Sunday, July 12, 2009

Top 10 Hospital Lessons

Many moms of multiples spend time at the hospital on the front end – in the NICU. Parents aren’t allowed to stay overnight with their kids. It’s very different when you take an infant/toddler to the hospital. Even if you think (as we did) that you are going in for one night the hospital visit can turn into the Hotel California. Here are a few lessons we learned during Penny’s 6 days in the hospital.

1. Information Overload. Bring your child’s “history” if this is a long-term condition. Also bring a written list of existing medicines and when they are taken. I wish we had written out Penny’s history of her eating issues before I went in. Many nurses and doctors will be asking questions and giving instructions and it is hard to take notes or even remember what they are telling you. Bring a spiral notebook and pen that is attached. Respectfully request all consults happen in the hallway if possible and ask your child’s nurse to watch her in the room. Most likely if you have twins or another kid only one parent will be with the hospitalized child at a time and you need good notes to do hand off to your spouse. Husband and I would synthesize the information gleaned during the day and ask questions that we would write down to ask the doctors the following day.

2. Pacifiers. I always have laughed when I hear parents say “little [Johnnie] just won’t take a pacifier” – like somehow that makes [Johnnie] a better baby. I love that Penny is a complete pacifier addict. With the pacifier in her mouth she didn’t mouth the toys in the playroom (how often are those really cleaned?). While a pacifier will not soothe a hysterical baby being stuck with a needle once she started to calm down it did the rest of the work for us. I was able to hold a calm baby instead of a trying to calm a screaming baby. Even if your kid isn’t a “pacifier” baby bring it along because you might be surprised.

3. Routine. Try to keep your child’s route in place. After the first two days we started asking doctors and nurses to wait until Penny’s nap was over. I put a sign up asking them to close the damn door in the middle of the night when staff would come in to check on her or her roommate. We were polite but firm. Taking her temperature every 4 hrs? Give me a break – wait until her nap is over. The only thing we had her woken up for at night was an emergency x-Ray (post-aspiration) and for her antibiotics. We fed her on her “home” schedule and napped her pretty much on the same but she did end up keeping a short third nap because some of the daytime naps were attenuated thanks to roommates/noises. We asked to bath her post-dinner feeding as we do at home and they were okay with that provided we did it ourselves.

4. Television. Penny and Ned don’t watch TV. I’m not a purist. No one loves TV more than I do. It just isn’t part of our routine. But when is the last time you spent 24 hours with your kid in the same room? Bring on the TV! Penny “rested” every day for about 20-30 mins watching cartoons on PBS. I could catch up on work Blackberry emails or just breathe for a few minutes. But I honestly didn’t understand why Penny’s roommates would have the TV on 24/7 – no joke.

5. Food. When is that tray of hospital food arriving? Right – not on a set schedule and whatever you ordered your kid won’t eat. So bring your own food – snacks, baby food, whatever. We had crackers and cereal bars – whatever we thought Penny would eat. And since highchairs weren’t always an option be prepared to put your kid on a towel to feed him or her so the bed linens aren’t ruined. Food for parents is tough too – I recommend grabbing food while your kid sleeps (yes, you can leave them) or if there are “volunteers” who will watch your child while you run to the cafeteria. Other supplies that are good to have on hand = washable bib, your own nipples (Penny rejected the latex kind provided), camera, soft clothes without many snaps for your kid (Penny mostly wore a longsleeve white onsie and soft white pants they provided – the hospital gowns were way too big – and socks. Sleep sacks aren’t an option with the sat probe on her toe).

6. Keeping Occupied. A friend mentioned that having a baby in the hospital is like a long plan trip. You are trying to keep them occupied so as not to disturb other “passengers”. There is lots of walking up and down the hallways, trips into the playroom (if you are lucky enough to have one). We brought a few toys and borrowed others from the playroom. Waterplay was one thing we did just to occupy her. I am very thankful Penny doesn’t crawl yet – seeing Ned in action makes me realize how much harder it would have been. We were even told we could take her on a walk but of course this was the month that Boston considered building an Ark so weather prohibited outings. You should also take advantage of any activities they offer – our floor had music and pet “therapy”. You spend a lot of time with your kid in their “crib” – bottles, play, sleeping – I was so ready to say good-bye to the 20+ hrs we spent in one room.

7. Roommates. Be prepared to deal with other families – large families that stay in the same room with you. There will be small talk and trying to be subtle questions about what is wrong with your child. It is hard if there is another baby and not on the same sleep schedule as your child or if the roommate/family likes to watch TV loudly. And talk on their cell phone at midnights. No, I’m not kidding. I ended up bringing headphones and watching DVDs on my laptop and listened to classical music on Pandora. Penny slept like a rock most nights.

8. Really getting to know your kids. I haven’t taken a vacation with my kids since I returned to work so this was the first time in a long time that I spent a lot of time with one of my kids. And just special Mom-Penny time to boot! After watching Penny interact with nurses, doctors and staff; seeing her concentrate on toys; and having her look at me in the eyes and shout “babble” (including her new word “dada”) – I am impressed with what a smart little girl I have. One who is social and interactive. In short, I found the time with Penny while tough from a medical standpoint very reassuring.

9. Everything is negotiable. Don’t be afraid to ask doctors/nurses to respect naptime. When Penny’s IV (in her foot, ugh) was bent and they took it out I lobbied hard to switch her to oral antibiotics so she could actually stand up (held) every now and again. I put up a sign asking nurses to shut the door at night when they came in and out so Penny and I didn’t have to listen to the global monitor right outside our room that went off any time any child had an issue (which could be the O2 dropping, heart rate up, toe probe falls off…the list is endless). Generally I waited for the nurses to check in but sometimes Penny and I would loiter by the nurses station for a question but I never disturbed our nurse if she was with another patient. I also just sent over some fruit and chocolates as a thank you.

10. Resilience. I am beyond impressed with Penny’s resilience. I have to admit I think Ned would not have handled it as well. There were times that nurses were “chasing” Penny’s vein with the needle for blood draws and she’d be screaming her head off. Or when they suctioned out her nose (see above). Then we’d sit her up and I’d give her a hug and she’d smile at the nurse. Amazing.


Nancy said...

Awesome post. I can't even imagine having to bring a child BACK to the hospital :( Sounds like Penny was quite the trooper!!

One thing about the NICU stay though - it depends on the hospital if you're able to stay or not...I stayed in the "mom's room" the entire time my two were in the NICU. That was one of the main reasons we chose the hospital we did :)

Stacey said...

Great advice! I hope to not have to use it though...great picture of you and Penny!

K @ ourboxofrain said...

This info is very helpful - and thorough. Like Stacey, I hope never to have to use it. But I'll definitely reference this post if I do.

LauraC said...

Great advice and wonderful post, although too bad that sweet face had to be in the hospital for so long!

Boston Chef said...

Penny is 100% adorable.

While in the NICU for 2+ weeks, we found that the nurse assigned to your baby each day had a BIG impact on how the day went for us and babies. We loved nearly all of the NICU nurses at Beth Israel, but there were definitely a couple in our "top tier"... and one that we didn't click with at all.

tovarena said...

Our babies were lucky enough to never have to be in the NICU. But we got our dose when DD went back to the hospital at 7 weeks old. 6 hours in the ER (with DS tagging along as I had been home alone with them - fun!), 8 days in the PICU, and then 2 more days in the step-down pediatric unit. The PICU did not allow us to stay. Indeed, whichever one of us was with her at the time, if we started to nod off, they'd kick us out (yeah...not kidding). They also didn't allow us to sit with her during her various reatments. We only ended up at that hospital because they have the only pediatric ER within 20 miles so we pretty much just had to swallow whatever rules they imposed.
Fortunately, we didn't have to worry about "entertaining" her, though, since she was only 7 weeks old.

Janna said...

She is so cute! The little face peeking out from the crib slats is precious! So sorry she was in the hospital.

You are 100% right about the pacifier. I took one of my twins to the ER with a high fever and I didn't bring a pacifier because they don't usually take them (NOT said in a haughty way, more in a "crap! my kids spit out pacifiers; how are we going to get them to sleep? Why the frick won't they take a pacifier?" way:) and he sucked on my finger most of the time, especially after a procedure that upset him. I am sure if I'd brought a pacifier, he would have used it while he was in the ER.

Anonymous said...

Great post!

I love Penny in the blue polka dot dress with the cherries. My sister and I were just gushing over that same one in Kohl's yesterday!

Shelley said...

Good post! Love the picture of the two of you!