Week 34: "This week your baby is clocking in at five pounds and could be as tall as 20 inches. Need a visual? Hold a five-pound bag of flour in your arms and imagine it's your soon-to-be-born baby (cradle it and you'll only get strange looks in the baking aisle)."
Would you believe it's time to start thinking about a hospital bag already?! The first thing you need to think about is the bag itself. One with easily accessible pockets inside and outside is preferable - especially as either you or your birthing partner will be trying to access it through the means of pawing blindly in its general direction. The last thing you want is someone having to deposit the entire contents of a suitcase at the end of your bed in order to find that suitable pair of socks (your feet tend to get unreasonably chilly during labour).
Now, to the contents! Best keep it minimal as certain hospitals are not quite as accommodating when it comes to space. If needs be, split the contents between a pre-labour bag and a post-labour bag, the latter of which you can keep in the boot of your car until it's required.
Firstly, I feel compelled to address the one item that was the bane of my life in the pre-labour ward last time. The exercise ball. It just got in the way. When it wasn't wedged between the stool and the bed, it was wandering around the ward, paying other labouring ladies visits by just creeping under their curtain. I used it all of once and ended up leaving it there in the end.
As for the items I found invaluable, they are listed below. I touched on them briefly in this previous article about the first two weeks other motherhood, but there's always room for more detail!
1) Earplugs: The reasons are obvious. Have back-ups in case one goes for a wander. Don't worry, you will still hear your baby crying. If not, one of the midwives will be sure to wake you up. Ear plugs are imperative as - even if you have a room to yourself - hospital halls have a knack of amplifying sounds. Wailing babies, snores, tea trollies, hushed conversations, the list is endless and you need your kip.
2) Eye mask: Imperative. Especially if you've had a C-section. The nurses may want to keep an eye on you overnight and that might mean keeping your light on. Then there're other patients' lights to contend with. Also, you'll invariably want to grab a nap during the day whenever a family member comes in to coo at the baby. Don't give it a second thought - look them dead in the eye and say, "Great to see you, d'you mind holding her for 15 minutes while I just grab 40 winks?" They won't mind.
3) Breath spray: Sounds a bit ridiculous, but I found it very helpful during labour and afterwards. Between the gas and air, the heavy breathing, and not being able to eat anything, it made me feel human. It's also particularly handy to be able to blast your mouth with something fresh if you're awaiting a section and are unable to eat or drink anything.
4) Make up essentials/toiletries: Lip Balm, lip balm, and more lip balm. Hospitals are very warm places and can dry out the skin. Also, if you're hoofing on gas and air during labour, it can crack your lips. In addition to lip balm, I was particularly attached to my waterproof mascara. I find the Catrice Better Than False Lashes one particularly good, especially if you're on a budget (it's under a fiver). You can fall asleep without it falling down your face. Lastly, a good BB Cream. As for other toiletries - face wipes, a good moisturiser, small deodorant, shower gel, toothpaste and toothbrush obvs.
5) Sports bottle of water: TMI Alert. A friend of mine tipped me off about this before my last labour. While sports capped bottles are handy to swig out of, this particular sports bottle can be used to douche with while you use the toilet for the first time after delivery. In short, water helps take any stinging away.
6) Various pads: So. Many. Pads. They take up the most room in your bag, but the only ones that truly work are the MASSIVE green maternity pads that a tiny princess wouldn’t feel a pea under. Yes, the flat ones with the wings are more appealing, but - for the most part - they don't quite cut it. If your chemist doesn’t have them, your midwife should have access to a supply.
Other pads you will require include breast pads. I also ended up requesting surgical tape to plaster the breast pad to me such was the flow. Another handy hint for those with C-Section scars - I was advised to lightly tape a sanitary pad to the scar in case of weeping when I was being sent home.
7) Disposable knickers and bed bras: Whether you opt for a cheap brand of pants you plan to bin afterwards, or actual disposable knickers (mothercare do them), it's important to have a number of them to hand. You will also need pants for post-delivery. If you end up having a C-section, your pants will have to go up to your belly button, so worth baring in mind.
Mothercare do a two pack of 'bed bras'. They provide 'light support' while also providing easy access for breastfeeding. They also allow for rapidly expanding breasts and it means you can easily go on the nod while wearing them.
8) Nighties: You will need at least three large cotton (anything else will have you sweating more then necessary) nighties that preferably have clasp buttons at the chest for feeding/skin-to-skin contact. While cheaper alternatives may be more alluring, as you may end up dumping said nightie afterwards, you'll thank yourself for the cotton while in the labour ward. Again, Mothercare do a good variety.
9) 'Snug' slippers and socks: As previously mentioned, your feet tend to get chilly during labour, particularly if you have an epidural, so have some nice cosy ones to hand. Regarding the slippers, make sure they fit you properly and have a good grip because you may be walking the halls and stairs quite a bit.
10) Headphones, phone charger, iPad, Books: 'Nuff said!
Other items that appear on lists include towels for yourself. Preferably dark coloured and one for each day you're there. I didn't think of bringing a towel to Holles Street and it wasn't an issue, but I believe some hospitals only provide towels for babies, not for mums.
Next week, we'll be tackling what should go into Baby's bag - and it'll be bigger than yours ;-)
Is there anything you found invaluable that we didn't include in the list? Please share!