Packing your hospital bag ready for a baby's birth is the opposite of packing for a mini-break. Instead of piling up your glammest clothes, nicest nightwear and poshest toiletries, maybe chucking in a few extra items in case you get to stay a bit longer, it's all big knickers, worryingly-thick maternity pads, and the hope you can return home ASAP.
But there are definitely exciting parts about packing your hospital bag: picking those first few uber-cute outfits! Folding up nappies so small you can't imagine the tiny bottom that'll fit in them; splurging on a lovely moisturiser or other luxury to make you feel more human after popping out a tiny person.
And, if you’ve never given birth before, packing for hospital is one of the few ways you can actively feel like you're prepared for this crazy event that looks, uh, pretty wild on One Born Every Minute.
When I gave birth two years ago, I spent ages reading blogs and other mamas' lists of hospital must-haves and eventually, when I was ready to pack it at 36 weeks, it wouldn't even fit in a super-size suitcase. So I downsized - you'll want your partner to have a spare arm to prop you up, if necessary, not be bogged down by a million bags.
Now as I prepare another suitcase for my second child's birth, I've learnt it can be useful to have one bag for & 'you', for the birth and immediate aftermath, with just a few baby items and nappies, and another bag - which you could leave in the car - with more baby essentials for later on... over to the list:
hospital bag for the baby:
• three vests
• three sleepsuits (go for ones with inbuilt mittens... you don’t want your baby to hurt themselves)
• two hats
• 10 nappies, plus cotton wool for bottom wipes
• Car seat ready to go in the car
• Cosy blanket to go home in
hospital bag for the mama:
• (yellow) book of hospital notes and birth plan
• TENS machine
• going home clothes (I opted for super comfy, tracky bums and a hoodie - but if you’re expecting paparazzi, you might want to hire a glam-squad, Kate Middleton-style)
• two big nighties that I didn’t care about if they were ruined
• pack of big, black knickers (ditto)
• pack of maternity pads
• food... haribo and chocolate, three bottles of water with sports cap lids for easy drinking, a straw, any non-perishable snacks you like, like spaghetti hoop tins, crisps, cereal bars - I didn’t eat anything in labour but it was useful for afterwards – we had a midnight feast.
• toiletry bag - filled with: toothbrush and paste, deodorant, Evian water spray to keep cool in labour, massage oil, lip balm for hot dry ward, moisturiser, shower gel, dry shampoo for after, Arnica pills to lessen bruising, hairbrush and band)
• towel and bikini top if you’re considering a birth pool and want a bit of modesty (though when it comes down to it, you probably won’t care)
• camera, with memory card, and fully charged
• phone charger (and phone)
• iPod/phone loaded with lovingly-made ‘labour playlist’ that, if you’re anything like me, you’ll totally fail to listen to but like to know it’s there
• thick cosy socks – transition, before you start pushing, can make you feel really chilly
• a magazine or book (I took an easy reading childhood fave because I was told 'you can get bored'. It mocked me from the suitcase as I ‘oooh, ahhh’ laboured, but again it’s easy to slip in just in case)
• comfy clothes/food and drink for your birth partner
The hospital bag is definitely less glam than mini-break packing, but worth it when you come home with...
Lucy is a journalist, author and mum of two. You can read more about her adventures in parenting on her website, Run Out of Womb as well as following her on twitter @runoutofwomb and instagram @runoutofwomb.