Taking Care of YOU When Your Child is Admitted By Claire Evans
I learned the hard way that I was forgetting myself when I was stuck in a hospital for 2 weeks with my sick special needs child. It is easy to do. Put your children first, yourself last. I lived by this. So our first long hospital stay I packed everything to make her comfortable and nothing for me. 3 days in, I was longing for an ounce of comfort. Since I am a single mom and my parents were so graciously watching my other 2 daughters while I was at the hospital with my middle child, I had no one to bring me these things that I realized I needed while we were there. And here I am, getting ready for yet another hospital stay, our 4th I was sure that other moms were as well. And sometimes we need to be reminded that in order to take care of our most precious blessings, we must take care of ourselves.
Here is my list of the top 10 must bring things for you for when your child is admitted to the hospital.
We all know that you are going to make sure that your child has every damn thing he or she needs but what about what you need? This is a simple list but you would be surprised at how important these items are when you are in the middle of it all.
1.) Tennis shoes – You will do so much walking at the hospital. More then you realize. The first time, a 2 week stay, I wore flip flops. Worst. Decision. Ever. And I had no way of getting comfortable shoes. Invest in a good pair of tennis shoes. Between walking with your child for testing and procedures, walking to the cafeteria or taking a moment for yourself to take a walk, you will do a ton of walking so be kind to your feet! There was one night that I was so overwhelmed, I asked a nurse to come sit with my sleeping child and went on an hour long walk around the hospital. Sometimes you have to just walk away to compose yourself or to just get a break. And it is ok to do so. (Let me repeat that, IT IS OK FOR YOU TO NEED AND TO TAKE A BREAK) You will be glad you have those tennis shoes when the time comes and not flip flops like I did.
2.) Pajamas that cover you, Slippers and/or socks – Let’s answer why this is on my list with a story… We were moved to extended care room the second week and I FINALLY had a bed of my own to sleep in. I was sleeping in a nightgown, got hot, and kicked off the covers in my sleep. The nurse came in and I was sleeping on my tummy, pink and white polka dot underwear for the world to see covering my big huge butt! She woke me up because there was a problem with my daughter and while we were both standing by the side of the bed, she complemented me on my underwear choice! OH THE HORROR! MY CUTE MOM PANTIES HAD BEEN SEEN BY ANOTHER HUMAN BEING! Thus the “bring pajamas that cover you” rule was born. Think shorts and a tee shirt, pants and sleep shirt. Make sure the girls stay tucked in on top and the underwear stays hidden on the bottom. Sports bras are also my best hospital friend because they keep the floppy mom boobs from falling out of a tank top sleep set! Slippers and Socks should be a no brainer, you would think. But the first time your bare feet hit the hospital floor and you have to run down the hallway looking for a nurse in the middle of the night because the call button won’t in a matter of a few months. And it led me to write this. Because if I was forgetting myself, work, you will be wishing you packed socks or slippers.
3.) Extra, Extra, Extra changes of clothes for you – There will be body fluids. There will be blood. There will be spills. I can’t tell you how many times a day I had to change my shirt. And I stunk. I spilt food on myself, my daughter spilt food on me, my daughter puked on me, and her IV squirted blood on me when they were placing it. Remember, you will be super close to your child during this time and it gets messy sometimes. Pack more than you ever think you will need and you will be happy for that fresh clean shirt and pants when you need them. And don’t pack anything you wouldn’t want to get ruined. Because it can and will happen.
4.) Towels – The towels in every hospital I have been at have been so small; they could barely cover my 2 year old. And they are itchy and don’t absorb anything. Pack 2 towels for you and 2 for your child. They can be easily hung to dry and reused after a quick shower and some hospitals offer free use of a washer and drier for parents who are literally living in the hospital with their children. This is a small comfort that you will be grateful for.
5.) Snacks and drinks – Sometimes, you don’t have time to eat. Sometimes you can’t get down to the cafeteria to get yourself dinner. Sometimes the hospital does not provide food for the parents. Or you are like me and forget to eat anything at all until your body is shaking with hunger and is screaming at you for food RIGHT NOW! Pack healthy, protein packed snacks that you can quickly grab in a hurry. You need to keep your strength up and remember to eat, even if it is just a granola bar. And when you see a mom pacing the hallways with her sick child, offer her a snack. Because when you are living in the hospital with a small child, it is the little things that mean the most. Even a small snack. One of my favorite quick hospital tricks is Carnation Instant Breakfast and a carton of milk. The nurses ALWAYS have access to milk. Ask for a carton and dump a packet in, close and shake and you have a quick and easy breakfast option! And don’t forget to bring water. Bottled or by the jug. Keep hydrated without paying $5 for a small bottle from the cafeteria or the vending machine.
6.) Quarters – Quarters are GOLD in the hospital. The vending machines don’t always take dollar bills and some are equipped to take credit cards and I have been accidently charged $10 for a candy bar before. Bring quarters! Even though I suggested that you bring snacks, you may have a craving for something you didn’t bring or you may want to treat your child for being a brave little girl or boy! And that candy bar you want to devour in the dark hospital room at 3 am…. It’s normal, I’ve done that too.
7.) Movies and magazines – Sometimes, your child sleeps for hours, especially after surgery, and there you are in a tiny hospital room with nothing to do but worry and pace. During these times I could never nap because I was too nervous. So I packed some movies. It kept me busy while I held my sleeping child. No dramas, nothing heavy. Light comedies are best. Another piece of gold in the hospital, magazines. Quicker to read then a book and no worries if it gets destroyed. Also, trading magazines or bringing magazines to other mom’s is a good icebreaker to make some new friends. And we could always use more friends; especially mom’s who understand exactly what we are going through.
8.) Travel Coffee Mug – There is always coffee at the hospital. It may be nasty, but it’s caffeine!!! Unfortunately, those tiny dainty little cups don’t do anything but cause an annoyance. And when I want coffee I don’t want a sip, I want a mug full! Bring your own spill proof coffee mug and fill it up whenever you see a fresh pot! It will also keep your coffee hotter for longer! If you don’t drink coffee and prefer tea, bring the tea bags with you and when you find an empty pot, brew a pot of hot water for your tea. You deserve it!
9.) Sugar packets, Salt Packets and Creamer – These are always in short supply. Stock up and keep a stash with you in your purse or overnight bag. The hospital food is bland. The tea never comes sweet and the creamer containers are always empty. THIS WILL SAVE YOUR PALET!
10.)Laptop, Chargers, Chargers and more Chargers – Laptop for researching and understanding medical terminology. Finding out more information on a new diagnoses or procedure. Or just connecting with Friends on Facebook. It is a good thing to have with you and will be used a lot. You can also watch movies on a laptop!!! Your phone is your life line outside of the hospital while you are there. Bring at least 3 chargers with you and carry one with you at all times. My cell phone died in the middle of my daughter’s surgery and I could not contact anyone hours away to tell them what was going on or check on my other 2 daughters. Leave one in your hospital room and charge that phone whenever you are in the room and keep a back up for emergencies.
I hope these 10 little suggestions help you take care of yourself while you are taking care of your children at the hospital. And if you ever see me and my daughter at the hospital, stop on in and say hi! We love meeting new people!!!