It was at this time three years ago, that I was beginning the final countdown to motherhood and beginning to think about ensuring I had packed those last essential items safely in my hospital bag. So when The Gingerbread House recently posted about the imminent birth of her second child and how her thoughts were turning to packing her maternity bag, it wasn’t difficult to transport myself down memory lane to that special time of anticipation and excitement. She has asked her readers for ideas but as I turned out a response almost as long as her post, I used it to create one of my own and will send her a link instead!
As Halloween arrives, I am always reminded of those last few weeks of preparation for motherhood. Moments snatched in the nursery, everything accumulated in readiness for our baby’s arrival, regularly checking I had everything ready, including my hospital bag. I admit to asking friends and family, scouring websites, blogs and pregnancy magazines for tips and suggestions and thinking I’d whittled it down to the barest essentials but even so, there were still a few things I found I didn’t need – the aromatherapy candle for one (LOL!!) This may have been beneficial for a home birth or in a birthing centre, but not when gas and air was my pain relief of choice in a maternity unit full of health and safety requirements! Maybe it says something about my ability to relax and find “me” time, if I tell you it still sits on my bathroom window sill almost three years later!
But I digress. So my top tips for anyone packing their maternity bags include:
- Pain relief I took my TENS machine. I was using it when I left for the hospital and took it to the max while they strapped me to a bed while monitoring the Little Chap’s progress (there’s a good reason the NCT suggest you don’t just lie on your back in labour!), until they gave me gas and air and let me do my own thing.
- Medication If you take any kind of regular medication, don’t forget to pack enough for a week in hospital (in case of emergencies) so you can keep taking it – the last thing you need is further health complications, trust me. It might also be a good idea to set a regular alarm in your phone now to remind you to take it too – you will be focusing elsewhere for the next … years!
- Antibac wipes (state of the NHS ‘n all that) in case you want to wipe anything down before you sit on or touch it! Although my employer’s health insurance had paid for a private room, I still had to share a bathroom with the other private room behind mine. Now I’m not that fastidious but I did need these to wipe up all kinds of spills found in the shared bathroom (about which I need say no more really…)!
- Disposable/big comfortable knickers & maternity pads Sorry it isn’t glamorous but it has to be said – don’t leave home without them! Ditto a breastfeeding bra and breast pads.
- Clothes Easy enough I guess to get carried away packing lots of cute outfits for the little one only to forget that you’re going to need some too. Think about what you want to wear in labour, for instance if you’re having a water birth. I had all kinds of angst about which t-shirt would be long enough to cover my modesty in the water but the room was like a sauna and I was so happy to get rid of the flimsy hospital gown they’d given me to wear on arrival, I really didn’t care what the midwives or Mayfair Dad made of it! Take your favourite maternity pjs, a dressing gown or long cardigan to keep you warm when up and about and some slippers. Don’t forget a clean change of (maternity) clothes to come home in either! Possibly a coat at this time of year too – easy to forget when in the throes of labour (a girl can get a little warm!). Something to make you feel as fabulous as possible – I’m afraid you will be very likely to look rather more pregnant than you hope to and won’t be squeezing into those skinny jeans again just yet (well, unless you went for the caesarian/lipo combo of course or didn’t need to wear any maternity clothes on the way in!)
- Something to do Just in case you are kept hanging around between contractions or after an epidural but my advice would be to sleep as much as you can (once Junior arrives, you ain’t gonna see sleep for anything from a couple of weeks to a couple of years depending on your luck/love of routine!) so I wouldn’t pack much in this regard! This could be an iphone, pack of cards, magazine, book, your ipod or whatever floats your boat – I think my hubbie took his Financial Times to keep himself occupied! I had high hopes for him to be kept busy giving me relaxing back rubs but on the day it turned out I just wanted my own space.
- A good breastfeeding manual (if you intend to try and it is worth it – just 48 hours of agony and angst still provides beneficial colostrum to your baby, unless baby won’t feed at all, in which case you need medical advice). Formula and bottles are a useful standby if you don’t intend to breastfeed or anticipate problems (don’t let anyone forget its your baby, your body, your choice)! I was recommended “What to Expect if You’re Breastfeeding and What if You Can’t” by Clare Byam-Cook. It was every bit as helpful as I had been led to believe and a good resource when the midwives were too busy to come and help. Oh and make sure you’ve read it before you give birth so you only need to use it for reference (trust me, book reading won’t be happening for a while I’m afraid!). Unfortunately for me it was the what if you can’t bit that I eventually found most useful! Oh and a good nipple cream like Lansinoh – expensive but effective!
- Your washbag and makeup/favourite scent/shower gel/body lotion Essential hygiene obv. and whatever makes you feel like a woman! Giving birth is exhausting and a bit of self care helps bring out that post baby glow.
- Lipbalm/vaseline Essential for soothing chapped lips from dehydration and hot hospital air.
- Healthy snacks & a bottle of water They never give you enough during labour and it saves you/your birthing partner having to trek to the other side of the hospital just as baby is about to appear.
- Camera/videocamera To capture those early moments together (aww!)
- Champagne – We didn’t pack any but I wish I had if for no other reason than poor Mayfair Dad looked pretty wiped out. As for me, after nine months drinking (mostly) water, juice and herbal tea for the sake of the Little Chap, oh what I wouldn’t have given for a glass of the bubbly stuff! Hopefully you will also have some nice friends, family or work colleagues who will fix your need for all things chocolate/cake by sending you a nice basket of muffins from Beverly Hills Bakery. Just don’t forget to share with your friends and family or you’ll never shift that “muffin” top!
For the baby:
- Two changes of clothes Just in case of early nappy explosions or weeing incidents! You will be asked by the midwives to provide a hat, vest, babygro (with mittens & feet are best for newborns) and a cardigan/swaddling shawl to keep them warm while you cuddle/breastfeed. It snowed the night we stayed in hospital! Chances are if you’re inviting hordes of friends and family to visit you in hospital they’ll bring plenty more and if not, most new mums will have someone they can always send home for more.
- A bag of nappies, wipes & nappy bags – oh and cotton wool and Johnson’s baby lotion – excellent for removing the first sticky poos! If you are having a planned caesarian or anticipate staying in for any longer, I guess a first bath wash, sponge & towel might be useful too – the ones with hoods were brilliant for warming the Little Chap up when he was all wet and cold and they look soooo cute. A barrier cream like Vaseline (available in the diddiest of tins) should be sufficient for protecting from nappy rash at this stage. Save the Sudocrem etc for when you get home.
- Baby car seat for the journey home – they won’t let you out of the hospital without one – none of this, “I’ll just pop Junior in the backpack/washing basket/sit it on my knee on the bus” thing nowadays. Full health and safety regulations must be complied with at all times. Oh and a coat/warm fleecy blanket for the little mite, especially if you’re expecting snow!
So there you have it! I don’t think I’ve forgotten anything essential but let me know if there was anything else you couldn’t have survived without. Every mother is different after all!
Mayfair Mum x
© Mayfair Mum, 2012