Young children often think of the hospital as a scary place-- and indeed, sometimes it can be. But if you are expecting a baby, it is important that you try to ease your older children's fears about your upcoming hospital stay. As you know, most childbirth stays result in no complications and end up being a happy event for all. If you take the steps ahead of time to reassure your children that there is nothing to worry about, it will make your hospital experience better for your entire family. Be sure that they understand that soon after your hospital stay a new baby brother or sister will be joining your family. Here are some other ways to make the experience easier for all of you:
First and foremost, take your children on a tour of the hospital and make a pit stop in the maternity and nursery wing. Your children will get a kick out of seeing all of the newborn babies and they will come to see that the hospital does not have to be a frightening place-- in fact, some happy events actually do occur there!
In addition, there are many good books on the subject of going to the hospital. While some hospital stays can be scary, these are child-friendly books that will help to ease your child's anxiety about your hospital stay and hospitals in general.
If your children are familiar with popular children's characters, they may enjoy these books:
"Paddington Bear Goes to the Hospital" (Bond)
"A Visit to the Sesame Street Hospital" (Hautzig)
"Curious George Goes to the Hospital" (H.A. Rey)
All of these books feature familiar characters that will help your child better relate to the experience of going to the hospital.
Another great book, "Mommy's in the Hospital Having a Baby" by Maxine Rosenberg, features full color photographs of a real hospital stay. You will even get to see the newborn baby being cared or by the hospital nurses-- this book is as close as you can get to the real experience and it is highly recommended if you have preschool-age children.
Other ways to plan ahead for your hospital stay:
Decide who will be caring for your children when you go to the hospital to labor and give birth. Will it be a family friend or a grandparent? Make sure to have a bag packed full of comforting things for your child-- things like a favorite blanket, books and special snacks or treats. Labor and delivery can be unpredictable and you never know how long your child will have to be in someone else's care, so plan accordingly. Pack some favorite DVDs, toys and games to keep your child busy as well.
Take your child to one of you prenatal visits and let him or her share in the experience of hearing the baby's heartbeat.
Bring a picture of your child to keep in your hospital room. That way, when he or she comes to visit you and the new baby, your child will know that he or she is still just as important to you.