Two different parenting experiences at hospital and home

Published 4:19 pm Friday, February 1, 2019


Coffee with Mimi

We brought our first child home from the hospital on a very cold day 34 years ago. It had been an unusually long stay in the hospital for that time in medical practice history. The common practice was an expectant mother would hang around in the comfort of her own home until the last possible minute, and then roll right into the hospital for delivery of the little bundle, having completed all paperwork in advance. Twenty-four, maybe 48 hours later, new mom and baby rolled right back out again, ready to face the world.

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Our extended stay was not the result of any crisis or major health concern, just a series of  circumstances, which nagged at the markers moms and babies had to meet to qualify for release. In the meantime, there were any number of lovely people who, while sometimes interrupting the calm and solitude of my day, took care of my every need. 

Breakfast, lunch and dinner appeared regularly, along with an order form for the next meal. The empty trays were swept away nicely. If I fancied a snack or a drink, I simply needed to ask and it was provided. Flower arrangements and gifts were brought in by chipper aides and placed around my room at my direction. If I wanted a nap, I informed the nurse and unnecessary interruptions were kept to a minimum. Hospital visiting hours were monitored by the nurses’ station staff. The baby was brought to me whenever I wanted. He was always clean and sweet smelling when presented to me.

A solicitous professional was always inquiring how I was doing, checking if I needed any help with the visiting baby and assuring me all was progressing as it should be.

Well, of course it was. A battalion of highly trained individuals was swarming just outside my room and all through the hospital to ensure my health, comfort and safety, and that of my child.

Parenthood responsibilities were suspended in a warm, orderly, predictable and well-managed space and time. 

Finally, the day arrived when we were cleared for release. In the last role of their responsibility for us, the hospital dispatched a wheelchair, a cart and an attendant to usher me with baby in arms, and the conglomeration of stuff we acquired during our stay, through the confusing and unknown maze of hospital corridors to our waiting car. Given the extreme cold, we were given extra accommodations and assistance to assure the car was close to the entrance, warmed up and the transfer of baby to brand new car seat was as efficient as possible.

Upon arrival at home, we were greeted by my wonderful mother-in-law who, knowing her son for a rather long time, had committed to ensuring a clean and orderly house, paying particular attention to the accumulation of remains in the kitchen left by his hectic schedule going back and forth from work and the hospital for several days.  She had prepared lunch.  We were well stocked for several days of necessities.  All I was required to do at that time was get from the car to the couch.

Then she left.

We were, at last left alone with the little bundle.

He seemed content, lying there on our bed, as we dealt with the unpacking. But there was the unspoken reality hanging in the air that we were alone. There was no well-trained professional waiting in the hall to be beckoned with a call button. Now, what are we to do? Well, we just went about it, one way or the other. When he was wet, the diaper was changed. When he was hungry, he was fed. He was put in his crib for a nap. We held him and talked to him. When he cried, we tried to figure out what he needed. We went about our lives with him, and eventually his two sisters.

Thirty-four years ago, we lived and worked and our child was always with us. Even when he was cared for by others during our work day, he was always with us. Every parent knows this. No matter where we are physically, our children are always with us. 

Babies require an unimaginable amount of physical energy, sometimes that seems to be an overwhelming need. New parents joke publicly about the lack of sleep, the schedule changes, the planning for ordinary events, the comedy of chaos, while privately wondering if they will ever sleep again or whether their individuality will be forever sacrificed.

Babies grow up. They no longer need us to provide for their every need. They do not need us to respond to their cries from the crib, or wailing for lunch. Is parenthood age limited? Is it an obsolete role, when the kids are grown and maybe, have their own kids?

No, thank goodness. The job is the same, with different names.

We get to cheer for successes at work, help them move to new homes, make slipcovers and window treatments, treat them to a dinner out, babysit  their child, and ask them to help us with a big project.