Hospital Bag for Dads

There are about a billion links for mums for what to pack in the hospital bags, from the sensibly succinct to the outrageously overblown. But dads will need a bag too, especially if you’re going to be at the hospital for a drawn out induction process as I am. Note that until she goes into labour, chances are you won’t be able to stay the night, but you’ll still need supplies. 

  • Toiletries – You’ll want to freshen up. Don’t forget shower gel and shampoo, it’s not provided
  • Towel – In case you want a shower during a longer stay, again not provided
  • Phone, charger and headphones
  • Comfortable overnight clothes
  • Sandals or flip-flops
  • Layers – It’ll be hot on the ward, but if you need to pop out for air or supplies, it’ll feel cold. 
  • Change of clothes for coming home
  • Entertainment, whether book, iPad or what-have-you
  • Pillow – Seriously the chairs for partners are really uncomfortable and hospital pillows are tissue thin
  • Coffee – Hospital tea is fine, hospital coffee is an abomination
  • Snacks – The hospital shop will be expensive, and food options are only for mum. None for you!

Obviously this list isn’t exhaustive. But after three days in hospital so far, that’s what’s been of use to me or what I had to go back for!

Inducing a surprise

Eight days to go, that’s what we were telling ourselves. That’s what the calendar said and the midwife said and the doctor said. Our little lady though, she decided that the last days were going to go differently. We had a question around her reduced movement this morning, for which we went to the hospital for a check. Which is always okay to do, and you’ll never be made to feel bad for doing. They then recommended a scan, which was largely, mostly okay. But between all the points of mild concern, and the fact that we were almost at 39 weeks, the recommendation came down: Is it time to induce?

To be fair it was a question, a recommendation, but nothing was forced. But the signs were there, the bag was packed, it was time. It meant that I’ve been robbed of my movie trope: There has been no dramatic breaking of waters, apparently instantly leading to contractions, followed by a hilarious drive to the hospital and a dramatic entry into the maternity ward. Instead it was all calm, we were already there, and now it’s just waiting. Waiting to see if the different stages of induction take, and in what timeframe. It’s now a question of either hours or days.

Sadly until my partner enters labour, I can’t stay overnight. I have to go home and fret and text people. I have to not worry too much, and prepare the house and the dog and myself for what could be coming at any moment.

The phone’s on loud, and I’m poised and ready. I doubt I’ll sleep much tonight. Our baby is due to arrive any hour or day now. And I can’t wait.

Epidural vs Birthing Room

Ah, when we first discussed this, shortly after meeting the anaesthesiologist, this was largely cut and dried. Then came endless antenatal classes with all their talk of ‘normal births’, which are those of no medical interventions, vs the dreaded ‘medical births’, which are either the worst thing ever or perfectly normal, depending on whether you believe the midwives or doctors. So, the pendulum swung towards as natural and calm a birth as possible, one with hypnotherapy, scented candles, a birthing pool, light music and nothing stronger than gas an air, all from the comfort of the calming and medical equipment free birthing room. Epidurals aren’t available at all in the birthing room, and moving from one room to another at the peak of labour might be complicated.

Well you know what? It turns out there’s a middle ground. Maternity wards were already making provision for more natural births, with water baths and other facilities, before birthing rooms became a thing. Which means many labour wards have such facilities on site, as well as a separate birthing room. That, to us, and the advising midwives, seemed the best of both worlds. Provision for a calm, drug free labour, but if it’s required, all the facilities of the labour ward, including the epidural should it be required. So, we can try the water bath, we can utilise the hypnobirthing, but my anxiety levels can be mitigated by the knowledge that medical professionals have everything they need, should it be required.

NCT and Antenatal Clases

We’d heard a lot about antenatal classes run by the National Childbirth Trust; mostly that they were madly useful in terms of providing some information, but essentially they were a way of paying some money to meet local-ish parents with a similar due date. They were described to us as a necessary evil to garner a support network, by getting to know parents in a similar situation as you, and setting up a WhatsApp group for them.

After one session so far, that very much seems to have been a fair description. They’re a little thin on content, and the little exercises and games to teach you things, whilst interesting, are mostly there for the parents to get to know each other and make friends. It’s a bit of a shame that the catchment areas are so large, making future local-area meet-ups inevitably rare, but contacts are contacts. I know parents who’ve made friends for life via the NCT, and it’s really encouraging that there were so many dads present. This has actually been the case for all the classes so far, there’s been a pleasing lack of shirking of responsibility, and plenty of game involvement.

As well as the NCT classes themselves, the local hospital also arranged for a full day antenatal class, provided by an NCT teacher. The emphasis is totally different here, it’s about delivering lots of information and dispelling as many myths as possible in the time available. While friendships may arise, after all the catchment area is much smaller, and even the window of duty dates is narrower, but that’s really not the main focus and up to individual parents. There was a wealth of information here, in some cases shedding new light on things, or suggesting a new avenue for research.

I say ‘a new avenue for research’, because regardless of how authoritative the NCT trainer sounds, they don’t necessarily have any medical training themselves. They are not required to be doctors, midwives or nurses; they do have to go on extensive courses, but don’t think like I did that they are all practising midwives. They tend to deride a birth with any element of intervention as ‘medical’, vs the holy grail of the ‘natural’ birth. Now, in some cases this has provided new food for thought which I’ll cover in a different post, but it can feel a bit heavy-handed. Back in 2013, Kirstie Allsopp made her own complaints about the NCT about this public, to the dismay of some.

Overall, antenatal classes of some kind are useful, and I’d totally recommend them. Build your network of fellow parents and get what information and discussion you can. But, only use it as a base for information, by no means should you let yourself get bullied into a childbirth philosophy that may be at odds to your actual needs.