The Hospital Bag
After finding her mate and before she lays her eggs, a bird does a lot of preparation to build her nest. She goes hunting daily to collect twigs, hay and leaves and whatever she can find to make her nest warm and cosy for her babies. She finds an ideal crevice in a building or a tree top hidden from outside view to keep off predators. Many a times callous humans and animals tear down her nest for their own nests or just for some vandalism (us humans). She has to start from scratch and go about making her home at times over and over again tirelessly. When the finished product is perfect it is then she lays her eggs.
Similarly, we humans also have an urge to make our homes a perfect nest for our unborn child. Thankfully we don’t have to build a home with our own bare hands and neither do we have to protect it from predators and vandals. But this instinct occurs in every specie and humans are no exception. So what do we do when this instinct strikes despite an already built safe home? The heavily pregnant woman goes nuts making a nursery and planning her hospital bag.
In my first pregnancy, I did not go into a nesting frenzy. I shopped for onesies, vests, swaddles and towels over the course of the 9 months. I did not even buy any baby gear like a cot, bath chair or stroller. I was relaxed and did my thing at an easy pace. By the end I was all set. Come second pregnancy and my nesting instinct came with a vengeance. I was pressed on time because my son would be back from daycare sooner than I wished! Also his toddler cooties were all over my house and the expecting mom in me was screaming on the inside every time he touched a door knob with his dirty grimy hands. My subconscious was wailing like an ambulance siren each time he switched on all the light of a room with the hands that he had splashed in muddy water and wiped on his shirt a few minutes ago. So not only did I move every furniture and get cleaning done by my maid but I also sanitized each and every door knob and switch board. I took a fresh sponge and an antiseptic solution and went about wiping every single ignored article which we miss in our cleaning but is daily contaminated by a million germs from my son’s playground.
So are you going nuts wondering what to do to prepare for your baby? In this article I’ll take you step by step through the basics of preparing the ever important hospital bag.
The Hospital Bag
The hospital bag is one of the most discussed topics by expecting mothers. There is a lot of tension surrounding it. The mother knows this is the only thing she will be taking along with her as preparation for her most life changing event and she feels she cannot be prepared enough. Every mother goes through the repeat cycle of packing, repacking, relisting or she just puts off packing her hospital bag in hopes that if she doesn’t pack she can put off labour by a few more days. Either way she is waiting with baited breath and her brain is assimilating the inevitability of child birth and the magnitude of the event. A hospital bag is the last thing we do in preparation and it feels like big deal.
Well actually it’s not. Most things are available very easily in stores or online. While hanging around in the first stage of labour you can order diapers and wipes if you missed it. I am not asking you to do it but just emphasizing how easy it is to get stuff. So, don’t go crazy with the hospital bag and don’t over pack. Here are few guidelines which can help you with preparing for your birth with your only armour- your hospital bag.
Pack in the third trimester
False labour becomes a norm in the third trimester. You will have contractions which last a few minutes and leave you hanging in suspense wondering if it’s time. Especially if it happens in the seventh month it can scare the living daylights out of you. In addition to the stress of ‘is the baby going to be premature?’ You have to deal with I need to cook for everyone before I get admitted and I need to assemble my hospital bag. Very rarely does a baby just slip out of the mother (a rare condition called precipitate labour) and you will have ample time to gather your wits and stuff in case of a preterm labour. If you have had a healthy pregnancy aside from the heartburn, morning sickness, backaches and restless legs, you are not likely to pop too early. But many women have gone through the scare of a false labour and strong Braxton Hicks contractions including myself. (Braxton Hicks is like warm up for your uterus. You get preparatory contractions as your pregnancy draws to a close. Especially in the last months of pregnancy you get them often. Remember Rachel from Friends? She too had them when Joey rushed her to the hospital thinking it’s labour.) But the good thing is you can learn to ignore them after you have raised a false alarm a couple of times to your husband. The real deal does not need you to focus and concentrate to figure out. It will come with pomp and show and no one can ignore true Labour.
In my 30th week I had false labour too and I was super scared. I lay down and rested hoping it was just a strong Braxton Hicks. My son was no help. Straining while handling him often gave me miscellaneous aches and pains. Lifting him probably caused my false pains. I never had Braxton Hicks in my first pregnancy and had them very often in the second one. But the first contraction that happened was super scary and I felt overwhelmed by the pains as well as how much of prep I needed to do. Few days after the episode I packed my bag to be ready incase the baby decides to come early. Save for a few cases, it’s not like you won’t get a chance to prepare incase of an early labour. It’s just that it’s very stressful and overwhelming. So pack you bag the minute you tick off your sixth month and step into the third trimester.
Stuff to pack
Clothes for yourself- Maxis. And atleast 3 or 4 of those. From my experience I have learnt the maxis with feeding zips in front of either breast are useless. The zipper scratches the baby’s face when he latches on. So better is to have front opening ones. A buttoned or zip front opening works fine
Feeding bras? Not really. The first few days your nipples will be sore or cracked from the trauma of a baby sucking. You will feel chafing on wearing bra. Go braless for the first week. Once your nipples have adapted you can make a call whether you want to wear a bra or not.
Underwear- very very important. And the bigger tummy-holding- granny pants are better. You will be having a heavy saggy tummy that needs all the support it can get. Don’t invest in shapewear though. Nothing tight and blood-flow restricting. Just supporting underwear. And you will be bleeding a lot. And if you undergo a cesarean you will be lying down for longer than desired so pack up the big granny underpants.
Pads- get the best high flow disposable sanitary pads. You will be sleeping for long, visiting the toilet will be a herculean task and your baby will be stuck to you. So pack maxi pads with super absorbent night flow feature. Get a packet of 10. Take a picture of your favourite pad and store it in your husband’s phone so that when you need it he can buy it without getting the wrong one (which husbands always do!)
Dupatta or scarves- keep dupattas to cover up when you have visitors. You will be feeding way more often than you can imagine. And visitors will be pouring in. So keep a dupatta handy to cover up when you have people coming in to see your bundle of joy.
Head scarf- There is an age-old wisdom advising all new mothers to cover their ears after delivery. The mother’s immunity is very low post delivery and it is advisable to stay warm to prevent colds.; Your mother in law or mom will most likely make you wear one. So buy cute print trendy scarves you like rather than some hideous print they will force you to wear anyway.
Hair tie- You will overlook this little yet very important article. You cannot use hair clutchers or fancy clips while in the hospital. You will want a simple hair style like a braid or a low ponytail which can be done easily by anyone as well as is comfortable to lie down with. Oil your hair and tie a tight choti (braid) like your mom would have when you used to go to school. You won’t get to attend to your hair left open or sport any fancy hair accessories.
Comb, toothbrush, tooth paste- Most hospitals provide toothbrush and toothpaste in the welcome kit. But comb is something you should not forget. Have a nice big pouch for your daily essentials such as comb and hair ties as well as other necessities like phone charger and head phones.
The Belt- This is one of the most important articles you need post delivery. Invest in a good belt. You can use old cotton sarees too to tie around your abdomen after delivery. A belt does not push your abdomen back in and give you back your pre pregnancy six pack. It is merely a support to your uterus and sagging abdomen. Especially after a cesarean you will find yourself clutching your abdomen to reduce the pressure the sagging belly exerts on your stitches. Use the belt and you can walk much easily. And don’t tie the belt high up just below your breasts. It is not a corset. It is meant to support your uterus. Tie it around your navel region or slightly below for it to do its job well.
The baby’s stuff
You will be going to the hospital as one person but returning with an additional human. Pack smartly for your baby and don’t go overboard.
Diapers- Buy a small pack of newborn diapers for your hospital bag. I have noticed that the smallest newborn diaper packets are mostly very small and will often have not more than 20 diapers. So stock a few. Babies pass many poopy diapers in the first one month and you have to change on an average 6-8 diapers a day (don’t sigh at this high diaper count. That is one of the parameters which will help you judge your milk is enough for the baby). Keep a stock of the newborn diapers at home too. There are enough chores and lists after delivery. So get buying diapers done with. But also don’t stock diapers by hundreds as your baby will outgrow them very soon.
If you aren’t a fan of disposable diapers and want to be the eco-friendly mom using washable diapers wait till your baby clears the sticky black initial poo from his gut. Usually by the end of the first week the baby’s stools transition from black to dark green to light green to soft sweet smelling yellow baby stools. Till the baby’s yellow stools don’t start use disposable diapers because the meconium (the first tarry stools) stains cloth and will ruin your cloth diapers. Plus you are going to be in such a post-partum haze you will be grateful to just throw those diapers rather than sit and wash them.
Wipes- Such a small baby cannot be washed under running water after it takes a dump. The baby will startle and scream and you will be having a very hard time already without making the baby scream at nappy change time. Keep disposable wipes in your bag. If your eco-friendly heart is crying reading this paragraph comfort it by telling that this going to be for a week or two only. Once you settle at home and can walk around you can switch to the cloth diapers and water for cleaning.
Diaper cream- keep a small box of diaper cream for diapers. No need to pack baby oil or talcum powder or baby creams. A non-perfumed petroleum jelly should serve the purpose.
Onesies- Buy onesies for your baby. Depending on the weather you are expecting the baby buy onesies which will serves as inners (the short-sleeved onesies which button up at the baby’s bottom) as well as full sleeved rompers. It is always advisable to dress a baby in layers rather than warm heavy clothes. If you have a special inclination towards a particular onesie make sure you pack it on top and whoever is receiving the baby can give it to the nurse to dress up your doll in his first clothes. Keep a set of swaddling cloth, inner, romper and diaper ready on top to be accessible as soon as you open the bag. You can put it in packet and label it too. In my second pregnancy I totally forgot this point and my husband was left to provide clothes for my newborn daughter. He picked the first thing he spotted in my bag. After delivery when I was wheeled into the room I was amused to see a funnily dressed unswaddled newborn!
Swaddle- Buy a few good quality swaddles. 5 should be fine. Don’t buy too many. My second one was a free spirit and wriggled and struggled and cried till she got out of it. On the other hand my firstborn felt snug as a bug in a swaddle. You can ask your sister or friend to give her baby’s swaddles if they have grown kids. Infact it is a common custom in India to make a newborn wear hand-me-downs rather than brand new clothes.
Whatever be your culture or choice make sure all clothes, new or old are washed well and sun dried. Even your own clothes should be washed well. The baby’s skin is very delicate so make sure to get all the harmful chemicals out of the way. Use less detergent and a mild antiseptic. Sun drying kills the bacteria that’s left in. Infact make it a practice to make your kids wear new clothes only after washing.
A good camera- You will want to capture those moments of getting wheeled into your room and first time you hold your baby and when the baby opens his eyes. If your phone has good camera then great. But keep in mind that relying on your husband’s phone could be not the best plan as he will be running around doing errands and arrangements for you guys and wont hang about as a photographer.
A pastime – Keep a motivational book or a pregnancy book or even this book to kill time before you deliver. You could keep a religious book or have a playlist on your phone to (of some religious hymns or maybe not so religious hip hop. To each his own!) Listen to it when you wait for your labour to progress. Reading your religious text during labour or a pregnancy help book will improve your self-confidence and give you the feeling that you are not alone.
Stem cell banking Kit- In India you need to register prior to your due date for stem cell banking. Once you are done with the formalities you will receive a stem cell collection and storage kit from the banking facility. In my case I was asked to open the package and store the gel pack in my freezer. When going to the hospital after your labour has begun, don’t forget to take the gel pack and the cord blood collection kit. Pack it in your bag and when you reach the hospital give it to the nurse in charge to store in the freezer. Make sure you let your doctor and the nurse know that the cord blood has to be collected. You will have to remind your husband to notify the facility to come to the hospital to collect your sample.