Memories of that time in the hospital with my newborn son are fuzzy at best, but I can remember a list of things the nurses and doctors were checking before we were released into the wild, wild world. From what I recall, this list was pretty clinical in nature. So, as a kind suggestion, I encourage every postpartum woman to do the things every new mom should do before leaving the hospital; things that don't necessarily benefit a woman's newborn directly; things that go well beyond what’s on the doctor’s list.
Now, this isn't to say the list your OB-GYN checks off isn't totally acceptable as-is, because it is. I mean, they went through years and years of schooling to familiarize themselves with that list. That list matters, my friends. However, doctors don't, um, always factor in the shock value of things like mesh underwear and ice diapers. That takes some processing (at least, it did for me).
Really, I’m sorta surprised I remember any of it at all, given the hormones and feelings and emotions and superhero serum and whatever else was pulsing through my body as a result of having just given birth. I know I spent a lot of time staring at my swaddled son, then looking around the dim room on what turned out to be my first of many sleepless nights. Thankfully, the nurses were super helpful in teaching me the basics while simultaneously assuring my spouse and I (and reassuring us) many times over that the weird sound our son was making was, in fact, normal. So, on that note, should I find myself in a hospital and recovering from birth again, I might consider adding the following things to the checklist:
Ask All Your Questions…
I suppose it’s possible that there are other women who become moms already knowing a ton about babies. I, however, was not one of those women. I’m the youngest in my family, and though I was a camp counselor and an occasional babysitter, none of those experiences involved actual newborn babies. As you can imagine, there was a lot that I didn’t know.
...Even The Ones You Think Are Really Silly
Or, even the ones that you already asked the other nurse but want to ask again because the baby is still making that noise and you just want to make sure he’s OK, and everything will be OK, and please tell me that everything is fine.
Know What To Do When More Questions Arise
After my son was home, I seriously remember wondering if we could just, like, take him back to the hospital and ask the nurses a couple more questions since we lived really close. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on who you ask), hospitals don’t really work that way. In my experience, it’s better to start with a phone call or two.
Get All The Reassurance You Need
A nice doctor we met at one point told my partner and I that most of what he did was "reassure parents." I appreciated this anecdote, since it made me feel less alone and slightly less ridiculous for needing (OK, wanting) to talk about my son’s umbilical stump for 45 minutes.
Make Sure You've Got The Basics Covered When It Comes To Baby Care
At some point, asking all the questions about diapers becomes a barrier to just changing the diaper. Eventually, things will need to get done. You've got this.
Makes Sure You Understand Your Own Care Needs
Speaking of taking care of people, it’s easy to overlook your own recovery when a new baby is in the room. Without a nurse coming in to remind me when to take painkillers, and offer me more ice, I would have easily forgotten. My own providers were good at checking on me in addition to our son, but knowing that they weren’t coming home with me meant that it was on me to stay on top of things (like myself).
Take Any Pictures You Want To Take
We took some pictures in the hospital, but most of them will never see the light of day since, well, I had just given birth and all. However, if I were to go back or do it again, I think I would have been more intentional about getting that one good “family” posed picture with my husband, my son and I. Please learn from my mistake and know that, if this is important to you, you can make time for it.
Accept Your Newfound (Hopefully Short-term) Relationship With The Spray Bottle
A necessary evil, I was both thankful for the spray bottle and I loathed it at the same time. Perhaps part of my issue was that it was a total surprise to me, but regardless of its origins, I had to learn to love it. Well, not love it exactly, but use it.
Have Some Downtime With Your New Family
Yes, you’ll still have time together when you go home, this much is true, but there’s something special about those first hours, before the baby’s been dressed and before he or she has gone outside for the first time and definitely before you’ve been through the stress of loading him or her into the car seat. Assuming there were no complications, all you really need to do is bond and get the care basics under control, which allows some room to take it all in and appreciate the moment.
Make Sure You Didn’t Forget Anything You Brought With You
I mean, don’t forget your baby either, but that kind of goes without saying. If your hospital is anything like mine, they’ll send you home with way more stuff than what you brought, but it’s still worth it to make sure you’ve packed up accordingly. Kinda like when you go to a hotel, only this time you’re probably way more sore and tired.