When you are close to delivery you may have some time on your hands. You will be thinking about the big moment, playing it over and over in your mind. If this is your first baby, you're likely to over-prepare, because you really have no idea what to expect. One thing you can do during this time is pack your hospital and baby bags. You know that this is not something you'll want to worry about once labor begins—your organizational skills might very well be a little challenged at that time.
Your Overnight Bag Basics
Although you'll be wearing one of those handy dandy everyone-can-see-your-butt gowns during delivery, you'll want to bring some comfortable sleepwear of your own. If you're planning to breast-feed, you can buy adorable, feminine, comfortable nightgowns designed specifically for that purpose at any store that sells maternity wear. (You'll probably want to bring several, even for a short hospital stay—you'll be surprised how many you'll need as you learn to maneuver around your infant and your lactating breasts.
You may want to pack a robe to throw on when people come to visit you at inopportune times. You'll also want to bring one or more nursing bras with nursing pads. You will not believe how heavy your breasts will feel when your milk comes in. A good nursing bra helps your back and also supposedly helps prevent your breasts from sagging.
For actual delivery you will want some very warm socks. Your feet will get cold and socks will make you feel much more comfortable. You can wear them all through delivery. It may not seem important, but every little bit helps.
You'll want to pack a coming-home outfit, but don't expect to fit into your prepregnancy jeans right after the baby comes. You'll be happier—and much more comfortable—with something you were able to wear in your fourth month of pregnancy. It's also traditional to pack an outfit to bring baby home in, along with some receiving blankets. Your newborn will have his or her first snapshot taken in the hospital nursery and will be haunted by that picture for the rest of his or her life. Choose that first photo outfit wisely.
And don't forget to pack personal items like shampoo, makeup, hairbrush, and toothbrush. It is no big deal if you forget—these items are available at any hospital—but you may be more comfortable using your own things.
Your birth coach is someone who trains with you in natural childbirth and will be in the delivery or birthing room while you deliver. You need to choose a person who will ease your experience—the coach is there for your benefit, to help you through contractions and see to your comfort.
When you are in early labor, a massage is particularly welcome. One good, inexpensive massage tool you can make for yourself is to put tennis balls in a sock—your partner or birth coach can use them to rub your lower back. They create just the right amount of soothing friction. There are also wonderful massage tools available at stores like The Body Shop.
You'll want to tuck some lollipops into your bag, too. You will not be permitted to eat or drink during delivery, so your mouth is going to get very dry. Your birth coach will be allowed to give you ice chips (with your nurse's permission) and you will likely be permitted to suck on a lollipop, so you'll want a few on hand. They're simple things, but you'll soon see how important such simple things become.
Other Packing Options
Some people like to bring CDs or cassettes of soft music to play while they're in the delivery room. Only bring something you really like. You want to surround yourself with things that relax you and give you some element of pleasure, in contrast to the pain.
Remember to bring a still or video camera if you want to capture precious first moments for posterity, but I recommend that you decide ahead of time just how personal you want your baby's birth documentary to be. Childbirth does not have a great deal of dignity associated with it, and I, personally, would not want my you-know-what captured on film.
Some people like to bring note cards so that they can send baby announcements or work on thank yous for gifts while in the hospital. But remember that while you're in the hospital, you want to concentrate on resting and spending time with your newborn. You need this time to take care of yourself and to adjust emotionally and physically to your new role. If you enjoy filling out announcements or writing thank you cards, then by all means bring them with you. If they are a pressure or a chore, leave them at home.
Pulling It All Together
Pack all your essentials in an average-sized overnight bag and have it ready and waiting for the big moment. Leave it in plain view so that even the most freaked-out partner, friend, or birth coach can find it with ease. Your goal is to eliminate as much stress as possible. Your partner can pack his own bag with snacks, books, magazines, or other amusements—and maybe a bottle of sparkling juice for your after-baby toast.