This Chronic Bodymind: Separate, Isolate, Bolster, and Squeeze with Pregnancy Pillows and Body Pillows

I thought about calling this series “This Old Bodymind” to evoke “This Old House”, but I don’t want to reinforce the notion that you have to be old to be disabled. So, I’m trying on “This Chronic Bodymind”.

This first installment of “This Chronic Bodymind” is about an essential part of my coping system: pillows. I don’t know how I endured before assembling my trio of body pillow, pregnancy pillow, and head pillow.

Contents:

  • Separate, Isolate, Bolster, Squeeze
  • My Current Coping Trio
  • Body Pillows
  • Head Pillows
  • Pregnancy Pillows
  • Conclusion

Separate, Isolate, Bolster, Squeeze

I’m a side-sleeper with chronic pain and chronic muscle spasms who prefers fetal most of the time but also likes yearner. Some pillow rules-of-thumb I’ve developed in my quest for relief and sleep are:

  • Separate
  • Isolate
  • Bolster
  • Squeeze

It starts with the tuck. I tuck one arm of a U-shaped pregnancy pillow in along my back. I tuck the other arm in along my front. No matter which side of my body I’m currently sleeping on, I have a pillow arm tucked front and back. I’m pressure spooned both ways.

With the pregnancy pillow in a bolstering squeeze, I wrap my top arm and leg around a body pillow in a fetal hug that separates my knees and ankles and bolsters my top arm and leg. The top of the body pillow tucks below my chin, bolstering my head and separating it from my easily cramped and locked jaw. My down arm, when lying in yearner, is between the arm of the pregnancy pillow and the body pillow: separated, isolated, bolstered, and squeezed.

The pregnancy pillow has a built-in head pillow. On the downward slope of that pillow I put a thin (for a side-sleeper) standard-sized head pillow. My down arm, when lying in fetal, rests at a 45-ish degree angle on top of the pregnancy pillow and tucks beneath the head pillow. My down arm has to be propped at just the right angle to avoid pain. The total thickness of pregnancy pillow plus head pillow must be within the range my neck can tolerate, so the head pillow has to be somewhat thin while also providing enough loft to separate my jaw from my shoulder and down arm. By using adjustable loft and moldable head pillows and situating them a bit below the built-in head of the pregnancy pillow, I am able to dial in separated, isolated, bolstered, and squeezed relief.

When so ensconced, I come the closest I get to a reprieve from gravity. It’s wonderful. The gravitudinous mass of the earth never stops sucking at my bones, but the delta of relief afforded by my pillows as I sink into bed can nearly par the cool settling of morphine.

My Current Coping Trio

What pillows am I separating, isolating, bolstering, and squeezing with right now? What did I sleep with last night?

Body Pillows

The Snuggle-Pedic body pillow has the perfect fill for me. It’s a satisfying squeeze that isn’t too heavy or hard to bend and mold. Wirecutter recommends the Snuggle-Pedic for those who need more support and The Company Store body pillow for those who need less. The Company Store body pillow is very nice and easy to wrangle, but it was under-filled for my huggy bear needs.

Tuck’s review of best body pillows says this about the Snuggle-Pedic:

Side sleepers who use a body pillow often like to hug or snuggle with it. The Snuggle-Pedic Bamboo Body Pillow lends itself well to those sleepers, due to its highly moldable design.

Source: The Best Body Pillows – 2021 Reviews and Buyer’s Guide

If you’re a fetal hugger, the Snuggle-Pedic is satisfying. Our house has five Snuggle-Pedics so that I always have an accommodating squeeze nearby. I take one with me whenever we go on car trips, both to endure the car ride and to endure the hotel. I don’t travel by air for many reasons, but one of the biggest is that I can’t take a big, plush snuggly with me. Without my body pillow, life is pain.

Head Pillows

I’ve tried a lot of head pillows over the years, including several Wirecutter and Tuck recommendations. Now that I’m combining a head pillow with a pregnancy pillow, I go for head pillows that can be adjusted to just the right loft to complement the pregnancy pillow. Having two pillows stacked is not generally necessary or a good idea, but having a channel between the two pillows for my down arm is crucial to avoiding elbow, shoulder, and jaw pain. Adjustable pillows allow me to set the height of the pillow stack to a neck compatible position whole affording sufficient jaw support. Being out of range provokes pain in either.

Most pillows we’ve tried come in soft, medium, or firm densities, but the PlushComfort Ultimate includes all three options in one pillow: It offers three sealed, removable layers of fill to help you get the best fit for your body shape. Most of our testers (even some back- and side-sleepers, who generally prefer shredded foam) found a comfortable height and enjoyed the cushioned support of the PlushComfort Ultimate.

You can also unzip the Easy Breather’s cover and scoop out as much shredded-foam filling as necessary to get your ideal loft; it can be a messy process, but it does let you achieve a precise fit.

Source: The Best Bed Pillows for 2021 | Reviews by Wirecutter

For their adjustability and compatibility with pregnancy pillows, the “Sleep Number PlushComfort Pillow Ultimate” and “Nest Easy Breather” have become my regular rotation.

With the PlushComfort, I remove one of the three inserts to get the loft I need. With the Easy Breather, I scoop out the fill until I get it just right.

I have another Easy Breather left fully filled for use as a bolster when I set up in bed. It’s also quite huggy.

Pregnancy Pillows

The pillow has a versatile U-shape that can be used in a variety of positions. Side sleepers may prefer to tuck themselves in the space between its arms to feel supported on all sides, while those with joint pain can use the arms as added support underneath the knees or lower back.

Source: The Best Body Pillows – 2021 Reviews and Buyer’s Guide

I’ve tried several U-shaped pregnancy pillows and found my style of sleep to be compatible with all of them. Here are three I like at different price points.

Tuck says of the Moonlight Comfort-U:

The Comfort-U from Moonlight Slumber is a polyester microfiber body pillow that measures 60″ in length, making it suitable for sleepers of most heights. It can be curved between the legs and around to the back, which is ideal for pregnant woman and other sleepers who prefer extra pillow support in these areas. The Comfort-U makes a comfy headrest for reading or watching TV in bed, too.

Source: The Best Body Pillows – 2021 Reviews and Buyer’s Guide

When I’m side-sleeping, the pregnancy pillow bolsters and squeezes me on each side and supports my down arm. When I’m resting on my back, the arms of the pregnancy pillow support my arms along my sides and also tuck under my knees. When everything is arranged just right, I almost feel a repeal of gravity. I float.

Conclusion

My body + pregnancy + head pillow trio totals US$240. Some of the best money I’ve ever spent.

My Phone Sling Everyday Carry

My phone sling is my constant companion. The sling itself is a purpose-suited Ethnotek Chaalo Pocket and the contents are my carefully curated coping treasures covering six categories of quotidian need.

  • Cognitive Net and Executive Function
  • Sensory Management
  • PPE
  • Tools
  • Fidgets
  • Wallet

Cognitive Net and Executive Function

The primary purpose of the phone sling is quick draw access to my cognitive net: my phone and my index cards. These are first-order retrievable with one hand at all times.

My phone is an iPhone 12 Pro Max in an Apple MagSafe silicone case. Ulysses, Things, Fantastical, and DEVONthink live on my phone and get me through my days. I couldn’t cope and be productive without them.

MagSafe silicone case in Pink Citrus for my iPhone 12 Pro Max, which is not pictured because it's taking the picture
MagSafe silicone case in Pink Citrus for my iPhone 12 Pro Max, which is not pictured because it’s taking the picture

Digital is my productivity home, but I like to supplement digital with a touch of analog in the form of index cards. Each day, I transcribe 10 items or fewer from Things onto an index card. I use a second index card as a scratchpad for stack capture: takeout orders, notes to self, measurements, etc. I arrange the two cards back-to-back via a hacked-together double-sided index cardholder made from two Rite in the Rain index card wallets.

Fabricobbled double-sided index card holder with double-sided marker in pen loop
Fabricobbled double-sided index card holder with double-sided marker in pen loop

My index cards are silky soft 3”x5” Exacompta with a 5×5 mm grid that is perfect for accommodating 10 double-spaced checklist items. Over lots of iteration, I arrived at a very similar style to the Analog system. When it was announced, I tweaked my style to match Analog’s. I’ve been using the Analog method for months now and am ready for when my official Analog set arrives.

After trying many, many, many different styles of pens and inks for EDC, I now default to double-sided markers as my go-to writing instruments. My handwriting feels most comfortable and legible with felt tips. Double-sided markers let me make checklists on my index cards with the extra fine tip and make labels with the fine tip. They’re also cheap and not painful to lose. My current marker of choice is the Zebra Mackee Care Refillable Double-Sided Marker – Extra Fine / Fine in Black. I also like:

These are label markers with bold, consistent lines that work well on index cards and gaffer tape. I like ‘em.

Index cards allow me to avoid the distractions of the phone. I can get on task with the to-do list or capture stack with the scratchpad without getting waylaid by the infinite offerings of the phone.

The phone is one-hand retrievable from a dedicated phone pocket in the interior of the sling. The index cardholder is one-hand retrievable from a slip pocket on the back of the sling. The pockets on this sling happen to fit my digital + analog cognitive net quite nicely.

Sensory Management

AirPods Pro and a Vibes earplugs case with purple foam earplugs
AirPods Pro and a Vibes earplugs case with purple foam earplugs

I don’t go anywhere without noise-cancelling headphones and ear plugs. They are essential sensory management for this hyper-sensory autistic.

Autistic Odes to Noise-cancelling Headphones – Ryan Boren

The sling has a slip pocket on the interior organizer that fits an AirPods Pro case along with a Vibes earplugs case. AirPods Pro provide portable noise-cancellation and Siri access to my cognitive net. The Vibes case holds both Vibes ear plugs and also a pair of Mack’s Slim Fit Soft Foam Earplugs.

I feel exposed and vulnerable without my sensory management. The sling keeps them always at hand.

PPE

Black Tom Bihn mask on a rock
Black Tom Bihn mask on a rock

I welcome normalized masking and always have at least one with me. My favorites so far are from Tom Bihn and Ugmonk.

The front zippered pocket of the sling contains the mask and only the mask. The interior fabric is wipeable, and I hit it with an alcohol prep pad periodically.

Tools

I’ve tried all kinds of combinations of knives and multitools and flashlights and keychain tools to cover my daily needs. I’ve found a minimum effective dose with maximum daily application to be a trio of: bottle opener + slide razor + keychain flashlight.

My current implementation of this trio:

Flashlight, bottle opener, and touch-knife attached to a magnetic quick release
Flashlight, bottle opener, and touch-knife attached to a magnetic quick release

I use all of these daily. They are cheap, lightweight, and effective. I attach them to the sling’s key lanyard via an Urban Carvers magnetic quick release.

I also keep a double-sided hank for cleaning eyeglasses and camera lenses in the main compartment and an Olfa Graphics Knife for more refined cutting tasks in a pen slot. A Tile tracker tucks into the bottom of an organizer slot. I put trackers on everything.

An Olfa graphics knife and a Tile tracker rest on a Mighty Hanks hank
An Olfa graphics knife and a Tile tracker rest on a Mighty Hanks hank

Fidgets

A Gambit token and a CIVIVI spinner pen rest on a hank
A Gambit token and a CIVIVI spinner pen rest on a hank

The aforementioned magnetic quick release and Olfa graphics knife are good tactile and auditory stims. I also carry two things specifically as fidgets:

The pen is primarily a fidget but is also useful when I need a pen for paper incompatible with my double-sided marker. It lives in a pen slot on the interior organizer.

There are several ways to fidget with the Gambit token. I enjoy it. It rests somewhat inconveniently at the bottom of the main compartment, but diving for it feels like discovering a doubloon. Even so, I’d love a shallow coin pocket near the top of the main compartment.

Wallet

I rarely go out, and when I do it’s pre-paid curbside pickups. On those rare occasions I have to pay in person, I usually use Apple Pay via my watch. I don’t have a daily need for a wallet, so I keep it light and multi-functional with a Moft MagSafe wallet. It’s a phone stand that also compactly holds my ID and a couple of cards.

A Moft wallet and a hank pose on a rock
A Moft wallet and a hank pose on a rock

I like combining wallet and phone for cognitive simplicity. I never lose my phone, and the wallet goes along for the ride. But, magnetic charging compatibility means having a detachable phone wallet to keep up with. When the Moft is not attached to the phone, it is in the main pocket of the sling along with the fidget token and hank. It’s always either on the phone or in the sling. So must it be for my sanity.

That’s it. I also have belly bag, tablet sling, laptop messenger, and spinner suitcase load-outs that I might do blog posts for now that I’m retired. I love bags and curating collections within their confines.

What bag gets you through your day?

Connecting to the fabric of the species with Sylvan Esso

Music. By listening to it you feel heard.

If you have this experience or this emotional state that you’re in and then you listen to a piece of music that describes that back to you, you feel connected, you feel connected to the fabric of our species.

— Nick Sanborn of Sylvan Esso

The drum beat is as close to the heart beat as you can get, and when you are all listening to a song together your bodies slow down in the same way. It’s a great community builder.

— Amelia Meath of Sylvan Esso

Source:

I love these two and the music they make together. They’ve been a source of buoyancy during these times we’re in.

Here’s Sylvan Esso connecting us to the fabric of the species with a sublime version of Gillian Welch’s “Everything Is Free”. Two great musical partnerships come together in this song.