Here are Lucia’s kids: celebrating their birthdays at my house last weekend.
It seems that no matter how many phone calls I make to ensure that she’s never alone; how many play-dates and parties I arrange for her children; how many flowers I send or how often I visit, it doesn’t make any difference. The fact remains: she’s still suffering and her time is drawing to an end.
Although it’s shocking to see the physical horrors that each new day brings, I do enjoy my time with her in the hospital. “Why are you smiling at me?” she said last time.
“Because I’m happy to see you,” I said. She managed to smile a little too. When I leave the hospital, it all comes pouring out of me: the grief, the shock and the sickness in my gut that just won’t go away. After my purging, I drive home, kiss my kids goodnight and dose myself with wine and Ambien. My days are numb and helpless feeling, until I find myself on the way to the hospital again. Maybe I’m helpful there. Maybe this time will be the last time and her suffering will end.
Dammit! I’ve got to pull out of this! I’ve got a life and a family too. I can’t neglect them. Lucia wouldn’t allow it. Plus, I’ve got this blog that I don’t want to let wither and die. So, back to the appropriate subject for this post: Hospital Visits. My hospital visits, as of late, have been all about pending death. If you’re pregnant, your hospital visits will be about the precious, tiny miracle of a new, glowing life force. Meeting your very own baby for the first time can be the most spectacular day of your life. Are you ready? Do you have your hospital bags packed for your journey into motherhood?
Here’s my list of what to bring to the hospital for your labor and delivery visit:
Yes, this is plucked from my book. I just can’t come up with fresh, lively pregnancy writing… yet.
Cord Blood Collection Kit
This is a fairly new procedure that we opted for, mainly because there is a high rate of cancer in our family. The baby’s umbilical cord blood (with the purest form of stem cells) is collected, and then sent to a storage facility for possible further use of treating cancers or illnesses of the baby or a family member.
To find out more about cord blood see the following web sites. This is a list of some of the more popular cord blood collection and storage facilities:
CBR Cord Blood Registry (my choice)
Lifebank USA- Cord Blood
Camera, Cassette Tape Recorder, Tapes
I intended to document all stages of the experience through labor and delivery. Unfortunately, most hospitals, mine included, don’t allow videotaping. My digital camera does take small video clips, but you would never be able to tell just by looking at it. It’s quite small and looks like a regular instamatic camera. Shhhhh. Don’t tell.
Although you are generally not allowed to have anything to eat during labor and delivery, sometimes, hard candies will be permitted to keep your mouth moist and give you a small sugar boost. I have found lollipops to be more permissible than regular hard candies because there is less risk of choking on something with a stick attached to it.
Believe it or not, your feet will probably get cold because the delivery room is usually kept fairly cool.
Be sure to bring a few pairs of socks, as blood and other fluids may soak them from time to time. This may seem alarming, but, believe me, this is yet another one of those things that you will look back on as “no big deal.”
Snacks for the Coach
You will be unable to partake, but your partner/labor coach will need some nourishment eventually. Who knows how long labor will last? It could be just a few minutes, several hours, or even days. The last thing you want is your coach to be leaving you for a “quick bite to eat” when you are in the final stages of ghastly labor.
Unless you have a mini cooler for cold drinks and non-perishable foods it’s usually best to bring items that don’t require refrigeration, as you never know if you are going to be able to store your snack in the hospital fridge or not. You also might want to pack some extra change for the hospital vending machines.
Also, Grace insists that I remind you, definitely no breath-smelly foods allowed for the coach. Her husband David’s Dorito breath significantly contributed to her nausea and contempt for him during labor.
Bring your insurance card and/or telephone contact information. Most insurance companies will require you to contact them within twenty-four hours of the birth, or medical expenses for the baby will not be covered.
It seems so unfair, doesn’t it?
After having a long and difficult birth, Nicole had trouble reaching her insurance company within the allotted twenty-four hours. The line was continually busy. After numerous hours she finally got a live person on the phone. She ended the call with, “Yes, Me, my baby, and my big, bloody vagina are doing just fine, thank you very much!”
It’s a good idea to prioritize your list of people to call, with their phone numbers, into a few categories.
1) People to call when you go into labor- these people may want to be at the hospital for the actual birth - close friends and/or family members in front of whom you don’t mind losing your composure. I clearly remember Nicole screaming, “You bloody, fucking baaaaaastaaaaaards!!!” while her mother and I clenched white-knuckled hands in the hallway.
Also, do remember that your coach and/or partner should be on the top of this phone list. When Hannah went into labor, she was so busy with her “list of people to call” that she forgot to notify her husband. Her contractions suddenly were five minutes apart, he hadn’t been notified, and he was over thirty minutes away. The garbage man brought her to the hospital.
2) People to call after the baby is born - close friends and/or family you want to share the news with immediately. These are the people who want to be kept abreast of the situation, no matter what time of the day it is.
My sister was delighted to be awoken at 4:30a.m. for the news of Karmen’s birth.
3) People to call after the baby is born (at a reasonable hour).
4) People to call during your hospital stay - calls that you can make if and when you feel like it.
You know, your regular traveling stuff - toothpaste, deodorant, lotions, make-up, and so on.
Pack as many pairs of good, clean underwear as you can. You may go through a lot if you have an extended stay. Also, I find it very important to pack at least two pairs of maternity underwear. Even if you haven't given in to wearing them throughout your entire pregnancy, you still may need them in the event you have to have a C-section.
My friend Camilla was dead set against maternity underwear. She was convinced her husband would never have sex with her again if he saw her wearing those bloomers. When she found herself in the hospital after a C-section with no maternity underwear, she called me in desperation. Her regular underwear were cutting into her abdomen, right where the incision was, and she had to wear panties to keep a sanitary pad in place. “Bring me some freakin’ bloomers, please!”
As I mentioned earlier, hospital pillows are usually pretty flimsy and scratchy. It’s also nice to have some comforts of home in your hospital bed. Make sure you bring colored or patterned pillowcases so that your pillows will not get mixed up with the hospital’s white laundry.
Although it is nice to have your own PJs, I do not recommend putting them on until after the birth– they may get a bit messy.
Some women prefer to wear the hospital gowns during their whole stay, but I find them to be cumbersome while trying to navigate the bathroom with a room full of guests. The back never stays closed enough to cover your tush, especially when you still have a swollen middle.
If you plan on breastfeeding, bring PJs that button down the front for easy booby access. I made that mistake the first time around and had to awkwardly navigate my nipple through the neck or armhole for feedings.
Comfortable Bras for Sleeping
If you are in the hospital long enough to have your milk come in (usually forty-eight hours after the birth) it is important to have some kind of support for your breasts. When the milk comes in, watch out, breasts can get humongous.
If you have ever contemplated getting breast implants, here is your chance to see what the XXL size would look like. Your breasts will swell to the maximum capacity of the skin and become as hard as rocks. Not only is this painful, but it is a lot harder to get the baby to “latch on” to a rock than a soft nipple. Wearing a snug, yet comfortable bra will at least limit some of the expansion of the milk ducts.
If your feet are not looking up to snuff, I do suggest the closed-toe slipper. We don’t want to subject our visitors to our long, yellowing, toenails on blistered, wart and corn-riddled feet ... do we?
Calling Card and/or Change for Phone
Most hospital pay phones and in-room phones don’t allow long distance calls. It’s wise to be prepared with plenty of change and/or a calling card.
Be aware that cell phones in the hospital are usually not an option. If you are caught using a cell phone, do expect the full wrath of the nurses to come down on you. Believe me, this is no time to be pissing off the nurses!
Going Home Outfit for You and Baby
My friend Ava envisioned her and her baby returning home in their matching Laura Ashley mother-daughter outfits. Her dress was so tight that she caught a good hunk of back fat in the zipper that required the nurse’s assistance to remove. And, the scratchy, linen material of the baby’s dress made her newborn skin break out in hives.
Of course you and your baby want to look your best for your first appearance into the outside world together, but, as with pregnancy, comfort should be key.
Keep in mind that you will not automatically fit into your pre-maternity clothes. It may take several weeks for your bowl-of-jelly-belly to return to its former shape. It might be best to bring some of your more flattering, not-so-maternity-looking maternity clothes. You know, not the circus tent, just the pup tent should suffice.