Courtesy of Megan Zander

Looking Back, Here's What I Wish I'd Packed In My Hospital Bag

I'm an uber planner by nature. Every summer as a kid I spent July 5 creating a chart that outlined my classes for the upcoming school year. I'd drag my mom to buy school supplies the moment they appeared in early August, checking each item off a carefully written list in crayon. One of the upshots of being put on bed rest while I was pregnant with twins was that I knew I'd have plenty of time to plan exactly what I wanted to pack in my hospital bag. I spent weeks consulting the internet and friends who were moms for advice. I made lists with subsections and supervised as my very patient partner organized everything into a carry-on suitcase according to my exact specifications.

Even though we only lived 15 minutes from the hospital, I felt confident that I had everything I could possible need or want for myself or the babies during delivery and until we came home. But even though I consider myself to be an great planner, I admit that my hospital bag wasn't my best work. I'm done having kids (at least I think I am), but if I was headed to the birthing suite a second time there are a few things I wish I had packed in my hospital bag the first time around.

Here's a few thing I wish I had packed, so you don't make the same mistakes I did.

1. Lip Balm

I own approximately 1,265 tubes of lip balm and somehow not a single one made its way into my hospital bag. I wasn't allowed to eat or drink anything while in labor and hospital air is kept very dry to decrease the risk of infection. After three hours of pushing and licking my lips, they were dryer than Tim Gunn's sense of humor.

If it wasn't 3 in the morning, I would've sent my partner away from my side to the gift shop to hunt for some — that's how desperate I was to make the flaking stop. Pack lip balm, OK? Just trust me. Better yet, pack two.

2. Snacks

I was so worried about clothing for me and the babies and stuff I would need to shower after the birth that I really didn't think about food. I knew the hospital had a cafeteria, so I assumed we'd get whatever we needed for sustenance there. But even though I couldn't eat while in labor didn't mean my partner and my parents who were there with me had to go on a hunger strike too, and I didn't want anyone leaving me on a quest to find a vending machine.

I ended up having an unplanned c-section, which meant staying in the hospital for four days after giving birth instead of the two days most typically reserved for a vaginal delivery. I immediately found myself on a newborn sleep schedule, shuffling down to the NICU to give them their middle-of-the-night bottles and waking up every two hours to pump breast milk. I was hungry, and while the maternity floor had free snacks, one can only eat so much Jello, applesauce, and oatmeal before the need to chew something consumes you. If I had to do it over again, I would've pack a box of protein bars and some trail mix, maybe even some cookies or chips to get me through until discharge.

3. Flip Flops

Here's a fun pregnancy fact I didn't know before I had babies: Once you give birth your body starts to drain itself of the excess fluid it's been holding onto, which results in the swelling of your lower legs, ankles, and feet. Throughout my entire pregnancy, I'd thought I was pretty lucky because I never suffered from the "sausage feet" my friends with kids had warned me about. I was able to wear my sneakers and even my cute leather boots up until the day I gave birth.

But the morning after I delivered my boys, I woke up to find my feet looked like hot dogs on a grill trying to burst forth from their casings. I didn't know whether to call for the nurse in a panic or ask my husband to go find some ketchup. It was the middle of winter and I'd worn my sneakers to the hospital, but there was no way I could evil-stepsister my way into them in order to get home. I had to ask my partner to make the drive home to get my Uggs. They weren't glass slippers, but it was still totally a Prince Charming move by him. So the moral is, bring shoes with room for your poor puffy feet, and know that the swelling doesn't mean you're dying.

4. A Wide Cloth Headband

I know this is super specific, but hear me out. I packed my makeup bag with me in case I was feeling up to getting dolled up for some photos the day after the babies had been born. But I didn't really think about the fact that there would be pictures taken immediately after the birth as well. Since I went into labor in the middle of the night I didn't have any makeup on and my hair wasn't done. After three hours of pushing before having a c-section, my hair looked like an actual birds' nest on the top of my head. My sister tried to form it into some semblance of a bun for me with the one hair tie we had between us, but it looked a fright.

I wish I had a big, soft headband to both keep it out of my face and to look nice in those first photos.

5. Toiletries For My Partner

I'm not his keeper, but in all my preparations for what to bring to the hospital for me and the babies, it didn't occur to me that my partner would be staying there overnight as well. He ended up running home the day after the boys were born to grab his toothbrush and a change of clothes, but things would have been easier on both of us if he had packed himself a small overnight bag with the essentials in the first place.

6. Blank Note Cards

I have a great relationship with my OB, but I was surprised with how quickly I bonded with my labor and delivery nurses, too. They were fantastic and since my OB was handling multiple patients at once that night, it was honestly my nurses who kept me laughing, calm, and comfortable throughout my many hours of labor. By the time I was out of recovery from my c-section, the morning shift change had happened and I never got a chance to thank them.

I know they were "just doing their jobs," but their help and support that night really meant a lot to me, and if I had the chance to do it over again, I'd bring some blank note cards so I could leave behind a quick message of thanks to anyone who made my birthing experience a great one.