Five weeks into the whirlwind of being a new parent I’ve finally got round to unpacking my hospital bag. BC (before child) it would never have taken so long. I’d actually forgotten about it and had simply moved it into a corner under the Mulberry handbag that is now gathering dust alongside anything else remotely fashionable or stylish, and clothing that doesn’t have easy access to my boob.
Going through the bag and looking at its meticulously planned contents, I realised how much my life had changed since I packed it all those weeks ago. I thought this for two reasons.
1) The way I had obsessed over getting every single thing from various ‘hospital bag check lists’ that I had researched prior to my son’s birth.
2) The fact that due to the speed and unpredictable nature of his arrival – the start of everything being unpredictable – I had used pretty much nothing from it.
BC the hospital bag was a slight obsession of mine. Once I got to 35 weeks it became my thing to do, the last piece of the pregnancy puzzle to complete before baby’s arrival. I became consumed with the idea that the baby would arrive and I would have nothing for it to wear. I started to think I would need a suitcase, not an over night bag, for the other 300 things I needed to buy.
So, getting the bag ready became a mammoth task. Hubby and I looked at various websites to get an idea of what you needed, as well as the list that we had been given in our antenatal class and recommendations from friends. It was a long list. And one Saturday morning we headed to Oxford Street, list and pen in hand and on a mission.
First stop was Primark. Not a fun place to be on a Saturday. This was for nighties. I bought two – one to give birth in and one to wear afterwards. I was pretty sure the one I gave birth in would get ruined. I also bought a light dressing gown for ‘walking around the ward’. I wore none of them. Actually that’s a lie. I wore the dressing gown home. I had to. My waters broke in the leggings I had intended to wear. For the journey home I also wore pyjama bottoms, fluffy socks, my Converse trainers and a dressing gown. I was not a pretty sight as I shuffled out.
Luckily my mother in law had bought me all my mini toiletries so that was one less stress. I used none of them. I could barely lift my head from the bed let alone contemplate a shower. I was also told to get water spray to cool down my face during labour – I think I would have punched someone if they had started to spray that into my face. Two bottles of it are still sat in my bedroom. Perhaps I’ll get some use out of it in the summer.
Other things I was obsessed about getting:
Lavender oil (this took me about 3 weeks to find and trips to numerous heath food shops) which was meant to be calming during labour if used to help massage ones’ back. I would have punched someone if they had tried to do that. As you probably guessed – it wasn’t used.
Arnica tablets – I took them on and off for about 3 days (apparently they help with bruising). They taste like sweets and appeared to do nothing. The other thing I so desperately needed?
Bendy straws. Everyone in my antenatal class said to get them as it’s important to keep hydrated and it means someone can keep giving you water whilst you are using you hands to either punch something or claw your husbands skin. You’d think it would be easy to find them. It’s not. I eventually found them in Ikea. I am now the proud owner of 800 multicoloured straws. I didn’t use one of them, but now have a lifetime supply.
For me (and hubby) the most important thing on the list was ‘snacks’. It has been drilled into us in our antenatal classes that food is the most important thing during labour as you can be in there for hours. Being greedy people, we didn’t need telling twice. We bought loads. Unfortunately I ended up eating most of it beforehand at home and forgot to replace it. All we ended up with was a bag of yoghurt-coated raisins. We ate them about a week after he was born. Plus, the last thing I could ever have contemplated during those few hours of torture was eating. It took me about a week to get my appetite back.
Lastly I had to buy clothes for my baby to wear. This I found the most scary. This meant we were actually having a person that we would have to dress and look after. This made it very real. A few weeks beforehand I had to have a growth scan, as they were worried my bump was too small. It wasn’t and everything was fine, but it meant I knew that if I went full term my baby would be early 7lb. They were right, he was 7lb 2oz. This also meant I had to buy tiny baby clothes as newborn would be too big. We found a lovely set in Mothercare with vests and trousers and baby grows. It was very cute and meant my baby had a fancy outfit on his first outing in the outside world.
I had also been sent a beautiful set of clothes from a company called The Essential One. It was designed to give you everything you need to get you started at the beginning and came in an array of unisex colours. He has lived in them ever since. It’s a shame he’s grown out of them now.
So, as we left the hospital and I carried my son to the car I looked around and was genuinely surprised to see that the world was carrying on as normal. Did no one realise that the most precious being in the whole world had just been born to hubby and me? Why wasn’t everything standing still? As I thought this I looked round at hubby to share my joy, but he was struggling under the weight of my hospital bag.