Being confined to a hospital cubicle for the best part of a month is not a situation I ever imagined myself in. I had no back-up plan for keeping an immobile toddler and a baby occupied and I certainly didn’t foresee spending the hottest month of the year inside.
When Dylan broke his leg, just a month before he turned two, we were told he would need several weeks in traction to allow the bone to grow the right way and heal normally. Archie is still breastfed on demand which includes night feeds, so there was no way I was leaving either of my babies, despite the hospital making it clear that it was less than ideal for the three of us to be in one cubicle. Thankfully, the ward manager offered us another cubicle with a cot for Archie which we only had to give up for a couple of nights when the ward got too busy.
So the three of us moved into the hospital, bags of clothes and toys, snacks and of course my trusty laptop – I have never needed to stay connected to the outside world quite as much as when I was locked up inside!
Routine went out the window. Toddlers are not designed to stay still and being (quite literally) tied to the bed meant that Dylan could not expel his energy. Bedtime was pushed back from 7pm to nearer 11 as he just didn’t need as much sleep and I just had to accept it really. We had chill out time from 9 with a film as I was too tired myself by then! I am so grateful that Dylan is the chilled out little boy that he is, as he has coped so well with the entire thing and without his amazing temperament, I am not sure that I would have!
Our days were spent doing puzzles, playing games, reading books, colouring, playing with toys and plenty of stickers! When Archie slept, I got onto the bed with Dylan and we had our quality time together. Every day the play specialist wheeled Dylan’s bed into the playroom for an hour and took over so that I could have some special time with the littlest one, who also seemed to just take everything in and not be affected at all by the sudden change of routine.
The only person that I didn’t get to spend any real time with was the bloke, who would come and relieve me for a couple of nights a week so that I could have a good night’s sleep in my own bed. For nearly four weeks, we didn’t spend any real time together, and both slept alone.
It wasn’t easy spending so much time apart, but it did confirm quite how strong we are. It is less than three years since I met the bloke, yet we have survived an unplanned pregnancy, a planned one and a broken leg . . . surely we will make it through anything now! We made sure we had family time though and Sundays were about having a picnic (albeit on the bed) and lazing around together.
As for the house, well that was the least of my priorities. I got precious few hours out of the hospital and keeping up with the hoovering was the least of my worries. I spent my free time enjoying the sunshine, seeing friends and trying to keep up a little normality for Archie. At the end of the day, the housework will always be there and I saw nothing wrong with doing the absolute bare minimum!
The things that really made a difference to my stay though, are these:
- My dad coming up for an hour every day. He works from home and spent every lunch break for the few weeks at the hospital. He brought me in a packed lunch (as the hospital doesn’t feed parents and the canteen isn’t too cheap) and watched Dylan whilst Archie and I got a little fresh air. This really kept me sane.
- The playworkers are there to play with your children and after five hours doing the same puzzles, my advice is to utilise them as much as you can. We are not saints, we all need a break and so make the most of it!
- YouTube was a godsend for the 5pm slump when you really don’t have the energy to play. I showed Dylan all the old programmes from my childhood and he loved discovering something new. (Teletubbies was a big hit)
- Biscuits – never underestimate the power of biscuits. I had some hidden for the moments of weakness, and once the boys fell asleep I treated myself to a few (sometimes a whole packet) as a reward for getting through another difficult day. When the frustration kicked in for Dylan as he couldn’t do something, we would have a chill out time with a biscuit before finding something new to do and it worked a treat.
- Visitors really helped break up the day and Dylan was amused just watching his friends play even when he couldn’t join in. I appreciated the adult conversation and we always looked forward to people popping in.
- Home comforts were vital for keeping a bit of normality. We bought in Dylan’s blanket and ‘duckie’, his bedtime toy. I had my own pillow from home, and some slippers. We had to make the hospital into our home so may as well get comfy!
At the end of the day, I realised that there was nothing I could do. Dylan’s leg needed time to heal and so we were staying whether we liked it or not. I took friends up on offers, made the most of my family being local and enjoyed spending so much time with my beautiful boys. I had no excuses, nowhere else to be, nothing more pressing than enjoying their company, teaching them , learning from them and playing with them and when I ask Dylan now about his stay in hospital, he remembers it as fun.
We are so, so glad to be home now and have been making the most of the sunshine by being out and about as much as we can. We even had first steps (again) this week and my little soldier is really on the mend now!
Are you expecting? Read all about Bex’s different birth for baby number two. And if you’re staying away from home – we’re hoping it’s at granny’s rather than hospital – make it home from home with their favourite toys, suitcase and blanket.