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Tips for personalizing your hospital room

Preparing for Hospital-Based Bed Rest

When most women find out they are pregnant, they have visions of watching their belly grow, shopping for baby items and enjoying outings with friends and family. Of all the visions swirling in their head about what their pregnancy will look like, very few envision spending days or weeks lying in a hospital bed due to a high-risk pregnancy condition.

But for a handful of women, the safest place during their pregnancy is hospital based bed rest. I was one of those women, having spent 43 days on an antenatal unit (for high-risk pregnancies) and another 14 days with my son in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit).

When I first peed on the stick and went screaming to my husband and daughter that I was pregnant, I had hoped this pregnancy would be different. Having been confined to 13 weeks of home-based bed rest with my daughter, I was optimistic I would have a “normal” pregnancy this time around.

Sadly this wasn’t the case. I was once again diagnosed with placenta previa, a condition where the placenta covers the cervix. As baby grows, so does the risk for bleeding (due to pressure on the placenta) and pre-term labor.

Since I now lived over 20 minutes from the nearest hospital, it was determined the safest place for me and my baby was the regional hospital over an hour away. This is where I was to spend the remainder of my pregnancy, with no chance of early release for good behavior.

If you have been told you either may need to be admitted or will spend the remainder of your pregnancy lying in a hospital bed, here are some tips to help you prepare and to keep you sane.

Packing

Forget all the packing for hospital checklists on baby websites. These are meant for women spending one to four days in hospital. You can use them as a reference but if your stay is expected to be longer than a week, you need to get comfortable. Trust me — you don’t want your hospital room to look like a hospital room. That gets depressing fast.

I know this sounds cheesy, but think of your hospital room like your college dorm. What items did you bring with you to personalize your space? No you don’t need the microwave to warm up Kraft Dinner at 2 a.m. But you do need items from home that make your space reflect you!

Here are some items to consider packing.

  • Comforter, quilt or blanket. The hospital bedding is very thin and the nights can get cold. This is the most important item to bring to the hospital. Not only will it keep you warm, but it will also make your room feel a little more like home.
  • Pictures. It can get boring, and depressing, staring at a blank wall all day. Bring some pictures of your family, friends, pets, favorite place to walk, anything that will remind you of the outside world you will be returning to when baby arrives.
  • Bathrobe and cardigan. Bring items that you can quickly put over your pjs for when you are unexpectedly woken and whisked to ultrasound at 7 a.m. This happens — a lot. You want to be warm, and covered, while you’re sitting in your wheelchair waiting for your turn.
  • Bath products. The hospital provided soap and bath products are pretty rough on your skin. While you won’t have the luxury of long bubble baths, you can still bring hand soap, lotions, and other bath products that don’t smell so institutional.
  • Easy to slip on sandals, slippers or shoes. As your belly grows, it gets harder and harder to put on regular shoes. Crocs are a great item for the hospital as you can also wear them in the shower (very important if you’re using a shared shower).
  • Books. Lots of books. If you have children at home, bring some of their books to the hospital so you can read them to your kids over Skype or FaceTime. This is a great way to stay connected to the bedtime routine at home. And bring books for yourself to pass the time. Ideally, read a series like Harry Potter or Outlander as you will have the time.
  • Vision board supplies. If you’re crafty you’ll love this project. If not, you can do it too! This was something I did on my second week of bed rest and it really helped to lift my spirits. Get friends to bring you old magazines (or ask the nurses as there are lots lying around in a hospital). Cut out any pictures or words that resonate with you regarding your ideal future (once you get out of the hospital). Once you have a stack of images and words, glue them to a foam core board (you can get it from the dollar store). Then prop this up at against the wall so you are looking at your ideal future instead of focusing on the frustration of being stuck in a hospital bed.
  • Snacks and hot drinks. Your visitors will bring you no shortage of mints and candy. But what they likely won’t bring you (unless you ask) is hot chocolate mix, coffee, tea, trail mix, good quality chocolate, crackers or any of the other snack items you may want at your bedside.
  • Water bottle and coffee mug. If you don’t like drinking lukewarm water and hot chocolate, it’s a good idea to bring a refillable water bottle and a travel coffee mug from home. Once again, these will help you feel a little bit less institutionalized. And it really are the small changes that add up in reducing the hospital feel of your room.

A word of warning, when you finally get discharged you will be amazed at how many items from home you have accumulated in your room. But that’s okay as each item changes your surroundings and helps manage some of your stress and anxiety.

I hope these tips have helped you feel a bit more prepared for your hospital stay. For more advice from moms who have spent weeks and months in the hospital visit www.bedrestmom.com.

Writer, communications professional, speaker and patient advocate. Visit www.howtocommunications.com for free communications tools to help share your stories.

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