Nothing made me more excited for the birth of my baby like packing that hospital bag. Of course, it also made me anxious, impatient and somewhat of a neurotic mess because, well, it "had to be perfect" and had to have "everything" and had to serve as a sign that I really was ready to be someone's mom. That's a lot of pressure to put on a damn go-bag. So, having been through the experience of packing and preparing for labor and delivery, I can tell you things no one will tell you about packing your hospital bag; things that were hard earned, my friends; things that will actually be beneficial so, when the time comes to push, you'll feel as comfortable and prepared as possible.
I didn't want to give birth in a hospital, if I'm being honest. I definitely would have preferred going through something as painful, taxing and vulnerable as labor and delivery, from the comfort of my home. Sadly, I had a high-risk twin pregnancy that ended with one baby dying 19 weeks into my pregnancy, so a home birth was out and a hospital birth was the safest, smartest option for myself and my remaining twin. As a result, what I packed in my hospital bag became extremely important. I wanted to take pieces of my home with me so that I could feel like I was actually in my living room when it came time to push, and I wanted to have everything that I needed to make the transition from the hospital to our home, as easy as possible. That meant not only did I require the necessities (toiletries, extra clothes, underwear, socks, etc.) but I required things that would make me feel "at home" while I was in a hospital room.
So, sure; I guess simply "packing a bag" isn't that big a deal. But when you're packing a bag that's going to hold things that will help you do something as miraculous as child birth, it becomes a pretty damn big deal. With that in mind, here are some things you should know about getting your go-bag in order, because you can't be too prepared when it comes to being prepared.
You'll Forget Something
I read what was and wasn't worth putting in my hospital bag and I asked other friends what they packed in their hospital bag and I unpacked and re-packed and unpacked and packed my hospital bag numerous times. I checked and double checked and wrote lists and did everything I thought I had to do in order to prepare for "go time." Yeah, I still forgot stuff.
I forgot my music. I forgot slippers. I forgot my face wash. Some of those things weren't too big a deal, but others were and I was pretty pissed that I spent so much time preparing that damn bag, only to feel like I had failed at packing everything I needed.
You'll Pack Something You Absolutely Won't Need Or Use
Of course, I also loaded my bag with stuff I really didn't need. For example: the seven pairs of underwear I felt I just had to have? Yeah, didn't touch any of them. The hospital supplied me with gigantic postpartum panties and I, honestly, loved them. I also didn't worry about ruining them, so not only were they comfortable but they were underwear I didn't mind throwing away.
It's A Pain In The You-Know-What
As if preparing for labor, delivery, postpartum life, possible breastfeeding, potential co-sleeping and the overall care of a newborn wasn't enough, I had to worry about packing a damn bag, too?! Sure, I guess that doesn't seem like such a huge undertaking in the big scheme of things, but still. Once you start piling on the responsibilities, obligations and endless planning, packing a damn hospital bag just seems like a chore. A ridiculous chore. A pain in the ass chore. A chore I really didn't want to do (but, in the end, am glad I did do).
You Should Pack Some Things For Your Partner, Too
Of course (and rightfully so) the majority of the go-bag will be packed with things for the soon-to-be mama. After all, she's the one that's going to be going through the painstaking process of labor and delivery, so what she needs comes first.
However, don't forget to think about your parenting partner (if you have one), too. They'll need a change of clothes, underwear, maybe a comfortable blanket or pillow and they'll definitely need some food. I didn't want my partner to leave my side while I was in labor, so I was so happy that we packed him food so he could eat and not, you know, pass out after being on his feet and by my side for 27 hours. Seriously ladies: pack your parter something in the hospital bag, too.
Your Bag Is Going To Sit By The Door Forever...
Look, I wanted to be prepared for the birth of my first baby as best as I possibly could. That meant I went a little, well. Um. OK, fine. I went insane, you guys. I had my damn hospital bag packed months in advance, and that was so unnecessary. So, that stupid bag sat by our stupid door for almost three stupid months. In the end, it felt like it was taunting me; especially when I was nearing my due date and experiencing false labor.
...So There's A Good Chance You'll Forget Your Bag Altogether
When my water broke and my partner and I were running out the door and on our way to the hospital, we almost forgot our hospital bag. It had been sitting by our door for so long I guess we both stopped noticing it. My partner was about to drive away when I looked around and realized the bag was still in the house. Ugh, that definitely would have sucked.
Bring Music. Trust Me.
I had a "push playlist" all set up on an iPod I barely ever use (because iPhones are things now) and I had carefully planned and put together a set of songs that I knew were going to help me focus and feel empowered and bring my son safely into the world.
And then I forgot it.
Bring music, ladies. Honestly. It was much harder (for me) to focus on what I needed to do when I could hear the hustle and bustle of the hospital. I wish I could have had my earphones and my music and feel like I was far away from the nurses and doctors and other patients. So, seriously, bring music and don't forget it. Put it in your bag, not next to your bag. Trust me.
Ask Other People About Their Hospital Bag And What They Packed...
The baby books and online forums are helpful, to be sure, but I learned the most about what to put in my hospital bag (and what not to) from other moms. Their personal experiences were the most useful when it came to packing my go-bag and getting prepared for a potentially long hospital stay.
...But Make Sure To Customize Yours
Of course, every woman and every labor and every delivery is different, so make sure that you take the experiences of others with a grain of salt. They're helpful, yes, but you need to stop and take the time to think about what you will need and what will benefit you.
For example, I knew it was going to be the most beneficial if I brought my favorite blanket, which had provided me comfort during a traumatic pregnancy and (if necessary) would have been able to provide me comfort if something went wrong during labor. I also knew I wanted my own pillow, even though the hospital was going to provide them. I also wanted pictures of my family, because my mother (who is also my best friend) was far away and wouldn't be able to be in the delivery room with me. No one else's hospital bag had those things (I'm assuming), so customizing yours with things you need is vital.
It's Not Vain Or Anti-Feminist If Your Bag Includes Makeup...
I packed makeup in my hospital bag and I make no apologies. I knew that I wanted to take pictures the moment was son was born (and even during the laboring process) and I knew I would feel the most comfortable if I was able to wash my face and wear makeup.
The same could be said for leaving the hospital. I knew I wanted take a shower (even though their showers are petty small) so I packed shampoo and conditioner and put on makeup when I took my son home. So much had changed (my body, the fact that I now had a baby) that I wanted to feel like myself. I wanted to feel refreshed and comfortable in my own skin and, yep, makeup helped me achieve those necessary feelings. Don't let anyone shame you or call you vain or tell you you're not being feminist, is you put on makeup before, during, or after yo have your baby. You do what makes you feel beautiful and powerful and, well, like you.
...Because Whatever's In Your Bag, Needs To Assist You In Feeling As Calm And Comfortable As Possible
The most important items in your hospital bag are the ones that are going to make you feel comfortable and at home. To be honest, I would have loved to have experienced a home birth where I could have been in my own, calming environment. However, I had a high risk pregnancy, experienced a twin death at 19 weeks and knew that my labor and delivery were going to be difficult and potentially dangerous. So, a hospital birth it was.
Bringing things from home that were soothing, calming, necessary, practical and all-around helpful made all the difference. So while there are things you really should bring: deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste, snacks, change of clothes, socks, and the like, the most important things will be what make you feel like you're completely capable of bringing a baby into the world. Because, of well, you are.