The One Thing I'm So Glad I Packed In My Hospital Bag

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Courtesy of Brooke Preston

If your due date is coming up, you've likely started to gather clothes, toiletries and other supplies into your overnight bag that you'll use throughout your stay. Even if you're a few weeks away from your due date, it's smart to plan ahead: I have more than one friend who suddenly went into labor during Week 36, before said bag or even crib were assembled. When I went into labor, I packed the essentials: hairbrushes, loose-fitting shirts, high-quality TP. (I'm not joking: hospitals are not exactly stocked with triple-ply aloe goodness.) But there was one other thing I packed in my hospital bag, and I'm so glad I did.

I'd packed the rest of the contents of my hospital bag about a month in advance. I felt like I was good to go. But then my friend Misha, who had herself recently given birth, strongly suggested adding one more item.

"This will make all the difference in your stay," she raved.

What was it, I asked? A cream? A blanket?

"No, a gift," she replied.

"What, like a push present?" I asked, baffled.

"No, like a nurse present," she said. "Take something to the maternity ward nurses, some candy or chocolate. No matter what else you pack, make sure you don't forget. They'll really appreciate it."

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In all honesty, as a first-time expectant mom (with no inpatient hospital time logged since toddlerhood), I was somewhat mystified by this advice. Shouldn't I be bringing something for my OB-GYN instead? Aren't they responsible for most of my care? Would the many nurses who even visit the room notice or care about a little candy or chocolate?

But Misha assured me to trust her, so I did. I carefully chose some locally-made chocolate bars and truffles, along with a card. I wrapped them so they wouldn't be crushed in my mad dash to the hospital. Then I tucked them in my go-bag and forgot about them.

Nurses are among the first people to hold, weigh, change, swaddle and bathe your child. Even if you never see them again, that's a special bond.

Before I knew it, I was 8 days past my due date and being induced. Even before any of the real action started, I began to see what my friend meant. My actual OB-GYN wasn't on hospital rotation that day, so I was seen by one of her partners, who was very nice and informative but only showed up periodically. The nurses, however, were by our side from the moment we checked in, monitoring the baby's vitals, adjusting my IV, sweetly helping me to the restroom amid all the cords and sensors attached to me. When I had questions, fears, or requests, the nurses were the people I asked.

I quickly realized that when you give birth, nurses are the real stars of the show. They're the ones putting in the heavy lifting, even though they're often thanked the least. When labors get messy and complicated, as mine eventually did when I had a severe placental abruption, the nurses are usually the ones doing the intense emotional and physical clean-up, not the doctor.

Courtesy of Brooke Preston

So while I was waiting for real labor to kick in, I rustled through my bag for my iPad and found the forgotten gift. I took a moment to write a nice note to the nursing staff thanking them for being part of our big moment and for being so patient with us. I wrote that I was offering them a small token of gratitude to thank them for dealing with me at my most afraid and irrational. My husband walked it down the hall to the nursing desk on our floor.

Our nurses were incredibly attentive, warm, and caring. They deserved far more than a few sea-salt truffles.

Saying thank you to the nurses was not only the right thing to do, it also established a bit more of a personal connection when they stopped by to check on me. Think of it like this: If someone unexpectedly brings carbs, sugar, or flowers to you in your office, you're going to be a little bit happier when stopping by that person's cube that day. You feel more appreciated, and you'll likely have a better day as a result. At the very least, it shows them you're an appreciative and considerate person who is worthy of compassion, even if you're cursing at them while you're pushing.

Courtesy of Brooke Preston

Let me be clear: I'm not suggesting you can or should bribe medical professionals or expect special treatment. This isn't going to get you the last epidural in a shortage or anything (at least, I don't think so, though I would pay whatever they asked for that.) But it's worth noting that nurses are among the first people to hold, weigh, change, swaddle and bathe your child. Even if you never see them again, that's a special bond — and it's worth thanking them for.

So expectant parents, if you know a nurse, ask them what kind of gift or token of appreciation they might suggest you pack for your trip to the hospital. Shareable treats like cookies, flowers, fruit or candy are good options. Just remember: labor doesn't always start according to your timeline, so you may have to ask your partner or relative to handle anything that needs to be fresh or delivered.

Our nurses (and doctors, who we sent thank yous to later) were incredibly attentive, warm, and caring. They deserved far more than a few sea-salt truffles. Looking back, I should have done more — at minimum, I learned that when it comes to edible gifts, you should bring one gift for the day shift and another for the night shift. But a small and simple gesture brought many heartfelt smiles and touching conversations during otherwise stressful days and nights.