Mrs. Gore’s Tips for Fashionably Surviving a Hospital Stay, Phase 2

Well, congratulations, young mother-to-be ~ You made it through the packing phase and you’ve arrived at the hospital. Your day is finally here, and I would love to do my best to help you through it in as peaceful and dignified a manner as possible…

I obviously have no idea what your circumstances are…your water might have just broken, you might have to be induced, you might be scheduled for a c-section, or you could just be having good ol’ normal contractions; each scenario calls for different tips, I suppose, but I will attempt to give good general advice that will help one and all of my pregnant countrywomen*. Let us begin.

The delivery phase…

*Two weeks before your due date, you are what they call “full-term,” meaning you could safely go into labor any minute, or the next day or the next day or the next day or the next day or the next day or the next day or the next day or the next day or the next day or the next day or the next day or the next day or the next day OR on your due date…or any day after that for the next two weeks. After that I suppose they have mercy on you and induce your labor. Now listen closely: IT IS VERY IMPORTANT that you shower and shave every day once you reach “full-term”. It is also very important that you put on make-up every morning and that your hair is presentable; these are the most imperative steps to fashionably surviving at the hospital. If your hair is oily when you go to the hospital, it will be at least 12 hours oilier before you get to wash it. If your legs are prickly, you will poke a lot of innocent people before you get to shave. If your make-up is nonexistent, you will look like the worst version of yourself when you hold your baby for this first time…this is unacceptable.

*I’m just going to blurt this out quickly, in license plate fashion: do ur best 2 have a BM b4 u go 2 the hospital. You know what I’m sayin’?

*In the car on the way to the hospital, freshen up your make-up a bit. It is always my goal to still have on eye-shadow by the time I have finished labor. So far, I’m three for three.

*When you get out of the car, take a deep breath, put your shoulders back, hold your head high and smile. This is it, little Mama. You are about to walk into a very new situation that brings out the ugly and whiny and unfashionable side of many a woman. But not you…you’re going to make friends with your nurses and doctors, you’re going to be brave and strong and kind and you’re going to show the grace of God to everyone you meet. And you’re going to make your husband and your Mama so proud. There’s only room for one baby in this situation, and that’s the one in your stomach.

*Don’t waddle into the hospital. Be a woman! Walk like a woman, one who is completely unaffected by the giant blob that is her belly. Don’t let the baby rule you. You rule the baby. You rule!

*Regardless of what lies ahead for you (inducement, c-section, spontaneous labor), you’re about to have to rid yourself of your clothes. It is the next step after checking in and signing a few papers. You’ll be taken to a room and you’ll be handed a hospital gown. Now…I’ve had three babies so far and a seeming gazillion doctor’s appointments in the process and I still have to ask which way the blasted thing goes on. Since it is fresh on my mind, I’ll tell you – the ties go in the back. The only thing you’ll have on besides that lovely gown should be a ponytail holder on your wrist for when your prettily-groomed locks start to drive you insane. And the nurses should offer you a bag for your clothes – if they don’t, ask for one. Then your husband won’t drop your undergarments on the floor when he picks up your clothes later on.

*Just a gentle word of advice: don’t be afraid. Something crazy happens when you enter the inner recesses of a hospital; some say you lose your dignity there, but really, it all-of-a-sudden becomes no big deal for all those folks to see…you. Just keep in mind that this is what they do, all day, every day. It’s not so embarrassing, after all. Mortifying, yes. Embarrassing? Nah.

*That i.v. cartridge they just taped to your arm? It has a needle underneath it and it will be in your arm for awhile. I just thought you should know (nobody told me, okay? Not all of us are geniuses).

*You are probably also hooked up to the “contraction machine” and have a “baby’s heartbeat machine” (not all of us are wordsmiths, either) wrapped around your belly. When you have to go to the ladies room, simply unplug the cords to the contraction machine, drape them around your neck like a fancy scarf, unfasten your “blood-pressure-taker cuff” and rise from your hospital bed. You and your “i.v. tower on wheels” can go to the bathroom as many times as you need to, unless you get an epidural (in which case your business will be handled via catheter, which is frankly awesome).

*And now the fun really begins. You’ll hear lots of talk about “dilation” and “centimeters” and “efacement”…none of the above should be posted on facebook or any other social media outlet. The only updates the general public really want to hear are “”We’re about to have the baby!” or “We’re having the baby!” or “We had the baby!” Which leads me to my next tip…

*What happens at the hospital stays at the hospital (unless you have a blog?). You’re going to walk through the most vulnerable and…organic…experience of your life over the next couple of days, and will find yourself freely discussing things with your nurses and your husband and your doctor that you previously would never have talked about out loud. Thus when the first visitor comes to see your baby, you might be tempted to tell them the entire nitty-gritty of what happened last night, a play-by-play of your most exciting experience. One word: Filter.

*You are in charge of what happens at the hospital. If you are unsure about something, ask questions first. If you don’t feel right about something, discuss it with your doctor. No matter what anyone has told you, you’re not as dumb as you look.

*For some reason – most likely due to the exposure of your backside – once you don a hospital gown, the hospital doesn’t let you walk anymore. You will now be toted around in a wheelchair while your husband walks behind you like a goober carrying the mountain of stuff I told you to pack. Sit in the chair, adjust your gown and then extend your legs so the nurse can put down the foot rests. Put your feet on the rests and inconspicuously tuck your elbows in. Your nurse may be gifted at drawing blood…but she may also be a really bad driver.

*Of course your hospital may be different than mine, but you will probably be settled into a delivery room by now. Unless this is also your recovery room, hold off on bringing all your luggage in just yet. All you need here is your husband or birthing coach, your pony-tail holder and some forms of entertainment and/or comfort. Movies, books, music, cards, knitting, Play-doh…and don’t forget your camera! You wouldn’t want to miss having a picture of yourself with the swollen hands of a linebacker holding your screaming fresh out o’ the oven ooey gooey baby. Seriously.

*Don’t loudly crunch on your ice chips like a hillbilly, even if you are miserable.

*Now this is my own special trick, a happy accident, if you will. If the pain from your contractions becomes suddenly great and your epidural is not yet available, ask for a little drug called Stadol. Your nurse will inject some into your i.v. and in three seconds you will be in Neverland. It makes for some delivery room hilarity, and if you’re lucky like I was, will grant you some much-needed sleep before active labor begins. You can thank me when your Stadol wears off and you are no longer singing loudly like a drunken sea wench.

*If you have to berate your husband when the hard and heavy contractions come, do so quietly, hissing through your smiling teeth. Compare it to kicking him under the table at a restaurant. To anyone watching, you will look collected and brave, all while you are saying to the man who got you in this position “I hate you, you toad.”

*In all seriousness, grit your teeth, grin and bear it. You’ll get compliments like “your pain threshold is extremely high!” and “I can’t believe how tough you are.” Which will make you feel like a rockstar or a pioneer woman. (However, your husband might look at you strangely, like, “…but…why did you cry when you got that papercut last week?” Hiss at him again if he does).

*Epidurals are our friends. That said, I did just watch Anna Duggar of 19 Kids and Counting do a natural, at-home birth and it was beautiful and brought me to tears. So…whatever floats your boat.

*If you do get an epidural, here is the run-down: You need to ask for your epidural about 30 minutes before you really need it – it takes awhile for the anesthesiologist to gather all the paperwork and make it to your room. Once they arrive, your husband will have to leave the room. You will sit on your bed with your legs hanging over the side. You will arch your back and try to hold very, very still. There will be lots of fiddling around back there, then the big needle, and then you’re done. In my opinion, the worst part about an epidural is that they use something akin to duct tape to hold it in place. After you’ve had your baby and are prepping for recovery, they rip that tape off in one fell swoop. Ouch. But really…we’re avoiding the curse of pain-in-childbirth here…what’s a little duct tape?

*Now its just a waiting game. Nurses and doctors will periodically check your *rhymes-with-mervix* and tell you things like “you’re doing great” and “you’re progressing” and “we’re almost there!”…

*And then, they’ll check you again and you’ll expect to hear another encouraging word, but this time, they’ll nod and raise their eyebrows and spring into action. It is time to push! Your quiet room will come alive out of nowhere – your doctor will be there with several nurses, some prepping the little incubator where your baby will be cleaned up, some surrounding you and propping your legs up in those lovely lady-like contraptions (not very fashionable, but you can’t very well have a baby with your ankles crossed). Your nurses will keep track of your contractions and will tell you when to take a deep breath and prepare to push. No worries – you will be gently coached through this entire process and you’re going to do great!

*A note on pushing. If you have an epidural, it is really difficult to figure out where to push because you can’t feel anything. But don’t worry…you’ll get it figured out. Just maybe not on the first or second try.

*When you are told to push, really focus on that one thing. Don’t be self-conscious or think about what you look like or if you’re doing it wrong…just zone in and work on pushing that sweet little baby out. You’ll bear down for about ten seconds at a time and then will be given a break in between contractions.

*Now for one second, throw fashion to the wind, because when that blessed final push takes place and your baby lands in your doctor’s hands, you’re going to want to make a fool out of yourself…and that is perfectly alright. It is a moment of extreme physical and emotional relief, and if I remember correctly, I make some sort of involuntary yelp everytime.

*Wait patiently while the staff cleans up your baby, measures and weighs him/her…and I’ll warn you now, you’re probably going to think they’re being too rough with the little darling, flopping him/her about, scrubbing them down, all while your baby is squalling at the top of its lungs. But in no time at all, they’ll have that little bundle all wrapped up and will place it in your waiting arms. Enjoy this moment. Whether you remembered your camera or not, you’ll never forget it.

* And this may seem like small stuff compared to what we’ve just discussed, but I just have to interrupt. Don’t take your favorite blanket to the hospital. You might lose it in the delivery room and be very, very sad forever.

Golly, that was exerting. And exciting! I am sure that I left a lot of useful information out, but I hope this helps give you first-timers a sneak peek at what is ahead.

Any other words of delivery advice from our experienced deliverers? Did I forget anything? Leave your comments below. And stay tuned, pregnant ladies…phase 3 will be posted in the days and weeks to come!

*It should be noted that Mrs. Gore is not a doctor or a nurse or an expert or intelligent. Her advice should always be heeded at your own risk.

Gid and Rebekah meet Baby Betsie for the first time.

Mrs. Gore’s Tips for Fashionably Surviving a Hospital Stay, Phase 1

First-time Mommies-to-be, you’re going to want to print this one out…

I wouldn’t yet compare myself to Michelle Duggar when it comes to birthin’ babies, but after popping out an infant once every two years since 2007, this ain’t my first rodeo. (I’ve been wanting to say that for a long time…it wasn’t as gratifying as I thought it would be).

And so, young mothers, I thought it important to share with you the knowledge I have gleaned about how to survive – and thrive! – during your hospital (I’m about to make up yet another “vacation” word!) lay-cation, separated into 3 easy-to-follow phases. Today we will review Phase 1, “the packing phase,” which will include the literal packing of your suitcase, as well as tips for how to arrive at the hospital in an organized and peaceful state of mind. Let us begin.

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The packing phase…

* Don’t be a dummy about this. To fashionably survive at the hospital takes some major preparation, and since you don’t really know when or where you will go into labor, you need to start planning and packing well before your due date.

* Purchase a sweet new nightgown (at a real people store, not a maternity one) – with buttons in the front if you’re planning to nurse – and hang it in your closet. Every time a lady has a baby she deserves to come home to a clean, fresh, pretty nightgown. Do not take it to the hospital. I did this on my first go-round and was surprised that my hospital room was more like a busy dorm room than a private hotel room. Believe me, you won’t feel comfortable hanging out with your doctor and your relatives in your lacy little gown and robe. Pants are a much better choice, especially when you are awkwardly and painfully crawling in and out of your hospital bed.

* Find a nice compact suitcase on wheels and start filling it with the following, about a month before your due date:

  • 3 or 4 new magazines that you haven’t peeked at, at least 2 of them of the fashion sort. It is so nice after having a baby to open up an issue and, saying good-bye to those final dreary months of pregnancy and your too-short maternity shirts, dare to dream of a new body, a new haircut, a fresh make-up palette, a real pair of pants! It is one of my traditions to read In Style the day after I have a baby…
  • a good book that you’ve never read before – it’s wise to have a good distraction on hand should you have a scheduled delivery, as a “schedule” at a hospital is tentative indeed (and for good reason – emergencies always trump plain ol’ inducements, and rightly so). If you are not a reader, bring a portable DVD player and some favorite movies or playing cards or your I-pod…you get the drift.
  • you’re going to have to read between the lines on this one because there are some things I just can’t talk about and some words I just cannot bring myself to say. So…buy a package of your favorite brand of lady products, the one kind…you know the long, flat kind, not the other…pointy…kind. They need to be for the heaviest you-know-what imaginable. Buy some for the house, too. And the car. (Just kidding, it’s not that bad. It’s worse. Just kidding. No, I’m not. Just…you’ll be okay.)
  • Travel-size bottles and packages of all your favorite toiletries. Buy as much of your bedtime and morning routine products as possible ahead of time and have them packed in your suitcase, along with a list of what you will need to throw in at the last minute, i.e. glasses, curling iron, etc. The benefits of doing this ensure that you will not pack in haste and wind up at the hospital without your favorite moisturizer, plus you can just dispose of all those travel-size products before you leave the hospital and not worry about unpacking a million things when you get home. Everything will be where you left it in your bathroom and you can head straight to your shower without rifling through your suitcase first.
  • A bottle of HPA Lanolin and a few nursing pads. I didn’t know the need for things like this existed, but a sweet lady brought me a care package to the hospital that included both. Trust me, you’ll need them.
  • A pair of slippers, a pair of flip flops (for the shower), and two or three pairs of socks. Clean or not, it feels gross to walk barefoot on hospital tile floors.
  • Packages of your favorite gum and candy, as well as your husband’s.
  • Cash for the vending machine…if you’re lucky like I was, your local hospital vending machine might just surprise you with the first package of Hostess Dunkin’ Sticks that you’ve seen for YEARS, at just $1 a package. So you’re going to need at least $6.
  • A coming home outfit for baby. This will be a keepsake outfit, so choose wisely…
  • A blanket for baby. This should also be a keepsake. I’m of the mind that each baby should have at least one special blanket that was not handed down from brother or sister.
  • What to Expect When You’re Expecting. It really does answer all of your questions, and you’re going to have lots of them, even after reading this most-helpful blog post.

*As your time gets closer, days before your due date, start packing or setting aside the following:

  • 2 sets of your favorite comfortable lounging clothes, something you will be comfortable sleeping in and entertaining visitors in, with a very comfortable waistband. Key word: comfortable. But not shabby, or else this post would be titled “Mrs. Gore’s Tips for Surviving a Hospital Stay.”
  • Several sets of undergarments.
  • A decent going home outfit. Keep comfort in mind here, too – your body is going to be a little out of whack – but also know that you might find yourself in several photographs on this day. You’ll regret it if you dress like a cotton headed ninny muggins.
  • Camera, camera charger, video camera, video camera charger, uploading cord and laptop. Because people want to see pictures of the baby the minute it lands in the doctor’s hands, and you really shouldn’t keep your public waiting. Or you might have one of those new-fangled telephones that can take pictures and send them to the “internets”. So take that thing and whatever you need to make it work.
  • A carseat. You can’t leave the hospital without it.

*And on your way out the door, don’t forget:

  • Your own pillows, if you are particular about things like that. I take 3 feather pillows – two for me, one for Mr. Gore. He always protests until he sees the plastic couch that will be his home for 2 nights, and then, he says “Thank you, Mrs. Gore.” Well…in my head he does.
  • The last of your toiletries…make-up, corrective vision stuff, toothbrush, razor…whatever you need to make the hospital feel like home and to ensure that you look semi-dazzlingly beautiful in all your pictures.

*Oh, and one last thing – if you have other children at home, pack the following for them in your hospital suitcase (aside from the separate bags you’ve packed for them to take to Grandmother’s house):

  • A box of animal cookies for each child, and other packages of treats like raisins or fruit snacks. It will give them something to sit down with for a bit when they come to visit you and see their new sibling, and they’ll see that Mama is still caring for them, even as a hospital patient. When children come to a hospital room, the room shrinks fast. They will most certainly need a distraction, and nothing works better than food.
  • A couple of movies, just in case they are stuck in the waiting room with their grandparents while you are having the baby. You can lend them the portable DVD player that you packed for yourself.

*You will also need to make sure your husband packs his bag. It doesn’t really matter as much what he brings…like your wedding day, no one really will notice he is even there. But he will need day clothes and something comfortable and modest to sleep in. He also will need books, magazines and the like. It’s your job to tell him this or else he’ll be bored in your room and talk to you, interrupting your perusal of In Style.

*That’s a lot of stuff, isn’t it? And it’s very important that you pack it well, in as small a suitcase as possible. The nurses don’t want to be tripping over your bags and you will not enjoy carrying armfuls of stuff or having your husband go back and forth to the car, which could possibly be 1/2 mile away from your hospital room.

And other random pre-hospital preparations…

* Birthing classes are profitable with pregnancy #1, plus they are so hilarious and awkward. You should go.

*Take advantage of the supernatural nesting phase by cleaning and organizing every last corner of your house. You will not have the time or the energy when you get back home, and frankly, you won’t really care anymore about the junk in your filing cabinet or the dust behind your entertainment armoire. This is a once-a-pregnancy opportunity – don’t miss it!

*Pray for your child. When you feel worrisome about what is ahead or have a sudden urge to panic, place your thoughts instead on your sweet baby and lift him/her up to God. Your health and the health of your baby is very important and prayer-worthy, but bundled up in that tiny little baby’s body is an eternal soul that, more than anything, needs the grace and mercy of God – this should always be the focus of your prayers. Nothing is more urgent or important.

*As tempting as it is to focus on yourself and your aches and your pains and your discomfort and your looming monumental delivery, take some time to focus on your husband. The world tends to revolve around a pregnant woman, and it is easy to become entitled. But your husband still has needs…needs that are doubly hard to meet when you bring home an infant! Putting yourself aside and heaping love on him will honor God and will do wonders for the atmosphere of your home…aaaand it might just ensure that your happy man will bring you flowers at the hospital, along with dessert for every meal. I’m just sayin’…

*Pre-register at your hospital, if possible. Then you won’t have to fill out pages of paperwork when you come in to have the baby.

*Eat. Eat all you want. A whole watermelon…6 slices of bacon…a sandwich and chips at midnight…these last months of pregnancy are your last hoorah! Enjoy it. But don’t tell your doctor I said so.

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Holy smokes! I’m exhausted now….so how about we all go take a nap? Which is the last (and mega-important) step to fashionably surviving at the hospital. Get your sleep, Mama. You don’t want to arrive at the hospital on the wrong side of the bed!

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Any other words of packing advice from our experienced hospital laycationers? Did I forget anything? Leave your comments below. And stay tuned, pregnant ladies…phases 2 and 3 will be posted in the days and weeks to come!

I delivered a baby; Mr. Gore delivered flowers, Dr. Pepper and key lime pie.