Just be glad I only said “stool softener” once
Besides Little Evan’s birth, I think the longest I’ve ever been in the hospital was the (fortunately unnecessary) trip to the ER at Children’s in Hartford for the OMG-my-baby-is-throwing-up-blood incident. Which doesn’t even really count since I was just IN the hospital, not In The Hospital. I can’t remember ever actually being In The Hospital for anything in my life, other than really fuzzy early childhood memories of a finger being slammed in a glass sliding door and the cool x-ray room where they showed me the bones on one of those light-box things. I was very very impressed.
After the last two weeks, I am like a hospital PRO. I could write a book about what to do to make your stay more comfortable and what you should and should not ring your nurse for and the exact way to get your IV stand as close to the bathroom door as possible so you can pee but still have enough tubing to reach the sink too. I wonder if there’s a market for such a book? Although hospitals vary drastically (like the horrible torturous place poor Mae’s husband was admitted that didn’t allow any meat or caffeine) so a guide to MY local hospital may be totally useless at yours, especially if you don’t happen to be in the Labor & Delivery wing.
If only there was someplace I could publish my probably unhelpful to everyone but my immediate neighbors advice in a public forum!
So here they are, are my 5 Tips For A Comfortable(ish) Hospital Stay
1. Bring pillows and underwear. Lot of both things. After my first stay I thought “Oh man, when I come back to have this baby I am bringing SO MANY pillows” and then BAM! less than a week later I’m back and totally pillowless. Of course, perhaps the delirium and inability to make wise choices could be blamed on the spiking fever and severe infection, but who knows. As for the underwear, all I can say is when you’re stuck in a hospital gown for a week at least ONE part of your body can be wearing something dry, comfortable, and clean. As long as you don’t forget to bring any.*
2. Bribe your nurses. My dear friend Amy suggested if I was knitting to keep myself busy I might want to make a couple coffee coozies (new question: what exactly IS the correct spelling of “coozie”?) for the nurses because they loved that sort of thing (she used to work in a hospital and is very wise). I whipped one up on my first day for a nurse who was being extra nice and wouldn’t you know, she came back every day she was on – even when I wasn’t her patient – to make sure I had everything I needed. I had planned to make a bunch more but sitting up and staying conscious was too much work. I’m starting on a supply to hand out at Baby Sandy’s birth now, so I don’t miss anyone. You can also use baked goods (the cookies my mom sent in were gone in seconds). Even cheaper? Learn and use their names. My nurses loved when I remembered their names.
3. Don’t be afraid to make yourself more comfortable. Need another blanket? They’re probably in the room somewhere – in our L&D it’s the drawers under the TV. Please, take one. My IV kept almost falling out because breaking a 102 fever three times a day = horrible sweaty mess that no tape on the planet will stick to. So instead of ringing for a nurse every time it came loose I just used a roll of the IV tape I found in the drawer to stick it back on. Is your gown soaking wet because you’re incapable of drinking correctly out of a cup without a straw? Those are in a drawer somewhere too. Is your room too cold? Try adjusting the thermostat. None of these things will hurt you. Personally, it also made me feel a teeny tiny bit more in control in a situation I had no actual control over whatsoever.
4. And don’t be afraid to ask anyone else to make you more comfortable either. When the nurse says “Is there anything I can get you?” say “Yes, I’d like another pillow and maybe an Italian Ice and when am I due for my next round of pain pills?” They are supposed to help you, 24 hours a day. That tech that comes in and wakes you up at 3 am to check your blood pressure? Is just as capable of getting you more ice water. Tell your day nurse you want new sheets while you take a shower. And don’t forget you’re in a hospital (as if you could), which probably means the pharmacy is open all night in case you need something for nausea. Or heartburn. Or a, ahem, stool softener. Your nurse would be happy to bring you those things! Even in the middle of the night! Because they are being paid to do that!
5. Hospital menus are just suggestions. Really, do they think sick people want things like “roasted pork loin with gravy and Caribbean vegetable medley” that is really just “hunk of meat and diced carrots covered in gray stuff”? And why is the thing they call “cobbler” so much like gel toothpaste in a flavor called “orchard fruit”? So when they bring you a menu and ask you to circle those choices, DON’T ACCEPT THEM. REJECT THE ESTABLISHMENT! DAMN THE MAN! Eating something is important (says the woman who spent three days medicated for a headache that turned out to be mostly hunger) and no one really thinks that pork loin is anything even close to healthy so when they give you that menu and a pen, write a great big X right over everything and write “cheeseburger” “bagel with cream cheese” “pizza” “jello” “noodles with butter” or whatever the hell else it is that you might be able to stomach. It was so nice to take the lid off a dish and NOT see another gross lump of meat and wilted veggies that even greasy, underwarmed pizza looked DELICIOUS.
That is certainly not a complete list of advice. And I’m sure I’m missing the one! super! important! thing! you know about staying in the hospital. So feel free to add to it, especially because I am going BACK to the same terrible horrible no good very bad labor, delivery and recovery beds (THE MOST uncomfortable beds on the planet) to actually, finally, no kidding have a baby.
*Other stuff to bring: toothpaste/toothbrush, shampoo, lip gloss, slippers/socks, cell phone charger/cell phone, something to read/craft/knit, hair elastics, comfortable bra(s), body lotion.