Notes from our hospital stay

19 February 2016

While pregnant, I loved reading through other gals’ tips for packing a go bag and for the hospital stay. I took them all into account as we made our plans, and now that I’m on the other side, I wanted to share some of my own tips to complete the circle! My experience actually led to some very different advice from what I read, so I’ll be curious to see how much of it resonates with y’all. And just as a reminder, I ended up having a c-section, so that’s the perspective I’m writing from! (Although I think much of it is relevant for any type of birth!) Here we go!


1. Pack selectively. I would guess we didn’t use 75% of what we packed for our stay, and we didn’t even pack that much! Our time in the hospital was constrained to just a few things — namely, getting to know June, taking care of her, and healing — and those activities have simple needs. Things that we DID use: a big towel for showers (the hospital’s were small and scratchy); our camera and other devices, including chargers; toiletries; two pillows (the ones on the bed were fine for me, but John used both on the couch!); clothes and a few snacks for John; and going-home outfits for June and myself. I had purchased things like a pair of cozy but cheap socks, a sleep t-shirt/gown, and button-up pajamas in advance, but didn’t end up using any of them (see below). One thing we wish we had brought? John’s Crocs! He had sneakers, but they just don’t compare to the cushioning of the Crocs. With all the time he spent on his feet walking, changing, and tending to June, he needed every bit of comfort he could get!

2. Wear the gown. As I mentioned above, I didn’t end up wearing any of the clothing I brought except for the outfit I wore home. Instead, I found it much more convenient and comfortable to wear the hospital gown at all times! That way, I wasn’t struggling with clothing as June and I learned to nurse, and everyone else who needed access had it easily (with a c-section, my incision was checked regularly and there was lots of looking at my abdomen). I also wore comfy socks provided by the hospital.

3. Get Dad in the game. A silver lining to having a c-section was that John was an equal partner in everything June from day one. I fed her and cuddled her, but that was about it – he was responsible for all diapering, swaddling, walking, and more. He also took charge of tracking her feedings and diapers, which was so helpful for me and another way for us to work as a team. I can’t recommend enough establishing equal footing in care as early as possible!

On another note, at my lowest point, when I was feeling the most pain and was pretty tired, this was actually a bit hard for me – I felt like John was doing everything and I was totally useless, and it had me in tears. If you find yourself in the same spot, know that you’re doing everything you should be doing, and everything you can, even if it doesn’t seem like much… and that there will be plenty of opportunities to do more as you heal!

4. Talk to the lactation consultant. Speaking of accepting help… talk to the lactation consultant! Talk to more than one! (The consultant we saw on the second day was much more helpful than the first one!) We did a lot of preparing for breastfeeding in advance (books and classes), but nothing can compare to having someone watching, guiding, and making suggestions when you actually have a baby in your arms! The tips, advice, and encouragement we got from our consultant were SO helpful and really set us up for success.

5. Walk, walk, walk. This tip is for my c-section friends! From what I can tell, I recovered remarkably quickly and completely from surgery, and the main thing I can contribute that to is our intense walking habit! My first (very, very slow) lap around the hallway was 12 hours after my surgery on the arm of a nurse. The hospital encouraged us to walk as much as possible, so even though it was painful at first, we tried to walk after almost every feeding day and night (roughly every three hours). John joked that our first trip was literally the slowest he’s ever walked (I took two steps for every one-foot tile), but by the end of our stay, I was walking pretty much normally. Walking also helped with gas pain, as you’ll see below…

6. Watch out for gas pain. Again, this is specifically for my c-section friends. I didn’t do a lot of research into c-sections during pregnancy since I wasn’t expecting to have one, so a lot of what happened was new to me. But something I had never heard of in relation to c-sections, either from books or the experience of friends, was gas pain! Apparently this is a side-effect limited not only to c-sections but any type of surgery where you’re opened up. Gas can get trapped inside you, causing sharp shooting pains – mine were mainly in my shoulders and thighs. It was worst about 36 hours after June’s delivery, and the pain was sharper than anything from my incision — every breath hurt. The nurses encouraged us to walk as much as possible to help alleviate it, and they gave me simethicone, which also helped. The pain subsided about 72 hours out.

6. Enjoy your stay. Since I had a c-section, we were in the hospital for three nights, and a few friends recommended that we try to get discharged early. My response? Heck no. We absolutely loved our hospital visit and planned to stay as long as they would let us! Of course, I think a lot of this had to do with our excellent hospital (we actually kept mistakenly referring to it as a hotel) and fabulous nurses, but also with our mindset. I know a lot of people get annoyed by the interruptions (and there are a lot, at all times of the day and night), but most, like getting your vitals checked, are over within minutes. I chose to think of them as people helping to keep me and June healthy, which made them welcome, and not annoying, visitors. (Also, don’t hesitate to ask them to come back in a little bit – I did that several times while we were trying to nurse and they were always happy to do so!)

And make it fun! Though there were difficult and painful moments, overall, our time in the hospital felt so cozy, sweet, and set apart from reality. We kept the lights dim, didn’t have any visitors, and focused only on getting to know June. We ate all the jello, apple juice, and Italian ice we wanted. We ordered ice cream with lunch. We FaceTimed with family and watched a Duke game. We napped. We marveled at June’s tiny fingers and adorable face. Your hospital stay is not the time to get on any sort of diet, compose dozens of beautifully-lit photos for social media, or answer email!

7. Consider your visitation policy. As I mentioned above, we chose not to have any visitors while in the hospital. This kind of happened naturally, since all of our family lives a plane ride away, but it ended up being so good for us. Those first few days are so tender in so many ways. Especially with a c-section recovery and dealing with pain, I wouldn’t have felt up to seeing anyone before our third day in the hospital, anyway. We did get to chat with family through FaceTime and extensive texting, but it was so nice not to have to worry about wearing normal clothes, looking presentable, or coordinating visitors and nursing. (And yes, I know our families wouldn’t have cared about any of those things, but they would have been on my mind!) We knew there would be lots of time in the future to share our little with loved ones, and so loved keeping those few days just to ourselves.

I have lots to share about our first two weeks home from the hospital, so that will be coming next! I hope this post is helpful, and would love to hear if my tips resonate with y’all or if you had a different experience!

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February 19, 2016 9:49 am

SO happy to hear about your stay! Sounds like you had a very positive experience. As an RD to be and a future lactation consultant to be, it makes my heart so happy to hear about your stay. So glad mom, dad, and baby are doing well. :)

February 19, 2016 10:10 am

I’ve had a lot of surgeries/procedures where I’ve had to stay in the hospital overnight. And I’ve actually read a lot of these post-birth stories on different blogs. I liked your recap the best!! I tend to forget that for many women, the first time they ever stay in the hospital is when they give birth. But I feel like anyone, pregnant or not, could read your recap and glean some great tips from it. And I loved what you said about “enjoying your stay.” I really grinds my gears when people get annoyed with nurses for doing their jobs (the nighttime interruptions) because nurses are the BEST PEOPLE EVER. I loved you positive attitude.

February 19, 2016 11:53 am

I love that you didn’t have any visitors during your entire stay. With our first, we decided that we didn’t want to have any visitors while I was in labor and my mom took it pretty hard when we told her we didn’t want anyone there until after he was born. I’m SO thankful we made this decision because I ended up having a very emergency c-section and I wouldn’t have liked having anyone else in the room when they made that swift call and rushed me to the OR (my husband didn’t even have time to get to the OR before the baby was out.. I think it took them something like 14 seconds to get him out once I was in there). We kept very quiet about when I was going in to the hospital because I didn’t want anyone but very close family and friends to visit. The problem we ran into was everyone showing up to our house at the same time the day we came home and it was totally overwhelming for me. I took the baby up to nurse and fell asleep with him until everyone left. I’ll have a planned c-section with #2 in June and I definitely plan on being even more strict with visitors during and after our stay.

February 19, 2016 1:07 pm

Friend, my biggest thought reading this was just that you’re so brave! I’m sure some of this was scary and very unknown, but it sounds like you and John truly made the best of it! <3

February 19, 2016 1:26 pm

I loved reading these types of posts during my pregnancy too! You give great advice here and I agree with all of it! I brought way too many clothes, loved that my husband ended up having to jump in and do most of the dirty work right away while I recovered (even though not from a c section, still had a lot of recovering to do), and am so grateful for the guidance and care of the lactation consultants and wonderful nurses. My little guy ended up jaundiced and we were faced with leaving the hospital without him so getting the go ahead and for ALL of us to leave was so amazing but our time there was so good. And next time, I will not be having visitors other than our parents. That made nursing and healing more stressful than needed. Congratulations on your beautiful girl!

February 19, 2016 3:22 pm

@Kelly You are doing great and important work that I know will bless so many couples! Thank you!!

@Jewel I could not agree more!! John and I kept saying over and over how wonderful and helpful our nurses were and how much we loved them. Nurses are my new favorite people!!

Laura B
February 19, 2016 5:39 pm

You are so inspiring! This is very helpful advice as Dan and I prepare for May! Thank you for sharing your experience and your positive outlook. xoxo

Kate W
February 19, 2016 8:33 pm

Thank you for posting! I’m due in May with my first little boy so I am eating up all your advice. Keep it coming! :)

February 20, 2016 9:42 am

I love how you and John really made your experience a positive one and kept it a scared time for just y’all as a family! I also really love your advice on getting your hubby involved right away, I feel like that would be a big help to keep from feeling overwhelmed while you’re healing. This was all great advice, I am taking notes for my future pregnancies!

February 20, 2016 10:21 pm

I think this might be one of the best “hospital stay advice” posts I’ve ever read and I couldn’t agree with it more!! I did not mind the hospital gown at all, I think it made everything so much easier! And while I didn’t push to have a lactation consultant visit with us with Jude (the nurse wasn’t exactly helpful) I will definitely be requesting (demanding) a visit with one when baby 2 arrives in April! I didn’t have a c-section, but I was so exhausted from delivery my husband almost took care of the baby himself the first night (yay for awesome dads). And I could not agree more about not having visitors. We did have our parents visit in the hospital after Jude was born once, but after that I wanted it to be just us. And I also didn’t allow visitors at home for a while because I wanted to learn how to be a family of three on our own and without any advice or help from others. With baby 2 coming soon I know I want lots of the same experiences as before, but it will be different since someone will have to watch our toddler while we are at the hospital. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, this is definitely a post I’m going to share with other new mamas!!

February 22, 2016 11:55 am

Great tips here. I delivered in a free-standing birthing center so we went home approximately 5 hours after our son was born. In some ways this was nice to be in our own space, but I kind of feel like a I missed out of the “vacation” aspect of recovery. It was also scary! In the future, whether we stick with the center or go to a hospital, I will definitely limit visitors, if allow any at all the first few days too. I had a lot of anxiety and wasn’t sleeping much (of course) so worrying about people coming over did not help! You and your husband sound like a wonderful team for your sweet one! Congratulations. :)

February 22, 2016 1:45 pm

As a first time mom with a (quickly) approaching due date of May 2nd, this brought me so much comfort & peace! We also are going to not have visitors in the hospital — and while this can be tough to communicate, I’m so reassured by your wisdom here. Thank you for blogging about your experiences & I’m SO looking forward to seeing more posts about motherhood!

February 22, 2016 6:23 pm

I’ve been happily anticipating getting to read some thoughts on the beginnings of motherhood from you. :) This is super helpful! I’ve thought about getting a nice hospital gown in a fun pattern (they’re $30) for this exact reason.. thinking it would make me feel a bit more special at the hospital, plus I know that we’ll have a steady stream of visitors. What do you think? :)

February 24, 2016 1:42 pm

Loving all of your motherhood posts! I agree with packing simply. And milking :) your time with the lactation specialists (AKA angels). I went into labor 7 weeks early without a hospital bag packed (turns out I have a very small cervix which caused premature labor and a very very fast delivery – I was in labor for less than 2 hours and arrived at the hospital 10 minutes before giving birth). I wasn’t even planning to deliver in a hospital. So my biggest piece of advice based on my own experience: pack a hospital bag regardless of your birth plan (even if you are planning a home birth or birth center birth) and pack it early in your pregnancy. I wish I would have done this! I think shoes are really important, too, and you’re the first person I’ve ever heard mention it! I see how the right ones would have made all the difference after a c-section delivery, and in my case, I was walking a lot, at all hours, between the NICU downstairs and my recovery room upstairs so having a comfortable pair made a huge difference. But back to your point on simplicity…yes! My bag was thrown together by my husband 30 seconds before we left for the hospital, and I survived. :)

February 24, 2016 4:42 pm

HI Em!

Wonderful post – and congratulations! What did you bring for June and what did you find you needed/didn’t need? Also I’ve been seeing a lot of postpartum supplies lists – did you bring any of that stuff with you and did you need it?

all the best,

February 25, 2016 1:25 pm

I so appreciate your honesty in this list! All those “What to Pack” lists can get quite overwhelming and most leave me feeling like I’ll be underprepared by just using the hospital gowns or not packing a hair dryer! Thank you! XO

February 29, 2016 4:00 pm

So agree with so much of this, especially to really use the lactation consultants and pay attention. It’s such a blur but focusing when with them is needed. I also wish I had taken my breastfeeding pillow – cause once I got home and tried to use one I kind of forgot what to do and how to recreate what we had at hospital. We had trouble getting started with breastfeeding and had a LC come to our house after a week home, after a month, and lastly after 7 weeks. I had so many questions I wished I had asked at the hospital.

Only thing I mildly disagree with is the hospital gown. I brought a simple button down nightgown from Old Navy. After I was allowed to shower, I put that on and it made me feel a million times better.

Also – for outfit you wear home – a dress is actually not an awful idea. No one told me pants and any kind of waistband might be painful to wear for a couple days! ; )

March 1, 2016 8:34 am

Thank you so much Em and happy birthday!

December 8, 2016 3:34 pm

Have just re-read this having had our beautiful baby boy by c section this time last week and it all resonates so true. Thank you xx

December 27, 2016 12:14 am

I have just seen this sweet message Em – thank you so much. It has been the most wonderful and exhausting few weeks of our lives so far, getting to know baby Benjamin. Hooray for paternity leave and having spent this precious time as a new family of three. Xxx