Monday, March 25, 2013

Pack This

I keep seeing adorable posts on packing the hospital bag that have me all excited to start reading them, and then by the end I'm shaking my head at the screen going "no no no no no! You have it ALL wrong!"  I finally found an acceptable one, which you can find here: Whats in a bag  But... I still have some 'corrections', so bear with me.

And this mama doesn't name herself, so I shall call her Ann for ease of referral.

So to start with, Ann mentioned she packs one bag for her, and one bag for baby. Cute idea, and I understand her reasoning why, but I have two problems with this.

    1 - I've been at enough births to know that you usually move rooms at least twice. I've seen couples change rooms up to five times. The less you have to move from room to room, the better.
    2 - I overpacked for baby when I went to the hospital, and I still don't think I could fill an entire bag. They're tiny. Their stuff is tiny. And they don't need that much stuff. Having a whole bag just encourages you to keep throwing stuff you don't need in there.

Instead, I highly recommend getting a travel size suitcase on wheels. They're easy to use and pack, easy to move, the wheels keep them off the gross floor, and you can pile things on top of them while you're playing merry go rooms.

What goes in them? I'll follow the same format as Ann, for ease. Baby stuff it is!  She acknowledges that the hospital will provide your baby necessities- diapers, wipes, creams and baby washes. All true. She also says that she prefers to use her own. I get that. We went a similar path. I brought none of that. None. Can you believe it? Me, the overpacker!  We used all the wipes and diapers we needed, and then you'd better believe we cleared every diaper out of that hospital room before we high tailed it out of there. As for baby washes? Easy, we declined the standard post-birth bath (for many reasons, which I won't go into now)- Voila! No baby wash needed. No lotion needed either, because we rubbed baby's vernix into the skin and it stayed soft for days. That said, I might bring a sample size of a nice organic and chemical free baby wash to the hospital just in case.

A bulb syringe is redundant- I promise they have those at the hospital. As are the nail clippers- you're not going to want to cut baby's nails the day after the birth, no matter how sharp they are. You know what you want? Sleep and food.

I didn't bring a pacifier. I wasn't planning on using one post birth, I wanted to wait until breastfeeding was established first, to avoid nipple confusion. Turns out, but 6am, I was desperate for one. Our nurse told us that they don't actually offer them to babies on the regular floors anymore, only the NICU has a stash of pacis. Huh. Now, our nurse was so fantastic, she went and found us one. But it might make me think to pack one next time. But again- I highly recommended not making the jump to paci lightly- it can be very confusing to a newborn learning how to latch properly in those early days.

So what did we bring? Not a lot! We knew we wanted to leave the hospital as soon as we could after the birth, to get back to the comfort of our home. So I only packed two outfits. I planned before that to use the hospital gowns, and to just have skin to skin time and enjoy snuggles with my girl under our blankets. I still only needed the two outfits- we didn't dress her at all until we were ready to go home, but I will note that the hospital gowns are -not- like I remember. We attempted to put one on Tenley once, and gave up. I assume they're made for monster children or something. tiny bodies, with arms twice the length they needed to be. We literally could not thread her arm down the long tiny opening.  So, if you feel you will want your baby dressed at the hospital- bring a few onesies. Don't go overboard though-- you're just going to keep unwrapping them to stare at their tiny perfect toes, and navels, and soft skin.

Hats. People always talk about hats. Heck we brought a hat. Wanna know something funny? It's better for babies not to wear hats immediately after birth. Seriously. First, it disrupts the scent recognition between mama and baby, and secondly, it actually makes it harder for them to regulate their body heat themselves. So bring a hat, but leave it until you get dressed to go outside and go home.

Scratch mitts and booties. We packed these. I got one or two cute photos. Way more work than it was worth. See above for description on how you're just gonna keep taking them off to inspect the perfection of your newborn. If you don't take them off, baby will help you.

One thing I wished I'd packed more of? Blankets. Last thing I would have thought. We just assumed we'd use the hospital receiving blankets, which we did, but after a few hours I wished I had something that smelled like home and felt like ours, rather than feeling like someone elses laundry. I brought only one thick fleece blanket to the hospital. Next time I would still bring the special warm blanket, but I would also pack two to three large receiving blankets, and one Aden and Anais swaddling blanket. Those things are priceless in the first days and weeks!

That's it. No really. That's all I would pack for baby. An organic baby wash, a paci (maybe), a hat to wear home. Two outfits, and a few blankets. Done. 

Next up is my portion of the bag. I will come clean here and say I overpacked when it was my turn. Won't happen again. I was extremely overly optimistic (read: delusional) about how much energy and free time I would have post birth. Don't spend so much time and weight packing things you're never even going to think to look for. 

The essentials? Ann starts with flip flops and socks. I'll give her those. I didn't pack flip flops, but I did pack thick pairs of fuzzy socks, both for laboring in, and to wear afterwards. Flip flops for the shower a good idea? Probably, but too much space and mess for me to deal with. 

Sports bra, nursing bra, undies. Again... I'll give her those... sort of. I used an old bikini top for being in the shower (and then left it there! *sob*), I felt pretty, but still covered. I would personally not bring a real nursing bra to the hospital. Stick with a nursing tank, or a sleep bra style, that doesn't have fitted cups. You have no idea how your size will change after the birth and depending how long your stay is, your milk may or may not come in yet. Besides, nursing bras are one more thing to play with- keep it easy with a shelf bra nursing tank. Undies... well yes, and no. 

Here's the deal. Obviously, you bleed a lot after birth. It's gross. One of the worst parts of postpartum, in my opinion. Wanna know what makes it better? Knowing you're not going to bleed anywhere. Call me crazy, but I joined the leagues of women who wore Depends post-birth. Yup. I went there. For the first two days, I stuff a thick hospital pad in there, pulled my depends up overtop, and felt confident I could slip my comfy pj pants on without bleeding all over the bed. Very humanizing. So, underwear... maybe not. But I wouldn't leave home without a good stash of depends, and some extra pads too. 

After delivery and going home outfit. Yes yes yes. For no reason other than I was too tired to think about it, I didn't change after Tenley was born at 3:22pm until the next morning at almost noon when I had my first shower. I think I would have felt a ton better had I slipped on a comfy nursing nightgown. Avoid pants. They're going to want to check your bleeding frequently, and I know I did not want to be moving my legs and hips to dress and undress anymore than I needed to. So next time- I'll splurge for the cute (but easy to nurse in) nightgown. I brought a pair of PJs, but didn't take them out of my bag. 

After the first 12 hours or so, you'll likely be 'healed' enough that they'll leave your lady bits alone. Break out the comfy clothing! I highly recommend sweats you feel good in, but won't worry about staining, a nursing tank, and a zip up sweater. Layers are good in the hospital, because even with individually controlled heat, you never know how you're going to feel from one minute to the next. And I specify sweats you're not going to worry about staining, because I packed my "I feel good" Hollister sweats-- but then left them in my bag because I was scared of leaking blood onto them. TMI maybe, but better I tell you before you ruin your favorite pants! I would bring two comfy outfits like this, intending one of them to be my homecoming outfit. 

What about the fun stuff? I received a really nice sample set of Aveda products that I threw in my bag to use as a treat for my first post-birth shower. Let me tell you, when you have to sit down for a shower, because you're too woozy and weak to stand, the little things matter. The smell of that luxurious shampoo, conditioner and body wash made me feel human again, when I didn't think that was possible. Even better, was when I emerged from the shower and my husband was able to rub the matching lotion all over my back and legs for me.  Less exciting, but still important items include your hair brush, a couple hair ties and a headband, as well as toothbrush and toothpaste. Deodorant was a must, but all I brought for makeup was mascara, and I didn't even put that on. Still- a lot of people would love to have a few basic makeup pieces to spiffy up before visitors. 

Lip balm. Lip Balm. Did I say lip balm? Don't forget your lip balm. 

We also packed my husband's stuff in the same bag. If he's planning on spending the night at the hospital, don't forget his essentials for both the labor and the next day. In our case this was his deodorant and toothbrush, flip flops for the shower (he wasn't in labor land, so the shower floor bothered him...), a change of clothes for during labor, in case you get wet from the shower, or thrown up on... I'd also pack something comfy and warm to wear overnight (the room is generally pretty cold, and the blanket they give you is a glorified sheet!), and one more outfit change. Don't forget socks. Rob also packed a bathing suit for the big shower during labor. I spent a lot of time in there, and it was very nice for him to be able to comfort me, while still being comfortable himself. 

The rest of our packing list was mostly generic stuff to pass the time, or things that seem obvious, but aren't. Food. Lots of food. Pack twice and much as you think you'll want. Now pack that amount again. We thought we had a ridiculous amount of snacks, but they were gone by 4 hours postpartum, and then we were hungry again. Hospital food sucks. Pack delivery menus, or enlist a friend to bring you food by. I'm really not joking. I think my first 24 hours would have been a lot more enjoyable had I not been so freaking hungry. I emptied my cracker into a cup of hot water instead of the soup accidently- and I almost ate the crackered water anyways. It was bad. And don't forget something to drink. I had a few powerades packed for the labor and they were glorrrrrious to have. Post birth, we had Lipton tea packets that you add to a glass of water. Drinking one of those still reminds me of those early hours after Tenley was born. Tasted like the best thing ever. 

Pack lots of coin for vending machines and parking. No joke, we spent $38 in parking fees. I choked. 

Most people will remember to bring your camera (and batteries and memory card!), your phone and or Ipod. Bring headphones. My husband fell asleep a few hours after the birth, but I was still in laborland and an endorphin high. I wanted to listen to something, but didn't want to wake him up. Don't forget your charger. 

Bring your computer only if you plan on being in the hospital for several days. I planned on bringing mine, but didn't. I laughed afterwards. There is no way I would have had the time, energy, or even space to use it. Tenley was always in my arms, that left no opportunity to use a laptop, even for movies and games to pass all the time I didn't have but thought I would. Smartphones are too easy to use these days to complicate things with a laptop. If you don't have one, buy an Ipod before having a baby. I'm not joking. Having continual use of one in the first few weeks and months of being a nursing mother and mother to a fussy newborn would have changed my outlook drastically. Bring your phone charger. 

I loved having a small laundry bag in my suitcase to throw the used stuff in- anything that touched the hospital floor should not touch my clean laundry again. End of story. 

Have a list of people you need to phone after the birth. Even though the names seem obvious when you're well rested and making plans- they don't seem all that obvious in the post-birth haze!

I packed a book. I think I even tried to pack two, and then stopped myself. And I packed a crossword book. Haha. Ha. ha ha ha ha ha. I was funny. See above comment about the laptop, and smartphone. Don't take up valuable space for something you will never use. I was convinced, I would have a few hours to kill where I'd lay nicely in bed with my newborn in my arms, while I read a trashy novel. Again- Haha ha ha ha. Load a book onto your smartphone if you need. That way it will be ready for you when you get home, without the extra bulk.

All the heavy and weird items in my suitcase were intended for labor. A lot of them I didn't use, but I would still pack next time, just in case. Depending on the type of birth you're planning, your list may vary. We wanted a hands off, relaxed labor in which I moved around as much as needed, and used no pain medications. I was very lucky and thankful that this is what I did indeed end up with.

A magic bag or rice sock to apply heat to your back, or belly. Such a relaxation, and great reminder to loosen those muscles, not tighten them. Tennis balls are great massage tools to roll over a tight back that is filled with knots. Massage oil to help you relax and stay loose during and in between contractions. Pick something without a strong scent, as many women find they get more sensitive during labor. I packed lavender essential oil for relaxation and Rescue Remedy.

As mentioned, have an ipod or smartphone, and headphones or a small docking station. You can buy plug in speakers for $15 at Walmart. The right music can really help to relax you and keep your head focused, or it can even distract you from early contractions or drown out other people you don't want to listen to.

I packed a loose stretchy cotton skirt to wear during labor, and then promptly forgot about it. I wish someone had reminded me, because I think I would have been a lot more comfortable wearing it. Pack whatever you'll feel comfortable in during labor. They will hand you a hospital gown when you check in. You don't have to wear it. If it will help maintain your dignity and feel better to wear your own clothes- then wear them. A bikini top of sports bra as mentions, and a pair of loose pj pants or skirt works perfectly.

A good water bottle is worth its weight in gold. Also- people talked about how bendy straws were the be all and end all of labor. I thought they were nuts. And then my doula asked if I wanted a drink. I said yes, she brought over a drink with a bendy straw, and I took a sip. Ok, I'm sold. I definitely was not present enough to have sat up properly to take a tip out of the cup. So pack a water bottle you can drink from without spilling, or one with a straw, or pack bendy straws, just in case.  And ps. Take a sip of water in between every contraction to stay hydrated. And pee every hour to keep your bladder empty so the baby can move down.

There will be more I'm sure, but I hear stirring, so that's my cue it's time to go slip into bed before baby wakes. I'll be back with more experience to share later!