Monday, May 30, 2005

Advice for Expectant Dads: Stuff to Take to the Hospital

by Leanne Phillips

In the rush to get mom to the hospital and to keep her happy and uncomfortable, dads are sometimes overlooked. If you are an expecting dad, you may be spending long hours at the hospital awaiting the birth of your child. While you want to be as supportive of mom as you possibly can be, be sure to take care of yourself as well. Plan ahead, and while mom is packing her hospital bag, pack a bag of your own. Here are some things you should be sure to bring with you to the hospital to make the event go more smoothly and to keep you comfortable while you await the happy event.

1. Books and magazines. Waiting for baby is an exciting time, filled with lots of hustle, bustle and activity throughout the hospital. There can be a lot of down time, too, though. Mom may spend time sleeping in between rounds of contractions, or there may be times when you are relegated to a hallway or to the lobby while mom is undergoing certain procedures. Plan ahead for this down time by bringing along with you a book that you have been meaning to read and several magazines. You may find that you are unable to concentrate fully enough to get into a great novel. Magazines are great for skimming when you need something to occupy your time, but are a little too distracted or tired for heavy reading. Consider packing a couple of magazines for mom, too, or even your baby name book if you have not yet decided definitely on a name.

2. Address book. Make sure to pack your address book so that you have the telephone numbers of your family and friends with you at the hospital. If you had to leave the house in a hurry, you may not have had time to call anyone who needs to be notified that mom is in the hospital and is getting ready to deliver. You may want to notify your wife's mother, if she is planning to come to the hospital to be with her daughter, or if you think she will be of comfort and help to your wife during labor. You may also find yourself in need of a little comfort, or someone to talk to, while you wait for your wife to give birth. Have the telephone numbers of your own friends and family available so you can call to give them updates, or even just to chat when you are feeling nervous or stressed. Also, you will of course want to have those numbers handy so that you can notify family and friends once the blessed event arrives and your new child is born.

3. Medical or insurance card. To ensure that things go smoothly at the hospital, make sure you have your medical card, insurance card or insurance information available and handy for the trip to the hospital. This can speed up the admitting process and allow you to spend valuable time with your wife, comforting her and assisting her during labor. This is preferable to being stuck in the hospital's admitting office, trying to sort out insurance issues or confirm insurance coverage, while your child is being born.

4. Hand grip exerciser or stress ball. A good thing to bring with you to the hospital is a hand grip exerciser. These exercisers have two handles which meet in the middle with a spring in between them. You use the exerciser by gripping the two handles and pulling them closed together against the force of the spring, then releasing. Another item you may wish to bring with you is a stress ball. These are small, pliable balls that you can squeeze and release in your hand. If you do not have one of these and are not able to buy one in time, you can grab a tennis ball or other small rubber ball to bring with you instead. While your wife is in labor, it may be very helpful to her if you rub her back or massage her tight neck muscles when she is tense or in pain. Your hands can get very tired and stiff from this activity. If you have a hand grip exerciser or stress ball available, be sure to use them in between massaging your wife's sore muscles in order to keep your hand muscles loose and free from pain.

5. Money and snacks. The trip to the hospital sometimes comes with little or no advance warning. You may not have time to swing by your bank's ATM on the way to the hospital. It is a good idea to pack some cash in your own hospital bag so that you are prepared for your stay at the hospital. You may spend many, many hours at the hospital while your wife is preparing to give birth. You will want to make sure that you have money with you so that you can purchase food, snacks, coffee, soda pop or bottled water from the hospital cafeteria or vending machines. Remember, too, you may not always be able to get away from the birthing center when you are hungry, so it is a good idea to pack a few snacks to bring with you to the hospital. Nutrition bars are a great quick snack.

6. Quarters. Be sure to also pack, in addition to your cell phone and telephone calling card, one or two rolls of quarters for making telephone calls from the hospital pay phone. You may not be permitted to use your cell phone in the hospital, and even if you are, you may find that you get little or no reception due to the hospital's machines, computers and equipment. Also, it can be frustrating to have to dial a billion numbers for each and every telephone call in order to use a telephone calling card. Save the calling card for long distance calls and have plenty of quarters available for making local calls.

7. Hobby paraphernalia. If you have a hobby or interest that is somewhat portable, it may be a good idea to pack up your hobby equipment and bring it along with you. Many men nowadays enjoy hobbies such as knitting or embroidery. If you do not have a portable hobby, consider starting one. Hobbies like this are not only fun, constructive and portable, but are extremely relaxing and good for your mental well-being. On top of that, just imagine how impressed your in-laws will be when they arrive at the hospital and find you knitting a pair of booties for your brand new baby.

8. Stuff for mom. Be sure to pack a few things to help keep mom comfortable during labor. She will appreciate your thoughtfulness. Some things to pack include the following: Lotions and moisturizers, a mister bottle of water and some of her favorite things from home that may make her feel more comfortable and at ease. For example, she may appreciate having a favorite blanket available. You might also consider packing a few of her favorite photographs, perhaps photos of the two of you when you were first dating or from your wedding. If you have other children waiting at home for their new baby brother or sister, be sure to bring photos of the children. You might want to bring a few framed family photographs and place them on her bed table or in the window sill where she can see them. That way, she can feel surrounded by her family even when they cannot be right there with her.

9. Cameras. Definitely do not forget to pack your camera, digital camera and/or video camera and plenty of film. You will want to capture every moment of the blessed event on film. It would be a real shame to forget the camera and not have photographs to look back on in years to come. Take photographs of your wife while she is in labor, but only with her prior approval. She may not feel like having her photo taken, especially in the later stages of labor. Before you take your wife's photo, ask her permission and offer to help her with her hair and freshening up so that she looks and feels her best. In the midst of labor is often not a time when a woman feels her most attractive, so be sure to be sensitive of this fact. You might even take group photos of the nurses, doctors and midwives that are helping you so that you can remember them in years to come, as well as photos of family and friends that come to visit you, mom and the new baby. Of course, you will want to take photos of mom and the new baby once the baby arrives. Ask a nurse to take a photo of the three of you together. This is something that is often missed.

10. A change of clothes. While mom is packing her own bag with nighties, slippers and extra socks, make sure to pack a few things of your own. Bring at least one full change of clothes and, perhaps, a couple of clean shirts, a pair of comfortable tennis shoes, several pairs of socks, several changes of briefs or boxers (your choice), a shaving kit, soap, toothbrush and toothpaste. You may be spending several hours to a day or two at the hospital without being able to get away for a shower. You can keep yourself feeling clean, refreshed and comfortable by being prepared for that contingency and bringing these things from home.

Copyright (c) 2005 by Leni Leanne Phillips

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