You've probably seen it in movies: the mom suddenly goes into labor and pandemonium breaks loose. Everyone is running this way and that, like the proverbial chickens with their head cut off. Just so you know, it typically doesn't happen like that. Chances are that labor will start slow with worsening contractions over many hours. You water probably won't break, but if it does, it is more likely to be a trickle than a gush. You'll have time to think before you leave the house. So, if you are late in your pregnancy and panicking about your bag for the hospital, don't! Plenty of women wait until the last minute to pack their bags, and if you know what you really need, packing will be a breeze.
First, grab a bag with a zipper top and an easy to grab handle (think an overnight bag size). Why a zipper top? Because you want the contents of the bag to be kept securely inside. Chances are, that bag will get brandied about as you rush to the hospital and get situated and then give birth. The last think you'll want to worry about is whether your iPod got dropped on the delivery room floor.
Now, are you ready to pack? Here's what moms say they really needed and wanted.
When you are delivering, you probably won't care whether you are wearing -- even if it is the standard issue hospital gown that shows more than it hides. But once you've had the baby? Well, then you will probably want your own, comfortable, soft pajamas. Or, perhaps even a special pair.
"I was so glad that I brought my own pajamas. The hospital gown was not comfortable to sleep in and usually ended up around my waist or even close to my neck. It was not comfortable or a pretty site! After my first nap I couldn't wait to take a shower and put on my own comfortable jammies!" said mom Desiree Wolfe.
Warm, fuzzy socks
During labor, chances are your body will go through a million different emotions, sensations and more. One of the common ones: cold feet. That's why several moms said they wanted some warm, cozy, fuzzy socks to keep their feet happy -- even when they were in pain. "I was grateful for multiple pairs of warm fuzzy socks. At least one part of my body was warm and comfy at all times. Those stupid hospital ones just don't cut it," says Katy Schroeder, of eMarketing4Business.com.
Your own pillow
The pillows in hospitals aren't known for their fluffy properties or soothing squishiness. So, if you want your head to be happy, bring your own. "I was in the delivery room for a two days (yeah, 51 hours) so having my own pillow made it a little more comfortable since delivery room 'beds' aren't made for comfort and rest," said mom of two, Kathie Papera.
Some moms also suggest bringing body pillows from home for added comfort.
Don't expect labor to be one long push-fest. There will be contractions and rest periods. And since experts agree that relaxation is key to a smooth delivery, bringing along a little reading material to help you escape from reality during your labor is a great idea. "When I was in the delivery room I had a fashion magazine with me. While the doctor was waiting for the anesthesiologist he and I looked at the magazine together. It was only for a few minutes and almost nine years ago, but I will never forget that seeing him relaxed helped keep the mood light and the delivery was very smooth. Plus, thumbing through gave me something to do after the birth and when the baby and hubby were out of the room," said Jody L. McLain.
A bite for Dad
When you are in labor, you probably won't want the baby's dad - or whoever is supporting you - to run out for a quick bite to eat. Plan ahead by packing some provisions. One mom wrote in that her husband took a hero sandwich to sustain him through labor, although she wasn't entirely pleased that he paused to make it during her labor. Stock your delivery room bag with nonperishables to sustain your partner throughout delivery.
You may not totally appreciate it when you are in labor, but having a camera (and a cell phone) on hand during labor will help you not only spread the joy, but remember the important day.
" I think the most important items in the delivery room (O.R. and then recovery room) for me were my digital camera and my cell phone. My husband was in the O.R. with me during both C-sections, and the pictures he took of the birth of our two sons are absolutely priceless to us," said Angela Amick, who writes theamicks-angela.blogspot.com.
For after birth
If you birth in a hospital, you will most likely be staying over for a night or two. Prepare for that by packing the necessary toiletries - toothbrush, toothpaste, hair brush and make-up. But that's not all you might need.
"I knew breast-feeding would be hard - but I didn't know that I wouldn't be able to wear a shirt for about 2 weeks because my nipples were on fire! Now I give a big old tube of lanolin cream to every soon-to-be Mommy -- no lactating woman should leave home without it," said mom Angie Barnes, who admitted that lanolin was the one thing she didn't have with her.
Tell us! Comment below: What essential item would you add to this list?