What to Pack When You’re Expecting… a Longer Than Usual Hospital Stay.
We’ve had our fair share of hospital visits and probably more surprise hospital stays. It got to a point in our lives when we decided to just always pack a go-bag when we had a scheduled appointment or procedure. As our stays became longer and more severe, I like to think I’ve become more and more prepared.
I hope that no one goes into the hospital and has to deal with an unexpected hospital stay with their child. Being unprepared is one of my biggest fears. Every time I find myself in a situation unprepared, I can hear my father “fail to prepare, prepare to fail.” So here is my advice to help you prepare for a longer-than-usual stay with your child at the hospital.
1. Bring Your Own Pillows and Blankets (and Bring Extra Cases and an Extra Blanket)
There is something about sleeping in your own bed. It’s why we crave our bed after long vacations or after a rough day. It is a place of comfort, safety, and security. It’s also probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think of home and it’s one of the reasons most patients prefer to recover at home. Plus, Goldie Locks spent so much time trying to find the bed that was just right, and let’s face it, she chose the right bowl of porridge rather quickly. Making your area of recovery can be a huge sense of safety and security for your little one. It reminds them of home in an unfamiliar environment and it’s also a comfort for you too. You can politely decline to use hospital pillows and blankets. You will just have to accept that you may get bodily fluids on your pillow and blanket. You should also be prepared to immediately throw it in the wash when you get home but it is totally worth it.
2. Bring Your Own Toiletries (and Toilet Paper, shower shoes, and towels)
I cannot stress this one enough. Most procedures begin in the morning. It’s stressful, and you’re probably sweating and pacing, and trying to remain calm. After a long day, you want to take a shower and let the day wash off of you. I have really thin, fine hair so not washing it (or wetting it without washing it with shampoo) causes my hair to get very heavy. Being in the hospital may also make you anxious. If you’re anything like me, I tend to show my anxiety in a number of ways, one being an upset stomach. Any time my son’s health is of concern and he requires surgery, my stomach acts up and no one wants to be caught with their pants down… or with single-ply toilet paper with an anxious stomach. I am sorry about the gross stuff, but it is so important to recognize.
3. Snacks. Snacks. Snacks and Water
Back in the day (like 2018), the hospital would provide food for the child and nursing mothers. Unfortunately, something changed along the way and that stopped. Now children can still get food, but parents must make their way down to the cafe for food, which means leaving your child alone (or with another family member), and while that isn’t so bad, it isn’t so good either. I’ve touched on mental health and it’s not a bad thing to “take a moment” and to step away from time to time. I also understand the internal struggle that mothers face when their child is in pain or recovering. We tend to choose to nurture our little ones rather than focus on ourselves. In a world where food can be delivered at the press of a button, bring snacks (for you and the little one) and stick to door dash for main meals.
4. A Notebook and Planner
This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but trust me, it is. In the hospital, you will be given plenty of “to-dos”. You will meet a number of specialists and maybe a social worker or two. The point is, you will be given a lot of information and if you’re anything like me, you tend to remember it better when it is written down on paper. Plus it also helps if you write it down in a way that you will understand. Sometimes, explanations make more sense when they are your interpretation (just remember to ask for clarification)! My planner is my life and without it, I am nothing. I bring my planner to make sure I write down any follow-up appointments and address any conflicts while Mark naps.
5. A Stuffed Animal (or Two, or Three)
Imagine going into a scary room without your mom and dad. You know nobody and there are bright lights everywhere and it is very cold. You take a nap and when you wake up, you’re in a new place, still cold, shaking, hungry, groggy, and in pain. Fear is an understatement. Children are allowed to bring comfort items such as a stuffed animal or a pacifier. Just make sure you bring a spare because it may hit the floor at some point (cue dramatic music).
6. Toys and Hospital Friendly Activities
With your child in the hospital, you will need to find some way to keep them entertained (especially if they are younger). Depending on your child’s procedure and recovery time, the four walls can be isolating and rather lonely. If they require any follow-up therapy while they are in the hospital, ask the surgeon or therapist what type of activities they will work on during follow-up therapy and toys they will use. If you happen to have any of those toys or activities, pack a few. A few personal favorites of ours: Hotwheels, Puzzles, Crayons and Coloring books, and Board Books.
7. Chargers and Batteries
Whether you are keeping family up to date, working, or maintaining a blog and school work (like I am right now), chargers are necessary for all things technology-related and must-haves for day-to-day lives. If this doesn’t scream importance, I assume your life is not managed by technology and wow, I envy you.
8. A Journal
No matter what the situation is that landed you and your little one in the hospital, understand that there are a bunch of moving pieces, a variety of emotions, and a lot of progress to document. Whether you are writing just to keep a record, or to relieve some stress, a journal is a great way to remember and process the events that are happening.
9. Tylenol and Over the Counter Medication
If you aren’t used to constant loud noises and bright lights, then it is clear you’ve never given your child a flashlight or a tambourine or you’ve never been forced to watch Cocomelon for hours on end. Either way, good for you. The hospital is often bright and the alarms are loud, not to mention the constant chatter of nurses, doctors, and other patient family members in the hallways. Sleeping is difficult without being in the hospital and overloading the senses can make an already stressful situation even more stressful. So if you sleep with the help of melatonin, or are prone to light sensitivity, I suggest packing these for your stay. As with the trend of this article, take care of yourself too!
10. A Positive Attitude
This one might seem a little out of place, but I really think this is the most important thing to bring. Making a hospital stay feel more like home, fun, and safe feeling is important. Sure blankets and pillows, toys, and electronics help make it feel a little more comfortable and pass the time but there is one thing that beats all of those tangible things. You. No matter who you are in your child’s life (parent, caregiver, guardian, sibling, etc.), having your child see you at a moment when they need you the most is going to yield the biggest reward for your relationship and your child’s stay. They will feel immense and immediate comfort and you’ll be the one to provide that for them. They will look to you for strength, optimism, and security. You simply being there is comforting, but your attitude will shape their outlook on the entire situation.
**Edit For Immediate Release: As I am typing this, Mark is in the hospital. He just had major surgery and we are in the PICU. This journey is going to be rough, but I’ve found that each of these items listed has helped make our stay a little easier. This list was curated from personal experience, not from any old suggestion list on Pinterest. As Mark is cuddled snuggly under his blanket from home, clutching his teddy bear, I am about to bundle up under my throw blanket and pillow from home right next to him. I truly hope this list helps because no one told me about any of this, I just had to learn from experience.**