As you know, I have recently come home from my sixth two-nighter at the mother/baby ward of our local hospital. While this is certainly no Hilton, I have always enjoyed my stay...I mean coming home with a new baby beats those miniature bottles of shampoo any day! And since I have frequented the mother/baby ward nearly once a year for the past several years, I've come up with a list of tips to help the newcomers. So if you've recently lost sight of your toes due to an ever growing midsection and your reservations for the labor and delivery room have already been made (or if you're simply curious) please join me as I impart my ...er, um...wisdom (AKA random thoughts on the matter).
My first tip is to pack light...especially when it comes to packing for the baby. I love how all the baby magazines tell you to pack onesies and blankets and diapers and wipes. This is ridiculous. The hospital provides everything...plus you will likely be receiving even more of these things during your stay by the onslaught of sightseers, I mean friends and relatives, who will be visiting you and showering you with yet more baby stuff. You really only need to bring your baby an outfit to wear to take their hospital photo and one to wear home. (As a side note, I will admit that this time was the first time I didn't bring a "just in case the ultrasound was wrong" outfit.)
As far as packing for yourself goes, there are a few "must-haves". First, I always pack a robe. I don't know where you draw the line in terms of the modesty issue, but the paper thin, bottom exposing gowns that the nurses give you to wear just don't cut it for me. And considering that you will not only be expected to host visitors, but will also have at least 245 pictures of you and your new bundle of joy taken in the very flattering hospital gown, I can assure you will want to be wearing a robe.
Next, pack your own underwear. Trust me, you'll thank me later. These should be comfortable, granny underwear...not the pretty ones, as they will definitely be getting messy. But anything will be a vast improvement over the mesh ones (yes, I did say mesh) that the nurses will give you and actually expect you to apply a maxi pad to. While we are on the subject, I also bring my own maxi pads as I am a firm believer in ultra-thin with wings.
If you have a body pillow, I would recommend bringing it. I know this is kind of a big thing to bring for just a two night stay, but you'll be glad you did. When you are first transferred from the labor and delivery bed (which can only be described as a piece of thick plywood with a sheet over it) to the bed in the mother/baby ward, you will actually think that it is the most comfortable bed you've ever laid in. This is only an illusion. By about hour 6 or 7 of lying flat on your back, right about the time all the visitors leave and you can actually get some rest, you will be very uncomfortable indeed.
Lastly, pack some sweet smelling bodywash and one of those scrunchy sponges. I know this one is the weirdest of all, but it is the most important. When my first was born, my sister actually gave this to me at the hospital as a gift. Believe me, when you are finally able to take a shower after giving birth, you will be so thankful to pamper yourself even just a little. Again, while we're on the subject of showers, I've also learned to take a shower as soon as the nurses allow it. There is nothing that will make you feel better after labor than a shower. I remember laying in bed, feeling crampy and sore. I was so exhausted, but I desperately wanted to take a shower. It was 5:00 in the morning, but I kept going back and forth trying to decide if I should sleep or bathe. I finally decided to get up and after showering, I felt and slept so much better!
Also, if it is possible, have your husband stay with you the entire time. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I've visited many friends in the hospital whose husbands were at home with the older kids or off running errands and such. Not only do I not feel guilty when I ask my husband (instead of my nurse) for my 800th can of Sprite, but it has always been a sweet time of enjoying and getting to know our new baby together. Because we have so many little ones, my husband has not stayed the night with me for the last four visits, but he always stays with me till after 9pm and I make him promise to be back by 9am. I love getting to experience the newness of our little one together with him.
Of course, rest as much as possible, but most of all just praise God for the new blessing! Enjoy your precious baby...count her toes and memorize the curve of her face...fall in love, because this is just the beginning!
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