10 things we learnt about our first hospital stay with a toddler

We’ve had a strange week this week and experienced our first and hopefully last hospital stay with one of the boys. Lochryn was unexpectedly admitted on Monday afternoon with a nasty infection and needed to stay in for 48 hours of IV antibiotics.

My husband actually suggested I blog about this to help us process it cathartically and to hopefully reach others who may experience a similar situation. I am all for embracing life – so this is me embracing what happened. Here goes…

In no particular order;

1. Everything takes forever…suck it up!

Waiting around is just the worst. It’s just such a waste of time. I find it incredibly frustrating. Thankfully my boys are pretty healthy but when I do need medical treatment for them it’s hours of your life dragged out in an uncomfortable seat in a waiting room that’s a million degrees. You see a nurse have the audacity to eat her lunch or take a swig of cold tea and you feel guilty for despairing because you’ve been sat desperate to pee for the past hour but daren’t move in case you get called!

Then when you do get seen the Nurses/Doctors will say things like “we’ll do it now” or “in 5 minutes” and what they actually mean is we’ll do it when we get a chance give it an hour or two or possibly maybe three. Then those 5 promised minutes can mean anywhere from an hour to sometime the next day.

It is beyond frustrating and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. The Doctors and Nurses are working hard and as fast as they can but everything takes time. Box ticking and procedures means even the simple things can take about an hour to sort and arrange.

Most wards are woefully understaffed and often folk are covering for others off sick. It’s a shame but they do all genuinely seem to care and in most instances they want you off their ward as quick as possible too so patience is your friend here!

Anyway, there’s a good chance your toddler will have discovered they can control the bed at this point so let them drain the battery and enjoy the peace!

2. Take snacks and drinks… lots of snacks and drinks (pack a buffet for 6 and a water cooler if you can)

The NHS provides care to the patient not to the parent or carers of the patient. (Unless you’re breastfeeding!) You’re not the priority you need to sort yourself out. This means you can’t drink their water, you can’t steal their cold toast and you can’t eat their yogurt (even though you know they won’t like it) – you have to bring your own.

Mark and I tagged each other in here and brought in packed lunches or went off to forage for food while the other watched Loki. Hospital food is pretty awful and we struggled to get Loki to eat while we were there. There are no fresh fruit of vegetables in the provided meals either – it’s all terribly processed high carb stodge so we brought in plenty of fresh fruit and chopped up veg for us all to snack on during the day.

We brought in Loki a cup from home because the hospital only had single use styrofoam ones and after one attempt he refused to put it anywhere near his mouth. (Don’t actually blame him there! Styrofoam gives me the boke!) We also brought in a few normal spoons and a teaspoon as Loki got given a soup spoon with all his meals but they were so large he couldn’t actually fit them in his mouth. Bless him!

We also filled and refilled our water bottles at every opportunity to ensure we stayed hydrated. No hot drinks on children’s wards either but most have a room you can go to to enjoy a hot cup of something.

…Or you can get your husband to very naughtily sneak hot coffee in via your leakproof insulated Klean Kanteen! Ssshhhhh

3. Pack a phone charger

The official ward policy was no mobile phones but literally every bay we saw had someone on their phone. The nurse whispered it was fine as long as you weren’t talking loudly on them. There’s always a spare plug near the hospital bed so take advantage and keep it charged.

We actually used our phones to take pictures of Loki’s infection and were able to keep track of how it progressed so that the Doctors and Nurses could use the visuals to help treat him. Our phones came in very handy,

It was great to be able to message Mark to ask him to bring in something random I’d forgotten and keep family and friends updated. It was also great to sneak off to a quiet spot on the ward and FaceTime Loki’s brothers because 3 days away from them was hard.

Also handy if you need to watch cBeebie’s Waffle Dog on a loop so your child will sit still long enough to eat a bowl of cereal.

4. Bring loose/appropriate clothes

This goes for both parent/carer and toddler. Loose fitting cool comfy clothes are practical and ideal for a hot ward.

We took in lovely soft organic cotton jammies for Loki. Both long sleeved and short sleeved ones so I had an option depending on what mood he was in. The cannula was by his elbow and most of the time he left it alone but some of the time he didn’t. A loose long sleeve top covered it nicely and his jammies were so loose the Nurse’s were able to roll them up easily while he was asleep to administer his antibiotics, which was perfect.

5. Trying to keep an active toddler confined to a bed is actually impossible

You just can’t do it. If they’re mobile and not hooked onto anything there’s literally nothing you can do. You can’t restrain them either, which is a shame. Nor can you knock them out. We asked and the Nurse was not amused.

This means doing circuits of the entire ward blindly following them around and around while you witness their cabin fever take hold and you slowly get driven demented as you get caught up in it and do your best to keep them out of other folk’s way. Most children’s wards have access to toys or better still a playroom where little ones can burn off steam. Take full advantage.

We took in a few toys, books, a magnetic puzzle and even watched CBeebies via my phone but you’re lucky if this keeps a toddler entertained for 20 minutes.

The allure of the until now prohibited felt tip pen worked well for Loki. He did of course draw all over himself, the bed and on one occasion his stale sandwich but scrawling all over a fresh notebook kept him quiet the longest. I didn’t even mind when I realised he’d successfully drawn on my forehead and only noticed several hours later. It was worth it to keep him still while we waited for whatever it was we were waiting for!

6. There isn’t a deodorant strong enough to withstand the high temperatures on the ward

You’ll smell worse than you ever have in your life and that’s ok. Everyone else in the ward will too. If you can tag a partner or family member in to watch your child there are showers available in most hospitals for parents/carers to use. Bring fresh clothes and a flannel to freshen up as and when needed.

Ooh remember to take a toothbrush and toothpaste, as clean teeth make you feel amazing even when the rest of you is feeling, looking and probably smelling a bit rough.

7. It’s unbelievably hard to watch your child go through this

I wasn’t prepared for this at all. I know it sounds really silly but I’ve taken my kids for all their immunisations and I’ve sat and ignored the look on their faces, that feeling of betrayal in their eyes when they realise you are helping the HV stab them in both their thighs and I’ve never batted an eye but this… this was something else.

This was awful.

I know he needed to be there and I know he needed certain medical procedures. I know it was necessary to hold him down and ignore the screams while they took 4 attempts at fitting a cannula and I would do it all again in a heartbeat but it was brutal. It was so brutal.

As a parent you have to be strong for your children and for every single moment Loki needed us in hospital I was nothing else, but that first night I waited until he was sound asleep and Mark had left and I sat on that tiny cot bed in the dark and sobbed my heart out. I needed to get it out of my system – the shock, the realisation of the situation, the speed with which everything happened… The fear I saw on the Doctor’s face earlier that day was haunting. I got it all out and I felt so much better afterwards!

8. It reinforces what’s important

I made one phone call when I arrived at the hospital and got Mark (who works at the same hospital) dragged out of a meeting, he met me at the Paediatric ward within minutes. No hanging around. Literally everything gets dropped and pushed aside when your child is sick. Nothing else matters.

When we found out Loki was getting admitted it was quite scary as the Doctors had no idea what had caused the infection and they were simply hoping the IV antibiotics would prevent the situation from escalating.

Luckily both Mark and I were able to be there for Loki together. He chose which one of us he wanted to annoy or cuddle and it was brilliant that we were right there to comfort him when he needed it the most. In the hospital it was all about him and we did pander to every need he had because as hard as it was for us we can’t imagine what it was like for him.

Also we were amazed to see how normal this is for some people. There was a wee baby across from us on the ward who had one kidney and was in and out so regularly it was her Mum who actually did the observations not the Nurses. Nothing phased her and they just got on with it. It was great to chat to her as it was very reassuring. She knew what was what and told us the best way to do things and was just generally incredibly helpful while we were there.

9. People step up

We have three children. I dropped the eldest two at school and went straight to the GP, from there I went straight to the hospital and I didn’t give them a second thought until we realised we couldn’t pick them up from school in time.

I phoned a friend, who thankfully drives a mini bus style van that accommodates her brood and asked if she could help me out. There was no hesitation – of course she would. I am so grateful. Not only did she pick them up, she kept them both for a few hours and fed them too. It was incredibly helpful while we figured out what to do and I am so glad Mark and I got to stay with Loki together while he got settled on the ward.

A dear friend came over after that and helped put them both to bed and ensured everything was set for the next day. In fact she did this for all the nights we needed and did everything she could to help us out.

If the situation was reversed I would do whatever I could to help anyone. Kids come first and a sick one takes priority over the others.

Even Loki’s brothers stepped up. They were both helpful, behaved, organised in ways I’ve never realised and intuitively acted maturely in a new and peculiar situation. I am so proud of them both.

10. Remember to give yourself a break.

It wasn’t until we all got home I realised how mentally exhausted I was. My brain was fried. I couldn’t even remember the password for my phone or find the key to lock the front door. I was completely done in. I’m so glad I have Mark and some amazing friends to help and support us through life experiences like this.

I’m sat here now and this week has gone so fast yet felt so long all at the same time I don’t quite know how to process it all. I definitely won’t be forgetting this anytime soon so I thought I’d write it down. If there ever is a next time I’ll hopefully be slightly more prepared!

*Just to add Loki is doing fine and is back home seeing out the rest of his course of antibiotics orally.


  1. You had a tough time and your little one seemed to take it in stride. Having my youngest hospitalized for multiple operations and procedures I feel your pain, but you got a good handle on things. When it is your child people never seem to move fast enough but the hospital teams are doing a great job and by them being calm really helped me to remain on a more even keel. Hope he is better now and continues to be his happy little self.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve only been in for babies and baby related stuff so apart from waiting around forever I’ve had it pretty easy! It was amazing how normal it is for some people though. Really forced us to look at things differently xx


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