Hospital Zen


This week, after months of staying away, Lil Z was back in the Royal Children’s Hospital. Thankfully, it was just for one night to receive IV antibiotics for a particularly nasty urinary tract infection. However, it reminded me of what a zen place the hospital can be; although certainly not enjoyable, there is a certain peace to being there.

Don’t get me wrong. The times Lil Z has been rushed to the hospital by ambulance or the time she spent in ICU were definitely not peaceful or tranquil – they were filled with anxiety and fear. However, once the problem has been addressed and a treatment plan established, there is a certain feeling of zen on the ward.

The main reason, I think, is because all other commitments, obligations and responsibilities disappear (albeit temporarily) when you are in hospital with your child. Work is put on hold, care arranged for Vegemite, thoughts and worries about my ever-growing “to do” list or what to make for dinner or if I’ll have enough energy to go for a run are all set aside. Being in the hospital allows me to focus 100 per cent of my attention and energy on Lil Z and nothing else.

In a way, giving all my attention to Lil Z is a guilty pleasure. I don’t have to worry that her sister isn’t getting enough attention (not that Vegemite isn’t very accomplished at grabbing attention for herself when she wants it). I don’t have to try to juggle getting the dishwasher repair man to arrive between two physio sessions or balance my expanding work responsibilities with Vegemite’s expanding homework assignments and ensuring the nanny sticks to the physio and OT routine. Instead, I spend all my time comforting Lil Z, cuddling her and talking about her health and development with nurses and doctors. And anyone who has met me knows I like talking about Lil Z almost as much as I like cuddling her.

If you haven’t spent much time in hospital, you might think that it is a place of frenetic energy and rushed medical activity – something along the lines of the opening credits of “ER”. Actually, that couldn’t be farther from the truth when it comes to life on the wards. Nurses come and go on a regular but not frequent basis, administering medicines and doing obs. Once a day, the consultant (neurologist, paediatrician, gastroenterologist, etc – depending on the cause of the admission) arrives, checks the records, speaks to me and usually (not always) does a quick examination of Lil Z. He or she then makes a few declarations about treatment plans and discharge dates, answers my questions, and disappears again. Apart from the occasional student doctor or registrar, we rarely see another doctor that day.

So, I sit, cuddle Lil Z and think. Or read books on my iPad. Or watch life unfold outside our room (I’m still hoping to spot a Grey’s Anatomy type love triangle, although in truth there isn’t even any flirting going on, let alone meaningful looks or suspiciously insightful declarations of feelings). It is a rare time of quiet in lives that often feel much too busy.

Lil Z takes advantage of the hospital zen to sleep in my arms. I love holding her while she sleeps – feeling her body relax and her hand slip from her mouth as she falls asleep, listening to her quiet little snores. I gave up breastfeeding at a time when Lil Z was sleeping badly and I was feeling stressed, exhausted and pulled in too many directions. Since we don’t plan to have more children, I often feel sad that I’ll never have another of those precious moments of closeness that I had with breastfeeding both Lil Z and Vegemite. Cuddling Lil Z while she sleeps is the next best thing.

And I got to do it a lot this week. Poor Lil Z was feeling poorly and was often in pain from the UTI, so she needed lots of cuddles. I spent most of the morning and early afternoon holding her while she slept. Our wonderful nurse even brought me a sandwich and yoghurt so that I wouldn’t have to put her down to get lunch.

I wish I could claim that I achieved enlightenment during Lil Z’s latest hospital admission. Or even greater insight. I didn’t. However, I did have some quiet time to spend giving love and attention to Lil Z and she got the antibiotics she needed to get on top of the infection. And I’ll take that over personal enlightenment any day.




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