So you’re having a baby – congrats! And if you’re anything like me, you’re low-key freaking out knowing there’s so little you can actually do to control the birth and postpartum days. Which makes preparing your hospital bag the only somewhat comfort you’ve got for your control freak tendencies. That combined with the old ‘nesting’ habit, is the perfect environment for over thinking, over planning and over googling of ‘what the heck do I need to pack??’ Luckily (and unluckily) for you there are plenty of answers on offer…
From family to countless strangers (never in your life will you encounter more unsolicited advice than when you are planing to start, extend or complete your family) to Facebook mums groups and pregnancy apps offering checklists of ‘essential hospital bag items.’ I’m not here to dispute any of them, because generally they overlap and are much the same. However within my own experience, I found the below listed items rarely if ever included on many lists, and they made the world of difference for my postpartum stay. Even if it’s just a short hospital hang out, increasing your comfort will be a game-changer for those let’s just say ‘unique’ first days of parenthood. And the longer you’re there the more important your comfort levels will be! So there’s my 2 bobs worth:
Socks and/or Slippers
As in your warmest, cosiest pair (or 6). I severely underestimated how cold my feet would be, even during the late spring time! A hospital floor is far from heated, and nothing wakes you up more abruptly than waddling from your bed to the bathroom when recovering from an epidural, like icy cold freshly sterilised floors. Not to mention to slip factor too being a serious hazard to consider. When you’ve already been split open down south, the last thing you want is to trip, slip, rip and split your stitches! Your favourite ugg boots or moccasins not only combat the cold and slip risks, but they offer that ounce of coziness to make you feel a little more at-home and a little less at-hospital.
Speaking from a breastfeeding perspective, the work your poor little nips are going to go through that first day or two, or 12 until your milk supply comes and settles in is going to be intense. So having a good nipple cream ready to go from the start could be the difference between a rapid areola recovery, and wanting to cut them off with a blunt knife, because that would actually be less painful than how they are currently feeling. Applying and reapplying constantly was a saviour for me, and I cringe thinking of the days I almost didn’t pack the cream for hospital, thinking ‘I’ll just use a bit when I get home, I won’t need it that soon..’ It takes up bugger all space in your bag and could honestly save your dreams of a breastfeeding journey. Pack it. Use it. Thank me later.
My pregnancy app included this one, and I remember thinking it was a luxury item and not a big deal at all. But truthfully, I’m so glad I did! I typically don’t have great circulation most days, so cold and dry hands aren’t unusual for me. But being in such a sterile place like hospital, and constantly washing my hands between nappy changes and feeding and burping and everything else, it was like having mittens made of sandpaper on all the time. A natural hand cream was so soothing and comforting, and made me feel less of a dairy cow and more of a human.
I usually have at least 4 on me at any time anyway, so this one was a no brainer for me. It’s crazy how dehydrated you get when breastfeeding or even just recovering from birth. And my lips were one of the first places to show it. Not to mention that feeling as soon as you realise you don’t have a lip balm handy, and then all of a sudden they feel like 2 pieces of desert rubbing together causing a fire on your face you can’t put out. NOT NICE. I definitely didn’t want to deal with that on top of everything else going on too! So having one (or eight) on hand was a brilliant idea. I used way more than normal too! Added tip – have them near your bed once you settle into your room too. Nothing worse than getting comfy, seeing your lip balm across the room that now feels like 20 miles away and your lips start tingling..
And make them BIG. I’m talking big enough you can ride on. You want to feel like you have Falcor between your thighs in terms of softness, size and protection. Note – that’s the big, white, fluffy thing from The Never-ending Story. Which is ironic on so many levels because you will feel like that post-birth leakage is a never-ending story too. Just stock up on the biggest ones you can find – like the ones you and your teenage friends would giggle at in the supermarket aisle, wondering who on earth would need those. (Not so funny now, huh?) Plus, wouldn’t you rather sus them all out now and pack the ones you know will help, rather than send your partner in at 3am to hunt for something only to return with ridiculous ultra slim liners with wings, like he’s saved the day! It’s not worth it girl.. Get the massive ones, ditch the wings (ain’t nobody got time for that) and attach them to your undies BEFORE your shower or getting changed – trust me when I say that you’ll be slower moving post birth and gravity will sure as hell beat you to the punch while you’re standing up, fumbling with sticky wings and no knickers..
Most lists include this, but they tend to focus on the colour. For me, I didn’t care if they were black, white or glittery rainbow – if they got messy I was just chucking them out anyway! It was more about the sizing that I found helpful. Going up a size or even 2 meant they were comfortable enough first up, but having them too big kind of defeats the purpose. No point having a massive, super absorbent, surfboard size, maxi pad if it ends up around your ankles all the time. And who wants to bend over and pick up their underwear 800 times a day when you’ve just given birth! Plus having plenty of them packed gave me the opportunity to have that ‘fresh underwear’ feeling after each shower. SUCH a mood lifter when you feel like all your body does now is leak fluids everywhere. (yep, like everywhere..)
This began as a biblical thing for me – as a Christian woman I was hoping for an almost supernatural, pain free birth (lol, points for trying right?) So I had already written out a list of my favourite scriptures in hopes of empowering myself during labour and helping me to focus on something nicer as my unborn son proceeded to shred me from thigh to thigh as he entered the world. But I actually went on to write myself a letter. From me, to me. Listing all the feelings I had worked through during those years of infertility, the excitement of being pregnant, pointing out that women have done this for thousands of years before me and will continue to do so as well, the reminder that I’m in the best place with trained professionals around me if I need extra help. I also saw another beautiful idea where friends of the mum-to-be each write a letter of love, encouragement and empowerment before that she doesn’t open until labour/birth, to help distract from the pain and combat any feelings of doubt and inadequacy. How uplifting would that be?? Love it! My tip though – laminate it! Not only does this stop any tearing or damage in the packing process and make it easier to find in the blur of active labour, but it prevents any ‘tarnishing’ during birth because kids are messy AF, even before they’re born!
Parking Metre Money
This one will depend heavily on your birthing location, but for us it was a hospital positioned in the middle of town with time sensitive parking metre machines on every nearby street. So I luckily thought to have a stack of gold coins in my car ready to load up on our arrival. Especially handy as I ended up driving myself there on my own (convinced I wasn’t in labour) and then hubby met me there, so throughout my labour I only had to get Tyson to top up the parking metres once or twice rather than go find an ATM and get change from a shop and so on..
Call me over the top and control freak if you like, this really helped me not to feel too overwhelmed. Many mums will testify to not having your hospital room or even home flooded with visitors when you’re still learning how this new human being (and your boobs) even work! But for me I actually listed out in my phone the people I wanted to visit in order of when and where. That way I knew who would be coming and roughly when, and didn’t have too many at once or worry about anyone being forgotten in a post-birth-haze. I also had a hunch I would be having a caesarean and thought in case I was out of it, my husband would be able to check this and notify people on the first list and so on, so I could still have my wishes respected even if I couldn’t verbalise it. Turns out I was actually just mega tired and sore (who would’ve thought?!) and so saving that extra thought process and limiting the people ahead of time was still a life saver.
Photos of my bump/body
Ok so this isn’t necessarily a ‘hospital bag necessity’ but rather something to make sure you have before birth, or worst case snap those pics during labour if need be. Forget posing, lighting, hair and makeup, just focus on the miracle that’s taking place inside you. They don’t have to be model quality – because let’s face it you probably haven’t felt even remotely glamorous since you fell pregnant. But the number 1 thing I hear from mums all the time and you’ll see it on most of my birth story blogs, is that they wish they took more photos of their growing bump and loved their body more for what it was doing. And now knowing what it is capable of is truly beautiful. Whether these photos are shared across social media, shown to close friends, or kept securely within your own private camera roll, you will certainly appreciate having them there to look back over and reflect on one day. So take the photo girl!
Last on this list, but probably the most important one!! I had the most unfortunate mishap occur in those couple of days in hospital – my birth paperwork went missing. I don’t recall ever seeing it, and despite having held on to every single piece of paper I received in there – every note on breastfeeding, info slip from the epidural, detailed sheet on feeding times, pamphlet on postpartum days and pain relief, and even still having the breakfast food order form from day 1, I never saw this bright yellow sheet of card. This single piece of paper being the most important document of our lives now, as it confirmed his birth and was crucial for Medicare and Centrelink to acknowledge his existence. What followed was many very long and hard days/weeks of me trekking from the hospital to Centrelink and back again, often in tears and with no resolution in sight. Which when you’re running on no sleep, episiotomy stitches and particularly fragile postpartum emotions with a newborn in tow is hardly ideal! So moral of the story – ASK for any important birth paperwork, CHECK you have it upon departure and NEVER LET IT GO!!
Above all else, I think the most important thing that you can take with you into the birthing suite, is an open mind. Sure, have a birth plan or an ideal scenario thought of, but don’t get so hung up on it all happening that exact way that you’re not willing to accept any changes that may (and quite possibly will) happen when the time comes. There are so many variables when it comes to bringing a baby into this world, and none are wrong. It really is so miraculous to even occur, and in the grand scheme of things we have such little control over it. Things might haSo if you’re willing to accept help in it’s countless forms or at least aware that it may not go according to the fairytale plan you dreamt up, then you will be just fine mama!