Pregnancy crib-notes: what you’ll actually need in your hospital bag, and why

ATTENTION: this post is pregnancy-specific. In the sort of way that you probably won’t want to read it if you’ve never thought much about the details of getting a baby out (let’s face it: who would want to if they didn’t have to?). Shall we talk about Beckett tomorrow? Ok, promise. 

Photo 06-06-2013 12 40 32 PM

Yesterday Sarah and I ventured into the attic. By which I mean, Sarah went up into the attic, I yelled instructions from below, and Henry climbed up the wrong side of the ladder shouting ‘LATTER! LATTER!’ like some kind of demented miniature chimpanzee. Up went the suitcases and down came the newborn-sized clothing bundle, and I could wash all the tiny, tiny things and finish my hospital bag at last.

The hospital is the great unknown in pregnancy: the flashing neon light at the end of the long, baby-growing tunnel. You have a number to call when your waters break, but no idea what you’ll find, what they’ll tell you when you arrive, or how long you’ll spend there before you come home as two people instead of one. The labour might well be the part you’re most afraid of, but by the time you get to 40+ weeks, you’re so desperate to get a baby instead of a belly that you’ll do practically anything to get the job done.

I love the idea of home births, by the way, and completely champion the rights of women to have them if it’s a situation that will make them feel more comfortable. For me, they’ve never quite worked: I like the idea of going away to have my labour in an environment with medical assistance in the next room, then bringing the baby home to my clean, safe place. Also I’ve never wanted to clear up the mess, afterwards (lazy but entirely characteristic, I’m afraid). It’s one of those things where you just have to listen to yourself.

Anyway, I feel a huge amount better about the prospect of my second labour, because I can visualise where I’ll be and what might happen. If you’re a first-time mother-to-be, anxiously scanning hospital bag lists online and wondering how much of it you’ll actually need, I thought a handy guide might be helpful.

Have a gander at this, then, lovely huge person:

what you might actually need to birth a baby, and why 

First, find a bag of reasonable size that can be moved easily. A little wheeled suitcase is ideal. Write your list on a large piece of paper, and tape the paper to the front of the bag, crossing off as you put things inside. There will be things that can’t go in until the day of (your pregnancy notes, your make up bag, etc), so once you’ve finished everything else, write these in VERY LARGE FONT and put a box around them. Then draw this to the attention of whomever will be taking you to the hospital. Honestly, you won’t want to be thinking about it yourself.

Here’s what might go on your list -

1. Pregnancy notes

2. Things for your new baby.

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I didn’t get, at all, that we might well be in hospital for a few days and that a new baby can go through LOTS OF STUFF in that time. Your family can run back and forth with anything you’ve forgotten, but I’d plan for about three days as a good medium. Which means–

- Three baby gros.

- Pack of vests
Mine’s a five-pack.

- Baby hat
You’ll need to dress your new baby in a vest, baby gro and hat to keep them warm after the birth. We had to tape Henry’s hat on his head, he was so small, but whatever works. Air feels exceedingly unfriendly after months of amniotic fluid.

- Pair of scratch mitts.

- A couple of pairs of baby socks

- Two newborn blankets
You and a brand-new baby who just got expelled into the world and doesn’t like it much? No one’s getting much sleep in that scenario. But the warmer and cosier you can make them, the better your chances. 

- Newborn nappies
You would not BELIEVE the enthusiasm with which a newborn can fill a nappy. What is going on down there?! Last time I brought three nappies, ho ho. Don’t bring three. Bring a whole pack, and expect to need more.

- Cotton wool pads, and small plastic container
You’re not supposed to use baby wipes on a properly new bottom. All that crumply soft skin. But fiddling with cotton wool balls and water is the worst thing ever when the meconium makes its first appearance at 3am, and then its second and third and fourth. Make things easier on yourself by getting the wide cotton wool pads, and bringing your own little container for warm water.

3. Things for your labour.

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The key here is to remember that you might be there a while, and you need to be comfortable.

- Labour clothes
You’ll need something a) loose, b) long enough for you to wear without bottoms in that bit at the beginning where you still have personal shame, and c) something you don’t mind never seeing again, because you won’t want to. Go and buy the cheapest nightie you can find, or appropriate a large button-up shirt that doesn’t get worn.

- Socks
They’ll probably want you to wear those attractive green compression stockings, but your feet might still get cold.

- Lip balm
Delivery rooms are dry, and you’re breathing a lot.

- Camera
Even if you only want photos when the birthing’s safely done (yes please), and even if those brand-new half-naked photos are for family eyes only (YES PLEASE), this is still a moment you’ll want to remember forever. And also one that you’ll have difficulty remembering as soon as it’s over. Take the photos so you won’t forget.

- Snacks for your partner
You probably won’t want or won’t be allowed to eat, but I didn’t feel that Tim should be allowed out of my sight while everything hurt so much. Not fair to starve him, though, especially if you’re there some hours. I haven’t put these in my bag, but they’re on my list so that we can have something in the house when we need it. 

4. Things for after.

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- Pair of loose pyjamas

- Flip-flops
For the shower. Just trust me on this. Buy a cheap foam pair you can throw away afterwards. 

- Underwear
Bring in bulk, in a larger size than you normally wear.

- Maternity sanitary towels
We will say no more about this, except to repeat: BRING IN BULK.

- Nursing bra and breast pads
They’ll want you to breastfeed at least once before you’re allowed to leave the hospital. Don’t worry too much about this, as there’s lots of help. But having something that will easily unclip will save you a bit of middle-of-the-night fumbling.

- Toiletries
Things to shower with, hairbrush, make up, dry shampoo. Having a shower and putting a tiny bit of make up on really does make you feel ten thousand times better afterwards. To save time and space, I bought travel sizes of everything and put them all in one ziplock bag.

- Going-home clothes
Sad to say, I looked about five months pregnant for a good couple of weeks after Henry was born (and didn’t fit my old clothes for many months after that). I know you don’t want to see your maternity clothes ever again, but still: bring clothes that are loose and comfortable. Otherwise that victory lap around the hospital corridors, while you try and remember where you parked the car, might be more revealing than you’d planned. 

I’ve made this list look ridiculously long. It isn’t, honest. I got it all into a miniature wheeled suitcase, and even included an extra water-friendly top in case I get to try a water birth this time. A warm bath without Henry using my bump as a bongo drum would be a refreshing change, labour or no labour.

Happy packing!

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8 thoughts on “Pregnancy crib-notes: what you’ll actually need in your hospital bag, and why

  1. Good list, I’ve just added a water friendly top to my bag :)

    One addition, though it’s not technically in the bag. A towel for the seat in the car. I’ve actually got one of those disposable baby changing mats with the plastic backs because let’s face it, no one wants to be scrubbing amniotic fluid from the car before the journey home :S

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  2. It is awesome that i found the list now. I plan to buy things from next month, including the bag in which things go, so now I have a proper list to which I can add according to the situation here. Thanks Rachel.
    Much love to Henry,

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  3. natalie hacking says:

    oh how i have forgotten the hospital bag list…how time erases memory that was so real and vital at one point in my life. i completely concur with socks, lip balm, and flip flops! when reading this entry i had was reminded how different birth experiences in american hospitals vs. british hospitals are: here they give you everything. labor clothes, a HUGE box of newborn nappies, hat, blankets, sanitary towels, and these fantastic elasticized nickers for holding those towels in place, yet not being too abrasive on mama’s tummy (especially c-section mamas) — i don’t know what they are made of but they were so life-changing that i took them home (most people don’t) after my first baby because i knew that i would want them at the hospital with me for subsequent babies and wasn’t positive they were standard (i was relieved to find that they are and could rid myself of the personal embarrassment of taking them home with me…though really, i’m sure they just pitch them if left by patients.) wishing you the smoothest delivery and recovery — sending new baby package to your in-laws tomorrow!

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