Category Archives: hospital

A Map of Motherhood

One of the things I love most about being a journalist and editor has really nothing to do with writing. It’s about taking data and figuring out how to present it visually to create clarity, impact, and fun. In the business, we call all these charts, tables, timelines, graphs, flow charts, and anything else that slightly resembles a drawing of some sort infographics. They are critical to good journalism and story telling for two reasons: they provide a secondary point of entry into any story and they keep readers engaged with visual stimulation. But good infographics can be hard to come by because it takes a certain amount of skill to process a lot of information, prioritize it, simplify it, and add some creativity to the presentation. Needless to say, I appreciate a good infographic when I see it.

My absolute favorite infographer (and no, I don’t know if that’s a real word) is Jessica Hagy, who runs a blog called Indexed. All her posts are pictures of little line drawings she does on 3×5 cards. But even in this crude graphic form, she manages to pack her images with intelligence, depth, humor, wisdom, and often irony. Admittedly there are times when I struggle to “get” them. But even so, I think it’s pure genius. Just check these samples out:

Fun, right? So when I saw one of my favorite mommy bloggers, Pregnant Chicken, was featuring charts in today’s posts, I got excited. The post was all about how dumb a mommy-to-be (or a plain ole mommy) ends up feeling every time she goes to a doctor for something because typically one of two things happens:

  1. The doctor thinks she is nuts because whatever symptoms they are exhibiting are seriously no big deal, or
  2. The doctor thinks she is nuts because she didn’t get her butt into the office sooner because what’s wrong is a bad situation

So, Pregnant Chicken offered these perspectives on the experience, as both a mommy-to-be and new mommy:

Well said. I’ll remember this at my next appointment.

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Filed under health, hospital, moms, pregnancy, writing

Mommy Meals on Wheels

Get in my belly!

Because I took both a birthing class and a breastfeeding class with Juliana Parker of Birth ‘n’ Babies, I am still on her e-mail list. Most of the time her updates are on new classes or deals on Madela products, which at this junction I’m over. However, this last Web announcement completely caught my eye:

HOME COOKED MEALS AFTER THE BIRTH OF YOUR BABY, WITH A SICK BABY OR DURING A FAMILY EMERGENCY!

Successful individuals will tell you that the key to success is knowing your strengths and weaknesses… and when the going gets tough, the tough ask for help!  Having a baby, having a sick baby or dealing with a family emergency can be exhausting!  This wonderful program is offered to you exclusively by Childbirth-n-Babies.  We coordinate your friends, neighbors, relatives and members of your community to help you out!  Remember, people WANT to help!  Volunteers are not paid because they are worthless, they are not paid because they are priceless!!

Maybe I’m totally out of the loop, but I’ve never heard of such a service. Fortunately, my mom was able to come down after baby’s birth to take care of the feeding me and whoever else’s mouth happened to be around. But I sure do have a lot of friends who didn’t have that luxury, as they sorted out the chaos of a new baby without much, if any, support. How great would it be to know that not only dinner is control, but it’s also likely to be something at least slightly healthier (and probably much more delicious) than delivery pizza or Chinese food?

But more interesting is how this thing works. So, if you’re an expectant mommy (or dad), you send an e-mail to meals@childbirth-n-babies.com about 2 weeks before your due date. You supply the organizers with the following info: name, delivery address, number of people in household, dietary restrictions,  2 preferred delivery time windows, and a list of names and e-mail addresses of friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors who would be happy to help you out when you need it.

Then you just contact Birth ‘n’ Babies, when your wee one(s) arrive and the organizers will contact the folks on your list, as well as other kind-hearted, meal-making saints in your area who like to volunteer their time and groceries to help out new mommies, to sort out a meal schedule. Once that happens, you receive a link to an online schedule that will let you know when you can expect some good eats to show up. Of course, you’ll have to fend for yourself some of the time, but just knowing there are days you won’t have to deal with feeding yourself is awesome.

I just think this is such a cool concept. I mean, I feel like when you’re an expectant mommy, especially the first time around, so many people tell you not to hesitate ask for help. You know that they mean it, but most of the time, you never really take advantage of their generosity. Maybe it just feels too weird to ask for help. But this is the perfect way to really take them up on their super kind offer to help without doing all the organizing yourself. (Like you have time for that with a newborn, a sick baby, or an emergency on your hands.) You just put them on this list and when you’re ready for some help, someone is already on standby.

And it’s totally free! That’s even better in my book. Although I would imagine it wouldn’t hurt to pay the favor forward and, once the household is back under control, volunteer to whip up a few lasagnas or other goodies of your own to offer other newbie moms.

Although I’m not going to be expecting another baby any time soon, I’m so tempted to volunteer just to see how this thing works. Sounds good in concept, but I wonder if reality is a different story. Either way, I give Birth ‘n’ Babies props for getting creative for D.C. area moms.

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Filed under family, feeding, first year, hospital, infants, mommy care, newbie parents, newborns, post-pregnancy

Shot Through the Heart (And Thigh)

Baby recently went in for his two-month shots. I think there were five of them all together. One three-in-one vaccination that went into one chubby thigh, two single-dose shots into the other chubby thigh, and then one kinder, gentler vaccination administered orally. As to be expected, there was a lot of crying and screaming. Fortunately none of it was from me.

I seriously worried that I might rain a few fat drops down the old cheeks watching the wee one scream bloody murder. Especially when the nurse started telling my husband that she used to be really bad at administering shots to babies. She used to work in geriatrics but then switched to pediatrics; but we weren’t supposed to worry because she was really good at it now. Wow, comforting.

Although that conversation was less than assuring to my husband and me, I will say she was a pro. I couldn’t believe how unbelievable fast she had the shots over and done with. (Guess that comes with practice.) So fast, in fact, that baby almost didn’t know what happened. The shots went in and there was this second of pregnant silence before his little round face just crumpled in on itself and turned red and he let out a cry that pretty much said, “Moooommmm! Why did you do that to me?”

Music to Mommy's Ears

I probably will sound like a terrible mother to say that there was something so incredibly cute about the sheer shock on his face before he opened his mouth wide to let out that wail. I think I may have even smiled a secret little smile as I picked him up and hugged him tight to me.  (I can’t believe I’m even admitting to this on the Internet.)

Baby had only shed two real tears before that day. One was when I accidentally clipped the alligator clip that tethers his pacifier to him to the skin on his chest. (Oops.) Number two was when the dog jumped up on the bed as I was changing baby and in the way that 90-pound dogs can be sweet, accidentally smashed baby on the head. (Double oops.)

I hate saying it, but there is something about seeing baby cry his first tears that can bring a little smile to my face. Part of it is knowing that these moments are temporary; no permanent damage has been done. But the other part of it is seeing such raw, innocent emotion. When a baby cries, it’s a simple cause and effect. Baby got pinched, knocked, or pricked and it hurt, so that means there are tears. How simple and beautiful is that?

It’s no longer like that for adults. I can’t speak for all mommies or daddies, but I would venture a guess that the vast majority of things that make most adults cry at this point in life have nothing to do with physical pain. Tears come from four main sources: disappointment, frustration, humiliation, and sadness. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to go back to just crying when you just hurt yourself?

So, I think that’s why I can smile as I hold my wee one when he wails, clinging on to my shoulder. At this point in his short life, I can kiss the boo-boos away. It won’t be like that for forever, so I better enjoy it now.

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Filed under babies, daily life, emotions, hospital, infants, moms, newbie parents, newborns, parenting, post-pregnancy

In Defense of the Epidural

I’ve been putting off writing this post for a couple weeks now. The issue of whether to go natural (or not) when it comes to childbirth is a very controversial subject, one about which many people are very passionate. But I find that there’s a lot of misinformation, on both sides of the issue, so it’s for that reason that I think it’s only fair that I share my story.

Full disclosure: I am not a childbirth expert. My experience is limited to one wee baby, so you can just take my story for what it is: one first-timer’s account.

I was pretty ambivalent about what kind of birth I wanted. I never wrote a birth plan (it seemed to me like an unrealistic way to try to micromanage a birth) and I didn’t do a ton of research about the whole birthing process (I basically took a three-hour crash course).

My whole take on the birth experience was just to let it happen and not plan too much. If I felt like I could do it without help from any drugs, then great. And if I couldn’t stand the pain, there was a solution for that. I figured that was the best attitude to have since I had nothing tangible in the way of experience to go on. About the only thing I cared about is that I didn’t go to the hospital too early; I couldn’t bear the thought of being sent home for some reason. I just wanted to stay at home as long as I could stand it because I’d be free to move and walk around as I saw fit and I could eat (yes, I know that’s random, but the thought of going like 12 hours with nothing but ice chips sounded bad to me).

I was very intrigued by the idea of a natural childbirth. I mean, it makes sense that you might be wont to introduce a drug into your system out of consideration for the baby, even though an epidural is a local anesthetic, which means it doesn’t circulate through your internal system into the baby’s.

I also was very impressed by the people who’d been able to manage a natural childbirth; they really had the strength, endurance, and tenacity to make it happen. I liked the idea of possessing those qualities myself.

But just how badly did it hurt?

When you ask most moms how much it hurt, they usually say something along the lines of, “Oh, it was really painful, but it’s all worth it in the end.” Okay, that was a fair response, but it didn’t tell me squat; I wanted to know exactly how much it hurt. So, I turned to the men.

The first husband I asked about his wife’s au naturel birth, gave me a super detailed play-by-play. In fact, it was more like a dissection of the whole event. The thing that most stuck with me about his account was how he described the blood just running down his wife’s legs as she was trying various standing positions. (I think at the time he was pretty horrified, and maybe even scared, as well, if the truth be told.)

The second husband that weighed in on the subject gave me these words of advice: “Don’t be afraid of the epidural.” After unleashing a litany of expletives on him and her mother as her labor progressed, he said that his wife only told him to “eff off” once after she got her epidural. (That seemed like a plus.)

Well, I’m going to tell you that labor hurts a lot. Like a lot a lot. My  labor first began around 1:30am. Those early labor contractions were manageable; they were really more uncomfortable than anything. They were just enough to make it impossible to get back to sleep. So, at about 4:30am, I got up. By 8:00am, the pain had jumped up a few notches. I found myself needing to get up an walk around my dining room table a few times until the contractions subsided.

Around 11:00am or so, I decided I needed to get in the shower because the contractions had ratched up in intensity yet again. (A hot shower totally provides relief but it’s rather short lived.)

By 1:30pm, I was having big enough contractions that I decided to call my doctor because I was starting to think that I should maybe go to the hospital. He asked me whether I thought I should go immediately or whether I could hold out a little bit. I said I could hang on for a bit, but I wasn’t sure how much longer.

Then he told me that this could be false labor, so not to panic if they sent me home. At that point, I was thinking, “Oh my god, if this is false labor I am in big trouble for the real thing.” It was hurting so much that I was starting to feel nauseous. (My mom, incidentally, looked and me and told me the doc was crazy because I was most certainly in labor.)

I took one more hot shower just before 3:00pm, and then I told my mom I thought I needed to go to the hospital. The contractions were seriously severe at this point. I remember sitting in the hospital admissions trying to give the woman my information and having to pause nearly after every word to wait for for the contraction to subside.

By 4:30pm, I was in the delivery room with the nurse telling me I was about 5cm dilated. She asked me what the pain was like and pointed me to a chart that went from 0 to 10, with zero being no pain and 10 being extreme pain. My contractions were coming in anywhere from an 8 to a 10, depending on the contraction.

So, by 6:30pm, I was done. I ordered the epidural.

That wasn’t exactly a pleasant experience either, just so you know, if you’re considering. Chances are that the anesthesiologist will stick the giant needle in your back at just the time when you have a level 10 contraction, which is exactly what happened to me. But I just kept doing the yoga-style belly breathing that I had been doing to get through my really tough contractions and got through the epidural as well, despite the weird but short-lived shooting pains that I had going from my butt down the back of my legs to my knees.

Wow. That’s about all I have to say about the epidural. Once it took full effect–I could tell by the fact that when the nurse propped up my left leg it immediately flopped to the side–I said to my mom, “I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do this.”

I literally could not feel anything;  it was like my butt was a giant cinder block. There was absolutely no pain or even sense of contraction. And contrary to popular myths, the epidural didn’t slow down my labor. In fact, my contractions intensified and sped up.

But what was amazing about the epidural was that I could totally relax. In fact, I turned on the boob tube, watched a few episodes of The Office, and took a nap. Around 10pm or so, I woke up and the nurse told me to get ready because I was going to need to start to push.

It was a weird feeling to try to push when you can’t feel anything from your waist down, but I just focused my mind on tightening my abs down through my pelvic floor (it’s similar to pushing out a big poo) and I was doing it. I breathed like I would during a weight training exercise, with a big inhale followed by a long exhale as I worked the muscles. And voila, a little after midnight, we had a kicking, screaming baby on our hands.

So, when I look back, my birth experience was really not stressful at all. And I wasn’t totally wiped either. I mean, I was tired, but I felt pretty good overall. And I like that I was feeling rather peaceful and at ease when baby was born. I think that’s an appropriate way to welcome him to this world.

In saying all this, I don’t want to seem like I am unsupportive of people who choose to go au naturel. I think mommies-to-be should do what’s comfortable for them. I just share my story for those soon-to-be mommies who maybe are considering the epidural but are feeling a little guilty about admitting it.

I feel like there’s so much pressure these days to go natural that some moms are scared of saying in advance of the birth that they may want an epidural. (Conversely, I think it’s probably true that the medical field isn’t super supportive of many of the natural birthing techniques. I also think many mommies aren’t all that well educated about this type of birth.)

But with all that said, I think the term “natural” childbirth is really a misnomer; it’s really just a medicine-free birth. I don’t like the implication that a birth with pain medication is un-natural. I’m pretty sure that I’m just as much a mom as someone who did the whole 24-hour labor without meds; I just chose to not have any pain. (And when I say no pain, I mean literally none. Not even for the crowning.)

So, at the end of the day, it’s all about choice. I’m just here to share my story and provide reassurance that i f you go for the pain meds (1) you are still a good mom and (2) baby will be fine. I don’t see any reason to think that a baby will have more problems with an epidural than with nothing. Complications can pop up any time, without warning, whether you’ve got the best doctor at your side or you’re giving birth in a bathtub at home. Any day, anything can happen. So, don’t stress yourself out about what you “should” do and just do what makes you most comfortable.

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Filed under birthing, delivery, epidural, hospital, natural childbirth, newbie parents, newborns, pregnancy

The Bottomless Pit of a Baby

As a breastfeeding newbie–my experience now spans about 12 days–I found myself dialing the Sibley Memorial Hospital lactation “warm line” two days ago. A warm line is sort of like a hot line only without the crisis attached; you leave a voicemail message and a lactation consultant will give you a call back. I got a holler back from one within a few hours and she patiently listened to me as I basically peppered her with questions about my breastfeeding experience to date.

But for all the small potatoes stuff–yes, it’s normal to have a gimpy side–my two big questions were:

  1. When should I be pumping?
  2. Is it okay to  feed baby expressed milk if he seems like he’s hungry really soon after I’ve nursed him?

Here’s the deal with Baby P’s’s grazing habits. I have no idea if they are typical of all babies or not. No doctor, nurse, or lactation consultant to date has seemed concerned about it, so I’m thinking it’s pretty normal. But basically, he’s an eating machine. There are only minutes in the day when he is just happy to be awake and chilling. The rest of the hours are divided between eating and sleeping with some diapering thrown in between.

I knew going into this that a newborn–or nouveau né, as we call them in my house–feeds about every two to three hours. The kicker is that countdown begins when you start a feeding rather than when you finish one. And you wouldn’t believe how fast that time flies. In my case, it’s often not even enough time to feed yourself or fold a load of laundry or feed the dog. (My Doberman got breakfast at 10:30 this morning, a full three hours after his habitual feeding time; he was quite unhappy with me.)

Guess Who's Hungry (Again)?

Baby tends to nurse rather aggressively and then pretty much deep dive into a food coma. However, for him to stay asleep for any decent stretch of time, I either have to also nap (not always a bad thing) or throw him on the trusty Boppy on my lap for some hands-free time on the computer. Literally, he’ll be dead asleep, so I’ll put him in his crib or pack ‘n’ play and he’s up again in less than 15 minutes. No amount of burping, pacifying, or crying it out gets him back to the Land of Nod.

The worrying part for this amateur mommy is that when he wakes up, he seems to be hungry. He’s not only crying, but he’s sticking out his tongue, opening his mouth, putting his fists in his mouth, kicking his little legs, rooting (he actually latched on to my husband’s collar bone once)–pretty much all the telltale signs of hunger. But can he really be that hungry when he just put down a whole boob full of milk, if not more?

I’ve really wanted to make breastfeeding a success story for me and baby, but I’ve got a few challenges. First, I am paranoid about losing my milk supply; it’s something I constantly worry about because I’ve heard that one wrong move and you’ll see a decrease in supply within a couple days. It’s that delicate of a supply-demand balance.

Second, I’ve got a couple of long trips on the calendar that will be an absolute nightmare if I can’t give the baby a bottle and/or pump. (Can you imagine making the 8+ hour drive from D.C. to the River, flying from Syracuse to Fayetteville, N.C., for my husband’s graduation from Green Beret training, or driving from N.C. to the River with a stop in D.C. if you have to feed the bottomless baby every two hours? It would take forever!)

I learned at one of my breastfeeding classes that the way to build milk supply, like to the point where you can store some for the baby sitter to feed the wee one while you’re at work, is to pump after you nurse. So, I decided last week to try it out.

Now, I was building up quite a decent initial supply by trying to pump after almost every feeding but my mom was emptying it almost as fast as I was stocking it because she was supplementing baby’s normal nursing with a few ounces here and there of the expressed milk. She kept saying that judging by the way he was downing down the ounces at record speed, it seemed to her that he was still hungry even after nursing.

This was driving me nuts for a couple of reasons. First, I was afraid it would screw up baby’s latch (which would mean another round of sore, irritated, rough, sometimes peeling nipples–ouch!) and somehow my boobs would know and then stop producing milk, thus turning me into a breastfeeding failure. Second, every time she gave him a few extra ounces, baby totally quieted down and slept much better, which suggested to me that maybe he was indeed hungry. The last thing any mommy, particularly overly paranoid, totally insecure first-timers, wants to face is the fact that maybe she’s unintentionally starving her baby.

So, I explain all of this to the very nice and patient lactation consultant. The first thing she tells me is that I’m going to drive myself insane if I try to pump after every feeding. (Whew, I was worrying about that as well.) She said I’d be just fine to pump after feedings in the morning, when milk supplies are generally higher, but not to worry about doing much pumping later unless I had some spare time. (As if.)

Then, to figure out if baby’s getting too little food or not. The consultant gave me a little formula or equation to use to figure out how much baby needs to eat in a day; I hope other nouveau mommies might also find it helpful. She said that two weeks after birth, babies should be at least back to their birth weight. So, for baby, we assumed that this week, he should be weighing in at 8.5 pounds.

From there, you take that weight and multiply it by 2.5 to get the total number of ounces baby needs in a 24 hour period (8.5 x 2.5 = 21.25 ounces/24 hours). She also said babies need to have at least 8 feedings a day, so divide your total ounces by eight or however many feedings you typically do in a day and you’ll get an idea of how much baby needs to take down in a single feeding frenzy (21.25/8 = 2.65 oz per feeding).

I found this little formula to be really helpful, or at least reassuring. I could stop stressing that my mom was giving my kid the fois gras treatment, force feeding him too much supplemental milk, but also just be okay with the fact that if he needs a little extra from time to time, I can give him a couple ounces and that should take care of any kind of petit faim that he has. This spells out some good news for some of my marathon trips; it might not have to take 24 hours to get to the River. Wouldn’t that be a plus?

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Filed under breastfeeding, hospital, lactation, newbie parents

The Joys of In-Hospital Shopping

You’ve probably heard of in-flight shopping even if, like me, you’ve never purchased anything from the Sky Mall while traveling. But in-hospital shopping? Seriously? That was a new one for me until about a week ago.

I delivered baby at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C. And my doctor was totally correct when he said it was a nice place to have a baby. You pretty much take a tour of some of the most expensive real estate in D.C. on your way to the hospital and then once admitted, you really do get pretty darn good care. About my biggest complaint was that the nurses kept forgetting to reload the hand sanitizer in my room, so if you were looking for a shot of the germ-killing gel, you had to walk out into the hallway, where there was another dispenser located right outside my room.

As part of the Sibley experience, new mommies get a lot of in-hospital support for breastfeeding. There’s a class new moms can attend every morning at 10:30 am with baby (I did) and you are going to see a lactation consultant at least once a day whether you like it or not (I loved it). Not to mention that you can call for a consultant on-demand, if you like. (I never had to do that because the consultants always seemed to have perfect timing; I was always nursing when they walked in.)

If you attend the class, which I totally recommend even if you, like me, took a pre-birth breastfeeding class, there’s a worksheet that you fill out where you identify your concerns, describe your breastfeeding experience to date, and also indicate whether you are interested in a fitting for a nursing bra. The consultants then work with you one-on-one on some of the issues you may be experiencing.

This personal attention was really an awesome service and a great follow-up to the class. These women (I apologize in advance if there were male lactation consultants on staff; I just didn’t see any) would come into your room and talk you through nursing. It’s sounds weird that you would appreciate a stranger touching your boobs, but I loved that they would take a good look at the latch and give me a thumbs up or thumbs down on it. If it wasn’t quite right, they’d help me adjust my position or the baby to improve the latch. Heck, they’d even look at your nipples and examine any hotspots and instruct you as to how to remedy them.

Honestly, I still have a bit of trouble with the latch on my right side–I think I’m just gimpy on that side for whatever reason–but I think I made darn good use of their expertise in the limited time that I had access to them. And as an added bonus, they are available for advice and help even after you leave the hospital. (That’s something on my growing to-do list if the baby will sleep long enough to let me.) Plus, they give you a sheet with a whole list of breastfeeding support centers and consultants in the D.C. area. (Not to worry, I’ll share that later, too.)

At any rate, to get back to the story, I had checked that I wanted to see someone about a fitting. Pre-baby, I was hesitant to go overboard on the nursing gear. I didn’t buy a super pump or nipple shields or anything like that. I bought one Gilligan & O’Malley nursing bra in black from Target, a tube of lanolin, a box of nursing pads, and a small package of Soothies by Lansinoh Gel Packs, which my friend Betsy swore by. And to be honest, I only bought the last three items because I had a discount coupon and wanted to try out Diapers.com to see if they were all they were cracked up to be. (They are.)

So, the morning of my discharge, in walks one of the lactation consultants to see about a fitting. I really wasn’t in the mood at that point–I just wanted to get out of Dodge–but I felt bad because I had indicated some interest and here she was, so I obliged. (Incidentally, I measured what she called a “full C or small D,” as if there was such a thing as a small D.)

She tells me she’s going to look to see what she’s got in my size–she had left her cart parked in the hallway–and returns seconds later with about six different packages, telling me she’s got every style in about six different colors.

I was really wanting a nursing tank, which I thought would be great for summer, so I immediately gravitated to that. I had checked out the selection at Target when I bought my regular nursing bra but had not purchased a tank, mainly because I was a bit freaked out by the style. The tanks at Target had the clip on the strap, but when you folded the front panel down, there were two holes for your boobs. I was so not digging that; it appeared a little too S&M for my tastes.

At any rate, the Bravado Designs tanks that she was peddling were so much more normal, so I decided to purchase two–one in a hot pink (shown here)

My First In-Hospital Purchase

and one in black (you can never go wrong with black). Although these were more expensive than than the Target variety, I still got them at a discount just for going to the breastfeeding class. And I think they were worth the money. Not only are there no cop-a-feel holes, but I feel like they are better constructed. They run a little bit longer–all the better to cover the post-postpartum pudge–are much more supportive–think more elastic than regular cotton–and come with a really nifty quick-release clasp that I

A Clasp I Can Actually Undo with One Hand

actually can undo and button up with one hand. The only thing is I wish I would’ve bought one size larger because when my boobs are really full, I feel a little constricted. But maybe that won’t be an issue a few more weeks down the road when things settle into a routine.

I also ended up buying a third nursing bra, one that the consultant had described as “not supportive but great for wearing around the house.” I

My Favorite Nursing Bra

absolutely love, love, love this nursing bra. The fabric is super soft, so it doesn’t irritate sensitive nipples and there are no clasps to fuss with; you just sort of pull down one side and you’re good to go. As the woman had said, it’s not super supportive, but I find that it’s holds me in pretty darn well. I mean, I wouldn’t go jogging in it, but I could definitely wear it under a shirt and go out in public without feeling indecent. In retrospect, I wish I

Stretchy + Soft = Super

would’ve bought two of these bad boys and only one of the nursing tanks. But I would rethink my color selection. I chose white because it looked clean and fresh, but a few lanolin application later and it’s stained. (The things that I wish I’d known about lanolin before I started applying it all the time.) So, to do it over again, I’d also choose black or brown or some other dark color.

My in-hospital shopping excursion had a grand total of about $106 for the three bras, which even though my husband rolled his eyes as I handed over my debit card, I thought it was fairly reasonable. Not as cheap as Target, but not ridiculously overpriced either.

At any rate, I thought this shopping experience was rather interesting and had a lot of potential to be expanded. Granted, you could also buy baby’s first portrait in the hospital also; I passed on that shopping opportunity because the brochure made all the babies look not so cute, so I figured it’d be a waste of money at the end of the day.

But it occurred to me that there were other things that I’m sure a lot of newly minted moms would buy from their hospital beds. I totally would’ve purchased a recovery care gift set, complete with mesh underoos, pain spray, and perineal ice packs, if the hospital had been selling them. And I know a couple of moms who thought that the little kimono style outfits that the babies are in during their hospital stay were not only cute but also super functional; given that a few of those outfits sneaked into their overnight bags when they went home, I’m sure there’s a market for selling them. Or even a baby care starter kit or a breastfeeding essentials kit, with products endorsed by the hospital, could be marketable.

Maybe by the next time I have a baby, there’ll be a whole catalog that I can peruse from my hospital bed.

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Filed under birthing, breastfeeding, hospital, moms, newbie parents, shopping

An Anatomy of a Hospital Bag

What Not to Pack

In the short amount of days since my wee one arrived, I’ve had a chance to dissect my birth experience on a number of levels.

There are a lot of things I wouldn’t do different. For example, I think waiting as long as I could stand it before going to the hospital was a really good thing. My contractions first began around 1:30am, I called the doctor at 1:00pm, and then around 3:00pm I finally headed to the hospital. Being at home was so much better because I could move around freely. I was able to put myself in a hot shower a couple of times (highly recommended for contraction relief). I could pace through the rougher contractions and find housework to do to take my mind of them. Heck, I even blogged that morning. So, by the time I got to the hospital, I was pretty much halfway there.

And I definitely wouldn’t rethink the epidural. But there’s a lot more to say on that subject, so I’ll hold off for another post.

But there are a few things that I would do different if I had a chance to do it all over. And top on that list would be my hospital bag.

I got a basic outline of what to pack from Juliana, a former labor and delivery nurse who now teaches birthing, breast feeding, and basic baby care classes under the mantle of Birth-N-Babies. (By the way, I took both her birthing crash course and her breastfeeding course and would recommend both to any D.C.-based mommies-to-be, even if you’re not delivering at Sibley Memorial Hospital, where the courses are held.) Here’s what she recommended:

  • Insurance card and hospital paperwork
  • Glasses, contact lenses, case & solution
  • Book, magazine or cards for early labor
  • Basic toiletry items
  • Hair band
  • 2 pillows with colored or patterned pillow cases to avoid confusion
  • Snacks
  • Nursing bra
  • Nursing pads
  • Comfortable, loose going home outfit and shoes

I looked at list and thought that it would be a no-brainer to pack. But in retrospect, I really wish it went into more detail–like what kinds of comfy clothes, how many nursing bras, etc. So, here’s a revised look at the list with a few additions…

Insurance card and hospital paperwork: Duh. Or so I thought. However, I arrived at the hospital in active labor only to find out that the pre-registration paperwork that I had so carefully filled out in my most legible handwriting and faxed over days before my due date had never gotten to the appropriate person and, therefore, I was not “in the system.” I probably don’t have to tell you that it sucks to be braving through contractions strong enough to make you feel nauseous while sitting in an administrator’s office as s/he types in your name and asks you for insurance information. So, just to be on the safe side, I’d also throw in a hard copy of any pre-admission paperwork that you may have filled out. That way you can just dump the info off and move on up to L&D.

The other thing that I would put in the category of paperwork is your pediatrician’s name, address, and phone number. If your hospital is like mine, there are a series of metabolic tests that they do on the baby before you go home; they take a couple weeks to process, so the hospital needs to know where to send the results. This was a huge problem for us. Although we had chosen to deliver at a private hospital and use my private health insurance to offset the costs, we wanted to manage baby’s health care through the military health care system. To do this seemingly simple task turned out to be a headache that we’re still struggling to straighten out. So, my advice is come to the hospital with the name and contact information of the pediatrician you are going to use. There’ll be pediatricians on staff to check out the wee one while you’re in the hospital, but all the test results from the hospital need to be forwarded somewhere and you might as well not have to call back once you leave the premises.

Books, magazines, and cards: I packed up my Kindle and also threw in a book on breast feeding and I can say that I never cast a glance at either one of them. There were TVs in both my delivery and recovery rooms and I don’t think I ever turned either one off. (I watched a whole documentary on the snake fish, which is this really nasty, invasive fish that’s taking over the Potomac, during labor.) It was so nice to just vegetate in front of the moving picture box. However, I would recommend that your spouse, mom, or “other” birthing partner bring along some reading materials, particularly if you’re getting an epidural. I think my mom finished half her book of sudoku puzzles during my labor.

Basic toiletries: You’re likely to get a toothbrush, some toothpaste, and a bar of soap, so don’t forget the facewash and the travel-size bottles of body wash, shampoo, and conditioner. I threw in a razor and some basic makeup items (face cream, eyeliner, and mascara) and actually used them. I felt totally human having those items at my disposal.

Hair band: I brought both hair ties and some cloth headbands and I definitely think the headbands, which were a recommendation from a mommy-friend, were the best. I swear you’ll be happier with your post-partum pics if you’re wearing a headband rather than a knotted up ponytail.

Pillows: For the record, I did not bring extra pillows from home. And boy, do I wish that I had. I don’t think I needed my body pillow, which I loved so much during my pregnancy that my husband actually started referring to it as “husband,” even though a friend had recommended bringing it. And I’m not sure I would’ve need two extra pillows. However, one of my really nice, fluffy pillows from my bed would’ve been a plus to have in recovery.

Snacks: Yes, yes, and yes. I had stuffed a bunch of granola bars in my bag for my mom and hubby–mommies-to-be can’t eat in labor–but I literally choked down two of them immediately after baby was born and I was sewed up. I was starving!

Nursing bra and pads: I didn’t go overboard with this stuff. In fact, I packed one Target nursing bra and a sports bra (this totally came in handy) and no nursing pads. My milk had started coming in at the hospital, but it really didn’t hit me until I got home, so I’m not sure you need all that much of this stuff up front. Plus, if your hospital is like mine, I was able to pick up a few nice nursing bras from the lactation consultants. The prices were reasonable (there was a discount from attending the in-hospital breastfeeding class) and there was a good selection–better than Target even. The only thing I would caution is that you might want to get a size up from what you’re measuring in the hospital.

Going home clothes: Although I spent the better part of the first day wearing the hospital gown and robe, I was so anxious to get in “normal” clothes. This was late May in D.C., so I packed two pairs of yoga pants, two maternity tank tops, a long sleeve t-shirt (I never put it on), a lightweight robe, and flip flops.

However, to do it all over, I’d have packed three pairs of pants instead of two, three tank tops instead of two, and a cardigan sweater instead of the long-sleeved t-shirt. I was in the hospital longer than I had expected to be because of the time of day I delivered. I went into the hospital Tuesday afternoon, but because I didn’t deliver until Wednesday morning, I wasn’t released until Friday. I felt like my tank tops were dingy and I easily could’ve blown through my yoga pant stash thanks to the bleeding and also random loss of bladder control (blame the catheter for the epidural). And the cardigan would’ve been a more attractive alternative to my robe, which I had to wear when we had to take the wee one to a different hospital for some additional tests before going home. I looked like a mental patient wearing my yellow robe, staggering into the place.

And I’d say if you can get away with wearing flip flops, meaning it’s not Northern New York in January, I’d recommend it. Some people’s feet swell a ton in the hospital. I had one friend who ended up wearing her hubby’s slippers home because her feet wouldn’t even fit into Uggs.

Miscellaneous: There were a number of other things that found their way into my bag–some for the better, some for the worse. For example, I had heard that dry mouth during labor was a big thing. So, I packed chapstick, suckable sour candies, and a few bottles of water. I never pulled out the chapstick or the candies, but I would’ve killed for a case of bottled water. The nurses bring you water and juice all the time, but the juice isn’t really juice–it’s juice substitute–and I prefer water out of a bottle even if its warm to tap water with ice. And somehow the dining crew always ends up snagging your cup, so with a bottle you are all set.

I also brought my own towel from home, which I really couldn’t have done without. Not only did it make me feel more normal, but as you will find out if you’re breastfeeding, your nipples will be super sensitive, so having a nice, soft, normal sized towel–what the hospital provides is very much akin to a couple of gym towels–to pat dry with was wonderful.

The other thing I would highly recommend is to bring your Boppy, My Breast Friend, or whatever else you plan to use to help you nurse. This was a recommendation that came from my friend Courtney and I can’t thank her enough for it. So many other new moms at the hospital were totally jealous when they saw me trekking down to the breastfeeding class with the Boppy.

However, the one thing that I didn’t pack in my bag was a pacifier. I’m not a huge fan of them to begin with, so it didn’t occur to me to throw one in the bag just in case. However, as we had to make the pit stop at the other hospital for a couple of additional tests, baby went into meltdown mode as the doctors were trying to get an echocardiogram done and I wished to god I had one. My index finger made for a very poor substitute.

I didn’t bother mentioning to pack your camera, cell phone, Flip camera (if you have one), and all the charging accoutrement that go along with them; I sort of figure that those were probably the first things in your bag.

And I guess the last piece of advice I have for mommies-to-be is pack as light as possible. Forget the rolling suitcase; a decent overnight bag will suffice if you pack efficiently. After all, you’re going to be lugging a lot more stuff home than you went to the hospital with–baby, car seat, extra diapers and wipes for baby, all your post-birth products, and at least one (if not two) gift bags from a formula manufacturer.

And I totally encourage all you mommies out there to chime in if you found other stuff that proved to be essential during your hospital stay. It’s easy to comment!

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