If you are pregnant or know anyone pregnant, you will know – it is really easy to scare a pregnant woman into action! Books, blogs, baby forums, neighbors, relatives, friends will overwhelm you with advice.
My Mom was pregnant for the first time. At 37. You bet she followed every advice (that sounded scientific enough, to be fair). The closer the delivery date approached, the more often she heard a question “Do you have the hospital bag ready?”
She had her hospital bag ready 2 months before the due date. You know, just in case.
Which annoyed my Dad because he had to have it in his car at all times.
My Mom’s hospital bag contained the “woman in labor” temporary parking sign, birth plan, toiletries, clothes for herself (nightgown, robe, socks, nursing bra) and the baby (receiving blanket, swaddling sheets, take me home outfit), snacks, books, post-delivery belly support belt, and much more – it was a big bag!
It was a big bag of seemingly essential stuff. But did she need all those “essentials?” Nobody tells you what you really need the hospital bag for.
We stayed at the hospital for 5 nights because of the emergency c-section and even then Mom used barely 5% of what she brought in that hospital bag. It was toiletries, snacks, take me home outfit for me, and her phone charger.
Yep, that is it! The hospital provided everything else for her and me, the baby; and Dad brought food for himself and anything else we needed (which wasn’t much).
The hospital bag does not deserve all the hype it gets and all the anxiety already-stressed-out-ready-to-burst ladies build into it.
Let’s break this down.
Pack Light in a Big Bag
≡ All your documents: 2 forms of ID, birth plan, any medical documents, emergency contacts, etc.
≡ Phone, camera AND their power chargers.
≡ Snacks. You can order real food from the hospital, but you will need snacks. And not just any snacks, but fiber-rich low fat ones. You see, you will be really (and I mean REALLY) constipated from the painkillers (if you opt for them). TMI, but Mom couldn’t go for a week after delivery. So think prunes, prune juice, dried apricots, high-fiber crackers.
≡ Clothes to take the baby home in and a blanket to tuck her in in that humongous car seat. The baby will not need any clothes at the hospital. Why? Because there will be a check-up every 2 hours by a nurse or a doctor or both. Bad enough they will un-swaddle and un-diaper the baby, imagine any clothes to take off and then put back on? Nightmare. I know from experience – necessary yet annoying, especially when you are famished.
Leave the Jammies at Home
≡ Many women call hospital robes ‘yucky.’ They’d rather bring those cashmere pajamas their mom got them for this special occasion. Yeah, cute. That’s before they deliver.
After delivery, the hospital robe will seem the most comfortable thing in the world! You can change it as many times as you like during your stay. It’s convenient and roomy and worry-free – you just toss it into the dirty laundry bin in your room.
So do yourself a favor – leave those nice pajamas, nightgowns and silk robes at home. Save room in your ‘hospital bag’ for important stuff.
≡ You won’t need the new set of clothes to go home in either – the maternity clothes you came in are perfectly good (barring you were taken to the hospital engorging on the 4-pound Prego Pizza that you spilled all over your clothes). You will still have the belly – it doesn’t disappear with the baby out – and you will be thankful for the roomy clothes, especially if you had the surgery.
≡ Reconsider bringing electronic or paper books – take naps instead. Sleeping will become a luxury, take advantage of it while you still can.
Everyone’s Experience Is Unique
Both during the delivery and at the hospital. Everyone has their needs and things to keep them comfortable. Mom was in labor for 22 hours. She had both friends who got to the hospital 17 minutes before their baby ejected and those who were in labor for 36 hours.
Nevertheless, during 22 hours of labor she focused on herself and the baby and only cared about her phone being charged at all times. Because after 10 hours, it started ringing every 15 minutes with family asking what was going on.
Let me repeat: the hospital provides EVERYTHING – both for the mother and the baby. Maybe hence the attached hospital bill.
But you accept all they got to offer and you ask for what they don’t offer. Don’t feel bad or ashamed to take whatever you need from that hospital room as well as what nurses and lactation consultants can bring you. If you look at our bill – it was a $9,081/night room. We could have stayed at a 7-star Burj Al Arab in Dubai for that amount. For 4 nights and money to spare.
Eye-Opening Purpose of the Hospital Bag
Here are 5 essential things that must end up in your hospital bag to take home from the hospital room:
1. Baby Stuff. Diapers, wipes, nail files, snot sucker thingy, pacifiers, and those cute little hats that will serve you for at least a month and are a great keepsake.
2. Formula. If you do not produce enough colostrum and then milk for your baby to stop screaming from hunger, you can give her some formula through the Supplemental Nursing System (SNS). This was the only time I tasted formula. Take whatever is left unopened with you, in case you need it later.
3. Lactation aids and supplies: a hand pump (my mom still uses her Ameda) with extra bottles, SNS, sore nipple cream (a must!) and shields, feeding syringes. If your baby is born with special feeding needs, like cleft lip or palate, ask about a Haberman feeder. They may have it. Take them all.
4. Healing supplies. If you had a c-section you will have the dressing removed on day 2 and the skin under those bandages will itch like there is no tomorrow – demand anti-itch cream and numbing spray. Ice and Hot packs are like gold when you torture your breasts for milk during those few weeks. Take them home.
5. Hygiene products. Pads and more pads. Fall in love with mesh underpants. Take them all.
Take these things home, make that hospital bag you brought with you useful. And please don’t tell me the hospital will go bankrupt if you take a few extra pads from your room.
Remember, you are paying for this room and for what’s in it. If you can’t bear the thought of taking stuff, ask your Mother-in-law to do it for you. If you didn’t let your Mother-in-law into your hospital room – no problem. Ask your husband or a friend!