When you’re pregnant, you attend antenatal classes. At these classes, they all tell you to have your hospital bag packed. At the good classes, they give you a list of things to put in it.
At home, you find your bag. You lay out the things on the list. You realise that in many cases, you need the things on the list now, as well as in hospital. What do you do?
That’s the thing about pregnancy and birth: the only thing that is predictable is that it will be unpredictable. Particularly with your first child, you don’t know what you’ll be like, especially in labour. I had done the yoga, the NCT classes and everything in between. I had written my birth plan, created my playlist and done a practice run to the hospital. I had heard about women who bake cakes to distract themselves from contractions. I thought, yes, I will do that. I could just imagine pottering away in the kitchen with a quick break every 10 minutes for a contraction.
Yeah right. While I was in labour, I was so anxious, and felt so sick, and the contractions were so painful, baking was the last thing on my mind. I lay on the sofa for most of the day, timing contractions and trying to focus on the Olympics.
By the time we got to hospital, I was already exhausted, having been in labour for 20 hours and not having slept at all. At that stage, I had no idea I had another 18 to go.
However, there are some things which did really help me, and some things I should have forced myself to do or take with me, which I will note here.
Hospital Bag: Labour
- Prepare to be in for quite a long time. You may need several changes of clothing.
- Think about what you’ll wear in the birth pool if you plan a water birth.
- Have at least 2 playlists or CDs: one for energy, one for calming.
- Energy gels are useful for a boost.
- Proper food is even better. Get your husband or birth partner to remember when you last ate, and encourage you to eat every few hours. Sandwiches, cereal bars, fruit, especially dried fruit, salads etc. are all good. Have some food in your bag for emergencies, but get some made fresh when you’re preparing to go to hospital.
- Think about the kind of water bottles you like to drink from. We had a sports-type cap bottle, which I hate drinking from. Next time, I’ll bring a cup. And some squash.
- You might need a warm jumper or blanket – I remember being very cold during the night in the hospital, and couldn’t get warm at all.
- A hot water bottle – this was an absolute lifesaver.
- Yoga breathing techniques – I did these all the way through, and it was the best thing.
- 1 first outfit (vest and babygro and hat) for the baby.
- 2 nappies for the baby.
Hospital Bag: Post-partum
- Night dresses, dressing gown etc – prepare to be in for at least 2 days. I resisted buying more than 2 nighties before the birth, but I ended up with 4 maternity/breastfeeding night dresses, and each was well-worn by the time I could fit back into my normal pyjamas. I also heard that dark colours are useful.
- Phone charger
- Kindle – there’s not much to do in a hospital bed when the baby is sleeping.
- Cardigan to wear over your nightie
- Some nice ‘treaty’ food e.g. chocolate biscuits – you might get hungry at strange times.
- Your usual toiletries – just buy extras, you’ll use them up eventually.
- Plus all the other bits and pieces they tell you on the course.
For the baby:
- Several outfits (vest and babygro) in Newborn size – babies often wee all over themselves in the first few weeks so have a few changes.
- Cotton wool
- Disposible change mats – we didn’t have a changing table in our bay, so I had to change nappies on my bed.
When you go into hospital, just take your ‘Labour’ bag with you. Leave the others in the car. Then get your husband or birth partner to bring the other bags up with you.
We were in hospital for 2 days after Ben was born, and it is one of the strangest times in your life. Having your home comforts with you does make life easier.