Most moms I know fall into one of two camps when it comes to packing a bag for the hospital. Some procrastinate, and end up trying to pack between contractions. Others (like me) overpack, spending the last few weeks of pregnancy worrying that we’ll somehow need seven different kinds of lip gloss during labor (Hint: You really, really won’t). Take it from me:
- Paperwork: You need your ID, birth plan, and insurance card. The hospital may have had you print and sign forms in advance authorizing them to treat you and your baby. Don’t leave home without them.
- Deodorant and toothpaste: Labor can take a while, certainly long enough for you and your partner to get a little, well, ripe. Meanwhile, the heightened smell you’ve experienced throughout pregnancy can get even stronger during delivery and right after birth. My mother tells me that when she was in labor with me, my father went to the cafeteria and ate a tuna sandwich. Can you imagine? Bring essentials to keep those pits and breath fresh.
- A music player, or a smartphone loaded with music: During labor, your favorite playlist might give you the soothing or energizing support you need. After baby is born, an ocean waves or white noise track can help all of you catch a few precious minutes of sleep. Don’t forget the chargers!
- Camera: You’re having a baby, and you’re probably going to take 2,000 photos on the first day alone. Make sure your smartphone has plenty of memory, and bring whatever cameras and chargers you need.
- Your good shower stuff: You’re either going to push a 7-9-pound human out of your vagina, or have your abs cut open and stapled back together. Birth has a brutal side, however your baby arrives. You deserve to crack open the fancy sugar scrub.
- Shower shoes and slippers: Getting out of the hospital without contracting athlete’s foot is the goal. You’ll take a few walks around the floor, so be ready to protect your feet outside the bathroom, too.
- Snacks: The hospital has food, obviously, and basically anything tastes delicious after having a baby. But you’re also going to be up and hungry at weird hours. It’s nice not to have to wait. Granola, fruit, or homemade brownies are welcome.
- A few changes of comfy clothes: Soft nightgowns, yoga pants, old T-shirts. You’re going to be sore and bleeding for a while (and still look about 6 months pregnant), so bring cozy stuff you don’t mind getting dirty.
- Baby outfits: Oh, right, the baby! One or two outfits per day you’ll spend in the hospital is good. Socks and mittens are smart, even if the weather is warm. Tiny nails are sharp. Bring a warmer layer to bundle the baby in if it’ll be chilly outside. The hospital has tons of diapers and wipes, so you don’t need to worry about loading up.
- Car seat: The hospital won’t let you drive away with your baby in your lap. Get the car seat installed and inspected ahead of time (your local fire department can inspect it and give you pointers).
Pretty basic, right? Stay reasonably clean and cozy, with snacks and music to make your time in the hospital more pleasant. Meanwhile, here’s what you can leave at home:
- Pre-pregnancy skinny jeans: Please.
- Tons of makeup and jewelry: Jewelry is too easy to lose, and you’ll probably want to spend 45 minutes snuggling your baby, not doing your makeup.
- That Proust novel you’ve been meaning to read. You’re going to be tired. Save intellectual challenges for later and concentrate on sleeping, feeding, and bonding.