When labor strikes - What you REALLY need at the hospital
For first-time parents, the thought of bringing another life into the world--and being responsible for it--is daunting enough. Add to that all the advice, the stuff people tell you that you need and the endless lists of such things and becoming a parent can seem less appealing than ever. Then there's the matter of labor and the trip to the hospital. If you haven't done it before--and, for some, even if you have--the hospital can be the scariest part. Just how do you prepare for such an event, especially when you haven't the slightest clue about what will REALLY happen once you're there?
Lists are great for a lot of things. And there are plenty of lists of things to pack for the hospital out there on the web, some better than others. Ultimately, what each woman (and/or man) needs is going to be different, based on his or her comfort level and lifestyle, but there are some things it's a good idea to have in the hospital when the time comes. The first thing to do is to pre-pack what you think you MIGHT need. You never know when your child will arrive, and the last thing you want to be thinking about when your water breaks is whether or not you packed your house slippers as you scramble toward transportation.
Rather than tell you what you do need at the hospital, I can provide a short list of what you DON'T need. For example, in my experience at least, you do not need extra underwear. Nope. They give you these giant maternity underwear to wear over the giant pads they give you to help with...well...leakage. Sure, you may wish to wear something different home from the hospital, but I had a totally regular, easy delivery and I still was very thankful to have those giant honking underwear--which, by the way, are made out of some sort of mesh--they gave me.
You also don't need seventeen different cute little outfits, for you or your baby. Sure, now you may think you'll want to be the belle of the ball come photo op time after the birth, but once that happens you generally are not going to be interested in getting all dolled up. You're tired and totally preoccupied with your gorgeous new baby to bother trying to slip in to that matching velour sweatsuit thing you bought from Juicy Couture JUST for this occasion. Also, if you're like me and your little one was, er, little, he or she may not fit into the WORLD'S CUTEST OUTFIT you bought to bring him/her home in. Those outfits are great but I didn't see one kid actually go home in anything other than what the hospital graciously provided--long-sleeved wrap shirt, diaper, adorable hat with hospital logo, fashionable ID wrist band, etc.
Same goes for makeup. For one thing, makeup will NOT make you look less like you just had a baby. Sorry--not even the stuff from the best brands will cure you of that. Plus it will inevitably leak all over whatever else you brought with you making the entire bag of stuff useless. Lotion is a good idea though--and make sure you bring the kind that works on all your body parts. I was totally dehydrated after the birth so my skin was dry--all of it, from face to toes! Chapstick is also a good idea. You don't know parched until you've had a baby (unless you've spent some quality time in a desert).
The books, magazines and other hobby items you think you'll have time to peruse while you wait for an epidural or for the contractions to really kick in or for the nurse to bring you your babe--forget about those too. Perhaps you can bring something for your spouse or significant other to look at so he/she has something to do instead of totally freak out, but the last thing on your mind is going to be reading. Trust me on this.
Don't bother bringing food/snacks--they will not let you eat it, at least not before the birth. If there is a special treat you enjoy I'm sure you can have it later, but the thought of food was the farthest thing from my mind until well after my son was born. Before birth you will not be allowed to eat as there could be complications with any anesthesia you are given, etc. Also? Food follows the makeup rule: Chances are it will get mushed and all over whatever you do bring with you.
While I was in the hospital they wouldn't let me wear a bra, just so you know. It had to do more with making sure they had access to all of me during the labor and with breastfeeding after, but I must say I was actually rather comfortable (for once) without one. Perhaps you'll bring one to wear home, but you don't really need one in the hospital.
So what DO you need? I found having extra socks, house slippers and my favorite robe to be all I needed. You'll be wearing those lovely blue/green gowns they provide for a good part of your stay, so you don't need real outfits (except to wear home) but a robe helps if the temperature is too cold for your liking. I also brought my favorite zippy hoody sweater--it made me feel more comfy. Slippers are great for when you're walking around the hospital, which most likely they'll get you to do relatively soon after the birth, depending on whether or not there are complications. Just make sure you bring those with good treads--hospital floors are SLIPPERY.
Also, you will surely want your toothbrush. Eventually they will let you eat something, and, after you do, you're going to want a fresh mouth. I highly recommend buying a few extra just to make sure you have one on you that you can part with when you leave.
Finally, bring a packet of your personal info to give to either your spouse/significant other or directly to the hospital staff. This should include your insurance information and birth plan, if you have one. Trust NO ONE with your credit card or personal identification (SSN) information, but make sure your spouse/SO has this so he/she can provide it to the necessary parties to get you checked in at the beginning and properly checked out at the end. Do bring a list of important phone numbers, and a camera. You won't be allowed to use it during the birth, but afterwards you'll want those pictures that become the most priceless to you. And bring BATTERIES for goodness sake! The last thing you want is a dead camera!
What did you bring to the hospital that you ended up not needing? What about the gems you did bring that you highly recommend others bring too? Please share!