I am an only child with most of my lady tribe in other states. While I have luckily found a great tribe here in Birmingham, I did not get a chance to get the full nitty-gritty about the labor process. Plus, most of my closest friends had c-sections.
Every birth story is different. Every mom is different, and every baby is different. Nevertheless, if you are like me (a Type A, mildly OCD preparer and list-lover), then take my advice and plan ahead:
- Get your bag packed! I would suggest packing it at least a month or two in advance. You can have the basics already packed and add things that you might want to bring closer to time. Plus, you do not want to have amniotic fluid dripping down your legs whilst shuffling around your home putting your bag together.
- Install the car seat in the getaway car from the hospital sooner rather than later. You can make an appointment at Children’s of Alabama to check that it has been installed properly. But to take advantage of this fabulous service, you have to give yourself time to do so.
What To Pack
Between Pinterest and the helpful pharmacist at Target, I was able to put together a great stash of items for the whole hospital process and the weeks thereafter. I also added a few things to this list that I wish I had brought to the hospital with me.
1. Snacks for the nursing staff
The people at the hospital are amazing. They work all night long and come in during the wee hours. My birthing process took forever. I had at least five nurses. I was grateful to all of them, particularly the one who checked my dilation progress for many hours while I still had not progressed far enough to get an epidural (insert a calm angel in the face of my sad pathetic hyperventilating crying). These nurses are beautiful humans who may not have had a chance to eat all day or night. Bring them snacks!
2. Snacks for your husband
To truly prepare you for a child, just get married. I kid! But in all seriousness, my husband never plans out a meal. Of course, when I was crying, he was starving, but he knew not to complain given my pain situation. Luckily, I had snacks packed.
3. Pillows and/or blanket
I wish I had brought a pillow for me and one for my husband. The hospital pillows became pancake flat just by breathing on them. Even if no one is getting any good sleep, I wish I could have been more comfortable, especially that first night with our baby.
4. Post-birth “maintenance” supplies
Here are supplies you may need:
- Incontinence underwear. Underwear with a pad is not going to cut it. If you think it will, then you are lying to yourself. In fact, I used the incontinence underwear with “padcicles,” as I like to call them. Ahead of time, get pads and put a concoction of aloe and witch hazel on them, refold, carefully place back in the wrapper, and put them in the freezer or fridge. Use these pads post-birth, and you will be thanking yourself — and me — later.
- Dermaplast spray. This spray helps with the pain/healing process. Thank you for this tip, Target pharmacist!
- Hemorrhoid pads. The hemorrhoid pads can be placed in the undies instead of the padcicle if you don’t like the cooling temperature therapy. Also, use them for wiping your bottom to prevent hemorrhoids.
- Stool softener. Also, word to the wise, do NOT skip or abstain from taking the stool softener. Your body has gone through a battle. It’s not healed yet. Plan on winning the war. Use the stool softener lest you like being in excruciating pain.
- Squeeze water bottle and a sitz tub. The hospital may recommend a sitz bath, but I just felt like I was sitting in dirty water. You will probably use a squeeze bottle with water to wash yourself down there after using the bathroom for a while. The hospital should provide you a hygienic one to bring home.
The hard facts are that if you push out a watermelon, your lady parts will be sore (the most serious understatement ever). No one told me most of this. I wish they had. You are welcome.
5. Breastfeeding supplies (yes, already)
If you plan on nursing, bring your supplies to the hospital. Be sure to pack things such as:
- Nursing bras
- Nipple cream. The first weeks of nursing may be painful, so go ahead and start applying nipple cream from the get-go. I recommend finding an organic kind or trying coconut oil.
- Nipple cooling pads (peel and stick)
- Nursing pillow like a Boppy. Nursing with a Boppy was much easier than just using an ordinary pillow, in my opinion.
- Nursing pads. I did not know these existed and used to think they were shoulder pads for your boobs. I was wrong and dumb. The nursing pads are to place in your bra so your shirt isn’t soaked from leakage in between nursing times. I vote to spring for the nursing pads rather than feeling like you are in a wet t-shirt contest that you never signed up for!
- A milk catcher. Again, no one told me that if the baby was nursing on one side, the other side would leak. Mine was a gushing flow rather than a leak. While the baby is nursing on one side and while wearing a nursing bra, you can place the milk catcher on the other side. Line up the milk catcher hole with your nipple and catch precious drops. I usually caught multiple ounces and could get a quarter to a half a bottle from the “run off” alone!
- Your breast pump. If you plan on pumping, either bring your pump or practice using it before you get to the hospital.
6. Regular toiletries
Bring your normal toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, and lotion. It will make you feel slightly more human after being in the hospital for so long. While you’re at it, I recommend packing your husband’s toiletries as well.
7. Insurance card and work forms
If you have forms that need to be filled out for work regarding proof of birth/maternity leave purposes, then pack those to be filled out by the hospital.
8. Slippers or sandals
These are great to shuffle around in the hospital so you don’t have to be barefoot. They also come in handy when your feet swell and regular shoes do not fit your post-birth feet.
9. Chapstick and hair ties
Labor is a workout, so go ahead and pack these two items. On top of the grueling nature of this workout (I did not know this), at a certain point you can’t have anymore water. Chapstick will at least prevent your lips from chapping, cracking, and bleeding.
10. Going home clothes for you and the baby
Pack cute clothes if you like, but I wish that I had just packed my yoga pants. Given all the extra underwear issues going on, that elastic stretchiness to keep everything in place and more tightly bound would have really helped! Obviously, pack the cutest thing you ever saw for the baby’s coming home outfit.
11. Camera/iPhone charger (and upgrade your iCloud storage)
You will take a bajillion (technical term) photographs of your newborn starting now and forever.
What I Wish I Had Known
Besides packing, I wish I had prepared for someone to watch our dog while we were at the hospital. Luckily, we have great friends who were able to take shifts to let her out, walk her, and feed her. However, I wish now we had set up a place for her to go around the clock. If you have a dog, do whatever works best for you when you go on vacation.
In addition, my husband brought home a used swaddle so our dog could get a scent of the baby before we got home. This gave our dog a chance to slowly warm up to the new human. I also had a few toys ready to give her when we got back from the hospital so that she would have positive feelings about the new addition to our pack.
Also, there are many things I did not expect but was grateful to have during labor. I had the option to have a mirror positioned so I could watch the birth. I am so grateful that I watched it, because it is truly a miracle of nature watching your child emerge into this world. Another neat (but gross) thing? Seeing the placenta. I literally thought I birthed my liver as well, but it was just the placenta in its large, purple-organed glory.
I hope this list and information helps someone out there! If any of this was too much information, then my apologies. And in that case, buckle up because the parenting process itself will be a lot of grossness, too (think blow out diapers and sucking snot out of your child’s nose with a NoseFrida)! But seriously, much luck and love to the new mamas-to-be out there!!!