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I Sent My Newborn to the Hospital Nursery, and I'd Do It Again

Photograph by Getty Images

The first time I sent my new baby away, it was common sense. After two nights in the hospital and nearly 36 hours of labor, I delivered my first son, Paul, on a Friday evening. He had to be monitored in the nursery for four hours because I was given antibiotics during labor (due to a fever) so by the time he'd get out, it would be 1 in the morning. Since I was not breastfeeding, and I was very weak from being administered magnesium, and I hadn't slept in days, it was an easy decision to have him spend the night in the nursery and meet up with our baby in the morning. Not only did I need the rest, I didn't think I would be able to care much for the baby in my current state and at that hour.

The second time the decision was met with a little more resistance. James was born at 3:36 p.m. on a Saturday. We spent several hours together immediately after he was born (if I'm being totally honest, I wouldn't have minded if he were cleaned off before we did skin-to-skin contact, but I forgave his messy state because he seemed to enjoy cuddling so much), and then he hung out with us in our room until the evening.

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"When will he be taken to the nursery?" I asked one of the nurses.

"Well, we like to encourage that mothers room in with their babies," she replied.

Here it was. The fact was, I really wanted to sleep. I really wanted to sleep well, too, with no baby monitors on me, no hourly checks, no fear of labor or delivery, and NO DAMN KIDS. I knew that the night we all got home, I wouldn't sleep well again for months. And I knew based off experience with Paul that I could handle the guilt (actually, lack of guilt) of not spending the first night with my child, and that he didn't seem to be too emotionally scarred by the experience of spending the first night of his life in the care of experienced nurses.

But did all that make me terrible? Selfish? Was I really going to refute the nurse's advisement?

Damn right I was.

Nearly 70 parents advised me to take the sleep and run.

I steeled myself and put on my jokiest, lightest tone. "You know," I said. "I just gave birth, and I have a 3-year-old at home in addition to this one, and I would really like to sleep tonight, you know?"

"OK," she said. One thing I have learned about nurses is that they don't have the time or energy to bicker with you about things that are really not that big of a deal.

I posted about this on Facebook, that my desire to sleep outweighed the nurse's suggestion that we, you know, not. Nearly 70 parents advised me to take the sleep and run. They said things like, "It's the last moment of peace for like two more years!" "The hospital was like a spa vacation for #2" "I still regret not staying another day with the twins" and "Get that sleep, girl."

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So at bedtime, we said goodnight to James. I happily swallowed a Norco and an Ambien and slept, hard, for the first time in many weeks. Guilt-free.

Then at 5 a.m., the nurse brought my new baby to me in the dim new morning light. I raised the bed and placed him on my chest, nuzzling his velvet cheek. I thought to myself, "He's so tiny. He's so sweet." I closed my eyes and also thought, "And it's way too early."

Image via Claire Zulkey

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