Two of my friends recently gave birth and both returned home from the hospital sharing similar, unbelievable stories: their babies had been kicked out of the hospital nursery for bad behavior. One of my friends had given birth naturally with no complications, and the other had had a difficult labor, followed by an emergency C-section. Recovery and need for sleep, be damned -- their babies were acting fussy and nurses returned them to mom in the middle of the night.
What's the big deal, you may be asking yourself. You're the one who actually had the baby. He or she is your baby -- so why shouldn't your baby be your responsibility? And you're right, of course. But while moms used to be able to count on enjoying a sliver of rest time right after giving birth, it seems fewer hospitals are treating use of the nursery as the norm. And, as a mom who relied on it after my first birth, I'm NOT looking forward to the peer pressure of rooming in my second time around.
With my first baby, I chose to room in my first night -- which simply means I kept my daughter by my side the entire time instead of letting the nursery staff care for her at night. I had been in labor for 18 hours and, needless to say, was in quite a bit of pain afterward. But my attitude at the time was: Well, I'm going to have to get used to sleepless nights anyway, so why not start now. That's all well and good, but no one tells you how your body is going to feel during the first 48 hours after giving birth, when your hormones are completely out of whack.
In my experience, I had a fever-like reaction and alternated between sweating profusely and shivering my head off. My head hurt, every part of my body throbbed with pain, and I cried at the drop of a hat. I tried to care for my baby that night, but I can't say I did a great job. I did a mediocre job at best and didn't sleep more than 10 minutes.
And then the next day, it was more of the same: jumping out of bed at 7 a.m. to change baby, feed her, rock her, and -- on top of my new responsibilities -- entertain guests, who I felt expected me to be chipper and glowing.
I broke down that night and begged nurses to keep my baby in the nursery. They asked me so many times if I was "sure," that I felt like a complete freak for even asking. But I stuck to my guns and got the best sleep I was going to get for the next six months. My only regret was not asking them to take her that first night, as well.
I recently toured the hospital where I'll be delivering my second baby in about two months. When we passed the nursery, the nurse leading the tour proudly said, "You'll notice there's only one baby in the nursery. Most mothers choose to room in. We encourage all mothers to room in."
I know plenty of new moms who are delighted to room in. Obviously, there are a ton of benefits in doing so -- especially if you're breastfeeding. But I couldn't help but wonder if any of the women at the hospital had felt the way I did and just wanted a break. A few hours of silence to reflect and close their eyes. A few hours of uninterrupted sleep.
I sincerely hope the pressure to room in doesn't become yet another barometer we place on women to show how strong and determined we are to be perfect moms who are never weak or in need of recovery. So many women feel like failures when they can't breastfeed. Each day, we're bombarded with I'm-So-Hot Postpartum Selfies that make us feel bad for not hitting the treadmill immediately after giving birth. Making use of the hospital nursery doesn't speak volumes about you as a mom -- it just indicates that you're a human being. A human being who got tired after pushing another human out of her body.
Did you room in or let the nursery care for your child so you could sleep at night?
Image via Blaine Harrington III/Corbis