What’s The Postpartum Hospital Stay Really Like?

postpartum-hospital-stayWhen I was pregnant with my first child, I remember talking to other women about the whole birth process, and most of the women I spoke with all said the same thing: the time I spent in the hospital after giving birth would be the most amazing and magical time of my life. They described a spa-like experience where caring nurses doted on me hand and foot, catering to my every need. Gourmet room service meals would be delivered on demand. Additionally, I would have this dedicated bonding time where my newborn and I got to snuggle, sleep and just enjoy the miracle of life free from all the distractions and noise of the outside world. I remember hearing stories of women openly weeping upon leaving the hospital because they were going to miss this special time/attention/treatment so much.

I don’t know what hospital these women gave birth at, but it certainly wasn’t the hospital I gave birth at! Both my hospital stays when my children were born were anything but relaxing, calming or peaceful. No, my postpartum hospital stays were a sea of chaos with a revolving door of doctors, nurses, and hospital staff, all of whom made it absolutely impossible to rest, recover or bond.

Maybe my experience had a lot to do with timing. Hospital staff start their rounds around 6 or 7 AM. Both of my children were born late at night or early in the morning, so I had only been in my actual hospital room for an hour or two once the regular cavalcade of staff started. Both times I was already exhausted and in desperate need of sleep once the daily hospital grind began.

Be prepared to see everyone – not just the doctor and the nurse – but everyone. I remember several incidents where I was attempting to breast feed or trying to grab a few minutes of sleep and the hospital customer care representative stopped by, or the records person came in to explain the birth certificate forms, or the pharmacy tech came into explain the medication I would be sent home with, and since I wasn’t taking any medication home, he just wanted to say hi and see if I had any questions. In fact, I had so many hospital staff paraded in and out of my room, at one point there was a line at my door of people waiting to see me. There’s the hospital photographer, the janitor, the linens person, the person picking up the food order, the person dropping off the food, the lactation consultant, the person in charge of the hospital’s postpartum after care program, and probably about a dozen other people that I can’t even remember why they were there. It never failed that once I finally got my fussy newborn to sleep or latch on, someone would burst through door and absolutely have to speak to me for the next twenty minutes.

And don’t think that once the normal business hours stop the chaos dies down. At my hospital this is when all the medical testing starts. Both my children were taken for all their routine newborn hospital care (hearing test, circumcision, vaccinations, etc) between the hours of 11 PM and 4 AM. My son was taken away at midnight, brought back at 1 AM, then taken away again at 2 AM and brought back at 3 AM. I, myself, have a very distinct memory of being woken up by a nurse at 3 AM so that I could receive a tetanus shot.
I would estimate that someone came into my room, on average, every hour and half for the entire hospital stay. Try sleeping, relaxing, recovering, resting, or bonding with all that commotion going on. My husband and I were so exhausted from the 40+ hours we stayed in the hospital after the birth of our daughter, we literally begged them to discharge us so we could go home and get some sleep. Having wised up for the birth of my son, we firmly asserted we wanted to leave as soon as we could. We were discharged the day after he was born even though our insurance would have covered another night.

And as for that gourmet room service, who are we kidding, it’s still hospital food, and the portions are tiny. Although after 14 hours of labor, that turkey sandwich someone found for me at 1 AM is the best sandwich I have ever eaten.

Don’t get me wrong, I am 100% grateful and appreciative for everything the hospital staff did when it came to the birth of my children. I firmly believe in modern medicine and didn’t mind entertaining the bevy of visitors if it meant myself and my child were healthy. It just wasn’t what I had expected having heard all those stories from other mothers about what a peaceful and relaxing time it would be. My advice to expecting mothers is to be prepared for total chaos and hope you’re pleasantly surprised.

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About This Blogger

Jen Gehring

When she’s not managing political campaigns or teaching law classes, Jen Gehring enjoys spending time with her family, including her two young children. A fashionista and recovering-perfectionist, this busy working mom uses her precious seconds of free time to run, sip wine, and escape into reality television. She’s been a freelance writer for the last five years.