Any surgery is daunting but especially when its for your baby's surgery. Also, with cleft surgery, there is only nine Centres of Excellence in the UK which means often families have to travel to their closest hospital which may mean a stay over the night before and/or after the surgery.
Often the question comes up about what to pack for the baby but the parents too! From our experience of going up to The Evelina (London) twice this year, I have the following recommendations for packing!
Take it with you if you can! If your baby is on a special formula, it may be worth calling to see if they stock it in the hospital. Will was on a high calorie milk which came in pre-made cartons. Ideally I didn't want to carry more than I had to but when I rang the hospital, they explained that the milk Will was on wasn't one that they generally had in stock, so they requested I took enough to cover us for a couple of days
This obviously depends if your baby is being weaned or not! Will was weaned from around 4 months but didn't have his surgery until he was 7 months, so we deliberately packed pouches of food we knew he liked (boo, but they worked a treat) We also bought yoghurt from the M&S food hall for something sweet and cooling for his mouth
Ideal for hospital when it's warm. Where you can, use the wrap vests to avoid any contact with the face. They're also easy to negotiate around wires and drips!
Again, try and use ones that don't go over the face! Although hospitals are warm, at night the temperature naturally drops, so they will need their usual layers.
I have to admit, Will didn't really need any extra entertainment. He loved watching everything going on before surgery. He was happy to watch the other families, he enjoyed seeing the surgeon and anaesthetist pre-surgery and he was keen to flirt with the nurses. However, we did pack his favourite book and a couple of toys. There was a TV with each bed which although only had sound with earphones, he was able to watch the screen and see (everyone's favourite...!) Peppa Pig dancing across the screen
Now, I think it's REALLY think it's important for mums and dads to have more packed than the baby! Let's be honest, your baby is going to be monitored, talked to and fed. They don't really need much more than that but you're going to need entertainment, scruffs and don't forget your toothbrush!!
You know you're going to be on your phone a lot. People will be texting to send their wishes and you'll want to make sure your other half is kept up to date/ring grandparents etc. Each bed has power points so you'll be able to be kept topped up
- Scruffs AKA Comfy clothing
Joggers, hoodies, socks, layers. Anything that is going to be comfortable and help you relax - I know that sounds weird - but have you ever worn a pair of jeans somewhere thinking you want to look fairly smart but they're just that little bit too small and you end up soooo uncomfortable?! The Doctors and Nurses don't care how you're dressed so make sure you're comfy!
I'm not sure if I just got lucky or if this is always the case! We had toilets and showering facilities in the same bay we were on. I think it got to about 10:00pm on the same day Will had his surgery. I sheepishly asked one of the Nurses if I was able to have a shower. She said 'Of course, Mum! That is what they are there for. I will keep an eye on Will'. Firstly, it was a banging shower for hospital facilities and secondly, I felt like a completely new woman once I was out! I threw my hair up into a bun, brushed my teeth and was ready to take on a difficult night.
Will's first surgery (lip and hard palate repair) was about 3.5 hours. It was sooo useful to have some magazines to hand. They really helped to keep my mind off what was going on and worrying if Will was OK.
Travelling up from Kent to stay the night before Will's surgery (we were very kindly put up at Gassiott House.... Imagine student digs and that's the sort of set up it was... except clean!) We wondered down the South Bank for some dinner. We also had breakfast in the hospital whilst Will was having surgery (to keep our bellies full and our mind off the inevitable) Plus I'm somewhat addicted to coffee so needed to make sure my levels were kept up...! However, this all comes at a price (pun intended) and all of this did become expensive. We were in a position to do that but if you're not, the parent room (AKA kitchen) was always stocked with free milk, tea and coffee. There was also a huge fridge and freezer and a microwave so if you're clever about it, you could easily eat as you would normally do at home.
Alongside all of the physical things I have recommended taking, I highly recommend a mindfulness app/meditation/antianxiety podcast. Although surgery is a physical thing, I felt on edge the whole time. I knew Will was in amazing, safe hands but What if he reacts to the anaesthetic? What if he had a problem whilst being under? How will be when he wakes up? Will I cope with the next 24 hours when my partner goes home? I really wish that I had considered doing mindfulness when I was anxious or was prepared to cope with the stress a bit better.
One last thing.. surgery apprehension can be an overwhelming feeling but remember, babies live in the now. They are not worried about their surgery date, they are not going to think badly of you when they wake up and you won't believe it when they're back to normal in a couple of days.
Ride the wave and you, and they, will be just fine.