Should You Visit Coworkers in the Hospital?

should-you-visit-sick-coworkers-in-the-hospitalShould you visit coworkers in the hospital? Reader E wonders…

I’m a second year associate at a very small law firm (there are, essentially, five full time lawyers), and have worked very closely with one particular partner since I started with the firm. She found out a few weeks ago that she needs major abdominal surgery, and it’s scheduled for next week. I like and respect her enormously, and she’s been really fabulous to work for, and I want to get her something while she’s in the hospital. I had two immediate thoughts: 1) flowers or 2) an iTunes gift card (she has an iPad) Any suggestions?

I’m also not sure what the protocol is on visits. She told me what the surgery is for, but I don’t want to cross any boundaries or be intrusive while she’s healing. Should I stop by while she’s in the hospital?

I have only had two stays in the hospital, luckily, and one of them was for my birth (which I don’t remember) and the other for the birth of my son.  For the second one — for my $.02 — I would most certainly not have wanted any visitors beyond family to the maternity ward.  I was exhausted (hooray for 34 hours of labor that started at 9PM), felt groggy and out of it, hated being confined to a bed and a hospital gown, and generally skedaddled out of there as quickly as I could.  (Possibly too soon — we left about 36 hours after my son was born, and I nearly fainted while walking out.)  But then I had a less than stellar experience at the hospital for a lot of reasons, so this may be completely unique to me.

Anyway: I think flowers and an iTunes gift card sounds really sweet, and perfect — and I might save a visit to her for when she’s home and recovering.  I think my answer might be different if your colleague were so sick that the stay would be a very long one, or one that might not have a happy ending of going home to recover — but I think for a few days to a week in the hospital, no visit is necessary.

Readers, what do you think — have you visited, or would you visit, a close colleague in the hospital?  Would you want to be visited if you were going to be in the hospital?


  1. I was in the hospital for a few weeks and would have not liked someone I work with coming to visit me – the gift sounds perfect, and perhaps a call when she’s home recovering.

    • Sydney Bristow :

      This is what I think as well. The gift sounds perfect and an email or quick phone call when she is home could be nice.

      I’d also recommend taking your cues from the other people in the office. If everyone goes to visit her, then it might be more acceptable, although I’d probably still call first in this case. Also be aware that she may set the tone and send signals as to what she’d like to have happen as far as visits/calls/emails go.

    • I agree. You could also consider taking a meal to her after she is back home and recovering.

      The iTunes GC and flowers sounds perfect.

  2. I would LOVE to receive flowers, and if I received flowers from someone in my office, I would think it was incredibly thoughtful of them.

    However, I do not think I would like someone from my office to visit me. I can imagine I’d be looking all kinds of mussed up, and wouldn’t be in the mood for talking.

    That having been said, I haven’t spent any time in the hospital where I haven’t felt absolutely horrible. I do remember my dad spending some time at a hospital where he was looking just fine, and feeling alright too. Only family came to visit him then though, and I don’t think he expected anyone from his office to come in, but I don’t think he would reacted negatively if they did.

    Bottom line, I think you’re just fine sending some flowers. Oh, and offering to cover anything she might need done in the office, of course!

  3. I had major abdominal surgery in January and I barely even wanted my closest friends to visit, let alone coworkers. It’s really hard to predict how you’re going to feel in the wake of this kind of surgery — I felt good one day and told my friends they could come the next day, by the time they showed up I was nauseous and miserable. I wouldn’t want to risk having that kind of experience in front of a coworker.

    Send some flowers and maybe an email or text message with a well wish. I’d leave it at that unless she *explicitly* brings up a visit to you.

  4. Senior Attorney :

    I agree with everyone else. The last people I’d want to see in the hospital would be co-workers, even close co-workers. Flowers, little gifts, emails — all nice. I’d even be hesistant to call because phone calls can come at inopportune times or just be draining when you’re groggy from surgery.

    • It’s true that phone calls can be quite burdensome when you’re in the hospital. The caller can’t know that right when they called you, nurses are struggling to redo your IVs while the kitchen staff is trying to clear away your lunch tray and the physical therapist has arrived to help you take a walk. In my case, the phone was usually in an unreachable position, requiring a sort of twisting and stretching that was impossible or risky given my fresh incisions. And the phone just can feel so darn heavy when you are already exhausted.

  5. Gift cards in advance certainly don’t go astray, especially if the alternative is a hollow/poorly-thought-out card (I’ve had a few get well soon cards that were really not well suited for the situation, but I’ve also had some great get well cards – please seriously consider the recipient’s values and the specific circumstances when picking a card).

    If you give your coworker a call a couple of days after the surgery, you could ask if she’s up to visitors and if you could stop by with some real food, or a decent cup of coffee (if either of those is an option for her condition/surgery), or flowers, or anything else that *she thinks* might help brighten her stay – I know anytime I’ve been in hospital I much preferred edibles over flowers, but everyone has their own preferences. Calling first gives her the option to say “thanks but I’m not up to a visit”, or to redirect your gift offer, as well as letting her know you’re thinking of her. If she’s more of an email-type than a phone-person, I’d send the request that way.

    • Could you coordinate a meal to be sent to her house once she gets home? You could probably order something from Fresh Market or Whole Foods and drop it off. I agree with not going to the hospital unless you are explicitly invited.

  6. There are different levels of “major surgery” when it comes to abdominal surgeries. The ones I had required weeks of hospitalization and left me endlessly puking and subject to frequent, spontaneous, uh, expulsions out the other end too. The only friends I wanted to see were the sort who would be entirely comfortable with that, along with all the tubes coming out of every orifice, me being a sweaty mess tangled in my hospital gown, and the chaos of being moved from room to room as various medical crises emerged. What I’m asking is, is your colleague going to be lying quietly in bed, bored out of her mind and welcoming any distraction, or might she have the sort of hospital stay where it’s hard enough just to get through the day without the additional burden of managing visits from people who find the down ‘n’ dirty of hospital stays distressing?

    I found it very difficult to manage flowers in the hospital. It’s a nice idea, but in practice it can be very hard to find a place to put them where they will remain visible to the patient. In my case, nurses invariably moved them to places I couldn’t see because table space near my bed was at such a premium. If your colleague is in ICU, flowers are generally forbidden altogether. In any case, please do NOT send scented flowers. Your sense of smell can become distorted and hypersensitive after abdominal surgery. Scented blooms made me horribly nauseous. I loved to look at them at home, but I had to place them very far away from where I was lying down.

    If you do visit your friend, please be sensitive to the fact that confidential information may emerge when a doctor enteres the room. I found that doctors tended to assume that anyone visiting me was a very close relative with whom I was happy to share medical information. I did not know when I was about to be told that I had cancer, and I would’ve preferred to NOT have visitors present when I was given that information. So, please excuse yourself and leave the room immediately if any medical personnel arrive to do a procedure or to discuss the case.

    I think it works best to send any cards to the patient’s home. My hospital stays were such a jumble and it was hard to keep all my stuff together as I was transferred here and there. Mail would get delivered to the wrong room, or someone might stick it in a book or folder for safekeeping. I found notes and cards weeks later that I never even realized I had received while in the hospital. Whoever is the closest family or friend will know if it’s appropriate for them to bring the cards to the patient or wait until she gets home.

    My comments are based on the fact that I was a very sick puppy in the hospital. I’m sure that if my surgeries were smaller and my stays shorter and calmer, I’d have a different point of view.

    • Ditto that flowers or any living plant are probably not a good gift – many hospitals now restrict or strongly discourage them due to allergies/ contamination and your gift may be thrown out.

      I think unless you are close enough to this person to see them on the weekends or visit each other’s homes, going to her hospital room is ill advised for many reasons mentioned below.

      • Houston Attny :

        BP, this is a great way to decide. Have you visited her on the weekend or been to her home or she to yours? If so, a short visit might be in order. Otherwise, probably not.

      • I agree with BP…if you’ve been to their home and they’ve been to yours for non-business functions (e.g. not a team dinner), then maaaaybe you can visit – call ahead and clear it first. Otherwise no. And i usually send flowers once they’re home – they are a pain to care for in the hospital and a pain to take home.

    • OG Lawyer :

      Please don’t visit someone in the hospital unless she specifically asks you. I’ve had 4 one-week hospitalizations in the past 18 months and I was in hell. Nausea, pain, tangled tubes, can’t make it to the bathroom in time, filthy hair, loss of dignity, and fear. It’s all I can do to hold myself and not just shriek constantly. My hospitalizations have all involved serious problems, and the fact is insurance companies today try to make everything an outpatient procedure. If you have a friend who is actually in the hospital, she must be pretty damn sick. Hell, I just had a double mastectomy and they kicked me out after one night in the hospital. I really wasn’t ready to leave and actually asked to stay another day and night. No go. Another HUGE problem for me was my doctor doesn’t “believe” in pain meds. She gave me three days of low-level vicodin 500s — I complained and she told me prayer or meditation would alleviate the pain. No, Ma’am, morphine relieves the pain, and I really don’t think a week of it will addict me. When I got home I called my internist and he prescribed a week’s worth of oral morphine; and when I went to the plastic surgeon who placed these chest stretcher things under the muscle, (for later implants) he also prescribed medication that actually medicated. No prayer necessary.

      Anyway, sorry for rambling; guess I’m still p.o.’d at the the terrible pain from the double mastectomy and my surgeon’s refusal to relieve it. She ain’t getting rave reviews in my Yelp discussion.

      Leave your co-worker her dignity, and leave her alone. The small token gifts are nice, but I agree that flowers are going to make you nauseated (even my nurse’s hairspray made me throw up.)

  7. S in Chicago :

    I spent more than a week in the hospital. And even though I was bored quite a bit and have some very tight relationships at work given how long we’ve worked together, I definitely wouldn’t have wanted them there.

    The potential for it do be unwelcome is high. If you as the patient feel good, you run the risk of being set back in progress. I actually had some people mistake brief energy as a reason to call me repeatedly on the phone with requests to handle some fires–hello–I’m only a day out of ICU.

    Though not relevant in this situation, folks should also think about the discussions they would have. My reason for being there was potentially life-threatening –and that brought on a whole lot of pressure of dealing with others’ weird reactions. Hard enough to comprehend yourself without the added need to comfort those around you as they try to deal with it and run through a whole litany of discussion about their own feelings of mortality and why/why not it could have been them. Seriously. Hospital time is weird time and should be kind of sacred.

  8. One of my close colleagues has had several bad illnesses in the decade we’ve worked together. While I didn’t visit her, I did send her a few letters in the mail and my department got her a 6-month subscription to Netflix, which she really appreciated.

  9. Interview hose :

    I read the threads from this site on this topic but couldn’t get a consensus:

    Plan on wearing a navy suit (slightly bluer than a super dark navy, with black accents, modern/skinny lapel one button, Tahari) to an interview tomorrow. Can wear pants or skirt, but pants aren’t perfectly pressed right now. If I wear the skirt- nude or sheer black hose? Off black (i.e. dark grey) hose? I am going to wear black pumps, fwiw. Or if the suit sounds inappropriate, I have a grey j crew skirt suit (gabardine).

    The main problem is that it’s still winter here (ridiculous!)- today is around 35, sorta slushy. Tomorrow will be drier. If it was warmer and sunnier I’d go nude hose.

  10. In general, I agree that flowers and small gifts are nice and visits aren’t necessary, and in most cases won’t be welcome.

    However, if you have a particularly close relationship with a co-worker, it can be fine. When I was a third-year associate, the partner that I had worked for pretty much exclusively ever since I was an articled student had a heart attack and was hospitalized for at least a week afterwards. I did go to visit him once, and I think because we had quite a close relationship it was fine. We chatted about how he was doing, I passed along well wishes from the office and updated him on the transactions we were working on, and he gave me instructions on a few things. He was actually quite grateful for the distraction and I think it was a good thing I visited. If I had been any other associate, it might have been weird. I think you have to be pretty clear on your relationship with the person and carefully consider in advance whether they will want to see you. If you do go, wait until the person is well on the mend and is actually in a position to accept visits, and don’t overstay your welcome.

    • Anonymous :

      Sorry, but in this whole thread the only one saying you could go is someone who was not in the hospital but was the visitor. I think its much better to not visit

    • TO Lawyer :

      I think Nonny makes it clear that it depends on the relationship you have with the person and whether or not they will want to see you. I’m inclined to agree with this – I think waiting until they are healing (so maybe if it’s a longer stay) is smart. If the type of relationship you have with someone is one you would maintain if you were no longer co-workers (and is a good relationship), I don’t see why visiting someone on an extended stay in the hospital is a bad thing as long as you’re sensitive to the potential awkwardness of the situation.

  11. I recently spent 8 weeks in the hospital due to a very high risk pregnancy. Physically, I felt fine most of the time and I didn’t have to wear a hospital gown. Several co-workers asked to visit and I felt rude saying no. However, I really, really wish I had. Visits were uncomfortable and awkward, adding to my already high stress level. I cannot stress this enough- do NOT go visit. I would say the same thing for visits at home after recovery- the reality is, she still won’t feel well, plus she will be stressed about her house not being clean enough. A card or email is a thoughtful gesture. Make sure whatever you send doesn’t obligate the sick person to respond; they are likely overwhelmed already (this may apply less here, but I got lots of notes asking for regular updates and info about the baby’s name, nursery, etc.). Amazon gift cards were the best gift- even if the person doesn’t have a Kindle, they can rent movies or TV shows online, or order books for when they are home recuperating. Flowers were also nice, but don’t send anything to the hospital that the person has to take home (ie stuffed animals).

    Sorry if this sounds harsh- it is very sweet of you to be so concerned. But the reality is, I think we all like to only show our best selves at work/ to our co-workers, and you should give your co-worker that courtesy.

    • Wendalette :

      I think it’s always a case-by-case.
      I also spent 8+ weeks in the hospital due to a high-risk pregnancy, and I was ECSTATIC to have some of my co-workers visit me.

      That being said, the coworkers who came to visit:

      #1. Were very close friends (most us have been together 3 years and are friends outside of work),

      #2. Called first to find out if it was okay, when would be a good time, and called before they left home/work to confirm;

      #3. Were all at the same level (as in not a superior in rank. As much as I love my boss, I think I would have felt super-awkward had she come to visit as the same time as I would have loved to see her);

      So, FWIW, I think that if you are close to that associate on a personal level and she’ll be in the hospital for more than a week, definitely ask her if she’d like a visit. Otherwise, a token of your well-wishing such as you suggested might be better.

    • And after the baby is born, don’t drop by without calling first. i remember hiding not once but twice from co-workers who stopped by without calling. Who does that?

  12. I visited my co-worker after her first child was born only because she invited two of us. I was honored to be invited and I went. We definitely didn’t stay long.

    I would also caution against calling even the day after surgery. When I had knee surgery, I was on the phone for most of the afternoon after my surgery and the next day talking to people who were just calling to check in. It was exhausting.

  13. My closest, best friend at work wanted to come to the hospital to visit after the birth of my child. She ended up coming by about a day and a half post c-section and although I love her to pieces I remember feeling very anxious about her visit and slightly burdened while she was there. They had just brought my child to my room after 2 nights in the NICU and we were barely acquainted. I was terribly exhausted and a bit of a mess. She didn’t stay long, maybe 20 minutes, and while I appreciated her thoughts and concern I definitely agree with the suggestion not to visit in the hospital regardless of how close you and your coworker are.

    • I think that 20 minutes in this situation would be an eternity.

      The one friend I visited post-baby I told pre-baby that 1) I would come if you FB me asking me to come and 2) I will only stay 5 minutes and 3) I would highly expect to hear nothing since having a baby can be a wonderful blur under the best of circumstances. Friend wound up having a c-section, but asked me to come. I would have loved to have stayed and held her sweet little baby, but this is the situation where I can see it is easy to overstay the welcome and the other person wouldn’t have the strength to ask you to go.

  14. Violet's Fan :

    Just chiming in to say that I would not visit unless specifically invited. Flowers or a gift card would be lovely, though!

  15. Networking Q :

    What would the hive recommend to start building up a network again. Ive been in government for a few years and am looking at the job market in industry again. I’m a member of the local JL but that seems to be a more social atmosphere. I’m also shy and an introvert and probably making this more complicated than it needs to be.

  16. Interesting topic; I agree with Kat’s take that it’s probably best not to unless it’s an extended stay.

    Now, for me. My firm has this older partner who is one of those old guy with no filter; just says whatever comes into his head sorts. So, the morning after my late afternoon C-section, while I’m still in my hospital gown and have barely been out of bed, I’m holding the baby and trying (and mostly failing) to figure out the whole b-feeding thing. The nurses had been coming in and out the whole time, so I was pretty much just not worrying about the whole modesty issue – I hear a knock and just say “come in.”

    Fortunately, he didn’t come in all the way, and my husband saw him first and warned me, so I was able to at least cover up. And I was touched that he cared to come visit. I just would have appreciated a warning first!

  17. Some of my closest friends are co-workers. When I was last in the hospital, I actually asked the hospital to call one of them for me, because I was across the country from my family. Unfortunately, I had amnesia, so I couldn’t give the hospital enough information to call (I couldn’t remember my friend’s last name or phone number).

    That said, I felt that way only because this person was more a friend than a co-worker. I’d definitely not want a visit from someone I supervise, or someone who supervises me.

  18. I am actually shocked by the seeming consensus that one should not visit coworkers in the hospital. While I agree that there may be some isntances when it would be uncomfortable or unwise, I think one could easily discern whether your coworker’s situation leans in that direction by asking a family member, spouse, significant other, etc., or by calling the nurses’ station and asking if that particluar patient is accepting visitiors.

    My father was in a devastating and major vehicle accident almost a year ago. We spent over a month in the hospital. The first two weeks were spent in the Trauma ICU, and we almost lost him. Many times. Not only did I appreciate the visitors, who gave me much needed reprieve from my constant bedside watch, but he later told me that he found the will to fight his way back from the brink of death, because there was such an outpouring of concern and love from so many visitors, most of whom were his coworkers. Many of those coworkers he barely knew other than their name, title and a quick hello in the breakroom. Nonetheless, he has told me over and over gain that it inspired him that there was still so much goodness in people – people he took for granted in his daily life.

    He is now medically retired and over the last year has been back in the hospital approximately 20 times for related complications. But, he is still here. Each time he goes back in, former coworkers drive down (over an hour from his small town) to the hospital to see him. Each time, as he stabilizes and becomes able to return home, he tells me again how much it means to him.

    I understand that this situation is different than a visit to the hospital for a birth, or minor surgery, but I think some of the comments are disregarding the power of human connection and the affect that can have on people’s healing. As for me, I have only been hospitalized once, and as a child; but if I was in the hospital for an extended stay due to surgery, illness, accident, etc., I hope my coworkers care enough to take a few minutes to stop by and say hello and take my mind off the drudgery of being in the hospital.

    Just my two cents. Hope it’s helpful for someone.

    • I think it’s different when it’s something unexpected like an accident. I’m not sure why, but it just feels like a different ballgame. And, certainly, unless you’ve been asked, I wouldn’t recommend ever visit a coworker who is just giving borth.

      I also think whether you should visit often depends on the person. Someone I work with who was battling cancer was very touched when his boss came to sit with him after his surgery. To this day, he always talks about how much that meant to him. But it is worth noting that the boss is someone with whom this person has a special connection and is also someone not known for sentimentality, so I think that’s why it meant a lot. On the other hand, the same person also went out of his way not to tell anyone what he was going through so no one else would be coming to visit. I knew, and it didn’t occur to me to go even though the hospital was not far from my apartment. I just think it would have been uncomfortable for him.

    • I’m also a bit dismayed that everyone seems to be saying don’t visit coworkers in hospital. I agree it can be awkward but I think the visit vs do NOT visit should be determined by the relationship you have with that person. Like Laura says, people underestimate the power of human connection. For some people this is the only thing that can help them pull through. I’m also wondering if this is a cultural thing, I am not originally from the U.S. I visited a coworker in the hospital after she had a baby after a gruelling labour that somehow stalled which then prompted a C-section. This was her 1st child, also I did not stay long and bought a card.

      While most of us may not be close to our co-workers I would hope that if I were in that situation that there would be someone that would stop by for a few minutes to say hello.

    • SoCalAtty :

      I agree with Laura when it’s an accident or something really dire. My father in law was in a horrible accident 3 years ago, which left him in a coma, and we saw a never ending stream of visitors from his work, church, community, neighbors…and it was great!

      The other situation, that OP describes, is still surgery but it’s planned. I feel like if you’re ok for the most part, and it’s planned, you probably don’t want visitors (every time I have been in the hospital, I’ve sent out a “no visitors” blast because it just completely stresses me out). Gifts / cards are much appreciated, and call the hospital or check their website for the flower policy. They usually have it posted.

  19. I would add to the do not visit contingent. Send a nice gift card to her home address. It can be a bear trying to gather all of your things when you’re ill and leaving the hospital.

    When my office asked if I wanted visitors after the birth of my child I was honest and said no as gently as possible although I don’t think some of them took it well since the last person to give birth welcomed a line of office visitors. To be frank, I really didn’t even want friends visiting. I was really annoyed with 1 “friend” who called the room and invited herself. It was very awkward as I was half-dressed and learning to breast feed so I’m sitting there with my engorged breasts exposed for most of our visit.

    Recently, a close friend had abdominal surgery and I visited because she insisted on it but she called on the day I was scheduled to visit and ask me not to come because of the pain and nausea she was experiencing.

  20. anon for this :

    On a somewhat similar note, is it ok to tell my in-laws NOT to come visit when I’m in the hospital with their first (and likely only) grandchild? I already know that I’m going to have a c-section, so I’ll be recovering from that plus trying to nurse and figure everything out. My in-laws stress me out — they will likely want to come to the hospital as soon as the baby is born and camp out and be in my business for several days, offering unwanted advice and getting their feelings hurt if I tell them to leave so I can rest. My husband isn’t doing a good job helping me with this either — he says it will “break their hearts” and “cause all sorts of problems” if they can’t come to the hospital. For those of you who have already been through this, do you think I’m being unreasonable and/or overreacting, and it would probably be fine to have them there? Or will it truly be awful to have them there, and should I take a stand on this? (And if I should take a stand on this, any advice on how to approach it?)

    • Take this with a grain of salt, because we don’t have children yet, but –

      I think maybe you are being a little unreasonable in the no-visit-at-all policy. I definitely think that you have every right to say unequivocably that you don’t want your in-laws/your parents/etc. in the delivery room. But once the baby is born, I think that a short visit will be worth a lot to them and isn’t a huge sacrifice for you. Get the nurses on your side so that one of them can come into the room after about 45 minutes and shoo everyone out (including your husband) saying “Mom and baby need to rest now!!”. That way, in-laws are gone, in-laws are happy because they got to visit, you earned some points, and now you get to be by yourself for a bit :)

      • I would NEVER let in-laws in the delivery room. And since you’re c-section, it’s unlikely the hosptial would, anyway. The only person who ever saw me before I got to my recovery room was my dad once for about 5 mins. because it was taking forever to get a room.

      • This. Perfectly reasonable to request that in-laws not be in the delivery room. But probably not so reasonable to say “no visits at all”. It’s probably best to allow at least a short visit so they can coo over the baby. If your husband can’t or won’t help regulate the length of the visit, make your wishes known to the nurses. They’re usually quite happy to be a gatekeeper for you so you can rest and recover.

    • Tough one. I feel for you. But I think you should let them visit. I think you need to be firm with your husband that he needs to set boundaries on it, though. You’ll be tired, recovering and mostly trying to figure out nursing (and I am assuming you’re not comfortable doing that in front of your in laws). So he needs to say they can only stay for about 15 minutes in your room for those reasons. If the baby is in the nursery and getting cleaned and they want to see the baby, they can go watch, of course.

      Just keep in mind, you’ll STILL be tired, recovering and nursing all the time at home…so if you don’t let them come to the hospital, you’ll likely just be burnened with them for a much longer stay at home. Plus, they’ll feel more entitled to a “good” visit since you “didn’t let them come” to the hospital.

      In my experience w/ several c-sections, there is a long time after you have the baby that you don’t get to see the baby (once you get to your room – after L&D) because they’re cleaning, testing. I think that’s a great time for the in-laws to be AT the hospital so they feel a part of everything (and they might even get to see more of the baby than you during cleaning, etc. and take some good photos for you!). It will lengthen their stay and make them feel special. But as soon as the baby gets to you, you can pretty much kick them out by saying you have to try nursing again (which will be true!).

    • Are your parents coming to the hospital? I definitely don’t think you can give your in-laws less time than you give your own parents. In any case, not allowing the in-laws to come to the hospital at all seems pretty harsh, but it seems quite reasonable to limit their visits to a short amount of time, and to be up front when you need to rest or feel overwhelmed.

      • (I obviously have a lot of thoughts about this topic!! I guess being pg with my 4th makes me have a lot to say! Sorry.) I think you can give your in-laws a lot less time than your parents. Reason is simple: I would be okay with my mom *helping* me nurse. I don’t care if my dad sees me nurse the baby. My in laws? No way – we don’t have that relationship.

        For my first, I think I spent 50% or more of my waking hours nursing or trying to nurse. By the time you feed yourself, walk down the hall with your painful stiches, try to go to the bathroom, it’s time to nurse again. It took me about an hour to nurse (and I was good at it – we didn’t have a ton of problems) and the baby would nurse every 3 hours. Do the math. That leaves 1 hour to sleep and 1 hour for everything else (like take pics, get the baby to sleep, change diapers, get tested a thousand times by the nurses for your own blood pressure, etc etc etc). If people aren’t talking to you while you’re trying to nurse, there isn’t much time for visits. And it’s SO hard to schedule because you never know when you’re going to be exhuasted and wanting to sleep, when the baby will be sleeping (which obviously need to coincide for you to sleep), when the baby will want to eat, etc.

        But I still DO think you should let your inlaws visit in those first days (on the first day!) in the hospital. You’ll be really pumped up then, anyway, so it might be hard for you to sleep.

        • I completely agree with this. In this situation, husband’s and wife’s families are not on equal footing, nor are – for that matter – husband and wife. Childbirth is intense, exhausting, strenuous, and the aftermath is delicate, embarrassing (if people you don’t know are nearby), painful. You are at absolutely your most vulnerable point possible.

          IMO what the mom wants is what goes in the postpartum days. Period, full stop. IMO that includes no IL visits at the hospital. There will be plenty of time for that later.

      • My parents live on the opposite coast, so they won’t be there for the hospital stay. My in-laws live 5 hours away, so I’m a bit concerned that they’ll want to stay for several days and spend a lot of time in the hospital to justify their long drive. I really appreciate everyone’s insights here — thank you!

        • Meg Murry :

          Could you ask your husband to help you make a plan to manage the flow of visitors? You’re right, if they drive 5 hours they aren’t going to be ok with a 15 minute visit and will wind up hanging around the hospital. Are your parents planning to fly out? Could you propose the inlaws come up after you are released from the hospital or in weeks 2 or 3 when the baby will be more interesting and you’ll have started to get the hang of parenting? As far as their advice – is there something they are each good at so you could ask them to “help you out” with a few things? Like: do they like to cook? Could they help with making meals for the freezer? Are they handy? My FIL appreciated being sent off to Home Depot to buy the parts needed to install a closet system we had never gotten around to doing – it gave him something “useful” to do.

          Oh, and are they planning to stay at your house while they visit? If you are thinking yes, you and hubs may want to read this, its scary but true: (and for those of you childfree type, you probably Don’t want to read it, unless you are thinking of droppiing by or staying with a family with a new baby):

          • I love you, Meg Murray, for posting this link. It’s exactly how I feel.

          • I love this. It is exactly what I meant when I said above that ILs and parents are NOT the same and that mother-to-be and father-to-be are NOT on equal footing in decisions around this. Mom’s body, mom’s birth, mom’s decisions.

    • My in-laws also stress me out…I have to build up my emotional reserves to see them, and am drained for the next day after a visit with them.

      That said, when we had our first my husband and I compromised – they could come in twice a day for 30 minutes per visit. It really does mean such an incredible amount to them (that I had underestimated) and went a long way toward our relationship, and we had an agreement with the nurses that NO visit, from anyone, could be more than 30 minutes – so they would come in and say they needed visitors to leave while the doctor ‘checked’ me, and that then no visitors would be allowed because mother/baby were sleeping.

      IMO, it’s not as bad as I thought it would be, and it really went a long way towards being allowed more space in other areas of our life. If I could do it again, I’d do it the same way – except maybe throw an extra visit or extra ten minutes in there.

    • I think you can achieve a happy medium here. While it’s absolutely your right to tell them not to come to the hospital at all, that might have long-term implications in your relationship with them. It’s up to you to weigh the options. If I were in your place, I’d let them visit for a little while – 20 or 30 minutes maybe? And before they got there, I would enlist the help of a nurse. After the allotted amount of time, have the nurse shoo them out and say that you need to be alone/recover/have your staples checked/practice b-feeding, etc.

      Maybe even have the nurse (a neutral third party) explain to them that a c-section is a major surgery and that you medically may not be up for visitors. Of course, if your in-laws see your parents there for hours at a time, though, that might breed a whole host of additional problems. So, that’s something that I would watch out for.

    • This is tricky. How far do your ILs have to travel to get to the hosptial? Mine are a 4 hour flight away, so when baby comes, they will be flying in at an assigned time (presumably post-baby). If they for some reason feel they want to be there, they can fly in and stay at a hotel for as long as they’d like, and they’ll get a call when my parents get a call— and they’ll all be allowed to visit post-delivery. Then everyone goes home (NOT to my house, despite what my mother wants).

      If your ILs are local, could you just let them visit for a few minutes after all is said and done, and charge DH as well as all the nurses to impose a strict X minute visit cap? Your ILs can always go hang out in the nursery and stare at the little one and let you recover in peace.

    • Anonymous :

      I was in your situation. I had a csection and yes, I let my inlaws come and stay a while. My mom and siblings came. It was stressful and didn’t help the BF process. However, my daughter was the first grandchild on my side and the first grandchild in 16 years on my husband’s side. They came, they gushed, they held my baby (ok, my MIL did), and eventually, when I needed them to, they left. In retrospect, it was the right thing to do for my family. But you will need to be able to kick them out (or have your husband do it, or the nurse or whoever) when you need to rest and/or BF, depending on your comfort level. Good luck.

    • LackingLuster :

      We had a no visitors policy for both babies who were mostly normal births. We publicized it well before the birth. We got a little bit of push back from my in-laws 3 hours away and told them that was fine, we just wouldn’t tell them until I was home from the hospital. Honestly, even when it’s not a c-section, just look at the comments. You are exhausted, the baby is nursing ALL THE TIME (it’s practically pointless to pull your gown back up, it’s an effort to get out of bed just to use the bathroom, etc. Ugh. Even 30 minutes would seem like forever. And the longer you are in the hospital the more tired you will get because if the baby lets you sleep, the nurses won’t. I agree that it has to be enforced equally between the family members though.

    • I know that I am really lucky to have in-laws who respect boundaries and who I actively want to have around but from a neutral perspective I think it may do more damage to not allow a visit.
      This is also your husband’s child and I think that out of respect to him, allowing his parents to be a part of the visiting process would go a long way. Having advocates (as others have mentioned above) is a great idea and I have known others to do this. I also think of it this way…if you have a boy and he one day has children, how would you feel being told you could not visit your grandchild in the hospital? (Maybe that is an extremist point but I try to think of things that way as well)

    • SoCalAtty :

      That’s what I’ll be doing. Once I’m home, have at it, but no way in the hospital. Even with a c section they only keep you for 3-4 days, or a week if it’s a long recovery. People can wait a week.

      If I were, down the road, in the shoes of the grandparent, I would say “great, I’ll see you when you get home. I’ll come over with a big pot of food. What would you like me to cook?” (And I’d probably ask for baby pictures)

    • I generally agree with the posters saying to let them visit some.

      BUT, oh boy does your husband not have your back here. At a minimum, I’d like to give him a pill of put-the-wife-first (which would likely lead you to relax a bit, oddly enough, and come closer to his way of seeing things). Can you agree with him in advance on either a time of 15 minutes or so or when the baby needs to eat (or your trying to nurse) or when you are being examined that he will usher them out? [And definitely enlist the nurses, but be forewarned that they change shifts often and you may have to re-enlist each visit.] Because you may be in too much pain to be civil, especially after a first birth / c-section.

      This is where a post-birth doula would be golden.

  21. Divaliscious11 :

    Flowers – okay.
    Gift – NO!
    Visit – only if you are close friends outside the office – which in this case sounds like no.

    • AnonInfinity :

      Just curious — Why no gift card?

      • Divaliscious11 :

        You don’t gift up. If it was a peer or someone she supervised, I could see a small token but she is a very junior associate and the person in question is a partner.

        • I think this varies by office. In mine, the associates and the partners in our practice group (under 10 people) exchange holiday gifts. It is also common place to sort of expected that if you go on vacation, you bring some little token of your travels for each.

        • Snarkster :

          I agree with this for holidays and the like, but I think in a situation like this, a small token gift is fine

  22. My husband just had outpaitent surgery at the hospital where he works. As he was coming out of general anaesthesia in the recovery room, the nurse walked up to us and said that one of his coworkers had just brought a card for him just before I was allowed into the recovery room.

    The card was sweet – signed by his entire department – but the coworker had brought it directly to the recovery room (as the employees have access to that area.)

    My husband was half naked and looked like he11, as one does coming out of surgery, and when he was coherent enough to understand, was outraged that the hospital would allow one of his coworkers to “visit” him while he was unconscious, without his consent.

    And by the way, my husband and his team are desk workers, not medical staff.

  23. Since you’re nursing once you take your breasts out to breastfeed perhaps they will feel uncomfortable and leave on their own. I found that my breasts were out quite a bit and it’s really hard and uncomfortable to cover up in those first few days when you’re learning and you (and the nurse or the lactation consultant) want to observe the little one’s mouth on your breast to ensure a proper latch.

    I’m sorry that you’re going through this. A friend was on last trimester bed rest at her in-law’s & she ended up on blood pressure medication because of the added stress.

  24. Blonde Lawyer :

    I agree with the consensus though I’m adding the caveat to know your coworker and their situation. If they are far from friends and family then maybe they would like a visit. My coworker was in a car accident and hospitalized overnight. When she returned to work she said she had never been so lonely and it was really traumatizing to realize she had “no one close enough” to call to visit. I had considered visiting but considering it was the night of the accident figured she should rest instead. I still feel guilty that she felt so alone when all of us at the office were contemplating whether to go. Maybe like another poster mentioned the dividing line is planned hospitalization versus sudden.

  25. I was in the hospital for a month a couple years ago (while in law school) and I didn’t even want my friends from school to visit! I would have NEVER wanted a colleague there. I had been getting sponge baths, felt disgusting, felt stressed out, and would not have wanted anyone to see me in that state. I even wanted my husband’s parents to leave after a while, and they are “family.”

    What I would recommend is doing what you suggested– sending some sort of thoughtful gift and card to tell the person you’re thinking about them. A bunch of my friends and classmates bought me a kindle and some books and that meant SO much to me!

    • Anonymous :

      Most of the few commenters who mention that hospital visits DID seem welcome in certain circumstances reference somewhat older male patients. I’m wondering if they are less likely to feel self-conscious about their appearance than women? This thread is bringing up gruesome flashbacks of my own hospitalizations. As JK mentions, one can feel quite disgusting under hospital conditions. I had weeks where I was not allowed to shower and my hair became really gross. One night I woke up because of a horrible odor and then realized it was my own hair! I couldn’t sleep until I completely wrapped my hair in a big towel to contain the smell.

      I became fixated on how freshly showered and clean all my visitors were. Everyone kept saying, “Oh, it doesn’t matter!” In the larger picture, true, it didn’t matter. But I still didn’t like exposing my very unshaven legs (it wasn’t the kind of setup where I could demurely lie beneath smooth covers like on TV), greasy hair, and massively swollen face and limbs from all the fluids being pumped into me. Apparently even when I’m near death, I still prefer to look my best!

  26. Adding another 2 cents – my boss expressed a strong interest in visiting me post partum at the hospital, and it was all I could do to say, No, don’t, etc. Too uncomfortable and intrusive on a lot of levels. Flowers or a similar couriered expression of best-wishes-for-a-quick-recovery, is fine. If this person ASKs for a visit, that’s different.

  27. I would only visit a co-worker if we were friends outside of the office and that rule alone would preclude my visiting any of my superiors in the hospital. I would also hate it if one of the people who works for/under me came to see me in the hospital. It would be very uncomfortable for me. I also wouldn’t care to receive a gift from a co-worker although a card with well-wishes would be very nice.

  28. Anonymous :

    The ITunes gift card sounds like a really thoughtful gift. I recently wondered about sending flowers to someone in the hospital. In the end, I think it is just more crap that the person has to keep up with, cuold trigger allergies, and doesn’t last very long. Ultimately, I ended up sending a box of Tiff’s Treats at a time when I knew most of her family would be there and they could all enjoy them. I figured they could all probably use a snack. Once my friend got home, she sent me the sweetest thank you note about how it really lifted her spirits as well as the spirits of everyone in the room with her. Not sure if cookies are the best gift for someone having abdominal surgery, but I think something other than flowers can be very refreshing if appropriate.

  29. I’ve just had major abdominal surgery six weeks ago and tomorrow will be my first day back at the office. The last people I wanted to see were my co-workers. In fact, I turned my phone off. The only people I wanted around me were my closest family members. That’s it. Not even friends.

  30. I think it depends on how well you know your co-worker. If you have been to each others’ homes, like a poster above said, then you’re probably close enough that a gift and maybe a visit would be appropriate. If you have the contact info for any family members, I would contact them first about how the co-worker is doing and whether visits or phone calls are welcome.

    The office could send snacks for visitors in the room, like a fruit basket, edible arrangement, or veggie tray or something.

    Flowers are nice, but only if they come with their own vase. Ask the hospital about allergy restrictions. The iTunes GC sounds good.

    I also once brought a stack of gossip/tabloid magazines to a friend in the hospital – People, US Weekly, etc. She loved them. A crossword puzzle book or Sudoku puzzle book might also be appropriate, depending on how much their brain is affected by their condition and meds. I also had a roommate who rented the entire Season 1 of Deadwood when I was home with the swine flu. I got hooked. Love that show.

  31. Just a late 2c to say that I prefer no visits in the hospital too. There was the time where my dear roomate came to see me still in her work suit, and I worried terribly about puking on her skirt. You not only feel like hell, you look like it, you smell horrible, you could be stoned out of your mind, you’re lucky if some formerly private part of your anatomy is not in full view of the public.. I could go on and on :-). Only your nearest and dearest should go near you in that state.

    Also, people, food for abdominal surgery patients is unrealistic. You get released the instant you can tolerate any food at all. Flowers are a breeding ground for fatal bacteria. Presents can easily be stolen, if not lost when tossed with the laundry. Food however is a great thing for the nurses, who appreciate it and may well dish out better treatment to your patient friend if they like what you brought. This is much more useful to the patients than anything they have to keep track of.

    But basically visits when well enough to have been returned home are great. Then you may merely be in pain, or tired, or bored out of your mind. So I’d recommend a couple well-wishing sms while in the hospital, which can be read whenever, followed by home visit (with food, as that may be difficult then).

  32. I was in for probable appendicitis (turned out to be something else, but the surgery fixed that issue too) a couple years ago and had about 36 hours where I was in the hospital under observation before they did the surgery. One of my coworkers came by to personally deliver a little bouquet of flowers and a card from the office and stuck around for a short visit — 10 or 15 minutes.

    I was really touched and felt 100% great about her coming by. That said, my work is attached to the hospital where I was staying, so it was a matter of a quick walk up from the office — thus, no expectation of a long visit on anyone’s end, which I think is key.

  33. Friends visit you in the hospital, _real friends_ visit you in the _mental hospital_.

  34. I just saw this in the LA Times and remembered this thread. Be supportive to people closer to the trauma/injury/condition than you. It is not helpful to vent/complain to people who have more to be stressed about than you.,0,2074046.story

  35. Expat overseas :

    My subordinate coworker and I were in a foreign country for medical evaluations for our jobs. Unfortunately, he had a heart attack and was in the hospital, the first time, for a week. He had no family to check on his progress. (his wife could not fly to where we were she was too sick)

    I was torn about visiting. We work long, long hours in extreme conditions, so it is not like we had not seen each other at our worst, both physically and mentally.

    In the end, I visited daily. The only friendly face he had is what I figured.

    He had subsequent heart attacks delaying his return trip. I could not stay for his entire confinement. And I felt bad knowing I could not continue to visit. What if he does not make it home?

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