When I gave birth nearly 15 years ago, I diligently read the lists of what essentials I needed in my hospital bag in my Emma’s Diary booklet. I’m not sure the booklet still exists – it’s probably all online because people’s eyes shrivel from the printed word. Allegedly.
Feeling a little nostalgic for all those years ago (not broody, there’s a difference) I thought I’d have a gander at what the current advice is and looked up the NCT’s website. To add further complexity to a pregnancy-worn brain, it seems you now need a labour bag, a hospital bag, a newborn bag and a birth partner’s bag. Well the birth partner can jog right on. They can nip out to the local Tesco/Asda/Sainsburys/Aldi (no favourites here) and get some supplies surely.
No, I jest. It’s important to feel prepared. The thing I remember most about those last weeks, other than the discomfort, was the waiting – flurries of anxiety meaning I couldn’t settle to doing anything and not really being able to go out anywhere in case it all kicked off. And of course, fielding the endless ‘when’s it due?’ enquiries. So, some time getting things together might help.
What I remember particularly well from the labour was my partner’s insistence on getting the music I had said I wanted, to be played in the room (this was pre-iPods remember). It’s tricky for the partner – they are definitely the bridesmaid in this scenario – but by the time we’d been in the delivery room for some hours and he felt he needed distraction, necessitating someone bringing some batteries for the machine he’d brought, I couldn’t give a tinker’s arse about what music was playing. Hard to hear anyway over the screaming. Unless you set it to some nice bass rhythm.
There’s a funny scene in the book ‘The Best A Man Can Get’ where the slightly feckless main character completely takes over the birthing class with questions about what type of sandwiches he should get for the labour. That’s another thing not mentioned in the whole ‘bring a selection of snacks’ scenario. It’s quite hard to take a bite of anything, chew and swallow WHILE SCREAMING. I ordered some food when in the hospital but had to abandon it because I had to spit out whatever was in my mouth when a contraction came. Glucose sweets are probably the only option, although another thing they don’t mention is that if you’ve had any drugs at all, you may well find yourself both nauseous and ravenous after the baby is out. I had to speak out extremely forcefully to get something to settle my stomach so I could shovel in anything edible straight after, having not eaten for about 24 hours.
Maternity OR sanitary towels are mentioned as being necessary afterwards. Do NOT get sanitary towels, unless you want to start smelling less than fragrant in the lady garden department. I called the health visitor team in a panic after I’d been home a few days, convinced I had some sort of infection. I’d run out of maternity towels and had switched to sanitary towels, thinking it wouldn’t make any difference. Ner-huh. You need loads of maternity towels, btw. LOADS.
Also, it mentions a comfy outfit to wear home. Just one outfit? I was in hospital for three days, including the remainder of the night I gave birth – admittedly people may well be out sooner, but believe me, there are a lot of ‘substances’ coming out of you/the baby. I needed about four outfits a day. Nothing fancy mind, but a bumper pack of cheap t-shirts (preferably something that is patterned to look like ‘substances’) and tracksuit bottoms aplenty will not go amiss. Do not bring anything fancy. Some of those substances would take a pickaxe to shift.
And slippers OR flipflops. You’ve all been in a public swimming pool changing room, I take it? Would you wear your slippers in there? No. If you want a shower, take slippers AND flipflops. Unless you intend to walk around in soggy slippers.
One last thing. Unless you’ve got the cash for a private room, the post-natal word isn’t much fun. At no time is it completely dark and quiet, meaning privacy and sleep are in short supply. However, your baby will probably sleep better there, than at any point for the ensuing weeks, so if you can stick it out for any length of time, it might help you recover slightly. I remember naively thinking what a piece of pissh this baby lark was, once I got over putting the nappy on the wrong way round. He slept ALL THE TIME. Except when I was desperately trying to get him to latch on. As soon as we got home though, the lungs opened.