Time is finally starting to run out. Maybe that’s a bit of a weird way to say it, but at this point I have to assume there could be very little time left to read books, prep meals, or finish the final items on my pregnancy checklist. Of course, there could be over a month, but, at the same time, I have to trust that Steve and I have done everything we can to prepare for birth and a baby, and that, really, we’re ready. The world will not end if I don’t have the perfect birth playlist, every Mommy supply I might need in my first post-partum days, or a plan with five levels of backup for dog care (I mean, they’re pugs…all they really need is food).
With that in mind, the big task of the last week or so, something which will be really helpful if done right with plenty of time to spare, has been gathering, preparing, and packing the things we’ll bring to the birth of our little one.
I’m not calling it a hospital bag or a birth center bag because that just helps us keep an open mind to our place of delivery. If I go into labor before 37 weeks, I sadly won’t be cleared to birth at the birth center. However, after touring the hospital, I actually feel much more at ease about that possibility. We’ll be ready either way, and we’ll keep counting down the days until we can celebrate that all systems are go for a birth center birth (February 18)!
Since I could end up with either a 12 to 24 hour stint at the birth center, or a three day hospital stay, and we live an hour away from either place (assuming no emergencies that call for delivery at our local hospital), I’m trying to pack efficiently but adequately for a quick or extended absence from home. If we do get our wish and end up at the birth center, we’ll be slightly overpacked, but I say better to be prepared in this case than to have my husband driving back and forth to fetch belongings when he wants to be with our new baby.
My list is based on what the midwives advised, plus what I foresee as our individual needs, so I can’t say it’s the Pinterest-worthy, go-to list for every woman birthing outside the home, but hopefully it’s either interesting or gives you some ideas! Feel free to share what worked for your birth bag or what you’re planning on in the comments below!
What to Wear There
I’m really hoping to have my wits about me enough in early labor to change into an “outfit” I’ve laid out ahead of time. The birth center doesn’t admit until about five or six centimeters, so, fingers crossed that we’ll have some time at home to get changed and calmly pack up the car as soon as we realize that “this is it”.
I contemplated it, but you won’t find any cutesy floral labor robes here. While I love how they look, I can be very particular about the feeling of clothes, especially, say, when experiencing intense physical sensations. The last thing I want to worry about is itchy lace or a too-short robe, and I know that type of thing is kind of a waste of money, since I won’t use it much after delivery.
- Cute nursing/sleep bra: It’s all about the bra, at least if you’re as into Instragram birth accounts as I am. I recently discovered my new favorite maternity clothing company, Belabumbum. I ordered the Ariel sleep bra for labor, and it’s the best of all worlds. Cute, super comfy, and dark colored in case of stains/tub use. It basically feels like you’re topless. Once baby is out, it allows for pull-aside nursing access, and has minimal coverage to maximize skin-to-skin, in case I don’t have time to or don’t want to take it off.
- My favorite non-maternity sweatpants from Beyond Yoga (they don’t carry the ones I have anymore). They still fit but tend to show off a little belly–not something I’m likely to care about when 5 centimeters dilated.
- A big sleep shirt that will still offer some coverage and comfort when the pants go (which they will the second I get into a labor room). I decided to splurge on my first purchase from Hatch–I got “the nightgown” in black.
- Slippers. I needed new ones anyway, so I ordered these Acorn slippers and they are SUPER comfy. The soles can also go outside, and I’m sure changing into shoes before the car ride will be low priority. My other option is my paint- and food-splattered Merrell clogs, which are also super comfy. They’re not at all cute, but at least I won’t be concerned if they get splashed with bodily fluids.
- A jacket, hat, and mittens depending on the weather.
Depending on the time of day, I’m planning for Steve to be in jeans or comfy pants, socks and running shoes (important!), a belt, a T-shirt or comfortable/casual button down (the button down for Dad also serves to offer quick skin-to-skin access when baby arrives), and a sweatshirt. I’m not sure who will be more flustered when it’s finally time to go, so we’ll try to have some semblance of an “outfit” laid out for him in advance, too.
For the Car Ride
Our hour drive to the birth center or hospital is a little longer than most people would opt for, so I have a few items planned for comfort and/or an emergency delivery. Recommendations welcome for any comfort items that got you through a longer drive during labor!
- Birth/exercise ball
- Comforter – to warm up cold leather seats (I’ll be in the back bench seat, most likely.)
- A couple old, bath size towels
- Plastic trash bags, for all the fun stuff like…vomit. Or a placenta. But hopefully neither.
When it comes to luggage, our stuff will be divided into two categories: one bag that MUST come into the hospital or birth center immediately, with items we need for labor, and another bag or bags that can stay in the car until after, if things are moving quickly and there’s only time to grab one bag. These items are the things I consider essential for labor; everything else is below in “after delivery”.
- Phone tree list/numbers – likely only our parents will get word that things are progressing, and they’ll be the ones to alert my siblings.
- Camera (every night I make sure it’s in the same place and fully charged). We’re so lucky our doula knows her way around a “real” camera, so, if I’m doing well, I’m hoping she can capture some images of me and Steve during labor.
- Wallet/purse (probably the most crucial item in here is chapstick and hair binders)
- Food and drink for labor: we are really hoping for birth center on this one, since only a couple of the items below will be permitted if I labor at the hospital. Although I already have plans for sneaking snacks, if needed. Of course, I probably won’t be hungry for all of these things, but 1) it’s better to be prepared and 2) Steve will definitely need to have snack options.
- Fruit – whatever we have on hand at the time; usually grapefruit, pineapple, or apples.
- Granola bars: I use this recipe from Oh She Glows (pictured below). They’re already made, individually wrapped, and in the freezer.
- Peanut butter packets or PB and honey sandwiches. I have bread in the freezer at home, so I plan to either make a few sandwiches and freeze the whole thing, with plenty of time (maybe) to thaw if I take them out when labor first starts, or Steve can assemble a couple as I labor at home (or we can just throw the ingredients into the bag quickly, in a pinch).
- Water bottles: to be too specific, I’m packing the squirt-top cycling ones, because they’re easier to use in the car.
- A few tea bags for Steve
- Lemon Recharge (a truly natural electrolyte/sports drink). This one would probably be okay for the hospital, and it packs a lot of calories into a small quantity.
- Saltine and Ritz crackers – not the healthiest, but honestly, when doesn’t a Ritz cracker taste good?
- Honey sticks. Another one that would likely be permitted fuel at the hospital. They’re very easy to down if solid food isn’t sounding good but I need calories.
- Applesauce cups
- My childhood (and adulthood) blankie. Steve and I are in preliminary talks of me finally getting rid of it after labor. Or it works so well as a comfort item that I have to keep it for the next birth.
- Any labor motivators, strategies, and comfort items, such as written signs or reminders, pictures of my pups, playlists, or massage oil. I’ve really been procrastinating preparing this stuff. Maybe it’s a little intimidating, but I also know that deep down, I could kind of go the minimalist route and that I have the “tools” I need to get me through labor. I can check our family photo stream of the puggies, Steve and I have already talked about what I anticipate needing from him during labor (summary: no detailed visuals, just encouragement that I’m doing great and that it ends…with our baby!), I’ve banked a few of my tough or brave moments from life to reference as evidence of my own strength, and I feel confident that I can use my breath to get me through one minute (or one second) at a time.
- Swim trunks for Steve. Birth center rule: no boxer-clad (or unclad) dads in the tub. Unfortunately, they probably gleaned that one from experience.
- Wool socks, in case I decide things are getting to risky for my clean new slippers.
- I don’t know how else to say this: Depends. The birth center provides pads, but as far as I know they don’t have those disposable panties that everyone raves about and steals from the hospital, so I especially want to be prepared for the car ride home. If, like me about two weeks ago, you didn’t know why protection is needed post-labor, I don’t want to be the one to break that news to you.
For After Delivery
Here’s where the slight overpacking comes in, but it’s hard to say exactly what I’ll want after labor. My guess is it’s unlikely to be a concern: as long as I’m fed and relatively comfortable, my main focus will be giving our new baby all the snuggles and getting him or her started eating.
- Bathroom items for Mom and Dad: I packed the minimum for Steve (toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant) but was a little more comprehensive for myself. If we do happen to be “stuck” in the hospital, I’ll likely want to get cleaned up and get a few pictures of us looking moderately decent. So yes, the hair dryer is probably making the trip.
- Kindles/books/magazines (not like we’ll need them with a precious new baby to stare at, but just in case)
- Boots/shoes for coming home (if I wore slippers there)
- Nursing gowns/nightshirts. I bought these ones from Target and they’re really comfy.
- A couple nursing bras – I bought a few different brands so far, nothing super expensive, fully anticipating a possible size change. However, I do LOVE these pull-aside sleep bras from Belabumbum that are made of super soft Bamboo.
- Underwear (that I don’t mind throwing out later). Uniqlo has great, basic cotton panties that aren’t pricey.
- Loose comfy pants. This pair of black ones from Belabumbum is super cute with the lace detail, but they’re also highly practical with an incredibly loose waistband. These would even be great if things didn’t go as planned and I ended up with an emergency C-section, if so dictated by baby.
- (More) extra socks. I love love love my wool socks–they don’t get stinky and you can really wear them a couple days in a row without it being gross.
- Clothing changes for Mom: Nursing cami, open front sweater, and cute “cardigan”/going home top (the last one is no longer on the BBB website, so I think they ran out of stock!). All of these are very versatile, could be worn multiple days, can be mixed and matched, and are comfortable/conducive to nursing. They give me plenty of options for a slightly cute but totally functional “going home outfit”.
- Clothing changes for Dad: either jeans or comfy pants (whichever he didn’t wear for the trip there), two pairs each of boxers and socks, an extra shirt or T-shirt, and a baseball hat (to cover up long periods without a shower).
- Food and drink for after: the birth center has a full kitchen, and I’m really envisioning being able to heat up a homemade meal for afterwards (which will also feed our team of doula, midwife, and nurse if they’re hungry!).
- Lasagna or enchiladas from freezer (pictured above)
- Coke or Dr. Pepper – I have been seriously craving soda. No sushi for me; I think a sugar and additive-laden beverage is all I’ll want afterwards.
- Chocolate chip cookies and/or gooey pecan blondies (ready in the freezer)
- Champagne! The good stuff, and by that I mean Korbel left over from the baby shower.
For Baby! (The Fun Stuff)
Depending on the weather, we may remove a few things last minute. Right now we’re planning for a bit chilly. I’m really trying not to go crazy overboard on possible going home outfits, but we have to make sure this little guy or gal is looking adorbs for that car ride home and first entry into their new home.
- 2 onesie T-shirts, size 0 to 3 months: organic cotton from Giggle. I’m hoping the kimono style are as easy to put on as they look.
- Basic white hat to match onesies
- For a chilly ride home: Magnificent Baby quilted footie PJ’s and hat (who doesn’t look good in white?)
- For an unseasonably warm ride home: Roberta Roller Rabbit monkeys onesie and hat
- 2 pairs of white socks. Turns out that plain white baby socks are a very difficult item to locate!
- The hat and blankie my mom knitted for us
- Extra blankets: I tried to pick one from several of our immediate family, so they’re all represented. I have a heavy knit one from Koko’s Nest (thanks to auntie Tristyn) and this cute lion one from Magnificent Baby (from grandparents Schatteman), plus one of the lighter swaddles I got at my shower.
- Car seat. This baby is now installed and ready to go! We are feeling like such parents.
- A few newborn diapers. We plan on cloth diapering, but, assuming a not huge baby, he or she won’t fit into cloth until 8 pounds. I’m being obsessive and bringing a few of the disposable newborn brand we purchased since I know they’re much more eco-friendly and skin-friendly than other disposable brands.
- A few cloth wipes, in solution which I still need to make (recommendations???).
- Dirty diaper bag, in case we need a place to stash soiled linens on the way home.
- Burp cloths. After searching and searching, I finally realized that the old school burp cloths I wanted are actually pre-fold cloth diapers. I stocked up for cheap on white, organic cloths so we don’t have to worry about staining all the gorgeous swaddle blankets I received at my shower.
So that’s everything! As I finish this post, we’re two days from reaching a birth center delivery, and I’ll consider myself happily overpacked.
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