Postpartum: A Good Night’s Rest?
My toddler son was fooling around on the iPad this weekend when the strangest thing happened. He inadvertently started a slideshow of photos from his birth and first few days as a newborn baby. I almost didn’t recognize him with his arguably chubby thighs on the scale in the delivery room. Within a week he would more closely resemble a chicken. But seeing that photo brought out what must have been a deeply seeded resentment I harbored over a guilt trip I received in the hospital when he was first born.
When my kids were born, I was given a choice in the hospital. They could sleep in my room or in the nursery where a neonatal nurse would care for them and feed them (or bring them in to nurse, though that wasn’t the situation in my case). When my firstborn arrived, many people, including our childbirth class teacher, suggested we have her sleep in my room the first night and in the nursery the second night. It’s the last good night’s rest you’ll get, other mothers advised. But I couldn’t do it. And didn’t really need to. I had had a good night’s sleep the night before, and she was born at a very civil 2:20 p.m. She was our only baby. My husband slept in the hospital room with us, and we were pumped with adrenaline.
When my son was born, it was a different story altogether. I had a scheduled induction and had to arrive at the hospital at 7:30 a.m. In part because the hospital pharmacy was slow, they didn’t even start anything until after noon. My son was born at 1:15 a.m. Let me tell you, that stinks. If your baby is born in the middle of the night, you will not sleep for 48 hours straight. Between all the postpartum care, transferring you to another floor of the hospital and all the other stuff that happens, you’ve just thought about closing your eyes when your first visitors arrive. My mother and daughter were the first to come, and then in the evening my many sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews followed. They stayed well beyond the time my husband left to be home with our daughter, and I could barely lift my eyelids to bid them farewell. My son stayed in the room with me that night because I felt it was the “right” thing to do. After he woke for the third time, I just brought him into the hospital bed with me that night, where, in a move that I am guessing is against all sorts of hospital policies, we co-slept. It probably wasn’t the safest choice, but it was the only thing between me and insanity. The next night it was clear my son would be sleeping in the nursery.
It was close to midnight when I sent my son to sleep in the nursery. The nurse asked what time I wanted them to bring him back. I told her 8:00 a.m., but if I was awake earlier, I would come get him. I knew my husband wouldn’t be back to the hospital until 9:30 a.m. or so, and I was desperate for sleep. The nurse was lovely, and I was comforted by her as she took my son for the night. Then, at 6:30 a.m. the next morning, a different nurse practically shoved my son’s incubator, with him inside, into my room, and said with an annoyed attitude, “he cried all night,” and then she promptly left. Never have I been so wracked with guilt or felt so shamefully judged. Clearly, I thought, women who choose to send their babies to the nursery are considered to be second-class moms, and those whose babies are fussy are pains in the a** to boot.
Later that day we would find out my son had a large hole in his heart. After the shock of the news wore off, bizarrely enough, the next thought that went through my head was this,”Would that nurse who was so ticked off that my son cried all night feel any different if she new he was about to be diagnosed with heart disease?” All that guilt she loaded on me turned to virtual daggers coming out of my eyes. I had been a mom for four years by that point, and this was my first lioness moment. Luckily, I never did see that nurse again. But I also never again felt an ounce of guilt for my decision to have him sleep in the nursery that night.
How about you? Would you, could you, did you have your baby sleep in the hospital nursery? Was, or is, guilt a factor in your decision?