Want to help out before the big day? Considering volunteering to pack the hospital (or labor) bag, which is like packing for a vacation that will result in bringing more people home than you left with and with much more placenta involved.
Packing the bag may sound over your head, but you can do it. You'll want to double-check with your wife to make sure everything is covered, but if you stuff it with the items below, she's going to know you thought this out. Everyone has slightly different needs, so take these as a base guide. The best hospital bag leaves you feeling prepared, covered for most scenarios (a family member can always run back to grab more), and will ease the anxiety of labor and delivery.
What you should pack in the hospital bag for her:
- Toiletries: The hospital likely will provide some basics but you might as well make sure she's covered.
- Designer maternity gown: Optional? Hell yes. Awesome? Absolutely. My wife got a hospital gown that made her feel a little more comfortable and not so "blah", and you know what? Why not? It made her feel more at ease when she was in labor, and that's worth it. Plus, it's cool for the photos. Optional idea: Let her pick one out and buy it for her as a push present.
- Lotion: Good idea to have on hand for stretched or dry skin.
- Essential oils: If she's into it, essential oils such as lavender can have a calming effect. I had some on my wrists so that as I helped her with delivery, she could smell it.
- Blanket: Expect temperature changes! And sometimes a blanket from home can add to the comfort level. Again, this is all about comfort. If there is no special blanket, skip it - the hospital will have some.
- Music: A playlist for the labor process can be a fun thing to plan together. Figure out if you should bring a mini bluetooth speaker and decide if you need WiFi to play it (finding out the WiFi situation is something you should find out regardless - is there a password? A fee? You may have lots and lots of downtime waiting for the action and Netflix might come in handy). We had this song playing when my son was born.
- Snacks: Warning - some anesthesiologists forbid eating before delivery because of risk of throwing up. Others are fine with it. Many moms, including my wife, think the benefit of having some energy for the huge physical task ahead is more important than the small chance of throwing up during a C-section, but you'll want to talk to your doctor ahead of time. If it's OK - or if you want food for after - pack some things you know she'll like that don't require refrigeration. You can't assume she'll want anything from the hospital. Pregnancy, as you may have heard, has a habit of making finicky eaters.
- Face wipes: To help her feel refreshed after sweating during delivery but before she's ready for a shower.
- Socks with tread on them/slippers: Some hospitals provide them.
- Something calming to put within eyesight: Could be a framed photo of her family or pet. Could be a religious thing. Could be a cast photo of Real Housewives. Whatever might make her smile a little during a stressful time that you can park somewhere in eyesight, it might be worth tossing in.
- Chargers: Because you're going to be there for awhile. Side note: This is easy to forget at the hospital - nurses have told me they have a huge collection of forgotten phone chargers.
- Clothes to go home in: Even though the baby is out, she'll still likely need to wear her nine-month maternity clothes, but at least it'll be nice and fresh.
What you should pack in the hospital bag for you:
- Camera: If you have a nice camera, it'll take much better photos than your phone will indoors. Talk with your partner ahead of time to find out what she's comfortable with - does she want photos during the delivery process? Just afterward? Any particular moment? You can be the man for that.
- Snacks: You're going to get very hungry and also won't be able to slip away to the cafeteria easily, so bring something for yourself.
- Clothes: I didn't bring enough clothes. I had to wear essentially the same thing for three days. Don't be me.
- Chargers: Same as above.
- Insurance card: If you've been to the hospital before, they should have you in the system, but it's good to be careful. Also good to talk to the insurance company ahead of time: What's covered? What will you be responsible for? Even with insurance, labor & delivery can cost $1,000 or more, easily, especially if the NICU is involved. (It can also be free on your end if you already met your deductible, in the event you're on that type of plan.)
- Cash: Vending machines. Coffee at a kiosk that somehow doesn't take a card. Possibly for parking.
WHAT YOU SHOULD PACK IN THE HOSPITAL BAG FOR the baby:
- Outfit for the social media photo: At this point in society, the first "official" photo of the baby is something parents stress about. #firstworldproblems. Your wife probably already has an outfit picked out - don't be the idiot who forgot to bring it.
- Car seat: Also don't be the idiot who forgot to bring the car seat. Have it pre-installed in the car. Police departments and other organizations often have special days where they will check your car seat installation for free, as most people don't do it right the first time.