The Days At The Hospital

by Pastor Jack Hyles

(Chapter 2 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, How To Rear Infants)

1. Extra care should be taken when there are already other children. Junior has been the only child for a long time. Suddenly a new baby appears. The first child soon discovers that his mother has another one. This new one takes most of her time and most of her affection. He has been exiled from his mother while she was in the hospital. Now the new baby moves into her bedroom, feeds from her breast, receives most of her attention, and is the object of most of her affection. The little intruder receives most of the hugs and most of the loving talk from Mother. Jealousy soon creeps in. Mother is weak and unable to run the house. It is all she can do to care for her little one. She cannot possibly give her first child his usual attention. She cannot eat with him, play with him or spend time with him as she could before the new arrival. The child feels neglected. It is a sudden thing. No longer is he the most important and the most attended. He feels wronged by his mother, and he is jealous of the baby. He feels abandoned and isolated. Maybe he has been over loved previously and now suddenly he who was perhaps even spoiled feels that he is all alone in the world.

When the newborn begins to smile for the first time and do cute little things and learn new skills, the older child becomes more frightened and more jealous. He once had it all; now he has only a part. He will never have their undivided love again. He will never receive what he once had-the place of being the only loved one in his parents' hearts. This may result in his wanting to attack verbally the younger child. This is especially true when the older child is the first child. A second child never had all of the attention. Hence, he will not be as jealous as was the first child. The wise parent will take extra care to see that the first child is given extra attention and extra love during these days of adjustment.

Surveys have proven that in a two-child family, the oldest is always more jealous and selfish. He is also more likely to be reared "according to the book," which means he will be more anxious and more restless. The second child comes when the parents are more oriented in rearing children and more relaxed. Studies show that the older child is more jealous and selfish, and the second child is happier. The first child was trained more severely than the second. He was weaned earlier than the second. He started toilet training earlier than the second, and in general, received more attention than the second child. Because he did receive more attention, he has more attention to miss when the second child appears. Often the first child will try to hit the baby, take his bottle, shove the baby out of Mother's lap, say he doesn't like the baby, or call the baby a puppy. Sometimes the child will even suggest that the baby be given back or sent back to whoever sent it. Some first children even learn to resent the mother. Often the older child becomes sullen and may even hit or kick the mother while she is nursing the baby. This hostility toward the mother is a rare thing, but it does happen. If the first child is very young when his brother or sister arrives, he himself may want to go back to being treated like a baby. He may want to go back to the bottle again or want to stay home from school or to soil or wet his pants. He may show jealousy by wanting to sleep with his mother. He may tease the baby or hide his toys. This kind of behavior on the part of the first child has driven many a mother to despair. However, there are several things she can do.

a. Before the baby comes, the mother can prepare the first child for his coming. She can assure him that there will never be another like him, that he will always be the first, and that there is always a special place in the heart of Mother and Father for the first child. She can remind him that she needs his help in rearing the new baby. She can give him chores to perform. It is also wise for the mother to spend a little less time with the first child during the months of pregnancy which will enable her to build up gradually toward the inevitable.

b. Once the baby has arrived, let the first child stay up 30 minutes or an hour longer than the baby. Let that be cuddling time and loving time for him. Let it be time that is strictly his.

c. Remind the older child of all the things that he gets and of the unique attention he gets that the baby does not get. Ride the bicycle around the block with him, and while you are doing it, remind him that you do not do this with the baby. Remind him the baby does not get these privileges.

d. Brag on him when he treats the baby properly.  Let him know how proud you are. Tell him there are children who do not do that, and that you are so proud of him because he loves the new baby. Tell him that it makes you love him even more.

e. Have scheduled times when the two children play with each other.  Do not let them play for too long a period of time, or they will get bored and the rivalry will increase. Let them play at regular intervals by schedule for just enough time before the enjoyment wears off.

f. Be understanding and patient. Realize that the rivalry and jealousy will come, but the intensity of such rivalry will decline as Mother exercises patience and understanding.

g. The father can help here in the early days by giving extra time to the older child. Father and child can really become better acquainted as he explains that Mother wants to be with the older child very much, but she has to be with the baby. The dad can explain to the older child how happy he is because this gives him an opportunity to spend more time with him. Their becoming buddies can help alleviate the jealousy and rivalry that is so natural.

h. Much care should be taken to see that the general home atmosphere is happier now that the baby is here. If it can be obvious to the older child that there is a happier atmosphere at home and that in general everything is better, he will be more apt to accept his new baby brother or baby sister. Some parents have helped solve this problem by gradually lessening the attention given to the first child as the time approaches for the baby's arrival. In other words, gradually less and less time was spent and even a little less affection was given. Then upon the arrival of the baby, they returned to the old expressions and even sweeter ones, thereby enabling the older child to feel that the coming of the baby gave him more attention and more affection from his parents than ever. Subconsciously he could associate this increase with the baby's arrival. He then feels that the baby's coming is better for him than it would have been had there not been an addition to the family.

Regardless of how severe the problem, it must be accepted by the parents as normal, and they must be very patient. The husband must realize how he would feel if another husband came into the home. The wife must realize how she would feel if another wife came into the home. In a sense, this is the way the child feels, for another child has come into the home. Forbearance, patience, understanding, gentleness, longsuffering, kindness and calmness are in order during these important days of adjustment for the young family.

2. The hospital should be carefully chosen. The baby's first days of life are in the hospital. They are very important ones. We do not know just how important they are nor what impressions are made in the life of a newborn, but I am convinced that early impressions are important ones. Every effort should be made to give the child an excellent beginning in life.

Talk with your doctor about the hospital. Many people do not realize that there is a direct relationship between the doctor and the hospital. Each doctor uses certain hospitals. The parent has a perfect right to know what will happen and what privileges he will receive at the hospital. He should know their procedures. One new mother said to me, "I wish I had known in advance what I found out when I got to the hospital; I would have gone somewhere else." Another said, "If I had known my doctor works with that particular hospital, I would have chosen another doctor."

The prospective parents should choose a hospital where the father is allowed in the labor room. Some may even want the father to be present in the delivery room, though I do not think this is nearly as important as is his presence in the labor room.

They should choose a hospital that will allow some time for Mother and Father and baby to be together alone so they can get to know each other. Some hospitals allow the mother to keep her baby in her room so they may establish an exact feeding schedule and get to know each other better. It should be a requirement by the mother that the baby be brought to her room to spend some time with her. Bear in mind, as soon as Mother gets home, she will not have all the help she has in the hospital. As much time as possible should be spent with the baby while at the hospital so that the baby may learn to feel instinctively close to Mother and to feel loved by the mother. This also helps the mother to gain confidence in the hospital so that she can feel a certain ease in handling the baby when she gets home. Then she can be fortified with enough experience to care for the baby and not feel helpless when she and the baby are at home together.

It is tragic how impersonal some doctors and hospitals make this sweet personal time of life. The mother should not be insulted by the doctor when she asks for his hospital affiliation. The prospective parent has every right in the world to receive information and make a wise choice. The mother should not be made to feel neurotic and should not be insulted when she asks questions that are legitimate. The hospital staff should not accuse the mother of being overly anxious or untrustful. If there is ever a time when a human being needs compassion and human understanding, it is while at the hospital giving birth to a baby and when learning to know him and love him.

"Rooming-in" probably should not be a prerequisite. The mother should, if offered the choice, arrange to care for the baby in the hospital. Some hospitals provide "rooming-in" facilities. This simply means that the mother may have her baby spend much or even most of his time in her room. The more time the mother can spend with the baby, the better. It is better for the mother and for the baby as well. The more handling, cuddling and contact with the baby that the mother can have the better. It gives the mother a sense of importance, confidence and security. Some hospitals allow the mother to have the baby in her room 24 hours a day. Other hospitals permit the mother to have the baby all day but not all night.

Of course, it is always best for the baby to be placed in the nursery during visiting hours. Since the nursery is usually a glass-enclosed room, visitors can see the baby but cannot transmit infections.

What I am saying is that the mother should be allowed to see the baby often and for lengthy periods, and the mother should take advantage of every opportunity. Mothers make a mistake when they take a vacation while they are in the hospital and see the baby as little as possible. This is especially unwise when it is the first child, for the mother needs all the confidence she can gain while she is in the hospital.

3. The father should get to know the baby while at the hospital. The more contact the father has with his baby during the hospital stay, the easier it will be to become adjusted when the baby arrives home. The father should hold the baby when he visits Mother and baby in the hospital. It is also a good idea for him to learn to burp the baby. The baby should, while in the hospital, get to know his father, and the father should get to know the baby. Infants can feel unrest and insecurity, and if they are required to go from the secure hands of the hospital nurse to the insecure hands of Mother and Father, damage could follow. Hence, the father as well as the mother should learn as much of the art of child rearing while at the hospital as possible.

4. If the hospital allows, the older child or children at home should be allowed to visit Mother and to see the baby while in the hospital. How sad it is to see a mother in a hospital bed looking out the window waving at some children who are going through one of the most traumatic experiences of their lives! Mother wants to be close to the older children, and they are in desperate need to be close to Mother. The children have a new brother or sister but are unable to see him. They are already jealous and lonesome, and now they are unable to see Mother. Some hospitals wisely allow a certain time when older brothers and sisters can visit Mother and take a glance through the nursery window at baby brother or sister. This should not be a requirement of the hospital chosen by the parents, but if it is allowed, it is a delightful bonus.

5. Visitors should be as cheerful as possible when visiting the new mother. They should refrain from giving Mother advice about how to care for the baby. They should not cause any alarm about how the baby looks. They should be very cheerful and optimistic. So often guests will try to persuade Mother not to care for the baby herself when she arrives home. They will tell old wives' tales, elaborate at length on folk medicine, and in general, try to educate the new mother concerning what she ought to do.

If, however, these mistakes are made by visiting friends and relatives, the new mother should smile sweetly, thank them for their advice, and after they are gone, erase it from her mind.

Some of the advice given to new parents is absolutely absurd. I am amazed at how many foolish bits of advice seemingly intelligent and often so-called intellectual people give. For example, the mother is lying in bed with her new baby, the baby's eyes are focused on Mother's face, and the mother says, "Look, my baby is looking at me!" Some well-meaning but foolish self-styled advisor says, "That isn't possible! Your baby can't see yet!"

Now who said the baby can't see yet? Has any baby ever told us that he can't see yet? This is absurd! I am convinced that a newborn can see and does look at his mother's face. Not only is he eating from his mother's body, but he is associating a loving face with that meal. How sweet this is! The sweetest experience that he has learned in life is immediately associated with the sweetest person he will ever know in life. Of course, he is looking at his mother! Of this I am convinced.

Another well-meaning expert says, "Well, maybe he can see, but he can only see light and dark or shapes and shadows," and the saddened mother accepts this as fact that her baby cannot see her. This is foolishness. The baby can and does see his mother.

Lying there with that little immortal soul dwelling in a cute precious body, the mother turns to the father and says, "She's looking at me." Then the baby looks toward the father and smiles. The father turns to the doctor or some visitors and says, "Look, the baby is smiling at me." The self-styled experts reply with a statement something like this:

"The baby isn't smiling; he has gas on his stomach."

Now I'm not a medical doctor, and I'm not a scientist, but I do know that stomach gas doesn't make you smile. Gas doesn't make an adult smile; why should it make an infant smile! The truth is, it doesn't! It may be that some child will do both at the same time, but a smile is a smile, and I think that the newborn is smiling--smiling because it is happy, content, and because instinctively it knows that it is loved.

There are many other foolish statements that we make at the bedside. It is wise for those of us who visit to limit our remarks to positive ones and not those that will infringe upon the joy of happy people.

6. Mother should call home to talk to the other children several times a day. She should elaborate as to how much she misses them and how she longs to see them. She should assure them that she is well and that though the baby is cute, it will in no way take the place in her heart of those at home.

The mother could even send a little gift or telegram to the ones at home to assure them. She should pray for them and spend some time consciously loving them while she is in the hospital. She should miss them on purpose so that she will of necessity be so happy to see them when she arrives home.

7. Mother and Dad must be especially loving to each other during the hospital days. It is not at all difficult for a child to come between parents. This is tragic. Bear in mind, a potential threat has arrived. The wise husband and wife will give to each other even more attention than ever during these days of adjustment. Special courtesies could be done. The mother, for example, could turn the tables and send the dad a bouquet of flowers at home. She could wire him a box of candy, or before she goes to the hospital, purchase a shirt and tie or some other appropriate gift for him. Have it gift wrapped and hidden. Then while in the hospital she can call him and tell him to look in a certain place and get something for her. Here he will find a delightful surprise! Mother could call Dad at work, or Dad can call Mother from work. This is so important, for not only will this give assurance to each other, but it can also prepare both of them for the immediate confusion that will arise when returning home.

8. The hospital time would be a time when the young mother learns to appreciate her own mother and father. She should not forget them. A special phone call to her dad would be in order. A nice letter written from the hospital bed to her mother would be sweet. The new mother must learn to appreciate more her own mother and to realize the suffering her mother endured bringing her into the world. Then too the grandparents of the new baby are often overlooked. What a nice gesture it would be for them to feel especially loved by a grateful daughter!

9. The new mother will have some time, perhaps a little more than usual, to pray and to ask God for His blessings on the new baby and the rearranged home. Vows should be made. Supplication should be offered, and a sweeter relationship with Christ should be enjoyed. Also, the mother could make a schedule of things that she is going to do in training her baby to be all that God wants him to be.

10. The hospital stay could be a time of reading the Word of God. During the pregnancy, the mother could use a concordance to find all the Scriptures in the Bible about rearing children. She could read these while in the hospital. She should read at least once through the entire book of Proverbs while in the hospital and vow to God that she is going to do what she can to teach these truths to her child.

11. The hospital stay should be a time of reading at least one book on child rearing. Find a book on how to rear children and take it with you to the hospital. Have it packed in your suitcase before you go. (Also, have the Bible packed.) This book on rearing children should be read carefully while the mother is in the hospital.

12. The entire family should come to the hospital to get Mother and baby. The children should greet her. The moment Mother gets in the car, she should assure the older child or children of her love and of how much she has missed them and how proud of them she is.

13. Dad and the children should have a nice "Welcome home!" celebration prepared for Mother. This should not be too exciting or exhausting. Maybe a big sign could be placed in the front yard. Perhaps a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a "welcome home" note from each member of the family could be at the bedside. Maybe a tape could be made by each child and the father so that Mother can play the tape while resting after returning home and realize how much she was missed and how much she is loved. Maybe Mother's favorite meal could be ready for her. Perhaps gifts could be waiting for her upon her arrival. Everything possible should be done by Dad and the older children to make Mother feel welcome. Also, everything possible should be done by Mother to let the rest of the family know that the new member of the home will never in any way take the place in her heart of those that God previously has given to her.


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