my hospital bag

Arguably there is no better metaphor for a woman’s last grasp at self-perception before an infant than the hospital bag. Misguided, optimistic, generous, cautious—it all gets packed. My bag usually ends up being half snacks (turmeric cashews are a recent favorite and several variations of homemade granola that I could eat forever). This time I’m adding a fresh, uncracked novel.

And there’s plenty of room for error. Last time, I remember thinking we were fools not to pack several rounds of energy drinks for Joe’s hormone-free all-nighter. We’ll fix that this time. And last time, I packed lots of chocolate granola, which was delicious, but also kept me up after I ate it all up at 4 am after Alma’s birth. As I type that I realize the irony: energy for myself at the wrong time, no spare bottled energy for my partner at the right time.

It’s something akin to the old saying for a woman’s wedding composition: something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. In place of something blue, I’d say something gently inspiring that reminds you can have a baby–whether because you did already or you simply believe that you can or someone else, like Ina May Gaskin, believes you can. This time it will be a necklace Joe gave me that has a tiny circle for each girl’s first initial. Can you believe I have four tiny pendants gently resting? Something new for me is a cozy set of sweatpants and sweatshirt that I know will feel wonderful to pull on afterward. Something old: so many things, but namely tattered slippers. Something borrowed: there are always things to reuse or borrow back in an infant’s collection of textile. I like taking arnica tablets in the days right after birth. And chapstick and face oil always seem to become rare and precious ointments in industrial-airway buildings.

Do you have favorite memories of mishaps or perfectly-packed?


  • Heather

    Mishap! My hospital bag was missing a hair brush, but had plenty of socks and pants, for July with monstrously swollen feet. The one thing I’m glad I brought was a beautiful robe, not because I wore it but because the hospital photographer took some amazing photos of my daughter with it. (due to the lack of the hair brush I’m not super pleased with how I look in the photos)


  • Katharine

    Mishap: packing multiple sets of pajamas. I just wore one long comfy nightshirt until the day I got dressed to go home.

    Perfectly packed: a bottle of lovely-smelled face mist, which I sprayed liberally all over myself to feel a little bit fresher/cleaner/calmer whenever I needed it.

    So many good wishes for you and your family!!

  • Leslie

    I was admitted to the hospital unexpectedly at 34 weeks so I hadn’t packed a bag. I remember tearfully running around the house shoving random things in the bag. I (idealistically) brought a hat I was knitting for the baby and baby shower thank you notes to write (but no pijamas or socks!). Thankfully we were sent home that night and I could re-pack before heading back two days later when we got to meet our sweet baby girl!

  • Laura

    Mishap: Serena was a precipitous labor, and I almost had her in the car stuck in traffic on the way to the hospital. In the scramble, I had everything I had packed in advance like the massage roller and hypo birthing scripts I thought I would need for a long first labor (and never got a chance to use!) but no toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, or hair comb! The hospital-issue ones came through in a pinch. 😉 Sending you lots of well-wishes for this new arrival!!

  • Megan

    I loved having LED tea light candles! Real ones weren’t allowed, of course, but the hospital lights are SO bright and jarring. The little lights were just perfect. During early labor, my husband made me our homemade “gatorade” to bring: just water with a little lemon/lime juice, salt, and sugar in it. So helpful to sip during and gulp after. My mistake was not packing any salty snacks, which was what my body apparently needed after labor.

  • Casey Mastrianna

    I’m working on my packing list right now; it’s so nice to have some other ideas to draw from! Our first birth went unexpectedly so we ended up in the hospital for a week and we were grossly underprepared. My husband brought a button shirt and shaving toiletries (that’s it!); I had most of my items, though the nightgown I’d packed wasn’t as long as I’d remembered. It was sweet, naive and pitiful all in one gulp! For our other births, we were better prepared, but found that our birth center offered much more than our first hospital stay had—like delicious snacks and home cooked meals. I’m actually looking forward to ordering off the menu in just a couple months!

  • Liz

    I forgot lotion and pampering toiletries but my lovely aunt brought me an Aveda gift basket. To this day, and my little one is 10, if I smell that hand lotion it reminds me of when she was born, makes me so happy!

  • Kim

    Win: ordering sushi delivery once the baby arrived and asking if we could leave early with our second…which they let us do! We felt more like captives with all of the lights and restrictions the second time around.

    I’m also a big fan of the Ina Garten Rosemary nuts; I’ve made them a labor and delivery and they’re also great late night breastfeeding fuel!

    • Rachael

      yes! nothing like sushi after pregnancy. We like to leave early too, though I do always feel a little spoiled by all the time in bed. Thanks for sharing.

      • Gretchen

        I stayed the standard 2 days after my first and wished we had left sooner- was perfectly healthy and had more support at home

  • mary mathews

    hahahahaha!!!!! this made me laugh as i thought of what i brought.

    2 pillows and 2 rolls of toilet paper…..that’s it!!!!!!

    blessings to you and your family.

  • Jen

    The hospital my second son was born in allowed essential oil diffusers. Bringing peppermint e.o. and a diffuser really made the room feel less like I was in a hospital and more like I was at home. It smelled so clean and fresh, I highly recommend it. A calming oil would be great too. The hospital staff particularly enjoyed it. I also loved having photos of my first son, special stones, etc for labor.

  • Deanne Koehn

    When you finally get to take a shower after giving birth make it as homey as possible. Bring your favorite shampoo, soap,etc. Most importantly, bring a big, cozy dark-colored towel. And then take a long shower. The nurses are watching the baby and this won’t happen at home.

    Also a long nightshirt made for nursing (you need easy access above and below for baby and nurses/doctors)

  • Cara M

    I brought an awesome sleeping mask for my eyes (fantastic when all those machine lights are blinking) and my ipod loaded with some great podcasts, birthing affirmations, and guided meditations. Even though my intention was to have a hypnobirth, I ended up having a c-section – the meditations were still so helpful! I’d recommend checking your expectations at the door and be ready for things to sometimes change.

  • Whitney

    The best thing I did the first time was pack a lot of snacks. The worst thing I did was send them home with my husband that night only to wake up RAVENOUSLY hungry. No one told me child birth and nursing would make me so hungry! The second time around I kept the snacks the whole time and had a much happier hospital stay.
    Congrats!!! And good luck!

  • Elizabeth

    I was desperate for sleep before and after baby #1 in the hospital but all the lights, machine beeps, and nurse checks kept me wide awake. For baby #2 I packed an eye mask and the small stretches of sleep were glorious!

  • Heather

    Mishap: a watermelon..full on knife..just a giant watermelon. I believe I was feeling super thirsty and thought it would be a wonderful healthy treat..ahahaahahahaha!
    The hospital bag was always my giant dilemma..picking it differently for each of my 4 kids and never getting it right..although..I never regretted the adult diapers I always made sure to pack..lifesaver!

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