When I was pregnant with my first child, I became a regular on a pregnancy message board for parents who were also due in Sept 2011. One topic kept coming up over and over again around March, and continued to be discussed until the last of our babies was born in mid-October: "What are you packing in your hospital bag?" You know, the one you're supposed to pack ahead of your due date so your always ready to head out at a moment's notice. The things I put in my hospital bag make me LOL now. Not in a mean way, just, you know, a LOL of experience.
First of all, the mental energy spent on one's hospital bag is usually so disproportionately enormous compared to how important it actually is. You need two things to have a baby the hospital does not have on hand — you and a baby in your ever-expanding uterus. That's it. Anything extra you may or may not need later, you can get later. While it seems like a huge deal at the time, I can assure you that hospital bag isn't a huge deal at all. Plus, that "extra" stuff? You're probably not going to actually need, want, or use it.
Still, overpacked hospital bags are extremely common and something we can all have a good chuckle about afterwards. My own hospital bag, honestly, was modest compared to some, but I still had a ton of stuff I did not need at all. For example:
You know, for all that reading I was going to do; in labor and for the duration of my hospital stay with my newborn. Fun fact: the only things I could do while in labor was breathe, curse, and do a little dance to help alleviate the searing pain of contractions. I could have just as soon assembled the engine of a mid-sized sedan as read a book while in labor, which is to say nope.
Additional fun fact: my child nursed incessantly basically from the moment he was born, and I couldn't read while nursing him either (not even after I got really good at nursing, which I was decidedly not that first week of breastfeeding). The book was an ill-advised waste of hospital bag space.
Why the hell did I think I would need coordinating jewelry with my "going home" outfit? Granted, my "going home" outfit wasn't anything fancy (I know some people go all out) but still. Like, who was I aiming to impress? Also, even newborn babies grab jewelry: it's not cute, it's a liability.
Because I was going to be so inspired by what had happened to me that I was going through that I was going to be moved to finally get some work done on a novel I'd been working on in which the main character was a mother. OK, so sure, childbirth was inspiring, but not in a way that made me want to hunker down and get creative. I was sort of occupied, what with the newborn and all.
Added bonus: the novel I was working on was about a mother who lost her child so, yeah, postpartum, hormone flooded new mom plus story about a mother losing her baby does not equal a good time.
A Blow Dryer
So here's why this is really funny: I don't blow dry my hair when I'm not in a hospital after just having a baby. Like, ever. Why I thought I was going to get all fancy while on heavy painkillers, with raw nipples, after sleepless night after sleepless night is beyond me. Oh childfree Jamie: bless your optimistic heart, kiddo.
More Than One Outfit
I guess you can't really know until you're in the thick of it that your hospital stay, no matter how long it is, will just feel like one very, very long day. Your chances of getting more than a couple hours of sleep at a time are slim to absolutely none. As such you will probably not get changed all that often, certainly not the five or so times I thought I would in the four days I was there.
Thank You Cards
Again, in all that down time I was going to be sending out the Thank You cards I still had to do from my baby shower. Incidentally, I got them all done, some in the hospital, but it was stupid since one card took me about a day and a half to complete.
I made a decided effort to put it on on my way out the door, but it mostly went untouched for the duration of my stay and, frankly, could have stayed home.
Why did I think the hospital would BYOP? Seriously, bringing your own menstrual pads to a hospital is sort of like bringing your own sandwich to a diner. Relax. Leave your pads at home, because the hospital will have you covered. In fact, snag as many of their pads and shove them into your bag as you can before you leave, because those things are super absorbent and somehow more comfortable. I consider this advice kosher because both of my favorite maternity nurses encouraged me to do so. Blame the nurses, you guys.
In my experience (based largely on pregnancy message boards), people are really big into making sure they have snacks at the hospital and during labor. Snacks for you. Snacks for your partner. Bribery-based snacks for the nurses and doctors.
Don't get me wrong: I'm a very snacks-oriented gal. I eat pretty much constantly. You know a time I DGAF about snacking? While I was in labor. When I did eventually care about snacks (after I had given birth) there was a little snack room on the maternity ward I could pop into whenever I wanted to grab stuff.
I don't laugh at me for packing my own underwear really, because bringing extra underwear with you is pretty much always a good idea. I laugh because of how useless it ultimately wound up being. The hideous mesh underwear provided by the hospital is pretty much the greatest invention ever forged by human hands. So comfortable, so useful, so, so ugly, but you don't even care. I lived in those things until they were literally falling off of my ass.
So I wore the bathrobe I bought while I was in the hospital, but I think this just speaks to all the marketing that pregnant women swallow down without really questioning it because WTF do we know about what we will and won't need? Everything I read was like, "Bring a bathrobe to the hospital" and I was all, "Oh crap, I don't have a bathrobe," so I went to a maternity store and purchased a lovely postpartum nightgown/robe combo.
Both the nightgown and robe are nice (I still have the robe), but the truth of the matter is there is no real reason I needed a bathrobe. I was just told I should have one and I was like, "OK, sure." It was completely unnecessary. Just bring to the hospital what you would wear bumming around your house, and make sure it has easy access to your boobs if you plan to breastfeed.
Fancy Massage Oil
In and of itself, some sort of emollient isn't a bad idea. Your body should be pampered after birth, and who doesn't like smelling nice. However, I feel as though this item is symbolic of what I thought life would be like after delivery (an extended spa stay, only with a new baby) which sat in stark contrast to what it was (decidedly not a spa stay). I was sore and bleeding and swollen from IV fluids and held together in places with staples. Even if I wanted my husband to rub my ankles when he came over, it wouldn't have made anything especially luxurious.
Your hospital stay is what it is: a hospital stay. The good news? When it comes to the things you will need, they more or less have you covered.