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If You Must: Preparing for Baby's Hospital Stay
No one likes the thought of a baby in the hospital, but for many of our babies, it is necessary. For Elvie, it is amazing that she can have this surgery and move closer to living a more normal life. I am so thankful that this is available for her, as it truly is life-changing. However, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t stink to watch my baby go through surgery and recovery. Right now we are in the middle of getting her healed enough to go home, and I’m seeing more and more how the ways we prepared are helping us navigate her hospital stay. It’s been a little rough today, and I’m so glad that we have the help that we do, that we took time to prepare. There are seven main things that we did that I feel are helping us right now as we are by Elvie’s side, helping her recover.
Rest as much as you can before the check-in date. Two weekends before Elvie’s surgery, I realized that I could either run around like a chicken with its head cut off and get a lot done, or I could figure out which things really mattered, do those, and get some rest. Hospital life is exhausting, and if you are staying with your baby, you won’t be home to notice all the things you didn’t get done anyway. It is better to rest than to enter the hospital with all your house spotless and all your errands completely done.
Think about ways others can help you, and make a list. People will ask how to help, and you will need help, so make a list of things that need to be done so that when people ask, you know what to tell them. Some ideas of ways that you may need help include errands, child care help for other children, meals, and household tasks. One of the things that I really wanted help with was getting my breakfast to the hospital room so I wouldn’t have to leave Elvie while she was awake. For most things, I just responded with a need when someone asked, but for that task, I asked on Facebook. I had two willing volunteers in short order.
Decide what you’d like to have in the hospital for your baby. Particularly if your baby will be in a children’s hospital, they will have a lot of things that you can use so that you don’t have to bring anything. If that sounds great, then great. I prefer to make the hospital room as familiar as possible, so I packed Elvie’s crib toys, her own shirts, the blankets we normally use, and a bunch of burp cloths. I also threw in a few bottles so that once she could eat, the bottle would be what she was used to.
Decide what you’d like to have in the hospital for yourself and whoever else will stay with the baby. This runs the gamut from toothbrush and toothpaste, to glossy magazines, to a computer and accompanying cords and cables if you need to communicate or do work through that medium. I also like to take a cup of my own for water, some lip balm and lotion, and an extra pair of socks. Some people like to change into pajamas to sleep; I simply put on clothes that I’m comfortable sleeping in.
Have a place to jot down questions and suggestions for doctors and nurses. When the doctors in particular come and and ask if I have any questions, I’m often tongue-tied. Writing down things I’m wondering about before the surgery helps me remember to ask later. Similarly, there are preferences I have for our hospital stay that I’m not sure are appropriate or possible, so having a list of those so I can ask the nurse once we’re settled is helpful.
Make a plan for how your days will be scheduled. Know who will be at the hospital when. Is it a priority for one of you to be with your baby at all times? If you have other children, how will you spend time with them and handle pick up and drop off if they attend school? Because I don’t work outside our house, it was natural for me to just stay with Elvie all of the time, and we have had my mom come out to take care of Zinashi during the day. To make sure she sees everyone, we all gather at the hospital for dinner, then I bring her home for her bath, then head back to the hospital so Jarod can come home, go to bed, and get up for work in the morning.
Enjoy your baby. This is the most important one of all. Depending on why you are entering the hospital with your baby, it could be a long haul, and your baby may not be him or herself for awhile. Take time to just hang out and enjoy being together. You’ll need that to carry you through until your baby is well again. If you do nothing else to prepare, do this one thing. You won’t be sorry.