OH my GOODNESS! You finally had your baby, you poor little baby-making machine. I do hope your labor was not too…laborious. And please, let me be the first to congratulate you. Congratulations.
Now, I wish so badly I could tell you the hardest part is over, but…
Maybe I just won’t say anything. Everything is going to be fine, trust me. Just…hang in there.
And since I have taken it upon myself to prepare you for your entire hospital stay, here is some more spectacular (and absolutely free) advice to help you through the next couple of days. Fashionably, of course.
~ The Recovery Phase ~
*After you get to hold your sweet baby for a bit (and perhaps try to feed it – more on that later!), they will whisk the little one off to the hospital nursery. You will reunite later in your recovery room. And while baby is being all spiffied up and tested, they’ll attempt to spiffy you up, too. Key word: attempt. Most of the nurses and your doctor will leave and you’ll be left with one nurse who will tend very faithfully to you. Be nice to her!
*I warned you about the epidural duct-tape removal, didn’t I? Well, the time has arrived. Enjoy!
*Here comes the most vulnerable part of this entire experience, right up there with the leg holsters, in my opinion…your nurse will accompany you to the bathroom. If you had an epidural, your legs are going to be prettttty numb. You will still feel like a spry young woman on the inside, but your body will force you to walk like a very elderly lady, clinging to the arm of a nurse who might very well be much older than you. Nothin’ you can do about it. Nothin’ fashionable about it. But, like I said before, this is what goes on in the inner recesses of the hospital. That lady that’s holding you up? She’s done this a million times. So just chat with her while you tinkle. Carpe Diem!
*Very soon, you get to eat! Choose this meal wisely, because it is going to taste so good. You’re starving and so proud of yourself and so this truly is a feast worth remembering. I’ve had all my babies very early in the morning; therefore, I always treat myself to a Sausage McGriddle and a cup of my favorite coffee from McDonald’s. The height of fashion, I assure you. (p.s. Tell your husband that Mrs. Gore insists that he go and fetch you whatever vittles your heart desires right this minute! Go, man! Shoo! Spit-spot!).
*Now this is going to get a bit dicey, because I’m not God or Santa and so I don’t know when you had your baby. At midnight? At 8 o’clock in the morning? I dunno. But my general rule is, get cleaned up as soon as possible. A refreshing shower, a fresh coat of paint, tidy up your hair and put on some comfy clothes…you’ll feel like a hundred bucks. (Sorry, lass…you won’t feel like a million bucks for quite some time). Visitors might be popping in. Don’t let them catch you looking like a Mrs. Bungle.
*It is important that you listen to me very closely right now: Don’t. freak. out. You’re going to be all sorts of antsy about breastfeeding and getting some privacy and getting home as quickly as possible. Stop. Don’t. Think, you hormonal momnesiac crazy person! You and your baby have round-the-clock care here. You get to eat in bed. Someone comes in once a day to clean your room. Take away the beeping monitors and the constant checking of your vitals and you might very well be in a fancy hotel with all sorts of amenities.
*Seriously, though, take advantage of the advantages during your very short stay. Cause you’re going to get home and go “OH my gosh…I wanna go back to the hospital!!!”
*Every woman who has a baby gets this huge bag of free products in recovery. They are all so foreign and weird…and disgusting…but they house some crazy cool recovery items: 1) Humongous, giant you-know-whats that I told you about in Phase 1. Double up on those at first, by the way. Yay! 2) Weird, stretchy mesh one-size-fits-all unmentionables – I think they are created especially for those giant you-know whats. Double yay! 3) Disposable paper-ish mats to protect your bedding – take a couple of these home, I always say. 4) A plastic bottle with a squirt-top lid. This little buddy is pretty important, so keep up with it – your nurse will tell you what to do with it. More key words: warm water.
*I mentioned the constant checking of your vitals. I should warn you…they are going to be constantly checking your vitals. Or at least it feels like it. I’m not sure, but I think this must be done every 3 hours for 24 hours. Or wait…that’s the breastfeeding schedule…no, the breastfeeding schedule is every 3 hours for the next 365 days…ugh, I don’t know. But its a lot, believe me, and is especially frustrating when you are trying to sleep.
*Which brings me to my next point: that first night of sleep is pretty miserable. Your brain is going berzerko, the bed and the room is unfamiliar, your body feels like shoo-shoo, there are random lights on and even randomer machines beeping and the most randomest people coming into your room to take your temperature and blood pressure…it is highly likely that you are going to feel like you’re going insane. And so I learned something on my second go-round: when they offer you a sleeping pill before bed, take it! Its just one or two nights…you won’t get addicted. (Where’s my Lunesta?!?)
*On a similar note, I have a confession to make. For just those two itty-bitty nights at the hospital, I send my baby to the hospital nursery, after a late night feeding. Then I take the offered sleeping pill, I turn off all the lights and I go to sleep. Three or four hours later, a nurse wakes me up to feed the baby and then I send it right back to the nursery to sleep the rest of the night. This is a great opportunity to catch up on some much-needed rest before you go home. Believe me, the first night you’re home, you and your baby will have plenty of bonding time. Plenty. Puh-lenty. And every night after that for the next 18 years, I’ve been told…
*Continuing on, once the baby is brought in for its first feeding of the morning, preferably around 7:00, go ahead and wake up for the day. If you go back to sleep after that feeding, you’re going to wake up with hospital bed-head to a steady stream of visitors, whether in the form of nurses or family or clergy or lactation consultants or hospital photographers or staff or your doctor or a group of visiting interns…so just trust me. Get up, take a nice, hot shower, wash your hair, dry and style it, put on your make-up and real-people clothes, tidy up your room, and be sitting up in bed like the fair flower of motherhood that you are when the first guest arrives on the scene. They’ll be shocked. And you will have the pleasure of demurely laughing off their praises. Like, “Who me? Oh I always look like this the day after I’ve had a baby…”
*Again, not all of us are geniuses, Ms. Smartypants. So if you are like me and you’re not a science major and you’ve never been in the hospital before, “bm” stands for “bowel movement” and the powers-that-be really want you to have one at the hospital. Good luck with that, and be sure to let your nurse know when or if it happens.
*Excuse me while I take a deep breath of preparation. Okay…breastfeeding. Beautiful…natural…good-for-the-baby…blah, blah, blah. It hurts. But soon, it won’t. So when you are gritting your teeth in pain and tears are popping out of your eyes and your brain is screaming “What is happening to me?! I want my Mommmmyyyy!!!”, know deep in your heart (because Mrs. Gore told you) that in a few days, this will be much, much easier. It is just part of the process. My condolences.
*Another word on breastfeeding…there are these ladies who walk around the women’s hospital who are “professional lactation consultants”. They do a great service to new mothers who are trying to tackle the mysteries of a very new and overwhelming process, but to spare you a great surprise, I’ll tell you now: they are very “hands-on.” And you might feel that they are a bit pushy, but truly, they’re just trying to help you. Do as I say and not as I do: relax and accept their help and insight.
*Another another word on breastfeeding, not to be confused with my advice on taking advantage of hospital amenities: Don’t. freak. out. Nursing a baby is one of the most natural things on earth, but it initially feels like the most unnatural thing. Not only do you have to figure the whole system out, you two have got to get to know one another. Add to that the many surprising side-effects of nursing (this would be a good time to read What to Expect’s chapter on breastfeeding: they spell it all out) and it is kind of difficult not to freak out. Just remember this: you live in America. Your baby is not going to starve to death. Calm…DOWN. (Not to be confused with “let-down”).
*Now that I think of it, “don’t freak out” needs to be applied across the board. So take a nice, deep breath and listen to me: Its okay if your baby is not a breastfeeding prodigy. Its okay if your baby doesn’t burp after every feeding. Its okay that you don’t know what you are doing. Its okay that it hurts to walk. Its okay that your last visitor touched your baby’s hands and germified it. Its okay that your baby’s poop looks like tar. And that weird belly button clamp? Its okay. Everything is going to be okay. Not now, maybe, but much, much sooner than you think. I promise.
*Oh! This is the day you get to read the new issue of In Style magazine that I told you to pack. See all those pretty clothes? You’ll get to wear them soon. If you can walk, I give you permission to do a little happy dance. If you can’t walk, call your nurse immediately.
*This is an order: enjoy your husband during your hospital stay. No bickering allowed. No ingratitude allowed. You two will be entering the trenches of parenthood the minute you go home. Pray together. Laugh together. Eat together. Tell him how much you love him – you might not get the chance to tell him again until the next time you get pregnant.
*If you stay at the hospital for a second day, repeat my advice for the first day. Wake up, shower, and get pretty before visiting hours. This is most likely the day you will be taking your baby home. There will be lots of pictures. I repeat, there will be lots of pictures.
*Again, I don’t know your particular situation or how long you’ll be at the hospital, but when it does come time to gather up your things, throw away as much stuff as you can. You’ll have lots of unneeded papers and pamphlets and half-eaten bags of candy – toss them now. You won’t have the time or the inclination to do so when you get home.
*On the other hand, start gathering up as much free stuff as possible. Hospital receiving blankets are unrivaled. They are huge and perfect and are yours for the taking. Oh, and don’t forget your big bag of gross recovery stuff.
*The checking-out process can take a really long time. Prepare by tidying up your room and piling all your bags neatly up in the corner. Send your husband to fetch the carseat (he can take a load of stuff on his way). Change the baby into its going-home outfit. Be prepared to sign lots of papers and listen to lots of instruction. You’ll be given a few prescriptions that will need to be filled on the way home. And I think they’ll give you a shot or two. I’m telling you, the fun here at the hospital never ends!
*When it is time to leave, you’ll be given permission to fasten baby into its carseat. One of my first nurses taught me the following: to keep your little darling from looking like the tiny, frail, little waif that it is, roll up two of those receiving blankets you just helped yourself to and place them on either side of your baby after he or she is buckled in, as snugly against its side and under its arms and shoulders as possible. They will lodge your baby more firmly in place and will make the ride home much more comfortable for both of you. (I suppose there is some fancy thingamajig at Babies R Us that will do this for you, made of lambskin or something luxurious and is FDA or DHS or CIA approved, but…this is free! And you won’t have to find a place for it in a month when you no longer need it).
*Here comes your wheelchair one last time! After taking your seat, the carseat will be placed on your lap. Which means that your husband will have absolutely no help carrying all the things you both brought. You should warn him ahead of time so he can make as many trips as needed before you check out.
*I’m not bragging, but on my last wheelchair ride, my nurse said, and I quote: “Your hair looks amazing! We don’t see a lot of fixed hair around here.” Ahem. Case closed. This is why I have the authority to write this article.
*You have exited those sliding doors for what I pray is the last time until your next hospital laycation. Stand up, turn around and wave good-bye to one of the most life-changing and monumental events you will ever experience. There are plenty more on the way – this is just the beginning, Mama!
*When it does come time to take a picture of you loading into the car with baby, or bringing baby down the sidewalk to your house, don’t forget to hold the carseat (or just the baby) in the region of your tummy. Everyone will think you look great with your slender neck and wrists and legs sticking out from behind the carseat. What they won’t know is that underneath that carseat is a stomach the size of a…carseat.
*This is not a tip, but a sentiment: I am so happy for you. You made it through the hospital stay! The world will look completely different to you on the way home, and your life will never be the same, in the very best way. God bless you and your new bundle of joy.
Lord have mercy! I am almost certain that I have left many tips out, but we’re on a deadline here: my sweetest little pregnant friend will be induced on Friday! So if anyone has any more advice to give her, please do so below. And, as always, thanks for stopping by!
“Mrs. Gore’s tips for Bringing Home Baby”…coming up soon!