While I’m ultimately happy with my decision to give birth in a hospital, I do wish I had been made aware of a few things beforehand, if only so I could hang a “Do not disturb even if you are hospital staff” sign on the door of my recovery room and padlock it for my 48-hour stay.
Gone are the days of two week recovery periods, when baby stayed in the nursery, except to be fed and cuddled by a well-rested mommy. Today, if your insurance covers a 48-hour post-birth hospital stay you’re lucky. During this time, barring any complications, you’ll “room in” with your newborn in order to bond. Great idea in theory, but in practice you’re pretty much revving up for life at home with your newborn by diving, head first, into the icy waters. Not the kind of shock your body needs (or wants) directly after giving birth. Here are 8 reasons why.
The hospital staff will wake you and your baby (and your husband) every 2 hours. If you think they didn’t run enough tests during labor, just wait until afterward. Whether it’s the multiple blood pressure and physical checks they run on the recovering mom, or the endless number of blood tests they run on baby, there is a staff member in your room roughly every 2 hours of your “recovery” period. And when they aren’t running tests, they’re harassing you to feed your sleeping baby.
Your baby will most likely be kept in a bassinet atop a cabinet that contains several bottles of formula. Yet, even though your baby is ravenous to the point of screaming bloody murder, you will be forced to attempt breastfeeding because “breast is best.” I had every intention of breastfeeding, which is how I found out that 2:45 a.m. is absolutely an acceptable time to meet with a lactation consultant. If you aren’t generating enough colostrum (or any, as was in my case) because you’re so freaking exhausted, they’ll send yet another staff member to assist in squeezing the life out of your boobs. Ironically, the next day you’ll hear at least one of the other nurses remind you of the fact that your breasts won’t start producing any real quantity of milk until a minimum of 12 hours after you’ve been discharged.
2 .Your baby will be heel-sticked to eternity in the name of blood sugar, bilirubin, and all sorts of modern medical statistical analysis. Thought it was torture to give birth? Try being a new mom having to watch your precious little perfect creation repeatedly scream and writhe in red-faced, breath-holding pain to the point of needing a hospital-provided pacifier to calm down. (Aren’t breastfed babies supposed to avoid all other nipples for a minimum of a month?) And if your baby’s blood sugar is 2 points below the requirement, you’ll be scared into formula feeding. So much for “breast is best.” When our child’s blood sugar rang up 2 points too low over the course of 2 tests taken 2 hours apart, we were told we wouldn’t be able to attend the baby bath/discharge class the next morning unless his levels went up. Cue alarm bells. “His sugar is so low we can’t leave? Oh my God, my baby!”
When you aren’t having your baby’s frustrated face shoved into your dry, tired boob, you will be reminded that you are required to fill out a postpartum depression survey within 24 hours of giving birth. It’s a great way for hospitals to avoid the liability of releasing a potential postpartum candidate by taking advantage of the euphoria common among most new mothers. Postpartum depression doesn’t evidence itself until 2 – 3 weeks after your little one has arrived, and long after your survey has been cleared by the psych ward.
Be sure to take that survey before you get overloaded with information on body temperature, wardrobe, and the A to Z’s of caring for a newborn. Yes, during the course of your 48-hour stay you can be counseled on a wide variety of topics. Bet you didn’t know your baby came with an owner’s manual.
Oh, and by the way, you can have visitors if you can find the time. It’s not like any of your loved ones want to see your newborn or anything. Don’t they know you have work to do?
Most new parents are so focused on the birth experience that they don’t consider what recovery at the hospital will entail. Do yourself a favor and ask for (or better yet, just show up with) some sleeping pills and a face mask that reads “Go away”.