Hospital Birth Bag: The Five Best Things I Packedby Annabel Port
When packing my hospital bag I was determined not to arrive looking like I was off for a two week holiday in Marbella.
I still think I overpacked.
Left untouched at the bottom of the bag were the massage oil, essential oils, breast pads, nipple cream and the labour outfit I agonised over. (I was induced and put straight into a hospital gown when I arrived).
But aside from what I consider to be the absolute essentials like hospital notes, maternity pads, drinks and snacks, there were some things that I was extremely grateful made it into my bag.
Here are my top five.
1. A squeezy ball
I’d read in a birth book that one way to manage pain is by clenching a squeezy ball in your hand. It’s the loose equivalent of digging your fingers into your palms to stop yourself from laughing. Your brain registers another sensation and hopeful will focus on that instead.
The only squeezy ball I could find was a mini globe. But it was perfect. Because while I never felt like a powerful roaring lioness during birth like some women do, my hand was crushing down on the whole world. So that’s something. And it did work as a distraction as well as preventing me from crushing my birth partner’s hand.
I’ve since learned that a comb is also very good for this. Hold it so it presses across your palm and into the base of your fingers. And of course, it’s dual purpose if you find yourself caring at all about your hair.
2. A handheld fan
Picture every TV and film scene of childbirth and there’s a very sweaty woman with a cold flannel on her forehead. Labour can make you very hot. Plus hospital labour wards are usually very warm because a newborn baby is terrible at regulating its own temperature. So I found having a handheld fan invaluable.
It could just be a paper folding fan, which you could coquettishly peer over if the mood takes you. (Admittedly unlikely.) But an electric one requires less effort. Just make sure it’s battery operated as the midwives might not appreciate stray wires or it taking up a vital plug socket.
Another good cooling option is a water spray. Or pretend you are in a cinematic childbirth scene and go for a cold flannel. Better still, bring a frozen flannel. Prepare these in advance by soaking them in water with a few drops of a calming or refreshing essential oil. Then squeeze out the excess, roll them up into a small plastic bag and pop in the freezer. Just remember to grab them before you go to the hospital.
3. My own pillow
Hospital pillows are famously in thickness somewhere between crêpe paper and a pancake. So I loved having my own pillow. Especially as I was in for four days and 3 nights. Obviously, there wasn’t much sleeping going on but it was great to have a home comfort.
Make sure you don’t put it in a white pillowcase though as it could get mixed up with other hospital bedding. And don’t also bring a duvet, electric blanket, cushions and throws. That might not go down so well.
4. Dressing gown and slipper or flip flops (or both)
A dressing gown is great if you take a shower. But also for the wandering to the toilet, which you might not want to do in a blood-stained nightie. On my labour ward, everybody was shuffling around in a dressing gown. The idea of wearing actual clothes is not massively appealing after giving birth. And if Hugh Hefner could spend most of his time swanning about in a robe and slippers, then there’s no reason why a new mum can’t. (Although definitely skip the pipe while you’re still in hospital.)
Just remember that labour wards can be very hot so bring a light dressing gown. But not a light-coloured one because of post-partum bleeding. Save the cream silk kimono robe for another time.
The big question is slippers or flip flops. Flip flops are great if you’re squeamish about hospital showers and if your feet swell after birth. Slippers are comfier. It wouldn’t be insane to bring both.
These were very useful in an unexpected way. I had thought I might use them to listen to music or a podcast and block out noise and distractions. And they can be great for this. You could even watch a downloaded film or box set if you’re being induced or your labour is progressing slowly. Or perhaps use them to focus on a hypnotherapy download.
But I found a different use for them. In the postnatal ward at 3 am, the man by the bed next to mine was playing a very loud and violent sounding game on his phone. So I offered my headphones to him in an extremely passive-aggressive move. And it worked. He declined the headphones but turned his sound off.
And this new peace was way, way better than any aromatherapy or massage oil I could have packed.