There is power that comes to women when they give birth. They don’t ask for it, it simply invades them. Accumulates like clouds on the horizon and passes through, carrying the child with it.
— Sheryl Feldman
Seriously. We just got a new couch the day before I went into labor. Fortunately our old couch was still sitting off to the side waiting for some poor soul to haul it down three flights of stairs. We’d decided that we needed something more inviting to lure in family to help us now and then with Baby J. So, just a few days before I gave birth we went to the furniture store and picked out a nice, plush sofa sleeper. Little did we know, it wouldn’t really lure anyone except ourselves when we got fed up with waking each other up or waking the baby. Our families found more delight in us visiting them as their homes have a bit more sound proofing than our own.
And so I was laboring on our old Ikea couch, towel beneath me in case my water broke, though I’d heard it doesn’t usually come gushing out like in the movies. Since I’d attended the childbirth class* at our hospital, I’d packed most of my labor and delivery items into our hospital bags, yes, multiple bags. There were still a few items I’d have my husband grab before we headed out the door.
Among my HELPFUL items were:
- Empty spray bottle – I’d imagined this spray bottle being used to cool me off during sweat-provoking labor. Later I would find out that it was for cleaning myself after giving birth as wiping would have spread bacteria and been incredibly painful.
- Comfy outfit to wear home – Don’t bother packing special clothing for the day of and day after you give birth. One of the most uncomfortable things that happens in the hours and days after giving birth is night sweats. You will not want to be wearing cozy flannel pajamas. For one thing, you may very well be bleeding quite a bit. You may as well make yourself comfortable in that backless hospital gown. Included with your outfit you will also want a cheap stretchy nursing bra and a couple sets of nursing pads (because you might leak A LOT).
- Toothbrushes and toothpaste for you and your birth coach – Your birth coach should practice some good oral hygiene before they start helping you breathe because any odd smell may send you hobbling to the toilet. And it may be a good 24 hours before you get your teeth brushed, but I guarantee it will make you feel like a new woman.
- Medications in labeled medication bottles – Just because we are living in the digital age doesn’t mean your hospital has an accurate list of your medications. Bring a list or a medication bottle or both or you will be awoken what will feel like every five minutes by a nurse or pharmacist asking for clarification. I may or may not be speaking from experience.
- Snacks – Our hospital provided 3 meals a day, but a lot of it wasn’t appetizing and the serving sizes were really small. I suggest bringing calorie dense snacks that you can eat with one hand because breastfeeding makes you ravenous, especially when you’re just getting started. Be sure there’s enough snacks for all of you because my cookies seemed to have disappeared while I was in labor.
- 4 newborn diapers – Our hospital provided size 1 diapers which were too big for our little guy. Also, the newborn diapers have the cutout for the umbilical stump, which will come in handy with your new little guy or gal. Side note: When you leave take all the diapers and wipes in the room because they will throw away any baby product after you are discharged.
- “Going home” outfit for baby – Though most hospitals give you a diaper, shirt, and flannel swaddling blanket, you will need something more substantial to take baby home in. Might I suggest a pair of zip from top or snap down one-piece pjs or a kimono shirt and elastic waist footed pants. This way you aren’t struggling to stretch a bodysuit over your little one’s pointy head right before the emotional discharge from the hospital. Also, the hospital will provide a very stretchy Snoop Dogg-esque hat that works perfectly well for the trip home.
- Swaddle – I never could get the hang of swaddling let alone while I was on pain meds after giving birth. I resorted to using the SwaddleUp swaddle even at the hospital, and Baby J loved it. I think he thought he was back in the womb.
- Large old towel – I wish I had brought this. The towel the hospital provided for after my first shower was practically the size of a hand towel. Bring something you don’t mind tossing afterward, but that’s going to bring you the comfort of home because that first shower brings you nearly as much joy as your new baby.
Things I brought that I wouldn’t bring again:
- Yoga ball – On the way out of the house my husband decided to deflate the yoga ball to fit it into our suitcase. What he didn’t know is that it was a weighted one so it doesn’t roll away from you when you sit down, so all the sand came shooting out the air hole. He then decided to sweep the sand off of it with the same hand broom I use to clean our guinea pig’s cage. In between contractions I lectured him about how I might very well be sitting my bare butt on the thing and he better sanitize it. At that point I should have just given up on the yoga ball because I did not find it helpful at all. Some people do, but I had back labor and could barely move. Plus I got an epidural and couldn’t be on my feet or hands and knees after that.
- Slippers – I bought these wonderful beige faux fur-lined moccasins thinking that was the way to go for post-partum foot comfort. Let me tell you, the hospital gives you skid-proof slipper socks, and believe me, you’d rather bleed on them than on your brand new moccasins.
- Pads and undies – The hospital provided exactly what I needed afterward when it came to pads and undies. They seem to know what they are doing when it comes to this department. You get the most comfortable underwear on the planet. Covet these! Take as many as you can get! And they also provide huge, absorbent pads, chucks, ice pack pads, adult diaper things. It’s amazing! Leave yours at home. And while you’re at it go ahead and buy a container of Tucks medicated hemorrhoid pads for when you get home.
With all that said, keep in mind that every mother and birth coach is different, so your list may very well be longer or shorter than mine. Please comment with your recommendations or questions, so I can add to my own L&D must-have list.
*If you’re approaching your due date you have probably attended a childbirth and baby care class. If not, I highly recommend it. Many hospitals offer such classes for free or for a fair fee. If you have a Health Spending Account the fee may be reimbursable. Mine was.