How much can you get in - or out of - one hospital bag?

Friday 9th of May 2014  |  Category: Opinion  |  Written by: Leoarna Mathias

Just this week a facebook friend of mine put out a request for suggestions as to what she should include in her hospital bag, as her baby is due in the next 6 weeks or so. She got a lot of responses, some of them highly humorous, and I shared a link to our very own comprehensive hospital bag list, which you can read here. In the midst of the more light-hearted entries, (which included, for the record, ‘ear plugs’, ‘gin and tonic’, and ‘an inflatable crocodile’ amongst others) the facebook community around my friend made a lot of good suggestions. My own entry also included rather unusual items - or to be more accurate, two unusual items - squeezy tennis-type balls. You know, the kind you might buy for your dog.

Now, why one earth would you put those in your bag, I hear you cry. It’s pretty simple, really. During my first pregnancy I read a great book entitled Birth Skills by Australian author Juju Sandin. Along with a lot of other good advice and ideas Juju recommended, she suggested using the balls, one in each hand, as a way of getting through intense contractions. The gripping, squeezing, hanging-on-to-something-for-dear-life need that is felt by so many women during a contraction was well met by those little balls. I have a very clear memory of being on all fours in the reception of my maternity unit, squeezing those tennis balls for all I was worth, while at the same time telling the midwife attending to me how I had come across the idea. She thought it was a good one, and in the end, they kept me going for a good while into my labour.

Now, my little story has probably given you a bit of a giggle, and I’d agree that it has a comedic edge to it. No doubt my husband would say that I did look a little funny in that reception room. But, packing your hospital bag, just like any other preparation you might do for labour, can feel very profound, especially if it is your first child. We all approach childbirth differently. Some of us want to feel the presence of skilled medical professionals around us; some of us want to feel some control, be left to focus in peace. Like other decisions we make once our child arrives, it is highly personal, and ultimately (barring any medical advice we get to the contrary), down to us. The media tells us, almost weekly, about the crisis in midwifery provision or this or that problem with maternity units up and down the country. But I think we know that we are lucky to have the care we do in this country, care that enables us to make positive choices, express our wishes, and, if we really want to, bring our squeezy tennis balls, into the delivery room. So without sounding overly pretentious I am quite proud of how I packed my hospital bag five and a half years ago. I got it right, for me. And if you are approaching this seminal moment in your life, I’m sure you will too.

I’m not so sure what they would say about that inflatable crocodile, though...

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