‘What the heck have my 5 Senses got to do with my hospital bag?’ I hear you say! Read on to find out 🙂 …
There are a zillion hospital bag lists out there and you can read one here too. I can’t actually remember what I packed in mine, but I’m pretty certain I only used a fraction of what was in there! It’s hard to know what we may want when in labour, but if you link it to your senses you’ll do well!
Sight – A woman in labour does best if the room is dark and cosy. When the environment is like this she can really let go and relax without feeling observed or watched over and the delicate and perfect orchestra of hormones work beautifully together when a woman is undisturbed.
Sometimes lighting is hard to manage when you leave home and go into a brightly lit hospital setting, or if it’s a bright, sunny day. Most labour rooms have dimmer switches, but you can also bring along some portable, stick on black out blinds to block out as much light as possible from the windows. You could think about bringing an eye mask too.
It can be hard to stay in your zone when transferring from home to hospital and leaving your nest can increase adrenalin because of course it’s exciting, but also all a bit real suddenly! Adrenalin can hinder the birthing process so to try to keep calm with an inward focus and manage the journey from home to hospital by wearing your sunnies with a big hoody on. Some women love this internalisation so much they keep this up throughout labour too! And why not! Don’t be concerned about what others think – you’re unlikely to see them again, and if shutting the outside world out makes your labour easier then go for it.
Hearing – Constant questions and stimulating the birthing woman’s neo cortex (the thinking part of the brain) seriously hinders birth. I’m not suggesting zero conversation is the way forward, indeed some women like to chat in between surges, but when a woman is in intense, active labour she is unlikely to want bright lights and chit-chat.
Each interrupted contraction/surge is one that is less efficient. She needs to be able to go into herself and not worry about her external environment. That’s where a good birth partner is worth his or her weight in gold – to protect her environment and act as a buffer to the outside world, letting her get on with the job at hand!
Bringing in your hypnobirthing MP3s or some relaxing music to plug yourself into is a good way to regain inward focus. Bringing ear plugs to block out the sound of other women on the ward – or as a way to just have some silence – work well too. The wax or silicone earplugs are great (take this from me – someone who is an ear plug expert due to being a light sleeper!).
Taste – Food glorious food! It’s so important to eat and drink freely in labour (but do remember to empty your bladder every few hours as a full bladder can hinder the process). Bringing a selection of savoury & sweet is good. I can remember my partner, Pete, made sandwiches when I was in early labour and we got half way to the hospital when he realised he’d forgotten them, sigh! Needless to say we went back for them and in fact he ended up eating them as I didn’t fancy any!
Many women say they packed fruit and nuts but just craved jelly babies 🙂 so take a bit of a variety. Using water bottles with a sport cap is good as you can drink easily whatever position you are in. You could freeze them in advance, or fill with cordial and freeze so they start to slowly defrost when you arrive and you have a lovely, icy drink to hand.
When you’re ready to breathe & nudge your baby out into the world you may want an energy boost and a drink that replaces electrolytes is great. Electrolytes are charged metallic “ions” that help balance fluid pressure inside our cells and control the pH of our blood. Normal nerve, heart and muscle function rely on adequate amounts of these minerals, and deficiencies can hamper performance dramatically. Click here for ways to make your own isotonic drink if of interest.
It’s obvious that you’d pack your toothbrush and toothpaste for an overnight stay, but brushing your teeth in labour can make you feel refreshed.
Smell – one of the most powerful senses I’d say! A certain smell can really transport you back to a time and place. When doing your breathing practice, harness the power of smell by breathing in a scent you like. For example, you could put a few drops of an essential oil you like onto a bit of material and breathe this in, or use a diffuser/oil burner. Same when you do your hypnobirthing practice (if relevant to you).
When you do this you are creating an ‘anchor’ of relaxation and calmness and you can then breathe this smell in when you are in hospital to transport you back to your calm place and to clear any hospital smells from your nostrils!
Bringing a pillow or two from home is another lovely way to relax you – the familiar smell of home/your washing powder will be soothing. Just remember to cover your pillow case in something that is brightly coloured so the staff don’t accidently take your pillows when clearing up the labour room.
A hug from your partner and their familiar scent will also be very grounding.
Pack a gorgeously luxurious shower gel or soap which smells amazing in case you want a shower in labour.
Touch – if wanted! Some women don’t want to be touched in labour and are usually quite clear to state if this is the case 😉 Or perhaps they don’t want their body touched, but quite like having their hair brushed or stroked, or their hands massaged. Pack a pregnancy massage oil just in case you absolutely love massage in labour.
Touch produces all the good birth hormones and a firm massage on the lower back when labour is advanced can be a God send to some women. Hugging, kissing & cuddling all help with releasing good hormones so give it a try.
Separating your labour bag into two and packing a bag for labour and one afterwards with the baby’s clothes in, etc is a good idea, as it laying it all out on your bed and asking your partner to pack the bag. That way when you ask for something specific they’re not rummaging around, they know exactly where it is.
Wishing you all the best!
Click here for a more traditional hospital bag list.