In the bag: the return

I’m pleased to report that my three hospital bags provided pretty much everything I needed during my stay. However, I did inevitably overpack and next time would definitely try to reduce it to one!

I was given drugs to lower my blood pressure which affected Pip’s blood sugar levels. This meant we had to stay in hospital for 48 hours for monitoring. In the end this was extended to 72 hours, or three nights. All rather unexpected! There were the usual items such as maternity pads and disposable pants that I’d luckily packed almost enough of – I did have to supplement these with NHS ones on the last day but by then I knew I was going home so it was fine. More interestingly, there were a few things that (a) I’d suspected might be useless but turned out to be essential and (b) vice versa. Here is my verdict on my hospital bag contents.

Things that were surprisingly useful:

1. Snacks

Although I was provided with three reasonably substantial meals a day in hospital, they were not quite enough for someone who had been through labour and birth! My appetite was insatiable. Mr Cath did get me my longed-for brie baguette from Pret and I also had a couple of takeaway pastas from Carluccio’s, but in between I topped up with the cereal bars, nuts and dried fruit I’d packed in my hospital bag. I’d thought these would just be taken straight home again, but like the very hungry caterpillar I munched my way through them all.

2. Towel

As suspected, the hospital did provide a towel, but it was tiny. It was great to have a normal-sized one. But make sure you wouldn’t mind getting stains on it (nice!) Even though my towel filled most of one bag, it would be an essential for next time.

3. Compact mirror

There were two bathrooms next to my ward and the one with the nicer shower had no mirror. While I didn’t feel the need to look at myself much (and trust me, I lost ALL vanity while in hospital), it was useful to check I didn’t have a white blob on my face after moisturising.

Things I thought I’d need but were unused:

1. Clothes in general

gown

With the exception of my going home outfit, which consisted of a maternity vest and what Mr Cath calls my “white trash” tracksuit bottoms, I lived in hospital gowns for the three days. I guess this must vary from hospital to hospital, but the ones I was provided with were comfortable, cotton and most importantly decent (they had two ties at the back, dressing gown style, which ensured complete coverage). I could request a fresh gown any time I wanted and was even able to appreciate the different colours and patterns on them. As attractive as I found the gowns (remember I was on a cocktail of drugs and hormones…) their most important function of all was to protect the regular night clothes and other bits and pieces I’d brought with me. It was great to be able to leave all that behind me when we went home, rather than being faced with an unpleasant load of laundry or having to throw things out.

2. Book/magazine

You’d think three days hanging out in hospital would have made me desperate for reading material, but I never touched either of these. I suppose if you were by yourself recovering from something, you’d want entertainment, but for me there were two major distractions: Pip and Mr Cath. Mr Cath was there every day keeping us company. After he left at night I just slept and fed/stared at Pip, and during the morning before he arrived I had the breakfast trolley to amuse me. While Pip was asleep, I also found that (attempting to) keep up with emails and texts on my phone took up loads of time, probably because as I was still getting used to the thing I typed at a snail’s pace.

3. Makeup bag (apart from the mirror)

Although I’d wanted to look decent for photos, in the event I had no desire whatsoever to even put lipstick on. This despite my awareness that I resembled Caspar the Friendly Ghost (my Mum told me later that she’d never seen me so pale before…ever) – I’d lost quite a bit of blood during labour, not enough to need a transfusion but enough to be put on iron tablets and definitely enough to justify a touch of blusher. Oh well!

4. Breast pads

By the time my milk came in I was safely home. You don’t need pads for colostrum (or at least I didn’t – it was hard enough trying to intentionally squeeze the stuff out!) However, I guess you’d need these for longer hospital stays.

5. Dressing gown

I only used this once, when I suffered some feverish chills. Otherwise the hospital was warm enough and the lovely NHS gowns were all I needed. For the amount of space the robe took up in my bag, I couldn’t justify bringing one again.

And finally, here are some things that I thought might be useful and was indeed very glad we hadn’t forgotten:

1. Phone charger (because the smart one needs to be fed almost as often as Pip).

2. Hair bands.

3. Two lip balms (one rolled into the next cubicle and until I eventually got it back I was really grateful for my backup. Hospital air makes lips VERY dry).

4. Plastic bags (there was no bin in my cubicle and I didn’t want to trek out to the main bin every time I ate a cereal bar…nor did I want to just drop stuff on the floor. It was my temporary home after all).

5. Flip flops to wear when going to the bathroom.

6. Proper camera (not just a phone one).

7. Eye mask and ear plugs (it’s light in the ward, even at night, and yes you CAN hear your own baby with ear plugs in, despite the extreme exhaustion!)

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