I've not ever written a "how-to" post on this blog before, but since I feel like I have true insider information this time, I feel compelled.
You: headed to the hospital to deliver a baby
Me: was there last week, and fresh on my mind are the things I was especially happy (or would have been especially happy) to have.
Now before you judge too quickly, this post won't tell you anything about slippers or chapstick and your own pillow or your cell phone charger. We know all that stuff. And if you don't, you can find it on any checklist you choose to google or look up on Pinterest. And you should google or pinterest-search those lists because they are helpful. (Although some are so extensive you wonder if the person thinks they are going away to baby-delivery camp instead of a short stay at a hospital already equipped with many modern wonders)
1. Attractive pajamas-- You can wear the hospital-issued gown and feel like an unwell patient, or you can wear something pretty and feminine and feel like the glowing new mama that you are. I figured that even the small weight loss I'd enjoy after birth would be enough to boost my confidence to feel like I deserved a satin robe with pink trim. And I was right. Bring something light that you can layer and with the little clip-down feature that allows easy access to nurse. As long as the staff can access all your tubes and wristbands, I don't think they care what you wear.
2. A digital watch with a face that lights up--You will partner with the nurses to track everything your new baby does after birth, and most especially the number and duration of all of his feedings. It gets written down on your baby's chart and you will feel smart and capable if you can provide this information accurately. So picture this: It is the dark middle of the night and you are feeding this little bundle bent on survival and need to note the time. It is too painful/too big of a hassle/too likely to wake your sleep-deprived spouse to get up to turn on a light to see the wall clock, and your cell phone is not within easy reach, either. If you were wearing a digital watch with an indiglo face, your problem would be solved and you could note the start and stop times like an old pro.
3. Speaking of charting things for your baby, bring a small spiral notebook (picture 3x5 inches) to record all that baby data and a pencil that clips onto it. When bubbly, cheerful nurse comes in at 7:30 am to update your chart you won't stare at her in bleary oblivion. You can whip out your little book and remind yourself of each wee-hour feeding. Even if, come morning, it all blurs together as one long night punctuated by different decibels of hungry baby desperation and snuffly, satisfied baby noises, you'll have proof that you accomplished your mission.
4. An emery board/nail file--You won't be able to trim baby's nails because they can be kinda fused to the skin underneath, but they can still have sharp edges that can scratch your baby's face. (For an extra obscene amount the hospital photographer will be happy to photoshop that scratch right out for you, though) Besides, filing a sleeping baby's nails feels productive and lends the feeling that you're keeping up with the details.
5. Gum--for when you can't brush your teeth but the nurses still get within range of your breath to help with any number of intimate things. Or you have already thrown up and you still can't brush your teeth. Because sometimes brushing your teeth is really an epic accomplishment.
6. Baby oil, rubbing alcohol and a loofah-- These are things I really wish I had. (Maybe I should have listed them first) You will get lots of things taped to your body for this adventure. An IV needle, a catheter, gauze bandages, band aides from places they draw blood...And all of that tape is super secure (good), but hard to fully remove when the time comes (bad). You might wish they made goo-be-gone for humans. But baby oil and rubbing alcohol works for most of the adhesive stuff the hospital-grade tape leaves behind, and I wish I had some with a scrubbing loofah while I was still at the hospital.
7. A thank-you card -- If I could wish anything for your hospital stay, it would be that you are cared for by a team of nurses as awesome as the one I just enjoyed. I would have loved to provide them with fresh brownies or a cool snack basket or decadent flowers, they were that good. Considering these were the kinds of things other angels were doing for us, I figured the least we could do was write them a heartfelt thank you. I know that if I had left the hospital without writing that card, it would have been just another good intention that got left at the intersection of Busy and Life. Having a thank-you card (ok, asking my husband to bring one when he came back from sleeping at home one night!) was a good move. I hope your heart will have reason to overflow enough to make this a must-have item, too.
8. Your living will/advance directive/power of attorney paperwork-- Why in the world did we go to all the trouble of creating these documents only to leave them in some file at home? Because we don't even want to go there in our minds, of course. Seems like if you have already worked through some of the issues those documents force you to confront, you won't want to have to think them through twice if you don't have to. Now you know we didn't need those papers. But I know we would have been glad we had them if we did.
9. Lanolin. The hospital provided this nipple-soothing lotion and I'll definitely be buying more when this sample size tube runs out. On the sad chance that your hospital doesn't offer this as a free party favor, I would recommend you have some with you.
10. A detachable keyring that has just your car key on it-- What?! I put this on here in case any of you are married to someone who shares my beloved's quirk of not wanting the valet parking attendant to have any of his keys but the one to the car. In his haste to get back to the action, Bill gave the guy all of them. He was bummed that he had to go retrieve them when really he just wanted to stay with me in the hospital in those opening minutes when you are getting checked in and the butterflies are starting to migrate out of your stomach and into your whole body. This is definitely not a "must-have" item; more like a freebie to round out this list that just might save you some hassle if you happen to be in the secret single-key-to-the-valet club.
So there you have it. Never before gathered on one list--ten items that might round out your getaway bag and make your hospital stay just that much better.
But in the end, you know and I know it isn't about what you bring there at all.
It's all about who you walk away with.
Oh, and if you've already made the round-trip journey to the hospital, will you pay it forward, too, for the others who may read this post? (Or just to satisfy my curiosity) What was your essential item?