Saturday, January 26, 2013

What to Take to the Hospital When Having a Baby: the Unpublished Items

I've not ever written a "how-to" post on this blog before, but since I feel like I have true insider information this time, I feel compelled.

You: headed to the hospital to deliver a baby
Me: was there last week, and fresh on my mind are the things I was especially happy (or would have been especially happy) to have.

Now before you judge too quickly, this post won't tell you anything about slippers or chapstick and your own pillow or your cell phone charger.  We know all that stuff.  And if you don't, you can find it on any checklist you choose to google or look up on Pinterest.  And you should google or pinterest-search those lists because they are helpful.  (Although some are so extensive you wonder if the person thinks they are going away to baby-delivery camp instead of a short stay at a hospital already equipped with many modern wonders)

1.  Attractive pajamas-- You can wear the hospital-issued gown and feel like an unwell patient, or you can wear something pretty and feminine and feel like the glowing new mama that you are.  I figured that even the small weight loss I'd enjoy after birth would be enough to boost my confidence to feel like I deserved a satin robe with pink trim.  And I was right.  Bring something light that you can layer and with the little clip-down feature that allows easy access to nurse.  As long as the staff can access all your tubes and wristbands, I don't think they care what you wear.

2. A digital watch with a face that lights up--You will partner with the nurses to track everything your new baby does after birth, and most especially the number and duration of all of his feedings. It gets written down on your baby's chart and you will feel smart and capable if you can provide this information accurately.  So picture this: It is the dark middle of the night and you are feeding this little bundle bent on survival and need to note the time.  It is too painful/too big of a hassle/too likely to wake your sleep-deprived spouse to get up to turn on a light to see the wall clock, and your cell phone is not within easy reach, either.  If you were wearing a digital watch with an indiglo face, your problem would be solved and you could note the start and stop times like an old pro.

3. Speaking of charting things for your baby, bring a small spiral notebook (picture 3x5 inches) to record all that baby data and a pencil that clips onto it.  When bubbly, cheerful nurse comes in at 7:30 am to update your chart you won't stare at her in bleary oblivion.  You can whip out your little book and remind yourself of each wee-hour feeding. Even if, come morning, it all blurs together as one long night punctuated by different decibels of hungry baby desperation and snuffly, satisfied baby noises, you'll have proof that you accomplished your mission.

4. An emery board/nail file--You won't be able to trim baby's nails because they can be kinda fused to the skin underneath, but they can still have sharp edges that can scratch your baby's face.  (For an extra obscene amount the hospital photographer will be happy to photoshop that scratch right out for you, though) Besides, filing a sleeping baby's nails feels productive and lends the feeling that you're keeping up with the details.

5. Gum--for when you can't brush your teeth but the nurses still get within range of your breath to help with any number of intimate things.  Or you have already thrown up and you still can't brush your teeth.  Because sometimes brushing your teeth is really an epic accomplishment.

6. Baby oil, rubbing alcohol and a loofah-- These are things I really wish I had.  (Maybe I should have listed them first)  You will get lots of things taped to your body for this adventure.  An IV needle, a catheter, gauze bandages, band aides from places they draw blood...And all of that tape is super secure (good), but hard to fully remove when the time comes (bad).  You might wish they made goo-be-gone for humans.  But baby oil and rubbing alcohol works for most of the adhesive stuff the hospital-grade tape leaves behind, and I wish I had some with a scrubbing loofah while I was still at the hospital.

7.  A thank-you card -- If I could wish anything for your hospital stay, it would be that you are cared for by a team of nurses as awesome as the one I just enjoyed.  I would have loved to provide them with fresh brownies or a cool snack basket or decadent flowers, they were that good.  Considering these were the kinds of things other angels were doing for us, I figured the least we could do was write them a heartfelt thank you.  I know that if I had left the hospital without writing that card, it would have been just another good intention that got left at the intersection of Busy and Life.  Having a thank-you card (ok, asking my husband to bring one when he came back from sleeping at home one night!) was a good move.  I hope your heart will have reason to overflow enough to make this a must-have item, too.

8. Your living will/advance directive/power of attorney paperwork-- Why in the world did we go to all the trouble of creating these documents only to leave them in some file at home?  Because we don't even want to go there in our minds, of course.  Seems like if you have already worked through some of the issues those documents force you to confront, you won't want to have to think them through twice if you don't have to.  Now you know we didn't need those papers.  But I know we would have been glad we had them if we did.

9.  Lanolin.  The hospital provided this nipple-soothing lotion and I'll definitely be buying more when this sample size tube runs out.  On the sad chance that your hospital doesn't offer this as a free party favor, I would recommend you have some with you.

10. A detachable keyring that has just your car key on it-- What?!  I put this on here in case any of you are married to someone who shares my beloved's quirk of not wanting the valet parking attendant to have any of his keys but the one to the car.  In his haste to get back to the action, Bill gave the guy all of them. He was bummed that he had to go retrieve them when really he just wanted to stay with me in the hospital in those opening minutes when you are getting checked in and the butterflies are starting to migrate out of your stomach and into your whole body.  This is definitely not a "must-have" item; more like a freebie to round out this list that just might save you some hassle if  you happen to be in the secret single-key-to-the-valet club.

So there you have it.  Never before gathered on one list--ten items that might round out your getaway bag and make your hospital stay just that much better.

But in the end, you know and I know it isn't about what you bring there at all.

It's all about who you walk away with.

Oh, and if you've already made the round-trip journey to the hospital, will you pay it forward, too, for the others who may read this post? (Or just to satisfy my curiosity)  What was your essential item?

Micah and mini-Micah

The newest member of my family made his grand debut six days ago.  A post after such a momentous event could take so many different tones: rapture, delirious sleep-deprived nonsense, contentment and gratitude, angsty hormone-hectic overload, awed wonder...and likely some like those are still to come.

But today,
It is funny.

And yes, it is Landon, and not our sweet little baby who never ceases to amuse. 

I read somewhere that one way you can help your child adjust to a new sibling is by involving them as much as possible in the pregnancy and care of the newborn afterward.  Let the older make some choices for the baby (Landon has picked all of Micah's sheets each time they get changed: "I'm going to let him have this one, Mom, because it is mine and he will like having a big-boy sheet.") Landon enjoyed putting lotion on Micah's cracked feet, feeding him a few drops of breast milk they had me pump at the hospital, taking his picture, and "holding" Micah on his lap while studying his teeny parts.

My mom intuitively knew the same advice because she showed up at our house with a plastic doll that Landon could help take care of to get in on the action.  He was thrilled to learn he could wash his baby in the real baby bathtub, put a real diaper on it, and dress it in real preemie newborn clothes that we don't need.  He calls it his "premiere" baby.

I was charmed.  Bill was uncertain.  Landon seemed enthralled.  He oh-so-creatively named his baby Micah (that's not confusing or anything) and miniMicah began draining the battery on the baby swing, borrowing receiving blankets or hanging out on the boppy for the next few days. 

He and my mom discovered that miniMicah could take a bottle (medicine dropper) and he would "pee" out the other end.  Landon was exclaiming with such nurturing delight over this; my mom said it was quite endearing.  Bill might have said, "See?  You are feminizing him with all this babycare stuff!"

He needn't worry.
Just after his delight to discover miniMicah's abilities to fill a diaper Landon said,
"Now let's squirt water up his butt to see if it comes out his mouth!"

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Not Color Blind

A woman Landon has met once came up in conversation because she taught the Music & Movement class Landon attended, and I was telling him she would be leading the story time we wanted to attend, as well.  She's a curiosity to him because she works at "my" library doing "my" job, but now he gets the benefit of enjoying me at these programs in a different way.

"Mom, she is so pretty--she reminds me of hot chocolate.  And I really love hot chocolate."

"I know you do, and you're right, buddy, she is so pretty."

"Will our baby have skin like hot chocolate?  Or maybe we could get one like chocolate milk, maybe?  That would be nice...could we, Mom?"

"I don't think we will, Landon.  It's a nice thought, though."

"What color will our baby be?"

"Probably something close to your skin color, hon."

 "Oh.  Well I guess that will be ok.  What about our baby's hair?  What color will that be?"

"What color do you think it will be?"


He lives in such a possible, beautiful world, my three-year-old. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Beached Whale

We are nine days out from a scheduled c-section to welcome our son.

And here's the unglamorous truth: I am more excited about relieving the pain, discomfort and sleeplessness of this last trimester than I am about anything else.

I know I should be more excited to meet our baby and get to know him and hold him and fall in love with every little snuffly noise and half-formed gassy smile.

Instead, I'm counting down the days when I will be able to sleep for two whole hours uninterrupted by the feeling that someone is blowing up a beach ball under my unpliable skin.

I'm looking forward to the time when I  don't calculate the risk/reward ratios of letting my cell phone ring versus going downstairs to fetch it.  When I won't lose heart contemplating the return trip, listening closely for a tone indicating a voicemail and avoiding the stairs if I don't hear one.

 I'm anticipating the day when the floor will come back to me as a reachable entity; when something falls there now I feel like it has to be of immediate essential need to attempt recovery; otherwise, it is like space garbage, allowed to float away and out of my orbit, it seems so far and perilous to go there.  I might not have the oomph to get back up, you know.

And most of all, I dream of the day when I won't be in near constant discomfort, sliding into long bouts of pain that don't do much for my ability to be loving and gentle and a joy to be around.

People have been really puzzled about that last one.  Pain?  Really?  Where?  What does it feel like?  At my last appointment my doctor even decided we should strap a sensor to my belly and make sure I wasn't in labor.  "You shouldn't really be in pain," she told me sincerely.

Oh Lady, this pregnancy has never really been a "should"-following ordeal.  It has been boot camp.  And I'm almost done.  I'll be so happy to be done with all the parts of it that made it hard, I haven't yet embraced the excitement of the prize at the end.  The infant who even now is acting like it is imperative to practice all his Yoga poses, all his breakdance moves, all his synchronized swimming acts, before he has to leave his little swimming pool and wait for his muscles to get strong enough to be graceful again.

Nearly every night I think, "Surely this is the pain that is a prelude to labor.  Surely I wouldn't feel this badly just because."  Sometime around 4 am when my exhaustion overcomes the discomfort I have to concede that boot camp is not over and another day of dragging myself around awaits.

So the little accomplishments seem monumental.
I take a shower.
I make dinner.
I iron exactly one shirt of Bill's.
I sit and watch sweet Landon play.

And I wait for the miracle of the mindwipe a newborn will have on me and make all the trials and tribulations fade away to almost nothing.  Almost forgotten.  Like a planet finding a new star to orbit, I will be caught in a spell as powerful as gravity, as compelling as a law of physics: falling in love with a son.

In the meantime, please don't mind the spray and fuss of my griping.  I am a miserable beached whale who can't remember the bliss of the ocean and feel helpless in this in-between, unnatural place of pain.  Just as soon as I get off this sand and find my way to the ocean depth of mother love again, you'll see.  I'll stop acting like a baby and begin cherishing one.