Postpartum Experience Unplugged Part 1: The Hospital Stay

Updated: Mar 23


Eli

Eli’s labor was hard (see post Expect the Unexpected).  My experience with Eli at the hospital was very different from my experience with Max due to several things, but I want to share the main ones in the hopes that it will help future expecting parents.


After I had Eli, I got to see him briefly, and then he was accessed by a NICU team due to the presence of meconium, fancy word for baby poop, when my water was broken. Everything looked good, and then I got to do skin to skin. Once the epidural wore off, and I was able to stand, he was taken to the nursery, and I was led to the the bath to clean up.


Instead of nursing immediately, the lactation consultant brought in a breast pump to accelerate my milk coming in, that's how she explained it to me.  Then, I gave the colostrum that I had pumped to my newborn with a syringe.  If your eyes are bulging out of your head right about now, I don’t blame you.  I was naive and unaware of how things should go, and was led down this path by hospital staff. I was also given formula to feed to my baby.  All while I expressed that I planned to breastfeed.


Eventually, we did practice trying to get my infant to latch.  Then, another nurse gave me a nipple shield to cover my nipple like a nipple for a bottle, so that the baby can latch on to that instead.  Are your eyebrows at the top of your forehead yet?  I’m going to conservatively say that these circumstances were not conducive to learning how to successfully nurse my baby.  I was trusting, I thought these are the professionals that know what to do, I’ll follow their directions.


It was implied that he could still be hungry and we should try the formula. So, after breastfeeding, we attempted to give him formula. He drank most of it, and then proceeded to cry nonstop for hours. It got to a point that I asked the nurses to take him to the nursery, because we could not calm him down, and we were exhausted. While he was in the nursery, they said he spit up all the formula. I think he was already full after breastfeeding, and then was overfed with the formula resulting in his discomfort.


If you plan to breastfeed your child, then that’s what you do.  No need too pump, use formula, or a nipple shield.  Just practice breastfeeding, you and your baby.  I want to be truthful and describe the craziness that I experienced so you can be aware of what could go on, and help you be prepared and on your guard if necessary, to speak up and say no.


All the hospital staff was lovely and gentle and caring, but they were still implementing a program that was counter intuitive to breastfeeding at the time when I had my first baby, in 2015.  So, I don’t know what will be the case where you deliver, but I wanted to share my experience.   Now, I know one or more of these interventions: pumping, formula feeding, nipple shield, could be necessary for a variety of circumstances, but I did not have any of these complications, this was just the program for each new mom on the floor.


So, on top of this going on, there was everything else. It felt like I had been in a car accident. I felt sore and tired all over. I did not feel well. After delivery, the uterus continues to contract and get smaller, which continues to be painful. You bleed a lot and for a long time after delivery. I don't remember how many days, weeks, but it will be the longest period of your life.


I think in total we had 12 visits by family and friends at the hospital of 9 different people at all different times. That's crazy. No wonder we did not get any rest. Newborns sleep a lot and wake up often. What happened was a person would come visit and hold Eli while he was sleeping while my husband and I had to stay up and talk with our visitors. Then he would wake up and be cranky and want to eat. Then, our visitors would leave while we fed and consoled our baby. Once he was settled and asleep again, another visitor would come.


This is not a good plan. We should have been sleeping while he was sleeping throughout the day and night. Especially since we had been awake since before 6:00 am the day before.


My advice would be to encourage your family to hold off on visits until you get settled at home for a few days. I'm not quite sure why our culture pressures new moms to accept visitors immediately after giving birth. There are several reasons why this is not conducive to a mom's well being.


First of all, no matter how well the delivery/labor went, you are going to be in a lot of pain. You may not be able to walk to the bathroom by yourself. This may be doubly so if you had a cesarean. You will be wearing disposable underwear from the hospital and enormous maxi pads to help absorb the enormous amount of blood leaving your body. You will be wearing a hospital gown, which if you are at all modest, which I am, this is essentially a sheet that covers your front, not your back. In addition, you are breastfeeding on demand which means, you are inevitably topless whenever your little one is awake.


This scenario is not when I want to have a conversation with family and friends. So, before you go to the hospital I would express to your loved ones that you don't know how this whole delivery thing is going to go, and would love to be able to enjoy their visit. So, it would be best if they could give you some time to recover, and get to know your new little family member, and how to take care of them, before they come visit.


Why did I have so many visitors at the hospital? I felt like I didn't have a choice at the time. I was extremely overwhelmed by the whole situation, having Eli, having it be so hard, and trying to recover, and then having people calling my husband saying they wanted to come by, and him being the nice guy he is, saying sure. And me being a deer in the head lights, trying to meet others' expectations of how this whole hospital stay should go, instead of my own.


I learned a lot, and slowly learned that I need to listen to my gut. When I am uncomfortable with something, I need to do what works best for me and my family, because they are my first priority. And I truly believe and hope that friends and family are understanding, and are just excited to meet my little one, but will respect my boundaries if I make them.


If you want visitors, and that is what would make your transition into motherhood a lot better, please do so, but I want to describe what my experience was, so that if you're not the social butterfly of the family, be you.


If you do want visitors, I would recommend picking a time, and have everyone come at the same time. That way it's not a revolving door of visitors. Another suggestion, have them come around lunch or dinner time and bring you and your spouse something to eat. That way, while you're eating supper and visiting, they can hold the baby for you. That way you aren't balancing a tray of food in one hand and holding a baby in the other.


In addition to family and friends, we had unwanted solicitors visiting our room (see post Warning About Solicitors While At the Hospital). This included a volunteer, a flower delivery, a hearing exam that our insurance did not want to cover without an argument, and a photographer.


Now, let me tell you how my second hospital stay went.


Max


So, with Max, I followed my gut. We told our families and friends ahead of time, we were not having any visitors at the hospital, and explained that I felt vulnerable and wanted to recover while at the hospital and not visit. We further explained that once we got home from the hospital, we planned to get settled at the house for a few days first. After we got somewhat of a handle on having a new baby again, we would have everyone over to meet our little guy.


I also wanted us to get to spend time as a family of four together on our own, and to give our oldest time to get to know his little brother, and spend time with him before everyone came over.


My parents came over at a scheduled time and left an hour later when my husband's family came over. That way we had one block of time of visitors for the day, and then we were done. I did excuse myself mid-visit to nurse Max and then came back out to visit.


So, back to the hospital, after I had Max we did skin to skin, I started breastfeeding pretty much immediately. I don't know if I just was more comfortable breastfeeding, or Max was a natural at latching, but we did great from the beginning and haven't looked back.


He nursed for long stretches, up to an hour, and then would sleep for long stretches, up to 5 hours at the hospital. Since he was such a big baby, they checked his blood sugar before feeding three times. He did great, no problems with his blood sugar values.


This time, at the same hospital, I did not have any of the weird breastfeeding activities, no pumping, no formula, no nipple shields were offered or mentioned. So, they had a major shift in their thinking since our last stay. They had also gotten rid of the nursery, so from the start, all healthy babies stayed in the room with their moms. It was wonderful. I had been prepared to stand my ground and argue if any of the counter intuitive instructions came up, but I didn't have to.


We would find out later, it was pandemonium on the maternity floor. There were so many baby's being born that we had to be moved out of the birthing suite to a postpartum wing to make room.


One thing I do not understand about hospital rooms is the lack of a comfortable place for your loved one to sleep. At our hospital, my husband is allowed to stay all day and overnight, but he only has an uncomfortable semi-reclinable chair to sleep in. It would be nice if there were two hospital beds, one for me and one for him. But I digress.


So, that's our sleeping arrangement, and Max sleeps in a plastic container with a foam pad that is wrapped in a blanket that is on a rolling cart with a drawer of supplies: diapers, wipes.


So, we did as I expected. We had no visitors, no unwanted solicitors, and we slept when Max slept, and fed him and stared at him when he was awake. The nurses and doctors came and went at regular intervals, taking vitals, administering tests, asking questions, dosing pain meds, and helping us get back in the swing of taking care of a newborn.


The day after Max was born, my husband went to pick up our oldest and take a shower at the grandparents' house. Eli was around 2 1/2 years old when Max was born. Eli was happy and curious to see us in the hospital. We had talked to him while I was pregnant about having a brother and bringing a baby home with us and teaching him Max's name.


Eli acted like having a new baby brother was the most natural thing in the world. I don't know if us talking about Max a lot while I was pregnant really helped, or his personality just lends itself to being comfortable with having a new baby in the house. It has been wonderful to watch them grow together, and Eli has remained sweet and affectionate toward Max, and Max watches Eli with adoration. Not everything goes well in our house on a daily basis, but this is one thing that is consistently good. After a short visit, Eli of course wanted to get into all the stuff at the hospital, push buttons, and play with equipment, so we hugged and Bobby brought him back to the grandparents for the night.


We spent two nights and three days at the hospital. I was ready to go home the second day. It felt like we were in prison, just because we could not leave until both me and Max were checked out by our respective doctors on the third day. And there were a lot of moms and babies, so we did not get released till the afternoon on the third day.


But other than that, we were happy with how everything turned out. As far as postpartum symptoms go, I had intense pain from cramping/contractions of my uterus, but other than that, I had some moderate soreness.


Stay tuned for Postpartum Unplugged Part 2. Thanks for reading! You got this Momma!


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