It’s getting down to the wire, and you and your partner are finishing all of those final preparations for childbirth. Mom has her hospital bags packed and waiting by the door. But how ready are you, dad-to-be?
Don’t leave it up to your partner to make sure that you’ll have everything you need at the hospital. “You definitely have to take care of yourself, because it could be a long labor and you have to be there for it,” says Armin Brott, author of Father Knows Best: The Expectant Father, Facts, Tips, and Advice for Dads-to-Be.
And don’t assume you’ll have time while she’s in labor to get a bag together. Paul Oswald from Conyngham, Pennsylvania, and his wife rushed to the hospital one Sunday evening sure that the baby was on its way. But her labor was progressing slowly, so with his wife’s blessing he left the hospital around midnight to get some things together at home. “The nurses later told me that they could literally see my shadow getting on the elevator when my wife screamed out in pain,” he says. Oswald got home to find a message on his machine announcing the birth of his son.
How to Pack
You’ll want to coordinate the things you need with the things your partner has already packed. According to Brott, you should try to get everything into one bag if possible. “Streamlined is better,” he says.
Don’t forget, you may have to move this stuff out to the car, into the hospital, between the delivery room and recovery room, and then back again. So with all that in mind, here’s a list of items you’ll want to have ready for your trip to the hospital.
What to Pack
- Watch (with a second hand)—This is going to be your most critical piece of equipment, so be sure you have a good, reliable working watch or stopwatch ready to go. Labor is not the time to realize that your watch either doesn’t have a second hand or you don’t know how to use the stopwatch feature. Take a few seconds now so that you can be sure to count those seconds accurately later.
- Wallet—This may seem like an obvious one, but it is easy to forget in the heat of the moment when leaving the house. You will need to have your wallet, insurance papers, etc.
- Change of clothes and comfy shoes—You never know when you’ll have to drop everything and head to the hospital. You could be in your Sunday finest or in the process of changing the oil in your car. Have a comfortable outfit set aside so you at least know you won’t have to rummage through the laundry pile when the time comes.
- Camera and film or video camera—Talk with your partner about what memories she would like captured and what she would just as soon forget. And don’t forget the charger and extra batteries.
- List of phone numbers and cell phone—You may make a round of initial phone calls when you first get to the hospital, and you will certainly make a few phone calls to announce the good news when the little one arrives. If you have all of your important numbers organized along with a calling card or cell phone, you won’t waste time rummaging through an address book or running down to the pay phone.
- Money for coffee and cafeteria food (including change for vending machines)—You may be able to count on family and friends to keep you nourished throughout the labor process, but if for whatever reason you are on your own, make sure you have enough money for a few cafeteria meals and some coffee. You may be there a while!
- Gifts for your partner and your new little one—See Top Push Presents and Baby Baubles for a few ideas on gifts for your partner. As for your baby, don’t sweat it. It’s really the sentiment that counts here, so keep it simple, like a new book or toy that you can share together in a few months.
- Water bottle and snacks—While the hospital has Mom covered, you will mostly be left to scrounge for himself. You’ll need to keep your energy up, and should have a snack sack available that includes some high-energy options, including nuts, cereal, or energy bars and a water bottle.
- Medications—Be sure to pack any daily prescription medications you take, and it’s also a good idea to pack some over-the-counter pain reliever in case of a headache.
- Toiletries—Even if you’re not staying in the hospital overnight, you may want to freshen up, so deodorant, toothpaste, mouthwash, a razor, and shaving cream are a good idea.
- Contact lenses and/or glasses—If you wear contact lenses, be sure to pack an extra set, a lens case, and solution.
- Reading material—Believe it or not there may actually be some down time while your partner rests between contractions. You won’t be able to get into any heavy reading (and no work!), but an easy-to-read magazine might just fit the bill.
- Birth plans—Although the months leading up to the big day may have included going over the birth plan, it’s easy to forget what to expect when the time comes. Take the information along in the bag just in case a reminder is needed.
- Music—Having an iPod, CD player, or other source of music can be helpful when looking for a way to relax or pass the time.
- Diary—Some dads like to write down what’s happening throughout the hospital stay.
- Entertainment—Whether you like to play handheld game devices or do crossword puzzles, it’s wise to pack something entertaining to keep yourself busy. There may be “downtime” when Mom is sleeping.
- Something to imprint—Many dads like to take a new, light-colored T-shirt along for the birth. Once the baby is born and they are doing the finger and footprints, you can request that the baby’s footprints also be stamped onto the shirt. This will create a long-lasting keepsake of the tiny prints.
- Cigars (preferably chocolate!)—The best part about all of this is that you are soon to be a proud new dad. Be sure to have something to pass around to all of those well wishers.
Oops! Forgot Something
And what do you do if you get all of these things perfectly organized only to find that they somehow got left behind in the shuffle? Brott says to seek help at the nurses’ station. Labor and delivery nurses are usually incredibly helpful, and they may be able to have someone pick up a few things for you or even offer you a pair of scrubs to change into.