If you’re anything like me – in the third trimester of my first pregnancy, expecting to give birth in just a few short weeks, and starting to shift my attention toward my rapidly approaching due date — you might be wondering what to expect during your hospital stay. I’m lucky to have an incredible support system of close mom friends who’ve all been able to offer me a wide range of great advice. It’s helped to give me a pretty good grasp on what I can expect at the hospital, so I’d like to share some of their insights to enlighten and inform other pregnant mamas. Hopefully after reading their advice on what to expect before heading to the hospital, you too will feel a little more at ease about your own approaching due date.
Jessie, a mother to two boys, works as a postpartum nurse so she has hospital experience both professionally and personally. “It’s the most amazing experience you’ll ever go through, and it will be part of your story one day, but you can’t write it until it’s done,” she says. “Go into it with an open mind and get ready for the unexpected.” With this in mind, Jessie says there are three key things expectant mothers should keep in mind when heading to the hospital.
- Pack patience: Oftentimes, the trip to the hospital feels a little frantic, but once you’re there and settled, for many people it calms down quickly. When it does, get ready for a lot of downtime. The hospital staff will regularly check on you to ask some questions and have you fill out some paperwork. If you have to wait on dilation, it might take longer than you expected on the drive in. Even if you have to wait a while for your little one to arrive, once they do it will all be worth it.
- Flexibility is key: It’s great to have a detailed birth plan in place, but sometimes things need to change a bit. Go into the hospital with an open mind, knowing that the most important thing is getting your baby delivered safely, whether it’s a C-section or a vaginal delivery.
- Embrace the process: Labor and delivery is different from person to person, but there is a shared power that comes with having brought life into the world. You are so strong. You can do this.
My friend Emily, a stay-at-home mom to a little girl, reiterated Jessie’s advice on flexibility, stressing the importance of knowing things might not go exactly as you planned. Emily offered some great advice about having a voice and appreciating your time in the hospital.
- Speak up: Don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether it’s from the nurses, hospital staff or your partner. Don’t be fearful of seeming high-maintenance or needy, because being in the hospital is the last time you’re likely going to have 24/7 help with your baby and you need to take advantage of that — don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. Conversely, don’t be nervous to ask to be alone with your new little love. Between visitors, doctors, and nurses, your hospital room is basically a revolving door. If you aren’t up for visitors or you want a couple of uninterrupted hours snuggling your sweet little miracle, be sure to tell someone.
- Enjoy yourself: This is such a special time in your life! Try to appreciate your experience for exactly what it is.
My friend, Katelyn, recently welcomed her first child into the world – a baby boy. “Get ready for the best day of your entire life. Meeting your child truly is as magical as everyone says it will be,” she says. Since it wasn’t long ago that she gave birth, the hospital stay is still very fresh on her mind, and she offered some great thoughts on what to expect.
- Stay open-minded: Don’t let other people’s birth stories give you anxiety about how your experience will be. Stay open-minded, positive, and trust your healthcare provider. Everything will happen as it should.
- Bring snacks: Make sure you pack some snacks that you and your partner will enjoy munching on. Also, enjoy one final meal before the epidural if you select to have one, because it’s only ice chips after that.
- Pack your toiletries: Katelyn says the first postpartum shower is the “most amazing feeling on the planet and you’ll feel like a new woman,” so remember to pack your favorite products.
- Remember your partner: Yes, the hospital stay is about YOU, but remember to have your significant other pack the items they need to stay comfortable too – like a favorite pillow or blanket for rest, or something like a Roku device to stay entertained if they have downtime. “After all, they are on this wild ride with you,” Katelyn says.
- Plan out visitors: This is a personal decision, but it’s good to have a plan in place about who will be meeting your baby while you’re in the hospital. Katelyn says she’s thankful she didn’t allow anyone other than immediate family to visit because of all the hospital staff that constantly came in and out of her room. Getting alone time as a new family is hard to come by during your hospital stay, so don’t make any promises regarding visitors – simply see how your experience plays out.
The last person I turned to for some advice is my friend, Kate, who works as a neonatal nurse practitioner and is the mother of a toddler girl with another daughter on the way. “While being in the hospital isn’t necessarily the most comfortable experience, try to rest when you can and just soak in these first few days with your little one,” she says. “You’ll want to remember all the little newborn noises and squishy faces, so don’t sweat the small stuff and just enjoy your baby!” Here are some of her thoughts.
- Standard of care is that every baby gets three medications during a normal, healthy postpartum stay, including a vitamin K injection to help with immature blood clotting, erythromycin antibiotic eye ointment to prevent eye infections related to the birthing process, and the first round of the hepatitis B vaccine. Your little one will also receive a lab draw, which involves a prick on the heel to draw a few small drops of blood to test for various genetic/metabolic problems (conditions tested for vary somewhat from state to state). Be sure to talk with your chosen pediatrician and/or the pediatrician at the hospital if you have any questions or concerns about the medications or bloodwork.
- Educate yourself about birthing options, and know your preferences going in, but be prepared for and open to changes in your plan. Your provider should be open to discussing and explaining changes in your care plan with you. Remember, the most important outcome is a healthy mom and baby!
- Painful poop: Kate says going #2 for the first time after giving birth is most likely going to hurt, even if you have a c-section. Consider taking stool softener when they offer it to you, and try to stay hydrated.
- Don’t be surprised or disappointed if your milk doesn’t come in right away: Small volumes of colostrum are typically enough to keep your baby happy for the first couple of days before your milk comes in. You’ll need to be feeding or pumping every 2-3 hours in order to stimulate your supply, and, of course, stay hydrated!
All of my mom friends agree that the most important part of the hospital stay is bringing your baby into the world safely, so flexibility is key for a stress-free delivery. It’s also important to trust your healthcare providers and remember every mom leaves the hospital with a different delivery story. The hospital stay is an incredibly special time, so try to enjoy every second of it and truly soak up those first few days with your new bundle of joy!
About the author
Katie Burk is an Atlanta-based blogger and journalist. She’s expecting her first child in April – a little girl. You can follow along with her pregnancy journey through her blog, www.amusinglykatie.com. You can also keep up with Katie on Instagram: @KatieMuseBurk.