Your Hospital Stay

I might be a big birth nerd in that what happens inside a hospital, most especially in the maternity unit, fascinates me. I chose the medical route of doctors & a hospital birth for my first baby, and while I would definitely give birth in a hospital again, I will likely seek out midwifery care if there’s a baby 2.0 sometime in the future. But that’s a post for another time! This is all about the hospital stay, and I’m coming at it from my recent stint in labor + my PRN status as a hospital employee who gives maternity center tours on two area medical campuses. Obviously all hospitals are different, and I highly encourage you to seek out a virtual tour from your hospital or birth center if in-person tours aren’t currently an option.

BRING SNACKS. You’ll need to keep your energy up during labor, you’ll need to replenish your energy stores after giving birth, and your birthing partner will need to eat during their stay, too. Yes, hospitals have cafeterias and food delivery options and some have nourishment rooms with basic food supplies for birthing patients, but you will not regret bringing some of your own favorites. We also packed Powerade Zero because many doctors won’t let you consume anything besides clear liquids once you’re admitted. Ask if your hospital has a mini fridge in the room or a communal fridge so you can bring cold stuff, too!

Get vocal! I’m not talking about labor sounds– though some truly… interesting? primal sounds will escape your throat before that kid comes out– I’m saying use your voice to advocate for yourself and your baby about your hospital stay. ASK QUESTIONS! If you don’t get admitted knowing every single pain management option available to you like I did because I’m a nightmare know-it-all, ask. If you know there’s certain things you definitely want– delayed cord clamping, a certain person to cut the umbilical cord, no one in the room to speak because you want your voice to be the first thing baby hears– you gotta speak up. The hospital staff won’t judge you, they should let you know what’s allowed and what’s not (and why! Not just because they don’t feel like it.) They see hundreds of birthing patients a year; it’s their job to make this experience as safe and positive for you as possible.

Don’t be a hero. You’ll have the option of having baby sleep in the nursery at night (or have them hang out in the nursery any time you need a break.) A lot of first time moms think they’re a monster person if they take the nurses up on this offer, but don’t be a hero, Natalie. Maternity center nurses have chosen their profession because they really like babies– caring for babies in the nursery is kind of their thing. You’ll be leaving baby with the most highly qualified people available, so take them up on it, especially at night when you need sleep. They’ll still bring baby in when it’s time to eat, they should ask you in advance if it’s ok to give baby a pacifier in the nursery, they’ll bring your baby back the second you want them with you. You will be laying in bed, not sleeping, on your first night home with baby thinking, “Where are my angel nurses with their magical nursery and how can I get them to move in with me??”

Visitors? Ha. This is one area in which COVID has a silver lining. Many of our patients were upset at the beginning of the pandemic that no outside visitors were allowed, but have since said, “Best thing ever!” Grieving the moment your parents get to come meet their new grandchild in the hospital is completely valid, and a doctor I talked to said the only thing he misses is seeing a very proud big brother or sister holding their new baby sibling for the first time. But! Once that passes, not having visitors is something I would choose for any subsequent births, even after hospital visitor restrictions are lifted. Physically, so many things are still gushing out of your body even after the baby has exited. You might be trying to get the hang of breastfeeding, and the easiest option is to just kind of have your boobs out 24/7. You likely haven’t gotten a lot of sleep so your face looks like it got ran over with a truck. Hormonally, so much is happening– am I on Cloud 9? Am I not bonding with my baby yet like everyone said I would? How is my partner doing? Add in the amount of interruptions– nurses taking your vitals, pediatricians coming in to check on baby, hospital techs coming in to give them their first bath, lactation consultants popping in, food service employees dropping off and picking up trays– it’s a lot. As sad as my mother was that she had to wait until we were home to come meet her grandson, I can’t imagine when she would have ever dropped by the hospital that wouldn’t have added on a ton more stress to an already completely foreign situation.

Practice the car seat in advance. Legally, you can’t leave our hospital without a car seat, and the nurses aren’t allowed to make adjustments to it or baby. Not only does the base need to be properly installed in your vehicle, I highly recommend taking the time to figure out how the car seat operates before you have a very alive newborn to put in it. We did not do this, and watching my husband and I try to figure out how to get the poor kid strapped in had to be like watching a sad clown car on fire. We were stressed, baby got stressed, we couldn’t figure out the damn straps, and the nurse had to just stand nearby like a cheerleader and lightly suggest, “I think if you push that button, you can get more slack on the straps…” Practice with a teddy bear, borrow a neighbor kid, whatever you need to do to figure out what buckle goes where and which buttons make which handles move.

Take everything not nailed down. Giant pads? Peri bottle? Diapers? Wipes? Formula samples? Water bottles? TAKE ‘EM HOME. They’re yours now.

To bring: phone charger with an extra long cord, Chapstick because it’s dry AF in a hospital, whatever will make you feel slightly more human (fave shampoo? mascara? floss?) baby book if you want a set of baby’s footprints put right on the page, hair ties, a going home outfit that will make you feel a little bit less garbage-y before you go home and spend many weeks or months barely getting dressed, something for baby to wear home. There’s only about a thousand lists + YouTube videos on what to pack, but err on the side of keeping it light. Hopefully you and baby will be healthy, and you’ll only be spending 2-3 nights there.

Indispensable Baby Items

There’s only a billion lists already in existence of things to put on your registry, so I figured the Internet could use one more. Much like the pregnancy resources post, I’ll edit this one as I think of more things, and your comments are welcome on what your baby has loved since mine is a diva and doesn’t care for most of the things we were told he would. Below is what, three months post-baby, we’re glad we ended up getting or have used way more than we expected.

  • Boppy Lounger: Every parent I asked said to get the Boppy Lounger instead of the regular Boppy, and they were right. (Boppy Lounger is a place to put them vs. Boppy is a breastfeeding pillow thing that’s supposed to wrap around you.) I actually purchased this item very late into my pregnancy because I had a registry discount to use. I was very, “I’m a chill mom and don’t need things and can totally put my baby on the couch or floor, why would he need a special pillow?” Turns out babies don’t really love being put on the floor! You need a supportive place to put them. Even at three months, as he’s getting kinda long for it, we’re sucking every last day of life out of this Boppy. I almost wish we’d have gotten two so we weren’t carrying it up and down the stairs with us, depending on where the baby was lounger (champagne problems.)
  • Nose Frida: We have a congested kid. Due to reflux + winter + genetics, this baby is not short on snot. I first used the Nose Frida about a week after he came home from the hospital, and we haven’t put it down since. You probably won’t use it 2-3 times a day, but we do & have started buying the replacement filters in bulk. If you have at least a two parent household, one of you will likely become the Frida parent (me) and one of you will be either grossed out by it or a very dainty sucker (husband.) Always use the spray saline first– it does help loosen nose gunk to make it easier to remove– and if you burn through that bottle as fast as we did, your pediatrician should have some free saline tubes to give you. Pro tip if you have to use it as much as we do: wait for baby to sneeze, then pounce on that as your golden Frida opportunity.
  • Some type of swaddle. My kingdom for a simple swaddle solution out of the gate!! You can absolutely swaddle baby in a blanket– ask the nurses to show you before you leave the hospital– but it’s 2021, honey, and the world has better solutions (and you’ll be less likely to be awake in the middle of the night wondering if they’ve suffocated themselves in the blanket if you get a wearable one.) If you have friends who have babies- ask to borrow some swaddles to see what works for your kid. Our kid is the world’s youngest Cirque de Soleil performer and can get out of absolutely anything. We thought Velcro swaddles would be a solution, but he was absolutely irate to be so pinned down (but only at night! sometimes they worked during naps?) But then he came back around and they became a magic sleep solution for a couple weeks during his third month?? There is no one perfect solution for every baby, so be prepared for some trial & error.
  • Musical mobile: I forget why I was on the fence about getting a mobile (as any expecting parent reading this already knows, there IS such a thing as too much research– I’m sure I fell down some dark web rabbit hole about Illuminati mobiles.) We ended up registering for this one from Target because I thought it’d look cute in his dino-themed room. It absolutely doesn’t help our kid go to sleep, but it does buy me 10-15 minutes of alone time when I can lay him in the crib and he’s fascinated by it. I would recommend getting a moving musical one for maximum distraction effect and not one of those twee Pinterest ones you overpay someone to make with branches from their backyard.

None of the above links are affiliate links because I’m too lazy to even figure out how to do that.

Freezer Meals + Gifting Food

Natalie is due next month (!!!) which means she’s in prime freezer meal time. Prepping food to eat in the weeks after birth was top priority since I’m the only cook in our house, and I’m cheap as hell when it comes to spending too much on takeout. I’ll outline how I tackled it below, but know that how you eat food now is how you’re gonna eat food after baby comes. This is the time to be realistic, not aspirational (maybe that sentence should just be sewn onto pillows and sold as the catch-all phrase for life postpartum?) If you’ve never used a Crock Pot, now is not the time to research Pinterest’s top 100 slow cooker recipes and assume you’re going to start using it once you become a parent.

  1. People will give you food. This is very nice of them! Many will ask in advance what you like, and honey, this is not the time to be coy. “Oh, we’ll eat anything!” is not helpful to you, a person who does indeed have food preferences, but especially not helpful to the person offering. Outline a few things you don’t like– no mushrooms or coconut in this house, thank you!– and point them towards a region or a few dishes you know you’ll appreciate having around (“we love any kind of Mexican food” or “breakfast items I can eat with one hand!”)
  2. If you want vegetables around, you’re gonna have to get ’em yourself. There are always exceptions, but people tend to gift comfort foods in times of life upheaval. Be prepared to get a lot of cream-based casseroles, pastas, and beige-colored foods. Refer back to the above advice and get direct with your mother, “Before you come over on Thursday, can you pick up some dip-able veggies? A bag of apples? Anything resembling a nutrient?” You’re so out of it hormonally the first week or two that you likely won’t care or really taste what food is around, but your body will thank you.
  3. If you’re the one gifting new parents a meal, make sure it’s a complete one. Don’t make a pan of meatballs and sauce just assuming they have a box of pasta in the cupboard. I’m not saying it needs to be four courses plus tableware, but logically think through how you can make this meal + leftovers as easy as possible. This includes using reusable or recyclable containers– the absolute last thing a new parent wants to do is put “return Pyrex to friend across town” on their to-do list.
  4. You can gift food well after the baby arrives. We are so in love with every single person who poured their generous hearts into nourishing us that first week or two, but the most memorable food gift came about six weeks after we were home from the hospital. My former boss brought over a pan of STILL WARM apple crisp and a GALLON OF ICE CREAM. Was it indulgent as hell? Absolutely. But it was unexpected in that society assumes you’ve got some sort of grip on the grocery game again after the first month. I’m three months postpartum now and would fall to my knees weeping if someone brought by a sandwich tray and said “lunch is taken care of for the week.”
  5. Alrighty, how I did it. I’m not a huge recipe person, rather I usually prep some protein early in week, then have veggies on hand and various items to mix and match with pantry staples to create decent meals. Basically I took my weekly strategy and bulked it up thanks to a trip to Costco (aka hell. Why do I hate going to Costco so much.) I prepped like 10 pounds of chicken breasts, then shredded the meat and froze in containers that held enough for a couple meals. I cooked up 5 pounds of ground turkey and did the same. (If you do this, just season the meat with salt, pepper & garlic powder so it can go with anything.) I got bags of frozen veggies and made sure we had multiple bags of rice, cans of beans and salsa, jars of pasta sauce and Indian simmer sauces, burrito shells, pasta, tortilla chips, etc. We’d then take one thing of meat out of the freezer and build from there out the pantry– did we want tacos, stir fry, pasta, salad?
  6. Don’t forget breakfast. I blended green smoothies ahead of time and froze them individually in plastic cups, as well as baked oatmeal squares and eggs with veggies you make in muffin tins (the Internet is your friend for any of these recipes.) You will be holding a baby and most of your eating will be done with one hand, so plan accordingly!

Boy Parts

I’m mature enough to say penis on the Internet, but in the .002% chance this thing takes off, gains readership for 15 years & then my son stumbles upon it, I don’t want him to be mortified that I was talking about his penis to the world. But remember that there’s nothing shameful about genitals and we should normalize the actual words instead of shaming kids about them from birth!!!

If your baby is born with male parts, I have a few specific tips in the diaper department that were passed along to me after a lot of “why is this kid soaking through these diapers and peeing up his shirt?!?!”

  1. Point it south. This might seem so obvious to everyone else, but apparently I never got the memo despite babysitting boys for years and having two godsons. No one told me “hey, make sure you tuck it down or else that hose is pointing up towards the band where the diaper doesn’t have any absorption.” It’s worth the extra second before fastening the second side tab to make sure it’s pointing towards six instead of midnight.
  2. Get all the pee out before a diaper change. Take a cold wipe and put it on his thigh or tickle his tummy with it, and sometimes this will stimulate your baby getting out one last go before you take off the diaper. The cold air during a diaper change can often prompt him to pee anyway, and unless you want the walls, himself, or your face sprayed, it’s wise to get that out of baby’s system while he’s still covered.
  3. If you choose to get your son circumcised, diaper changes will be terrifying for at least a week. When the nurses showed us how to put Vaseline on a gauze to care for the fresh wound, I was absolutely traumatized. “It looks worse than it is.” Are you SURE?!? Because I’m regretting ever letting him leave my sight, thank you. This did not help ease my already heightened new mom anxiety, and I truly dreaded changing his diaper until it healed. Just a heads up, in case you’re expecting a boy and planning on getting it done.
  4. If in doubt, size up. Especially at night. Our dude has always been a champion eater, thus his output seemed quite voluminous from the start. Newborn diapers still fit his skinny hips so I didn’t think to size up, but trying size 1’s before I would have guessed they’d have fit him was the solution to his waking-up-soaked problem.

Pregnancy Resources

Aside from my wiser, already-parent friends, there were a few places I turned to often for information in my pregnancy. God knows I’ll remember about a 100 more in the coming weeks, so this will be an evergreen post, possibly it’s own page! If you’re reading this & have something you think would be helpful for all our Natalies to check out, comment away.

  • The Birth Hour podcast: I was obsessed with listening to birth stories prior to my own labor experience. There’s a ton of birthing podcasts out there, but I appreciated the simple format of this one and the variety of birth stories shared by guests. Approximately .003 seconds after delivery, I couldn’t have cared less since I’d finally lived the real thing, so it’ll be interesting to see if I re-subscribe if this sucker ever gets a sibling.
  • Nurse Zabe on YouTube: She’s just so damn likeable! Nurses are the real MVP of the whole hospital experience, and Nurse Zabe (pronounced zay-buh, like the middle of EliZABEth) has a ton of experience as a labor & delivery and postpartum nurse in the southern USA. She just announced her third pregnancy and is making videos in real time about that, plus she’s famous for her “what your nurses do & don’t want you to pack in your hospital bag” videos.
  • Reddit. Yes, that Reddit. Even if you’ve never been on Reddit or think it’s the devil’s butthole of the Internet, there are private subreddits for expecting parents for each month of each year. It’s a community of thousands of people from around the world who are going through exactly what you’re going through at the same-ish time. Generally you search for yours towards the beginning of your pregnancy, then they go private around 20 weeks or so (each mod runs them differently.) For example, r/October2020Bumpers was my go-to for “Is this thing happening to you?” “How is pregnancy kicking your ass today?” and then they stay active after the babies are born and you have community from around the world when you’re posting “It’s 2 a.m. and I haven’t slept for weeks WHHHYYYYYY?!?!?” Warning: as people in your subreddit start giving birth, it will give you the false sense that you will also go into labor early. If you are, say, me, this will make you absolutely despondent that you’re still pregnant by week 39 and you should take a break from your beloved online community.