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What You Wish You Had Packed In Your Hospital Bag

Six weeks before Greyson was born, I began packing hospital bag. I admit, it was a little early. Maybe it was the crazy-pregnant-lady-nesting that urged me to get packing more than a month before my due date.  Then again, maybe it was just wishful thinking that the kid was going to come sooner rather than later.

As I grabbed my hospital bag, I sat in my room, unsure of what the hell to pack. I was sure I had about 400 pregnancy books somewhere in my house that would put me on track – if only I could have found those books underneath the mountain of baby gear and crib assembly instructions and breastfeeding supplies and so on….

I remember Googling a few articles for advice and while some of the things on the list were helpful, some suggestions were just downright ridiculous. One article actually proposed bringing a basket of goodies for the hospital staff. Umm, really? Is that expected? Don’t get me wrong – I was thankful for the great care I was going to receive. However, I could barely find the time to do anything except work, sleep, and pee; The thought of whipping up some damn homemade cookies was less than realistic.

As shocked as you may be, I decided NOT to bring any home baked desserts for the staff. And even after all my planning and research, I did end up sending my husband home to pick up some things that weren’t on any hospital packing list that I had come across.

So today, I am going to save you some time and get straight to point about what you will really wish you had packed when you finally reach that much anticipated hospital stay.

The Essentials:

  • Pads – Yup. This is the very first thing on my list. Unless you want to use a maxi pad circa 1960 that feels pretty much like sticking a brick in your undies, then I suggest bringing your own pads (and buy extra long, with wings).
  • Large Undies – While some women apparently rave about the hospital provided “mesh underwear,” I have to admit that I hated them. Before delivery, I bought a pack of large, comfortable granny panties that I didn’t care about ruining and used those in the weeks after giving birth. I really wanted to include a picture of the mesh underwear, but I don’t want to scare you….
  • Ziploc Bags – The hospital that I stayed in ripped open the side of a newborn diaper and stuffed it with ice for me to sit on. Between the large brick-like pad, the mesh undies, and the ice-stuffed diaper, I was a hot mess. Next time, I will bring some Ziploc bags for make a proper ice pack.
  • Toiletries – I am definitely one of those people that hate going 24 hours without a shower (and sadly, motherhood sometimes puts a damper on that). I brought travel sized toiletries with me to the hospital. After two days of labor and delivery, I was finally free from IVs and monitors. And in case you didn’t already know this, having a baby is….well…messy. I was very thankful for a long, toasty hot shower.
  • Shower Towel – While we are on the topic of showering, the washcloth-sized towels provided by the hospital didn’t stand a chance in covering my 24 hour post partum body, so my lovely hubby went home and brought me back a normal sized towel (and flip flops so I didn’t have to face the hospital shower barefoot – what a good man).
  • Slippers – If you aren’t into rocking the halls in the socks with grips that the hospital will gladly give you, then toss your own comfy slippers in your bag.
  • Wipes – Unbeknownst to me, wipes are not recommended for newborns and are generally not provided by hospitals. (I know – you’re as shocked as I was). However, I’ve never cleaned a baby’s ass without wipes, so we brought our own. Look at that – I was a rebellious mother from the beginning.
  • An Old Robe – I packed a bunch of clothes for myself, but honestly, I spent the majority of my stay in my hospital gown and an old bathrobe. Whatever you decide to bring, just make sure you bring items that you don’t mind staining (yeah, sorry to be gross). Also, make sure you bring maternity clothing. Shockingly, you will still look just about as pregnant as you did around 5-6 months along. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, ladies.
  • iPod or Playlist – For me, this was the most important item on my list. I chose to listen to my favorite artist on Pandora, Amos Lee, while laboring. I had been listening this all throughout my pregnancy and it really helped me to stay (somewhat) calm throughout the delivery process.
  • Chapstick – If you are planning on doing all of the “heeee-heeee-whoooo” breathing, then you are going to need some serious Chapstick.
  • Headbands – Make sure to have several headbands and hair ties available. You are going to want your sweaty hair out of your face when you are pushing out that baby.
  • Baby Book – This sounds totally random, but the hospital asked if I had a baby book that I wanted them to stamp my son’s footprint in. I felt like a total slacker mom.  Obviously, it’s not essential, but if you want the hospital to do this for you, plan on bringing the baby book along.
  • Breastfeeding Supplies – If you are going to attempt to breastfeed, plan on packing some comfy nursing bras, breast pads, and nipple cream. You may even want to bring along a breastfeeding book for help. Our hospital had a lactation consultant available, but she wasn’t able to meet with us until our last day in the hospital. How convenient.
  • FOOD – This is BY FAR the most important thing on this list. If you didn’t already know this, they won’t let you eat once you are in labor. Let’s just say it was a LONG few days for me. I’m not even kidding, I called my best friend and she picked up a pizza for me immediately after my son was born. I was literally starving. I might have cradled that pizza in my arms before I even held my child. Plus, hospital food is horrendous. Plan to have someone drop off some sandwiches or have hubby run out to pick up some take out.
These are the hospital-provided non-slip socks. So yeah, pack your own socks and slippers....

These are the hospital-provided non-slip socks. So yeah, pack your own socks and slippers….

The Obvious Things:

  • Electronics – Don’t forget your phone, your iPad, or your camera plus any chargers you may need for your electronics.
  • Clothes for Baby – I let our son stay in the hospital provided clothing because it was simple and easy. We did bring one cute outfit because the hospital offered newborn photos, which by the way were pretty awful and expensive. We chose a really simple outfit to bring him home in, mostly because we had no idea how to dress a newborn.
  • Installed Carseat – If this item needs any explanation, you’re screwed.
  • Paperwork – Make sure to have your insurance information and your ID on you. Some hospitals will let you fill out paperwork a few weeks before your due date so that you don’t have to worry about it when you’re actually in labor. Very helpful.

Things You Won’t Need:

  • Diapers – The hospital will provide the essentials, like diapers. I tried to stash as many in my bag on our way out of the hospital as possible. Diapers are expensive, if you weren’t aware.
  • Diaper Bag – The hospital will probably have anything that you’d be packing in a diaper bag and most likely, you’ll be heading straight home so don’t worry too much about a diaper bag.
  • A Bathing Suit – One person told me to pack a bathing suit in case I wanted to sit in the birthing tub. Honestly, by the time I got to that point, I didn’t give a shit that I was sitting in a tub practically naked in a room full of people, as long as it meant that I was comfortable for a few minutes before my epidural.
  • A Birth Plan – I’m against the birth plan. I totally promote being informed about your options, but your little one will probably have their own plan in mind. Try to be as flexible as possible and remember that the only thing that matters is a healthy mom and baby.

Things to Have Ready at Home:

  • Advil – Lots of Advil.
  • Infant Ibuprofen – If you are having a boy and he will be circumcised, you will probably want some Infant Ibuprofen handy.
  • Stool Softeners – A reader suggested that I add this to the list and I totally agree. I was popping Colace like candy after my son was born.
  • Pads – I’m serious about the pads. Just buy a shit ton. They won’t go to waste.
  • Vasoline – Again, if you baby boy is being circumcised, your doctor may recommend applying some Vasoline onto the diaper for a few days to be sure it won’t stick to his wound.
  • Pacifiers – I swore I wasn’t going to use a pacifier, but I SWEAR, it got my through my first night at home. Luckily, my son only stuck to it for a few weeks before losing interest.
  • Food – Stock your freezer! You aren’t going to want to cook for a few days (or for a long time).

There you have it – the hospital bag essentials, with everything from pads to pizza. Like anything in parenting, you can prepare as much as possible but you won’t know what to expect until you’ve been through it. So good luck, keep breathing, and don’t forget your Chapstick!

Have a suggestion for an addition to the list??? Leave it in the comments below!

On Parenting and Public Restrooms

To put it simply, after you have children, there are a ton of things that are lot harder to accomplish than when you were a single, childless, idiot. And the reason why were you an idiot before you had children is because you had no idea how hard life was going to become after having a baby and you took all this shit for granted. Let’s talk about some of the little things in life that used to be easy and mindless. Taking a shower, for example. Taking a shit, even. Leaving the house. See my point here?

I could go on and on about the multitude of things that are insanely difficult to do when you have children, but I’m going to stay focused here and tell you about one of the things that I have recently realized will never be quite as easy as it used to be. Here goes: Peeing in a public restroom.

Before having children, peeing in a public restroom was easy. Simple. Gross, definitely, but easy nonetheless. Before having children, the biggest challenge that I ran into in regards to public restrooms was running into a long ass line of women waiting to pee at the bar after one too many cocktails.

After Greyson was born, using a public restroom required bringing my newborn into the restroom with me, posing a multitude of unanticipated challenges. I needed to attend to his shitty diaper before even contemplating allowing myself to pee, of course. And if you are a first time parent, undressing a newborn and changing a shitty diaper is a difficult task in the privacy of your own home and even more so while under pressure in a public restroom full of judgmental old ladies and a baby screaming his head off on the changing table. After finishing up with the baby, I’d begin to attempt to find a stall large enough to accommodate both me and my monster truck sized travel system stroller so that I could finally pee (that is, if I hadn’t already half way peed my pants at this point, considering a new mother’s bladder is useless at holding pee for any length of time – just another perk of becoming a parent).

And then there’s the issue of cleanliness. If it were acceptable and safe to just slather my entire child from head to toe in hand sanitizer or to just give him a nice once over with some Clorox wipes after exiting any public restroom, I would.

I would have loved to pass diaper changing duty in a public restroom to my husband on occasion. Unfortunately, most public places are still pretty sexist and don’t even consider the fact that a man may at some point need to change a diaper, causing them to completely neglect offering a diaper changing table in a men’s restroom. Similarly, most of the trendy places we enjoyed eating dinner at prior to having children don’t offer a changing table in EITHER restroom, pretty much just stating that children aren’t welcomed in such restaurants, and causing me to change a lot of diapers in the backseat of my car during dinner (until I smartened up and just accepted that it’s probably more convenient to eat at Applebee’s for the next 12 years).

I really believed that as soon as Greyson was old enough to come into the bathroom without the stroller and maybe even use the potty himself, it’d be easier. God, I am so naïve.

The first time that I brought Grey into a public restroom without the stroller, I was relieved to be able to move a little faster and change him quickly. Here comes the hard part. When it was my turn to pee, I realized that I had no where to put him. He was about ten months old at the time and wasn’t standing confidently on his own. I sure as hell wasn’t going to just plop him on the bathroom floor. I scolded myself for not thinking this through and resorted to holding him on my lap while I peed. Just imagine that. Trying to hold a squirmy ten month old monster baby while trying to not piss all over yourself. Sigh.

Last weekend, we took Grey to the local children’s museum. My husband and I played a quick game of Rock, Paper, Scissors – loser gets diaper duty, which turned out to be me, of course. He’s older, it’s easier, I thought. Right? Grey followed me into the stall and I changed his diaper standing up, since he’s such a big boy now. Then, it was my turn to pee. The smart, experienced mother would have probably just walked him out to my husband and then ran back in to pee (or would have anticipated what was about to happen). But no, I decided to roll the dice on this one. Almost immediately after I sat down, Grey started shoving his hands inside the feminine product disposal box and I began screaming at him not to touch anything. After that, he tried unraveling an entire roll of toilet paper, peeked at the woman underneath the stall next to us, and flushed the toilet like three times while I was peeing. Then, I saw a light bulb turn on inside his little toddler head as he reached for the lock on the door. There was nothing I could do except jump up off the toilet and lunge for the door before my child exposed me to all of the other mothers in the bathroom. Needless to say, it was embarrassing.

And for future reference, they really should make the toilets close enough to stall door in order for mothers to keep their children from unlocking it and running away while moms are mid-pee.

Before I became a parent, I never anticipated that something so simple as using a public restroom could pose such extreme challenges. But I’m sure once he’s potty training and done wearing diapers, it will be so much easier. Right??? JUST KIDDING. I’m not that naïve. We’re totally screwed.

Why Driving with a Toddler in the Car Totally Sucks

Driving with a toddler (or probably any child, for that matter) in the car totally sucks. It’s that simple. Here’s why.

Once your car becomes the official child chauffeur machine, you’ve lost the battle. Your backseat will become overrun with toys, crumbs, and crap. You name it, it’s back there. Once, I found a stale, half-eaten waffle stuffed into the back pocket of the passenger seat. And you know what? I have a feeling I know just who put it there.

Not so bad, you’re thinking. It’s just a waffle. But hold on. It gets worse.

This is a true story. One day, I picked up my son from daycare and noticed that he was absolutely covered in Play Doh. Of course, he had Play Doh in all of the usual places, like underneath his nails and stuck to his jeans. But not only that, this kid had Play Doh smashed into his hair and in his ears. There had to have been an entire can of this crap stuck to the bottoms of his sneakers. His brand new, suede, (expensive) baby Saucony sneakers. Obviously, no one else got the opportunity to play with Play Doh that day because the entire classroom’s supply of that shit was all over my child. So anyways, I picked off as much as possible and carried him out to my brand new Kia Sorento. I’m sure you know where this is going. Needless to say, the toddler kicked the back of the passenger seat the ENTIRE way home. That’s 17 minutes worth of Play Doh transferring from my kid’s (now ruined) sneakers to every inch of fabric on the back of the passenger seat in my brand new (now very dirty) car. I have to say, the guys at the detail shop at the Delta Sonic car wash are absolute miracle workers. The amazing thing is that they said it wasn’t even the first time they had to scrub Play Doh from the upholstery of a car. Just another reason I know that it’s not just MY kid that’s causing problems. It actually does suck to drive with any toddler in the car at any given moment in time.

Carting a kid around sucks for a multitude of other reasons besides the simple, inevitable fact that they will ruin your vehicle. If your toddler is anything like mine, he will almost always demand that a drink and a snack cup are on hand at any given time while riding in the car. And if you supply these items, you can almost guarantee that at some point during EVERY single attempted trip, no matter the length, your kid will drop that both those items. (If you give a mouse a fucking cookie… Am I right???) So there you will be, praying to God the next light turns red, even though you are already late for work, simply because you know that getting that stuff back into the hands of the toddler is crucial in order to avoid major meltdowns for the rest of the time that you are trapped in that car together. Just as undoubtedly as the fact that your child will drop those things, they will almost always roll juuuuuuust out of your reach as you try to turn around, straining from the driver’s seat, as you beg sweet Jesus to let that cup find its way back into your hands.

Or maybe it’s one of these other wonderful encounters that contribute to the reason why I believe that any length of time with a toddler in the car is hellish:

  • Setting out on a four hour drive to our in-laws’ house with enough diapers, baby food, and formula packed for at least three days only to realize that we left the diaper bag at home.
  • Traffic. Enough said.
  • Toddler Tunes. Also, enough said.
  • Driving through any amount of sun glare and listening to the toddler scream about how the sun should go back to sleep. Maybe someone else should go to sleep, too…. Ahem…
  • Feeling so content during the one trip in which my kid did NOT drop his cup, only to spend the remaining 12 minutes of the ride home listening to him cry about how his milk is all gone.
  • Answering a phone call through the blue tooth connection in the car and having to spend at least 15 minutes of any and every call (even to my OBGYN about my missed appointment) allowing the kid to chat from his car seat before I can even get a word in.
  • The stage when my child insisted on bringing either an extremely large or incredibly loud toy with him into the car every time we left the house.
  • Having to heave a 30 pound toddler into the colossal convertible car seat which is placed strategically in the middle and safest part of the backseat (and the area in which he is now least likely to be able to kick the back of the front seats…)
This is not a joke. We went through a time frame when he wouldn't get into the car seat without the shopping cart. WTF??

This is not a joke. We went through a time frame when he wouldn’t get into the car seat without the shopping cart. WTF??

Oh how I miss the days when simply strapping the newborn into his car seat was enough to make him fall asleep for hours on end….

I used to think he looked SO peaceful sleeping quietly in his car seat...... Yeah. Those were the days.

I used to think he looked SO peaceful sleeping quietly in his car seat…… Yeah. Those were the days.

Due to the location of our jobs, I spent September through December driving my son back and forth to day care every single day that I worked. I was envious of my husband’s quiet commute when I was a stay at home mother, and even more so when I went back to work and realized that commuting with a kid is a fucking nightmare. Occasionally, my husband would stop at the bar on a Friday night to pick up dinner on his way home from the office while I picked up our son from daycare. Now that my job has changed and my son has switched day care locations, my husband has been able to take on half of the day care driving. Cue Angels singing, “HALLLLLLLLELUJAHHHH!” And so, this past Friday night, he picked up our son from day care and I stopped at the bar to “pick up dinner,” (AKA have a glass of wine by myself before heading home… oh and picking up dinner). When I called my husband to ask what he wanted me to order for him, I heard my son screaming in the background from his car seat. After four months of solo kid commutes, I hung up, sipped my wine, and waited patiently for our dinner. And I have to say, I didn’t feel guilty at all….. 🙂

The Full Circle

Before my son was born, I planned to take an eight week maternity leave from my job before returning back to working full time. Maybe even less, if I felt so inclined. I loved my job and I was very career oriented. I couldn’t imagine spending so much time away from what I had worked so hard for over the past several years. At that time, I worked as the Center Director of a local children’s center that offered preschool and child care services. I was responsible for all daily operations of the center, ensuring that we followed each and every detailed state regulation, and managing a staff of thirty employees. It was a challenge, but I loved it. I was very proud of my center and my staff. Unfortunately, it wasn’t exactly the kind of position that allowed me to take too many days off at one time, much less a lengthy maternity leave. I was afraid that in my absence, things would fall through the cracks. Not to mention, I’ve never stayed at home for eight weeks with a newborn baby and I figured that I’d be itching to get out of the house.

It’s amazing how motherhood can change a person. In the hours before my son was born, I sat in my hospital bed, talking to my Assistant Director on the phone in between contractions to make sure she was ready to take over for me. I was worried about work and wanted to make sure we had tied up any loose ends. After what seemed like a very long weekend, my 9 lb. 2 oz. son finally made his grand entrance and surprisingly, I didn’t think about work again for the next eight weeks.

It’s not that I didn’t care about my job and how things were going, but I had a lot of other shit going on. In the beginning, I was focusing mostly on how to walk up and down the stairs without an excruciating amount of pain and blood loss and trying not to pee every time I coughed, laughed, or sneezed. Over the next month, I spent the remainder of my time trying to figure out how to breastfeed in public without flashing my breasts to the entire world and what to do when my newborn shits all over the car seat while out running errands (in some cases, even an extensive amount of wipes are not effective).

The day that I returned to work was one of the weirdest, saddest days of my life. I’m not an overly emotional person and thus I blame the hormones, of course. I dropped him off that morning and entered my office for the first time in eight weeks. I didn’t know what to do with myself. My Assistant Director had done an amazing job covering for me. She made sure my first day back wasn’t completely overwhelming in regards to the work load. There weren’t huge piles of shit for me to take care of. There weren’t any major issues I needed to address. Honestly, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I thought that bringing my baby to the day care where I worked would be the perfect situation for me. However, without a lot to do to keep me busy that first day, I sat in my office, listening to my eight week old baby crying down the hall and spent the majority of my energy (which I had very little of at the time) resisting the urge to run to him. After about four hours into my day, I pretty much decided that this wasn’t going to work out.

It wasn’t even just the emotional side of things. The UPS campaign, “We Love Logistics” made me want to punch someone in the face. I fucking hated the logistics of being a working mother. I hated trying to get myself ready and the baby packed while my husband traveled for work. I hated trying to find someone to watch the baby after work for me so that I could stay late for staff meetings. I hated pumping in my office and storing little baggies of breast milk in the staff lounge refrigerator. I know that there are a lot of women that are able to make the transition to becoming a working mother easily and smoothly, but I was not one of them. And so, four months in, I put my career on hold to get my shit together.

Over the 16 months following my resignation, I held all kinds of titles such as stay-at-home mom, work-at-home mom, mommy/nanny, part-time working mom, etc.  I did a complete full circle when it comes to roles as a mother. I have to say, they all have their challenges. Being at home with children all day was not always easier than going to work full time. It’s been two years since I became a parent and I am JUST finally starting to feel like I’m adjusting. I’m happy to announce that tomorrow is my first day back in the saddle as a full time working mother. It’s taken me two years to trust someone else to take good care of my son and to not feel guilty for pursuing a career. And you know what?? I think I’m even going to make UPS proud. It’s only 2:00pm and I’ve already got our bags and lunches packed and clothes laid out for the morning. Who loves logistics now?

ups

I’d love to hear about your experience as a working mother, stay at home mother, or some crazy combination in between! Leave me a comment below about how you adjusted and any advice you have for my return to work!