Every pregnancy website and magazine will provide you with a list of things to pack for the hospital, but we learned a few things about this packing list we wish we had known before we threw a week's worth of stuff into our suitcase. Just be aware that this entry is based on our particular experience at the hospital: being induced, having a vaginal birth to a singlet, and only nursing once our baby arrived. If you are reading this and had a different experience in labor/delivery (C-section, baby stayed in NICU, birth to multiples, bottle feeding, extended hospital stay, etc.), post your "what I wish I had thought of" ideas in the comments section below!
What we SHOULD have packed:
- Laptop or iPad. We don't have either one of these, but it would have been nice to have access to the hospital's wi-fi to email the first photos of our newborn to those without Facebook. Our cell phones had to suffice for most of the contacting we did with the outside world. Plus, if your hospital has a photography service, you may be able to access the pictures online within hours of the photos being taken and want to show them to your visitors.
- A pen. Sounds kind of stupid, I know, but you will be signing and filling out a lot of paperwork. It's best to have one or two handy. Thankfully, my father-in-law had one on hand when I filled out Mallory's Social Security papers. I would have been too embarrassed to page our nurse for a writing utensil.
- Body wash. I don't know how this was forgotten. I would have rather had my own cleansing gel than the bar of hospital soap we ended up having to use. I blame pregnant brain for this one.
- A button-down shirt for Daddy. Dads need skin-to-skin contact with their babies, too. Michael wanted that with Mallory, but was uncomfortable going sans shirt in order to do so. His wish? That he had brought a button-down shirt so he could stay fully clothed while experiencing this special bonding time with his daughter.
- Packing more than one shirt for Daddy. He wore the same T-shirt the entire time we were at the hospital. Wives, you might want to check behind your man to make sure he has enough to get him through your stay. There's no telling what could get on your man's clothes while he's holding your newborn, and he's not going to want to wear a pooped-on tee for 2 days.
- Books. Michael and I both packed books in our suitcase, thinking we would have time to enjoy a few pages. Yeah, that didn't happen. During our labor, I was in way too much pain to want to read, and Michael was spending his time doting on me. Once the baby arrived, our time was devoted to greeting guests, learning to nurse, changing diapers, signing papers, and trying to get some shut-eye. I promise you won't get any dumber because you left a stimulating page-turner at home. There's just too much going on with your newborn, and you won't want to spend it reading a bestseller. Heck, who wants to hold a book when you could hold one of these?
- iPods. OK, so I'm sure there are those of you out there that simply cannot do without your tunes. Some women in labor want music to help them focus. Others need music to help lull them to sleep. But my iPod was not always within reach, and it just wasn't worth an extra trip out of my hospital bed to find it, make sure it was charged, pop in my ear buds, and search for a playlist. Not only that, but listening to music via earbuds would mean you're not tuned into your baby's vocalized needs.
- Non-nursing tops for Mommy. Enough said. They were never worn until after I got home.
- Diapers and wipes. I packed them in the diaper bag, but the hospital provides them for every new mom. Why? They have to be prepared for someone walking in off the street to give birth with nothing in hand. PS--Take the unused ones the hospital provides home with you.
- Your camera. Duh.
- Infant car seat. Double duh.
- Boppy/nursing pillow. Not only did I use it to assist me in holding my newborn for extended periods of time or to keep her steady while nursing, it also made a great between-the-knees pillow when I slept.
- A nursing gown (or a top making those milk tanks accessible). The hospital gown makes you sweaty and uncomfortable, and I was more than ready to be in something that wasn't a one-size-fits-all garment. Not only does a nursing gown give your neonate easy access to their version of a salad bar, it also makes it easier for you to change out the padding you'll be wearing around your nether regions. The nursing gown I purchased also came with a robe, helping me regulate my body temp.
- Lanolin cream. Your nips are going to be sore after you start nursing. This stuff sure does help.
- Lotion. After your belly starts its deflate mode, your skin will be incredibly itchy. I could not stop scratching my belly skin--even before the epidural completely wore off. Don't bring the really smelly kind that has alcohol in it. You'll only make it worse! Bring a lotion with healing ingredients, like vitamin E or colloidal oatmeal.
- A girlfriend's take-along kit. Let me explain this one because it includes a heck of a lot of good stuff. My teammates bought me a cute tote (red and black in color, of course) and filled it with items I would need in the hospital. I can confidently say we used everything in it. The items included: ChapStick (used a lot), lotion, my favorite snacks (Goldfish, almonds, granola bars), hair ties and clips, chewing gum, and quarters for the vending machine. All I had to do was throw in my wallet and compact!
- Baby blankets. Whether they are used for burping baby, swaddling them in their bassinet, or to have as a background for photos, you won't want to be without them.
- Baby clothes…and lots of them. Your newborn doesn't know if she's wearing the brilliantly monogrammed onesie your neighbor had made for her or the $2 consignment store find. Be ready for many wardrobe changes after she spits up or her diaper leaks.
- Maxi pads. You'll get some in the hospital, along with the chance to wear their super fashionable mesh boy-short panties to hold them up. Be prepared to bleed and pass clots for the next 6 weeks. Since your bleeding will taper like a normal period, make sure you have a variety of absorbencies.
- Stool softener and/or fiber supplements. I thought I'd be one of those lucky new mommies who didn't get hemorrhoids after squeezing a human out of my hoo-ha. Boy, was I wrong. It's no fun to have them, but using these supplements is a way to give your pooper some much-deserved TLC.
- Witch hazel wipes (aka--"Tucks"). Your hospital will most likely provide you with some, especially if you have an episiotomy like me and are given Epifoam as a topical analgesic (applied to the wipe, it holds the foam on your lady parts and gives you relief right where it hurts). But in all things swollen, Tucks are great to have around for your distended derriere.
- Pain reliever. Whether it's prescribed or something OTC (make sure it's doc-approved first), you will most likely need it. When my epidural wore off and I could feel my stitches, a couple of ibuprofen each day helped ease the pain.
- Plenty of groceries. Seriously. Do yourself a favor and stockpile your cabinets and fridge as if you're ready for Doomsday BEFORE you go to the hospital. Once home, leaving the house may not be an option for a very long time.
- Be nice to your nurses, doctors, technicians, etc. As Jim Croce so eloquently put it, you don't pull on Superman's cape or spit into the wind. The hospital staff involved in your care are trained and experienced. Thank them for any little thing they do for you during your stay. This includes the tech who helps you into your first pair of post-baby mesh panties and makes you try to urinate in front of her to make sure the epidural wore off properly. For so many of them, they chose this career because it is their love and their passion.
- Don't be afraid to ask questions or for assistance. Doctors and nurses realize that this can be an incredibly overwhelming time for new parents, so they are prepared to be on broken record mode if they have to be. I called my nurse to ask if I was allowed to take a shower. I was permitted, but I didn't realize I would need my IVT covered so as not to get it wet. With any question or concern, it's better to be safe than sorry.
- Don't be afraid to turn visitors away. You might be nursing and don't want to do so in front of your husband's best friend. You might be napping. You might be throwing up because you had a bad reaction to your medication. You might just not be in the mood for company. Your visitors will understand. They can always come back another time.
- It's OK to cry. Whether it's tears of joy at the sight of your neonate or tears of feeling frustrated by the massive amounts of information you fear you'll forget once you leave the grounds, let it out. It certainly won't be the last time you'll cry as a parent!
- It's normal to be afraid to leave the hospital. Leaving the hospital as a new parent must be how animals in captivity feel when being released back into the wild: unsure and feeling lost without their caretaker. I mean, who gave us permission to go into the world with a newborn? We had never done this before! I was perfectly happy having a nursing staff tend to my needs any time of day. Food was brought to me either by the food service department or by family members. My hospital bed was comfortable and had all those light-up buttons to transform it to my liking. Now we are 3 weeks into being parents, and so far, we have made it without a fancy schmancy robotic bed. Even though we are much more confident in our parenting skills than the day we were kicked out, we are no longer terrified to the point of wanting to call 9-1-1 every time the baby farts.
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