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The Birth & the Hospital

Your big day is finally here! With so much to do and so little time to do them, we’ve put together some helpful checklists, must-haves and quintessential essentials to make your trip to and from the hospital as smooth as possible.


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Mom-Approved Hospital Bag Checklist


Was There Someone Not Able to Make It to Your Birth

By Jeana Lee Tahnk

All of my pregnancies and birth experiences hold such happy memories for me. But my most vivid memories are of my first (nearly a decade later), due most likely to the fact that every experience was brand new - getting that belly bump, feeling the baby kick, the ultrasounds. Not to mention the fact that this was my parents' first grandchild, which made each milestone that much more celebrated.

For my parents, that celebration also included incessant worrying. Which meant daily phone calls to me "checking in" - making sure I was eating well, resting enough and taking care of myself. I understood where they were coming from and thought it was cute. I know I'll be the same way when/if my kids have kids.

We were living a few states away from my parents at the time and, because we didn't have the technology we have now, our correspondence occurred primarily over the phone. As I got closer to my due date, we started to talk about when they'd visit. We all decided they would come meet their grandchild after my husband returned to work - it would give my husband and me the time to bond with the baby, and it would also be of great help when my husband's paternity leave was over.

There was part of me that was sad they wouldn't be there until two weeks after the birth, but I didn't want them making the long drive back and forth several times.

After our son was born, our first call was to my parents to let them know they had a grandson. I will never forget talking to my parents from that hospital bed, hearing them crying on the other end of the phone with such joy and emotion at becoming grandparents for the very first time.

We didn't have the luxury of instant photos, FaceTime or Skype back then, so I described over the phone his every gorgeous feature, his full head of black hair, his perfect little fingers and how serene he was. My parents hung onto my every word and were beyond ecstatic to meet him.

The next day, sitting in my hospital bed, there was a knock at the door. Expecting it to be one of the nurses, you can imagine my surprise when the door opened and there were my parents, who had woken up at the crack of dawn to make the five-hour drive down to see us. In between tears, my mom said, "How could I not come see you and meet our first grandchild?" It's a moment I will never forget.

So even though my parents weren't there right after the birth, that surprise visit meant even more. And I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

Read More by Jeana Lee Tahnk

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Packing for the Hospital: What to Take

I wish I’d remembered to bring: "A hair elastic. I didn't pack anything to keep the hair out of my face during labor, which is funny because I keep hair clips and elastics everywhere at home. Must have been pregnancy brain!"

I’m glad I remembered to bring: "My fluffy bathrobe," says Tracey B., a mom of one in Hartford, Connecticut. "Being in my own robe at the hospital was comforting. And it was nice to look decent with family popping in and taking pictures.”

I wish I’d remembered to bring: "Slippers. The hospital socks they give you with the little nubby things are so scratchy, they twist all around on your feet, and are just blah!"

I’m glad I remembered to bring: "My pedicured toes!" says Lisa B., a mom of two in Phoenix, Arizona. "With my first, I’d look at my toes while I was pushing and thinking, ‘Wow, I hope no one notices my feet.”

I wish I’d remembered to bring: "Dried fruit, a tasty way to get my digestive system to start moving again."

I’m glad I remembered to bring: "Extremely large underwear. Huge!" says Stephanie C., a mom of one in Dallas, Texas. "After you give birth you have to wear a gigantic pad, and the hospital’s mesh undies aren’t that fabulous."

I wish I’d remembered to bring: "A sleeping mask, or even a scarf to wrap over my eyes. They tell you to rest once you have the epidural, but all the flashing lights and activity keep you awake."

I’m glad I remembered to bring: "Wet wipes," says Lauren G., a mom of two in Little Falls, New Jersey. "I was very sensitive after giving birth, and wipes were way better than toilet paper."

I wish I’d remembered to bring: "My favorite lotion. The hospital soaps and sheets are on the rough side and it can get chilly, both of which cause dry skin."

I’m glad I remembered to bring: "A pair of comfy pants to go home in," says Desiree W., a mom of one in Las Vegas, Nevada. "You’re larger than you think you’ll be when you leave the hospital, but I felt fine in soft, elastic-waist pants."

I wish I'd remembered to bring: "An iPod. It would have been a way to deflect family who dropped by to chitchat. I love them, but it was like, Look, I’m in labor here!”


Packing For The Hospital: A Labor of Love


Delivery Day Tips for Dad

The big day is just around the corner: You’re about to become a father! Chances are you’re a wild mix of emotions: excited, nervous, and maybe even a little scared. But never fear, dad-to-be: We’ve collected tips and advice to help you make it through delivery day with flying colors.

When your baby’s birthday arrives, you’ll undoubtedly be swept up in a flurry of events and emotions. From helping time contractions to ensuring your partner’s overnight bag is in the car and ready for the hospital, to holding your partner’s hand as she gives birth — delivery day is full of excitement.

Here are some tips to help you prepare:

  • Listen.
  • “Your wife is going through a tremendous physical and emotional change while pregnant. She needs your support and care,” says Dr. Steven J. Hanley, a clinical psychologist and father of a 5-year-old and 3-year old. On the big day, your partner will be keenly aware of her body. But things can still be confusing for her. “Listen to her and respect her opinion,” Hanley adds.

  • Know that it’s OK to be scared.
  • You may find yourself worrying about how sexual intimacy will change after baby’s birth, thinking about the challenges your own father faced, or feeling nervous about how your new family dynamics will work. This is all normal; and it is completely OK to talk about these feelings with your partner, a family member, or a close friend.

  • Act on her behalf.
  • “It is natural to be anxious, but your wife will need you to ‘step up,’” says Hanley. For example, be sure you have discussed the birth plan so you can confidently remind the birthing team of her wishes.

  • Plan ahead.
  • Help your partner pack her overnight bag and chat with her about any additional things you can bring when it is time to head to the hospital. And don’t forget to pack a bag for yourself, too. Bring a change of clothes and toiletries, in case labor stretches into the wee hours of tomorrow morning.

      TIP: Pack a button-up shirt, or wear one on delivery day, so you can have some skin-to-skin bonding with your newborn. This practice is suggested as a beneficial way for both mom and dad to bond with their newborn, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

  • Be prepared for the unexpected.
  • Childbirth can be an overwhelming, frightening experience. Be ready to see your partner respond to birth in ways neither one of you might expect.

  • Study up.
  • Review what you’ve learned from your childbirth classes and research or query your partner’s doctor if you have questions about labor and delivery. Understand what will be happening to your partner’s body, and know what the process will be if she needs birth assistance or a C-section.

  • Help provide distractions.
  • Bring movies, a book to read to her, or anything else your partner might like to have on hand as you both work through the sometimes long hours leading up to baby’s arrival.

  • Keep an eye on contractions.
  • Consider downloading a contraction app to help track your partner’s contractions. While at the hospital, ask a nurse to show you how to follow along with the contractions monitor. You’ll then be able to talk your partner through an impending peak, or let her know that a break may be on the way.

  • Consider working with a doula prior to and during delivery.
  • Hiring a doula (a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth) might be helpful to assist with the more technical side of childbirth, so you can focus on the emotional side, says Hanley.

  • Be attentive.
  • “Don't overwhelm your partner or suffocate them,” says Samantha Van Vleet, a birth doula, childbirth educator, and an instructor for a birth professional distance education program ( “Pay attention to her cues and respond accordingly. If you're having trouble reading cues, be direct. Ask her, ‘Is there anything I can help you with?’ and then act on it.”

  • Be a record keeper.
  • If your partner wishes to have video or photos of the birth, be sure to have all equipment and backup batteries ready. Also, it can be a sweet gesture for you to keep written notes of the day’s events to share with her and baby later.

      TIP: If you’d like to be totally present in the delivery room, make sure someone you and your partner both trust is on camera duty.

  • Build and bring a contact list.
  • Often, dad is in charge of sharing the good news with family and friends once baby is born. Make sure you and your partner assemble a list of important phone numbers and email addresses and enter them in your phone.

  • Pay attention to what your partner does and doesn't want.
  • “Women in labor go into a very primal state,” says Van Vleet. “Don't overwhelm her with conversation or a barrage of questions when deep in labor. You may get stressed. You may be tired. But remember, your partner is enduring this fatigue and stress too, while laboring.”

  • Be there.
  • Just your presence and willingness to help can make all the difference. Ask your partner if she’d like to squeeze your hand. Offer a foot or back rub between contractions. And let her know you’re there for her.

  • Trust your partner.
  • “(Your partner) intuitively knows what she needs during this process. Be present. Be willing. Be open. You can do this,” says Van Vleet.

  • Most important: Enjoy the moment!
  • “It will be surreal, exciting, and maybe even a little scary. But it is an also a miracle that you'll remember forever,” says Hanley.

Image: Thinkstock


Hospital Games


Mixed Emotions Leading up to and after the Delivery

By Jeana Lee Tahnk

Having a baby is one of the biggest events in your life, regardless of whether it's baby No. 1 or baby No. 4. It's normal to go through periods when you're so excited to meet your little one and then terrified of what life with that little one is going to be like, especially the first time around.

The reality is that every baby is different and every baby has different needs. Even though you may have walked the road before and know the ins and outs of newborn care, you can never anticipate what it's really going to be like. Although, anyone who has gone through a pregnancy knows the highs and lows that result from the hormonal shifts and emotions surrounding this huge life transition.

During my third pregnancy (with two very active older kids), I was able to acknowledge all the emotions I was having - good or bad - and realized it was my own way of processing what was about to happen. I was always conscious of the fact that this was going to be my last one. My last 20-week ultrasound, my last baby bump, my last labor ... You get the gist.

Having that sense of finality definitely made it an emotional experience. I am one of those people who happen to love being pregnant, and I kept reminding myself to appreciate this last pregnancy to its fullest (despite the nagging indigestion). Add the usual flux of hormones that comes along with any pregnancy, and it's safe to say I was a bundle of emotions throughout the nine months.

I asked myself, was I ready to go back into the diaper-changing/up-all-night/newborn stage that can be so exhausting and draining at times? Of course, it was a little too late to be questioning it, but the reality of having a baby in the house after so many years definitely was a source of anticipatory anxiety.

In addition to my own emotions, of course, I had to consider how my kids would handle having a new baby in the house. Would it change the dynamic considerably? Would they be jealous? Luckily, we benefited from them being older, more mature and better able to understand the change that was coming, but still, it was a huge transition for everyone involved.

Be especially kind to yourself during this time of change and know that whatever you're feeling most likely is something every other mom-to-be and new mom has felt before.

Read More by Jeana Lee Tahnk

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It's Ok to Have the Baby Blues

By Jeana Lee Tahnk

When you've had more than one child, you expect certain things to be similar across all pregnancies. I'm so lucky to have had three healthy and routine pregnancies, despite constant, massive indigestion during all three. There are plenty worse symptoms to have, for sure, but sleeping at a 90-degree angle for nine months straight (27 in total!) wasn't exactly a picnic. There were other similarities during each of my pregnancies that I'll spare you from, but one thing I wasn't expecting was the post-birth baby blues I had after my third.

Sure, after babies No. 1 and No. 2, I had moments of tears, but they were brief and limited to the first couple days. It was probably due more to the labor and recovery, and just being overcome with emotion after having gone through such a momentous life experience.

With baby No. 3, however, the blues didn't hit until a couple of days afterwards, and they felt different from the post-birth emotions I had before. The tears seemed a little more frequent, more persistent and more nagging. Because it was something I had never experienced before to this degree, I didn't really know what to do.

When the nurse from the doctor's office called me for my routine post-birth check-in several days after I was discharged, I didn't do a very good job of masking the tears. I thought to myself, I just had a beautiful and healthy baby. Shouldn't I be experiencing that euphoria you see in the movies? (That self-induced guilt didn't help, by the way.)

I went to see the doctor and was reassured that it was normal to have those feelings. I knew in my head that post-baby blues were a real thing, but experiencing it myself made it so much more than just a statistic. My wonderfully caring doctor said I really needed to take care of myself, accept help and just take things day to day.

And I did. Rather than try to clean the house while the baby was napping, I rested also. Even though I didn't feel like venturing out, I did. I took walks, which helped tremendously. There is no question my hormones were raging post-birth, but getting out and not shutting myself inside the house did wonders for me.

What also helped was having a supportive network to rely on - talking to my husband and best friends, accepting those meals that people generously offered and knowing that ultimately things would get better.

I was lucky that my post-baby blues didn't persist and the hormones that were causing a number on my emotions eventually evened out. But having gone through the experience makes me even more sympathetic to other moms out there who have the same issue.

Everyone has their own post-birth experience. Some women do indeed experience euphoria, while others don't at all. No two experiences are the same, but every feeling should be validated.

For those moms who are feeling the blues, know that it's OK. Talk to someone you love, or seek help from a qualified professional if you feel as though it's too much to handle. You will get through it. I did.

Read More by Jeana Lee Tahnk

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How to Pack a Family Hospital Bag

There are plenty of checklists and articles that can help you determine what essentials you should pack for your hospital stay, but odds are you won’t be hanging out in your birthing room alone. Packing a family hospital bag that helps keep your partner and the rest of the clan happy and organized can go a long way in making you more comfortable. 


  • Labor support supplies
    Planning ahead is a great way to be sure that your partner has all the right tools on hand to support you. If a massage is on your wish list, pack up your preferred oils. Would you like a handheld misting fan or water spray bottle to help you cool off during labor? Put it in the family bag so that your partner knows where to go when it's time. 
  • Change of clothes
    Your husband might not have a chance to shower or he just may not want to leave your side. Either way, he’ll definitely need a decent clean shirt so that he can look presentable in all those pics that will be posted and shared on social media.
  • Empty duffel bag
    You’re going to need somewhere to stash all the gifts, samples and supplies that will be coming your way. Put your partner in charge of making sure it all goes to the right place by having a dedicated swag bag on hand. This will make it faster and easier to pack everything up when it’s time to head home.
  • Push present
    Of course your partner wants to show you tons of love and support, so don't feel bad about asking him for any “presents” (hint, hint) that he might want to have on hand at the hospital. This little nudge will serve as a handy shopping reminder. Just remember, you can pack the present—but no peeking!


  • Art supplies
    Let them get creative with paper, crayons, colored pencils and mini canvases. Siblings can write a letter to baby, make a festive welcome home poster or whip up little works of art to decorate the nursery. A few thoughtful supplies is all you need to make it happen.
  • Reading material
    Surprise the brothers or sisters with a brand-new graphic novel, an activity book or the latest issue of a fun magazine for kids. You’ll keep them engaged without having to worry about digital devices getting lost or broken. 
  • Snacks
    Stash a few of their favorite munchies in the bag to avoid multiple trips to the vending machine or cafeteria. The last thing you want is to have your hubs and kids out making a snack run when baby arrives—it could happen! 


You can’t overlook the newest member of your family. Most essential items baby needs will likely be provided by your hospital or birthing center, but you should ask specific questions to be sure. And while the most important thing that your baby will need is you, here are a few items you might want to consider packing for your little one’s trip home.

  • A warm outfit
  • Receiving blanket 
  • Hat
  • Booties or socks
  • A coat or snowsuit (if there’s a chance of cold weather)

Image: Getty


What Makes A Delivery Go Well

See why these women’s birth days went so right—and pick from their tips to help make your own labor less...laborious.

Tune out. 

"When I delivered my twins, I brought an iPod loaded with my favorite songs, everything from indie rock to Johnny Cash hymns. Best decision ever. It was like bringing my best friends into the delivery room to comfort me like only they knew how."

—Angela V., mom of four, Los Angeles, CA

Take a breather—lots of them.

"I took prenatal yoga, and that allowed me to have a very successful delivery. I was skeptical at first but through relaxing and deep breathing I was able to work my way through each contraction without letting the pain make my body too tense to do its job. Using these techniques, I had three labors that were drug- and intervention-free."
—Jackie K., mom of three, Olivia, Minnesota

Cool off quick.

"Ask for an ice pack to put in your underwear immediately after delivery to reduce swelling and pain. I didn’t get to use this technique myself because I had a C-section, but I have prescribed it to thousands of patients, and it helps!"
—Dr. Jennifer Gunter, M.D., author of The Preemie Primer

Hit the shower.

"I tell everyone I know to take a warm shower during labor. I’ve done it myself through three natural deliveries. It helps you to relax and feels wonderful."

—Katie B., mom of three, Clarksville, Tennessee

Sit up.

"After I had an epidural, my nurses adjusted the bed so I was sitting completely upright with my legs down on a little stool. The nurses explained that this would allow gravity to help with the labor. I went from six centimeters to ‘We can see the head’ in about an hour and a half. I guess mom was right when she told me to sit up straight!"
—Mindy A., mom of two, New Orleans, Louisiana

Get to know the team.

"The practice I attended made sure to introduce me to everyone on the staff through the course of my pregnancy, down to the nurses. When I arrived for my delivery, the on-call nurse was one that I’d already met. That made it so much easier and more comforting. If your doctor’s office doesn’t do these meet and greets, ask them to."
—Darneisha C., mom of one, Washington D.C.

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