Cute new Pjs? Check. Toiletries. Check. Cell phone charger? Check. After checking off each item on my thorough Hospital Bag checklist, I thought I was prepared for my hospital stay after delivery. It turned out, material-wise, I was prepared. Yet, there were several things I quickly learned that shocked the heck out of me. By nothing short of a miracle, I can think back to those foggy first days in the hospital and recall what I wish I had known.
Here are 5 Things I Wish I Had Known about my Post-Delivery Hospital Stay:
1. You’ll look and feel like hell.
Okay, I probably shouldn’t have been surprised by this one, but I was. Birth is exhausting. I wasn’t prepared. Not only was I mentally exhausted from questioning how on Earth I let my husband do this to me, but I was physically exhausted from pushing a watermelon out of a pin hole. Labor is intense and your body will feel it no matter how you deliver and no matter how kumbaya you are about those labor pains. After birth, I felt like a contestant on the Biggest Loser the first day Jillian Michaels unleashes her fury. I had sore muscles, fatigue, a sore nether-region, dark eye circles, bloating, and cramping. During my hospital stay, I felt like there was so much grossness happening, I never even wore my pretty new hospital pajamas. Oh well. In the end, I felt proud of looking and feeling like hell. I wore it like a badge of honor, in the privacy of my own room, of course.
2. There will be constant interruptions.
Did I say constant? I meant incessant interruptions. For me, this was the absolute worst part of my hospital stay. I know it sounds trivial, but let me elaborate. I had imagined my hospital time as a tranquil time. I could bond with my baby and rest up before bringing her home. I was wrong. There’s no privacy. There’s no lock on the door. Everyone barges in. There I was with my Grand Tetons out trying to breastfeed and low and behold everyone and their mother needed to come and bother me. It started early and went round the clock. It goes like this: Just when you have fallen asleep for the night-at 5 AM-you’ll get a visit from a nurse to check your vitals. Then the breakfast cart will come, followed by housekeeping, followed by the lactation lady, followed by your doctor, then the pediatrician, then the lunch cart, then the paperwork lady, then vitals again…Forget sleeping more than 10 minutes at a time, and don’t think for a second these people are quiet and try not to wake the baby. They walk right in, flip on the lights, and it’s go time…Do you understand what I’m saying? By the end of my hospital stay, I was like a horse at the starting gate chomping at the bit to get the heck out of there.
3. There’s a newborn photographer.
I don’t know if all hospitals do this, but here’s how it happened for me. Day 2, mid-afternoon, I’m sleep deprived, hair matted down, moss growing on my teeth, delirious mumblings coming out of my mouth, and who walks right in (see #2) a cheery, young, well-rested photographer asking me if she could take some pictures. For the newest Garbage Pail Kid poster, I ask? No, silly me, pictures of me and my insomniac newborn to keep and treasure for ever and ever. I sprinted to the bathroom as fast as I could praying to see Ken Paves peer out from behind the shower curtain. No such luck. I brushed my teeth, slapped some water on my face, combed my hair, and prayed for a miracle. Long story short, of course, I got the pictures taken. They came out great (long live Airbrush), are hanging in my bedroom, and I cry tears of joy every time I look at them. Bottom line, your hospital may have a newborn photographer come around for photos. If there’s something special you want the newborn photographer to capture with or on your baby, put it in your hospital bag, and pack lots and lots of concealer for yourself.
4. You get a goody bag-if you ask nicely.
Could you ever imagine? Aside from getting to take home your perfect angel, you also get goodies. Bring an extra bag. I kid you not. If you like free samples, the maternity ward is the place to be. When I left the hospital, I was able to take (with consent) at least a dozen Johnson and Johnson bottles of mini baby wash, a baby comb, a few newborn diapers, a baby bulb syringe, gel breast pads, a nipple shield, Tylenol, two packages of phonebook grade feminine pads (you’ll need them with a V-birth), nether-region ice packs, 2 cans of soothing spray and a package of medicated pads for you-know-where and more. Seriously, the maternity nurses are wonderful and although they sometimes barge in (see #2), they really do want nothing more than to see you succeed as a mother. So if you need something at home for your baby or your own personal recovery, just ask.
5. Help is available 24 hours a day.
I’m not going to lie. In those first few days (weeks, months, year??) of motherhood, I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. No book, no advice, no Internet source could have prepared me for what it meant to be the mother of a newborn. Luckily, the hospital was a place where help was readily available, and when I say readily I mean (see#2). Again, seriously, the maternity staff and nurses are wonderful. They live the words of Diana Ross and for them there “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” They are there for you all day and all night. I remember worrying that my daughter had a rash on her back at 3am day 1, and in walked my maternity nurse, Harmony, to the rescue. Yes, even her name was soothing. She sat down bedside, assured hubby and I that our daughter was just fine, and then patiently answered about 7 zillion other questions I asked. There were also lactation consultants available and trust me I needed consulting. Since I had boycotted BFing class, I really took advantage of those milk-lovin’ ladies. Sometimes I’d just sit back and let them breastfeed my daughter. Just kidding. Am I? Bottom line, help is there, any time, if you need it. And you will.
Ultimately, my post-baby hospital stay was quite an experience! I guess at least it’s better I know now what I didn’t know then, so I have plenty of time to prepare for next time…and buy a padlock (see #2).
What unexpected things happened during your post-delivery stay?