While pregnant, I loved reading through other gals’ tips for packing a go bag and for the hospital stay. I took them all into account as we made our plans, and now that I’m on the other side, I wanted to share some of my own tips to complete the circle! My experience actually led to some very different advice from what I read, so I’ll be curious to see how much of it resonates with y’all. And just as a reminder, I ended up having a c-section, so that’s the perspective I’m writing from! (Although I think much of it is relevant for any type of birth!) Here we go!
1. Pack selectively. I would guess we didn’t use 75% of what we packed for our stay, and we didn’t even pack that much! Our time in the hospital was constrained to just a few things — namely, getting to know June, taking care of her, and healing — and those activities have simple needs. Things that we DID use: a big towel for showers (the hospital’s were small and scratchy); our camera and other devices, including chargers; toiletries; two pillows (the ones on the bed were fine for me, but John used both on the couch!); clothes and a few snacks for John; and going-home outfits for June and myself. I had purchased things like a pair of cozy but cheap socks, a sleep t-shirt/gown, and button-up pajamas in advance, but didn’t end up using any of them (see below). One thing we wish we had brought? John’s Crocs! He had sneakers, but they just don’t compare to the cushioning of the Crocs. With all the time he spent on his feet walking, changing, and tending to June, he needed every bit of comfort he could get!
2. Wear the gown. As I mentioned above, I didn’t end up wearing any of the clothing I brought except for the outfit I wore home. Instead, I found it much more convenient and comfortable to wear the hospital gown at all times! That way, I wasn’t struggling with clothing as June and I learned to nurse, and everyone else who needed access had it easily (with a c-section, my incision was checked regularly and there was lots of looking at my abdomen). I also wore comfy socks provided by the hospital.
3. Get Dad in the game. A silver lining to having a c-section was that John was an equal partner in everything June from day one. I fed her and cuddled her, but that was about it – he was responsible for all diapering, swaddling, walking, and more. He also took charge of tracking her feedings and diapers, which was so helpful for me and another way for us to work as a team. I can’t recommend enough establishing equal footing in care as early as possible!
On another note, at my lowest point, when I was feeling the most pain and was pretty tired, this was actually a bit hard for me – I felt like John was doing everything and I was totally useless, and it had me in tears. If you find yourself in the same spot, know that you’re doing everything you should be doing, and everything you can, even if it doesn’t seem like much… and that there will be plenty of opportunities to do more as you heal!
4. Talk to the lactation consultant. Speaking of accepting help… talk to the lactation consultant! Talk to more than one! (The consultant we saw on the second day was much more helpful than the first one!) We did a lot of preparing for breastfeeding in advance (books and classes), but nothing can compare to having someone watching, guiding, and making suggestions when you actually have a baby in your arms! The tips, advice, and encouragement we got from our consultant were SO helpful and really set us up for success.
5. Walk, walk, walk. This tip is for my c-section friends! From what I can tell, I recovered remarkably quickly and completely from surgery, and the main thing I can contribute that to is our intense walking habit! My first (very, very slow) lap around the hallway was 12 hours after my surgery on the arm of a nurse. The hospital encouraged us to walk as much as possible, so even though it was painful at first, we tried to walk after almost every feeding day and night (roughly every three hours). John joked that our first trip was literally the slowest he’s ever walked (I took two steps for every one-foot tile), but by the end of our stay, I was walking pretty much normally. Walking also helped with gas pain, as you’ll see below…
6. Watch out for gas pain. Again, this is specifically for my c-section friends. I didn’t do a lot of research into c-sections during pregnancy since I wasn’t expecting to have one, so a lot of what happened was new to me. But something I had never heard of in relation to c-sections, either from books or the experience of friends, was gas pain! Apparently this is a side-effect limited not only to c-sections but any type of surgery where you’re opened up. Gas can get trapped inside you, causing sharp shooting pains – mine were mainly in my shoulders and thighs. It was worst about 36 hours after June’s delivery, and the pain was sharper than anything from my incision — every breath hurt. The nurses encouraged us to walk as much as possible to help alleviate it, and they gave me simethicone, which also helped. The pain subsided about 72 hours out.
6. Enjoy your stay. Since I had a c-section, we were in the hospital for three nights, and a few friends recommended that we try to get discharged early. My response? Heck no. We absolutely loved our hospital visit and planned to stay as long as they would let us! Of course, I think a lot of this had to do with our excellent hospital (we actually kept mistakenly referring to it as a hotel) and fabulous nurses, but also with our mindset. I know a lot of people get annoyed by the interruptions (and there are a lot, at all times of the day and night), but most, like getting your vitals checked, are over within minutes. I chose to think of them as people helping to keep me and June healthy, which made them welcome, and not annoying, visitors. (Also, don’t hesitate to ask them to come back in a little bit – I did that several times while we were trying to nurse and they were always happy to do so!)
And make it fun! Though there were difficult and painful moments, overall, our time in the hospital felt so cozy, sweet, and set apart from reality. We kept the lights dim, didn’t have any visitors, and focused only on getting to know June. We ate all the jello, apple juice, and Italian ice we wanted. We ordered ice cream with lunch. We FaceTimed with family and watched a Duke game. We napped. We marveled at June’s tiny fingers and adorable face. Your hospital stay is not the time to get on any sort of diet, compose dozens of beautifully-lit photos for social media, or answer email!
7. Consider your visitation policy. As I mentioned above, we chose not to have any visitors while in the hospital. This kind of happened naturally, since all of our family lives a plane ride away, but it ended up being so good for us. Those first few days are so tender in so many ways. Especially with a c-section recovery and dealing with pain, I wouldn’t have felt up to seeing anyone before our third day in the hospital, anyway. We did get to chat with family through FaceTime and extensive texting, but it was so nice not to have to worry about wearing normal clothes, looking presentable, or coordinating visitors and nursing. (And yes, I know our families wouldn’t have cared about any of those things, but they would have been on my mind!) We knew there would be lots of time in the future to share our little with loved ones, and so loved keeping those few days just to ourselves.
I have lots to share about our first two weeks home from the hospital, so that will be coming next! I hope this post is helpful, and would love to hear if my tips resonate with y’all or if you had a different experience!