I'm not sure how I've never written about this on my doula blog, since I get asked about it all the time! The hospital bag. What do you really need? I'm totally an overpacker, which is fine. So, overpack until your heart's content if that's what comforts you, but don't overlook these essentials (and a few organizing tips from a obsessive organizer, as well!)
I recommend using several small(er) bags, each with a dedicated purpose. After one part of your hospital stay is over, that bag can be re-packed and even loaded in your car. It also helps when you're in the thick of things to be able to tell your doula -- "it's in my labor bag", instead of us rummaging through a super oversized duffle bag that has your stuff for labor, your postpartum stay, and your husband's skivvies.
1. The Labor Bag
* Small Snacks to keep your energy up. Honey sticks are great. Small packs of Nutella or Peanut Butter are perfect. A banana? Yes! Remember that your hospital may still be stuck in the past and have rules against eating during labor. But, if you choose you can eat these small snacks indiscreetly and still get that boast that your body needs to work it!
*Hair Ties / Hair Band / Hair Clips / Socks / Chapstick in a Ziploc Bag (so they don't get lost in your bag, and you can easily tell your doula "My hair tie is in the ziploc bag"):
* A Funny/Cute Game to pass the time and loosen you up. This one may seem odd. But... sometimes you get to the hospital and labor stalls, and your stuck walking halls or sitting around worrying. Or, perhaps you're getting induced and trying to kill some time. Or, maybe your water broke, and you're GBS positive, so your doctor recommends you go in to receive your antibiotics, but your contractions haven't started yet. A card game that gets your mind free and your heart laughing with your partner can absolutely kick start labor by loosening you up!!! I suggest the card game, Battle of the Sexes.
* A Lightweight Robe to wear to cover your rear end if you're wearing a hospital gown OR, if you decide to get in the tub, you can put this back on, instead of getting fully dressed (which may feel better to you, especially if you're in intense labor.)
* Sports Bra and/or Swim Top for getting in the water. Usually, if you're ready for relief in the tub, you won't care if you're wearing something on your bottom half, but most women still like to have their breasts covered (but, if you don't care, that's totally cool, too!).
* 2 Sets of Clothes to Labor In. I recommend a loose, cotton jersey skirt for your bottom half (easy access for pelvic exams, if needed!) and whatever is comfy for your top.
*Comfort Measures --- if you have a doula, you probably don't need to pack these things. I know that as long as I have time to grab my doula bag, I show up to every birth with the following things: essential oils, massage oil, rebozo, heat pack, tennis balls (for massaging). If there's anything else you think of that would be helpful for your comfort, then bring it!
Sure... there are other things that you could bring... such as your own pillow, items to make your room more "homey", etc.. but the above list are my "must-packs"!
Part 2 (the hospital stay), to come soon!