Whether you plan to hop on the trendy delivery wagon and have your baby at home with a doula, drop your baby in the rice paddies, or trundle off to the hospital like most post-industrial society folks, you’ll need to be prepared ahead of time. Once the wailing starts, there’s often little time for clear-headed thought.
First, put together a hospital bag with the following items, and store it in a convenient, easily remembered (and reached) spot. Not everyone will need everything mentioned here. Use these suggestions as a guideline.
- Ready cash. Don’t wait until 3 a.m. on a Sunday morning to realize all the ATMs in town are either empty or down. Be prepared. You’ll need money at the hospital for important items like the toothpaste you forgot, a cup (or 20) of coffee for yourself, or flowers for your wife. And cigars are trendy again, so why not indulge in a box for your proud announcement?
- A folder containing insurance cards, hospital preadmission forms, and any other documents you may need. Have you decided on a name yet? Perhaps you should include a short list of names to jog your memory, or a booklet of potential names to help you decide.
- Clothing for the new mother; an old, comfortable nightgown, warm socks, changes of underwear, slippers, etc.
- A watch with second hand to time contractions. No sense in jumping the gun; labor can take many, many hours before getting to the good part. Conversely, it can strike with alarming rapidity; better to know where you stand.
- Any birth/infant care books you may wish to refer to while you wait. A copy of every Suite101 “Expectant Fathers” column ever written.
- A swimsuit for mom, if she plans to give birth in a newfangled tub.
- Your camera, film and/or video camera. Don’t forget to actually take some pictures of junior once s/he arrives. Documenting the actual delivery is your choice. Personally, I find it distasteful. There’s a reason men were excluded from the “birthing” chamber for centuries. Some men prefer not to see their wives in a new, somewhat distressing and always eye-opening way. Rest assured that the rest of the world DEFINITELY will not beat down your door to share this recorded experience with you.
- Any pain-easing tools recommended by your birthing class that seem remotely useful, such as tennis balls to squeeze, hot or cold packs, or a rolling pin. Be forewarned, however: Your spouse may well be tempted to use the latter on YOU in the delivery room.
- Reading material for yourself. The wait can be long and tedious. Haven’t you always wanted to read “War and Peace”?
- Any personal items you or your spouse will need for an extended hospital stay. Does she wear contacts? Need her glasses? Wear makeup? Shampoo her hair?
- Finally, bring a list of phone numbers of friends and relatives you want to call with the exciting news. They really do want to be the first to know. Everyone enjoys getting in on the excitement of a birth.
Last, but not least; buy and install your baby’s infant car seat for the trip home. In most places it’s required by law, and it’s certainly the right thing to do. Anything else is just too dangerous. And now may be a good time to invest in a set of spare car/home keys. It’s no fun to scramble around the house in a panic in the wee hours searching desperately for your keys. Have a set ready and waiting in your hospital bag.
And finally my really, really last recommendation: Relax. Enjoy. The fun’s about to begin