Well, we’ve got to that stage where the baby’s arrival feels very close indeed, so much so that we packed our hospital bags at the weekend.  We’ve had loads of advice about what to take, from the sublime (‘biscuits and big knickers’) to the ridiculous (‘plenty of booze’), so I thought I’d share it.

I’ll start with the star of the show … the baby.  I’ve not had a particularly weepy pregnancy, but I have to confess that packing stuff for her did bring a lump to my throat.  I picked up this tiny babygrow and thought ‘we’re going to bring that back with little person inside it’.  Strange, magical, emotional and slightly scary all at the same time!  So, for her, we have some babygrows (in a couple of sizes, some full-length and some short); scratch mitts; socks; a hat (we were told they like a newborn to wear one for about the first four hours); a sleeping bag and cellular blanket (who knows how hot it’s going to be?); cotton wool and a bag of nappies; a hooded towel (we’re hoping for a waterbirth so I’d like to have something soft to wrap her in).

Then there’s me.  Clearly I’m much easier to cater for in the clothing department!  It does make me laugh, however, that all the recommendations say ‘comfy clothes’, the implication being that you might accidentally turn up in a corseted balldress and six-inch heels.  I discovered several weeks ago that maternity yoga trousers are a pregnant woman’s best friend, so that’s what I’m taking.  Then there’s the whole issue of what to wear during labour itself.  From what I can tell, most people just strip off (especially because it can be incredibly hot in a maternity department).  Given that I might actually want to walk around the hospital without terrifying anyone, I have a nightshirt and a set of nursing pyjamas.  That should cover all eventualities.  I also have some socks because apparently your temperature drops after the birth, and I’m not a slippers kind of a girl.  For the waterbirth, rather than opting for a bikini/tankini or similar I’m just planning to go in as nature intended.  Something tells me I really won’t care by that point.

For managing the labour itself, we have a tens machine (apparently brilliant for the early stages, but do remember to take spare sticky pads as they lose their stick quickly); hot water bottle; aromatherapy oils (lavender, clary sage and peppermint to be precise … apparently the hospital keep some too); a wooden back massager.  Sadly we’re not allowed candles.  The hospital have swiss balls, so we won’t be attempting to pack one of those, but apparently can be short of pillows so we have some on standby.  Comfort, as we know, is going to be key.  Again, given the warnings about the temperature on the ward, we’ll probably take a handheld electric fan and some water spritzers (but only if I manage to purchase them in time!).

Absolutely everyone has mentioned food and drink.  The recommendation is high-energy foods, and plenty of liquids (preferably in a sports bottle or with a bendy straw because you may be in a strange position for most of the time).  I’m planning to take some powerade-type still energy drinks (a very dry mouth can make eating difficult, apparently), some snack bars and fruit, and maybe some biscuits.  There is food available in the M&S at the hospital, but not around the clock, so we’ll have some change for vending machines too in case it’s needed.

Then there’s the whole host of other things you’re told to take for use after the birth: nursing bra and breast pads; paper pants (although with hindsight I wish I’d just bought cheap cotton ones); maternity towels (the less said about those the better); nipple balm; toothbrush, lip balm and toiletries (a good idea to do this in advance … a friend described decanting shampoo into minature bottles during full-on contractions  at 2am and doesn’t recommend it).  This is too much information, really, but I’ve also been advised to take some Fybogel immediately after the birth to make any subsequent, er, ‘movements’ as easy as possible.  Sound advice, I think!  And while we’re in the toilet, a couple of friends have suggested taking toilet cleaner or cleaning wipes because cleanliness can be an issue.

I think that’s about it.  My husband, N, is taking shorts and t-shirts (again, conscious of the heat) and a spare change of clothes in case I throw up on him.  Now there’s a lovely thought.  It sounds like we’re packing for a month, but I can assure you that all of this fits into one small wheelie case and one equally small holdall.  OK, except the pillows!

So now we really are ready and the waiting game continues.  The midwife came to visit me this morning and confirmed what I thought … the baby has moved down, her head is in my pelvis (although not fully engaged) and everything is as it should be.  Tick tock, tick tock!