Having a Hospital Bag
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Finding out that you are pregnant is the beginning of an exciting adventure. After overcoming the usual feelings of worry and anxiety over becoming a parent, the next stage is amazement about the fact that you are creating a new life, often followed by uncertainty about the birth process.
You will find that all your friends have advice and stories to tell about their experiences and the experiences of their friends' friends, both good and bad. Accept all of this in the spirit in which it is offered, but take time to pick your way through all of these titbits; hold on to those that make sense or fit in with facts that you know and metaphorically dump all the rest.
There is a wealth of advice and information available today at the touch of a button. Much of this is helpful, some of it is of little value and some is best ignored completely. Hopefully, what you find here will be of use to you as you prepare for some of the hardest work you will ever do, but which has a reward that is unequalled.
You will get all the information you need from the antenatal clinic, including information on classes that will prepare you and your chosen birthing partner for the birth process. They will also give you a pack with vouchers for things that you will need for the birth itself. Your midwife will be on hand to answer any additional questions you may have. Attending the antenatal classes is important, particularly if this is your first pregnancy. Some women don't think antenatal classes can be useful, but you might be usually be pleasantly surprised. In these classes, you will meet women in exactly the same position as yourself, with all the same insecurities and who may go on to become your really good friends.
Preparing for the birth
You are told to have a bag packed and ready two to four weeks before your due date, so that when the time comes, you can pick it up and get yourself to the hospital. It doesn't always work out that way, as many of us are not as organised as we could be. Also, pregnancy itself seems to go so fast, except for the last month, of course, which seems to last forever. But by then you are too tired to do anything!
Never fear, as there are many lists that will tell you what you need to have when you go into hospital. Some of the things you may have never heard of, some you might not be able to find anywhere, and others you wouldn't be seen dead wearing or buying. That said, here is another list that can be used as a guide, along with a little advice. You don't have to start collecting your bag together too early; around six months into the pregnancy is plenty of time. Have a bag in the cupboard to store items on your list as you find them, and keep a list in your diary so you can tick items off. Even if you plan on a home delivery, it is a good idea to keep a bag packed just in case things don't go to plan.
For you during labour:
- Your birth plan and maternity notes.
- A comfortable nightdress to wear during labour. An old one is ideal, so if it gets messy, it doesn't matter.
- A dressing gown - hospital wards tend to be warm, so take a light one so that you can walk around in during labour and for the post natal ward afterwards.
- Slippers or comfortable shoes (not high heels) and socks.
- Pillow - there are never enough pillow on the wards, so if you need more than one pillow to be comfortable take one with you, but don't forget to take it home with you afterwards.
- Toiletries, including:
- A hair brush and hair band or clip so you can tie your hair up if you need to; having your hair brushed by someone else is also very soothing.
- Moisturiser: one with a lovely smell helps. It can be used as a hand cream or for a massage.
- Lip balm or something to moisten your lips.
- Refreshing wipes to wipe your face and hands with during labour.
- Squash, drinks and snacks - you may want more than just water to drink on the ward.
- Books and music - take something to do so you are not just looking at four walls during early labour. If you take a radio or cassette player, be sure to take a battery operated one as hospitals only allow their own electrical equipment to be plugged into the mains in their buildings.
For you after the birth:
- A pretty night dress to put on afterwards, it will need to open at the front if you plan to breast feed.
- Disposable knickers - or old ones that you can get rid of, as you won't want to spoil your best ones. The NCT have some that are good if you have a caesarean.
- Maternity towels - at least two packets, as you may want to change them fairly often to begin with.
- Nursing bras - take two or three.
- Breast pads.
- A set of clothes to go home in - don't go for clothes you wore before you got pregnant. Unless you are really, really lucky, these need to be loose and comfy for a little while yet.
- A gift for siblings - if this is not your first baby, it helps if the new baby gives any siblings a little gift.
- An address book - so you and your partner have the numbers of all the people you need to ring with the good news.
For your baby in hospital:
- Nappies - take a packet of the newborn size and some of the next size up, as you don't know how big you baby will be.
- Two or three vests.
- Two or three all in one suits.
- Muslin squares - these are invaluable for feeding and mopping up.
- Mittens - some new born babies can have sharp nails and may scratch themselves.
For your baby to go home:
An outfit to go home in - choose one that is easy to put on and not too fussy.
- Baby blanket.
- A coat, or if it is cold outside, a snow suit.
- A car seat that is suitable for newborn babies. It is not safe to travel in a car with a baby unless it is in an approved car seat.
Obviously, this list might not cover everything you want, so if there is something you wish to take with you, take it, but don't go overboard. You are not going to be there for weeks and if there is something you need desperately, family and friends are usually around to help.
The best advice that can be given to anyone who is pregnant is to go with the flow and enjoy as much of the experience as you can. Labour and giving birth is painful, but at the end of the day, none of that seems to matter when you hold your baby in your arms.