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16 Surprising Things That'll Happen During Your Hospital Birth

Feb 21 2018 - 8:00am

They say nothing can prepare you for childbirth, but that doesn't mean you can't at least prepare for the moments surrounding it, namely those two-ish days spent in the hospital. Only after my short stint — which, granted, felt like an eternity — did I learn enough to successfully navigate nurses, dodge visiting hours, and loot the supply closet. So, get your go-bag packed [1] and read on for a guide to mastering the neonatal version of office politics.

You'll Sweat Buckets

"Is it hot in here?" That was my most-asked question postbirth. I figured I'd be sweaty immediately after the most intense workout of my life, but I didn't realize I'd be swamped with night sweats for days. Turns out, your body's hormones are normalizing, and it's how you get rid of all that retained water. Don't be shy about asking the nurses to change your bed linens frequently.

You'll Get Contractions . . . After You've Given Birth

I was breastfeeding when it hit me. An all-too-familiar pain shooting through my body. In some cruel joke, it turned out to be a postbirth contraction, which helps your uterus shrink back down to its prepregnancy size. And as sadistic as it seems, it's entirely normal.

There's a Delivery Mirror

Near the end of my delivery, my very enthusiastic doctor had a brilliant idea. "Bring in the mirror," she told a nurse. "You're going to want to see this!" For a set of pushes, I got to watch what was going on behind the curtain, long enough to see my baby's head crowning. Long enough to want to stop looking.

I should have asked my doc to get rid of it, but in an attempt to be amenable to the person delivering my baby, I closed my eyes instead. It might be cool for some moms to see everything, but if it'll only creep you out — or distract you — just say no.

Resist Spending a Fortune on Newborn Photos

Most hospitals offer a complimentary newborn photo shoot during your stay. Generous, sure, but it's only the session that's free . . . the actual photos come at a (pretty expensive) cost. Although you might think they are the most gorgeous shots ever taken of your new baby, take pause before handing over your credit card. By the time I got around to printing any of mine, I'd taken about 3,587 more recent pictures and had new favorites to frame.

"Rooming In" Might Suck

The benefits of having your baby "room in" with you — as opposed to spending the majority of the time in the hospital nursery — are paramount. I was 100 percent on board with it. Until the first night.

After several straight hours with a crying baby, a nurse came in to fix our botched swaddle job. "If I could just get some sleep, I'd be able to handle it," I hinted. She didn't take the bait. This song-and-dance routine went on until the wee hours of the morning, when I finally broke down and asked her to take our baby to the nursery for a few hours. I felt beyond guilty before I discovered a well-kept secret: tons of moms do it, and many consider it the only free childcare they'll ever get. If you need a break, don't be too proud to just ask for it.

You Won't Be Able to Tell Your Baby Apart

Not only is a few hours in a hospital nursery OK, but it's also OK if when going to get your baby, you can't tell which is yours. It's not an indication that you'll be a terrible mother. It's an indication that babies all kind of look the same.

Your Partner Will Probably See Everything

Going in, my husband and I agreed that he wouldn't peek. But we didn't realize that with him by my side during delivery, he'd be pretty close to the action. And like a car crash, it's hard to look away.

Your Support Team Might Need Support

When I was in labor, I wasn't the only one needing medical attention. My husband blames a hospital cafeteria sandwich on the nausea that sent him racing to the bathroom during my very first push. My mom got a rush of eleventh-hour light-headedness, which led to a nurse rushing to get her a chair and some orange juice.

Encourage your family to speak up if they're feeling sick. Better to have a professional intervene before they throw up or pass out. You can blame them later for trying to steal your thunder.

Your Baby Won't Cry the Very First Second of Life

The movies have you believe babies cry the instant they're born, but it sometimes takes up to a minute, which feels like an hour to a very expectant new mom.

Don't Panic Over the Paperwork

I received a three-inch-thick packet of documents from the hospital that I still plan to get around to reading. The truth is, if you're worried you've forgotten something, the important stuff bubbles back up.

Your Stomach Might Gross You Out

It's funny how the idea of having a human with hair and fingernails inside of me wasn't disturbing, but even touching my postpartum stomach elicited a gag reflex. What was once a tight, purposeful baby bump now felt like a big ball of bread dough. Whether or not you're squeamish about all that loose skin, be prepared to leave the hospital still looking like you're several months along.

You Won't Want All Those Visitors After All

No matter how you felt the day before, you might not want a revolving door of cousins, co-workers, and neighbors when you are exhausted . . . and sweating . . . and having postbirth contractions. Consider telling your loved ones they can visit your family at home, once you're released from the cramped confines of a hospital room.

Your Nurses Will Bother You a Lot

Another reason to forgo visitors! You'll be getting plenty of visits from nurses, from pediatric doctors, from your OB, from techs turning on lights in the middle of the night to check your vitals. You'll get visits from the cleaning team to change your linens and from the cafeteria staff to pick up empty plates. In fact, just as I was about to finally slip into a nap one afternoon, the hospital's hospitality manager knocked on my door to ask if I'd had a nice stay.

No One Tells You What to Do

With all those drop-ins from healthcare professionals, you'd think you'd have plenty of help, right? I was baffled that after hours of exhausting labor and a general deer-in-headlights demeanor, no one gave me any guidance on how to properly care for this new person, never mind help change a diaper.

Don't Overthink That Fancy Homecoming Outfit

If you spent even five minutes deliberating over which onesie your little bundle of joy leaves the hospital wearing, you've wasted five minutes. Same goes for your outfit. Yoga pants are yoga pants, and the moment you get home, you're all going to want to change into fresh duds anyway.

Take Everything Not Bolted Down

One of the perks of childbirth is all the freebies! Disposable underpants might not be the swag you had in mind, but make a point to fill your bags with everything from diapers to swaddling cloths to ice packs to tubs of witch hazel cream.

Don't feel even remotely gluttonous because, trust me, you'll soon get a bill that'll make you wish you took a whole lot more.


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