ ”
Seavert initially planned to put together 10 baskets, but after asking for donations and assembly help on her Facebook page, she quickly learned that others wanted to help. Seavert spearheaded the effort along with two other women she met while in the hospital. A group of 25 people gathered to assemble baskets filled with magazines, essential oils and diffusers, journals, books, cozy socks and slippers, nail polish, spa facial masks, snacks, adult coloring books and more.
“Sometimes in these situations you don’t even know what you need,” said Alina Bailey, nurse manager at the Masonic Children’s Hospital. “You want to stay pregnant but you don’t know what you need.”
Seavert’s idea was so well received that she got enough donations and offers of help to make 50 baskets. She is considering doing more in the spring. Seavert went on to create a Facebook support group called “MN Bedrest Mamas.”
A few weeks ago, Seavert delivered a handful of baskets to the floor where she herself lived at the U’s Masonic Children’s Hospital.
Jenny Tichich had just given birth to a 3.45-pound baby boy after spending 75 days on hospital bed rest.
“Being told halfway through your pregnancy that your baby may not survive and that you need to leave your husband, home and job to move into a hospital room for an unknown amount of time and with an unknown outcome for baby is something you really can’t comprehend unless you’ve been through it,” Tichich said. “These other mothers sort of become the only other people who understand your pain and what you’re going through.”
While in the recovery room, and separated from her son who was in the NICU, Tichich found solace in the form of a basket, hand-delivered by Seavert and the two women she met while on bed rest.
“This is just a little token to say we are uplifting you,” Seavert said. “There’s a community of moms rooting you on.”