I had a wonderful birth experience with our fourth baby. I even had what seemed to be a dream-like postpartum experience during the first 10 days after giving birth. Everything seemed to be going to plan, in the best ways possible!
But on day 11, I was rushed to the emergency room with secondary postpartum haemorrhage and was having surgery within the hour.
After surgery I spent three days in hospital, and I had all sorts of experiences I never had before. Cannulas, catheters, blood transfusions, and all sorts of injections to name a few. Although it was a very challenging time, I was also grateful I had access to such an incredible healthcare system as many women around the world still die from PPH without it.
I won’t go into the medical details of my story because that’s not what I feel is important for me to share. What I will share is how my family and friends supported me, in case you have a friend in a similar situation and want to find a way to support her.
My first tip is…
Help take care of the baby. Even when I was being hooked up to all the machines in the emergency department, my main concern was my baby. Being exclusively breastfed and only 11 days old, I hadn’t even pumped at all so she had no back-up milk if I was gone for a few hours. The nurses thankfully arranged for her to have a bottle with formula when I told them the situation, and I had a general nappy bag prepared with a few supplies with us. However if I had been empty handed when arriving at the hospital it would have been extremely helpful for someone to come to the hospital with anything the baby needed (and also be there to hold and feed her when necessary).
Help take care of older kids. I was so grateful that we had family in town to care for our three older kids so that my husband could stay with me (during visitors hours, at least) at the hospital. Knowing my kids were in good hands let me focus on recovery.
Care for pets. We only have one cat, who is fed by my daughter and has litter changed by my son, however if the kids had to stay at a grandparent’s house overnight or we had a dog who needed walking, pet care would have been extremely helpful.
Drop off food for the family. Meals or baked lunch food (scrolls, muffins, etc) are always appreciated, especially when a parent is away unexpectedly. If anything is surplus, it can go in the freezer for another day. If hospital food isn’t ideal, of course you can bring some there as well!
Bring comfort items to the hospital. When I got out of surgery, I was hooked up to all sorts of machines and couldn’t do much about it. But the one thing I could control was what I was wearing and how hot/cold I felt. And my feet were COLD! I was so grateful to a friend who brought me some long warm socks as it made a huge difference to me feeling more comfortable. She also brought me some decaf teas (as the hospital only provided regular black tea!) and some snacks.
Find out if she needs essentials. On my first night in hospital, I realised that my phone battery was low and I had no charger. And when I was finally up for taking a shower, I realised I had no toiletries! Find out if there are any items your friend needs and bring them up to the hospital. Think hospital bag items that she would have brought when she gave birth (unfortunately I had already unpacked my bag since I had given birth 11 days before!).
Cheer up the room. I was only in the hospital for two nights, but if I had been there for longer it would have been really nice to have a family photo, some flowers, or even some cards to cheer me up. When you’re in pain and alone for hours on end in a hospital room, not knowing how long it will take you to recover, these little things can really make a difference to feeling loved and supported.
Clean up the house so it’s ready when she gets home. You know when you’re leaving to go on a trip, you want to be sure everything is tidy so when you get home you arrive to a clean house? That’s how nice it would be to come back to a clean house after being in the hospital. Laundry, dishes, vacuuming… it may only take an hour or two but would help her immensely.
Pick up groceries or shop for other items she needs. I’m an online shopper so this wasn’t an issue for me as I could still order groceries from the hospital bed, but if someone usually goes to the shops themselves then it would be very helpful to ask them for a list and do the shopping for them.
Be a listening ear. I didn’t want to have to retell the story to everyone over and over each time I was asked, therefore I actually recorded a video which I sent out to friends if they had questions about what had happened. But for the deeper processing, I didn’t realise how much I’d need to talk about my experience. I was very grateful to the ones who offered a listening ear when I needed it, and were there to listen, not offer advice.
What other tips would you give to help support a friend after an emergency hospital stay?
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