When I was pregnant the first time with my daughter who was stillborn, I remember packing my hospital bag around the seven-month mark. I included her cute little take-home outfit, pajamas for me and some for my husband along with nursing bras and the outfit I too would wear home from the hospital. It even included a playlist on my phone of all the music we would listen to during my labor and, I think, a deck of cards to pass the time. As a first-time parent, I wanted to “do it right” and “be prepared.”
No one could have prepared for me for the fact that my daughter was going to be born silently into this world and my perfectly packed hospital bag would be of no use. We didn’t use one single item in the bag. It hurt too much.
When I had to face the challenge of packing a hospital bag again, with the hopes of this time using the items, I resisted.
I did everything I could to not pack that bag for the birth of my second daughter. I procrastinated. I avoided. I pretended the event, a planned c-section with a set date, would never come.
Then, when the week of her impending birth rolled around, I felt overwhelmed with NOT being prepared for her because I had put off nesting in every way. The hospital bag put me over the top. “What am I supposed to bring?” I thought to myself, “Last time I planned for everything, and it didn’t work out. How am I supposed to do this again?”
I decided to set up and do things differently this time. I put a call out to my fellow loss mamas on my Facebook page and asked what they packed in their hospital bags for their babies born after a loss.
I got some great answers, and I want to share them with you along with some things I did and didn’t do to make packing the hospital bag a little less triggering and easier this time.
Use a Different Bag
One thing I did from the very start was to choose a different bag from the time I packed before. It was nice to start fresh. Maybe I’m superstitious, but I felt like I would “jinx” things if I packed the same bag again, even though the logical part of my brain knew that not to be true.
Pack When You Are Ready
Despite what pregnancy magazines might tell you, there really isn’t a “right” or “wrong” time to pack the hospital bag. Heck, you don’t even have to pack one at all if you don’t want too. Someone can always run home and get the stuff you really need when it comes right down to it.
A New Baby Take Home Outfit
A lot of the things you will pack in the bag are the same things you would normally pack in a hospital bag for a “traditional” birth. However, it might be nice to make those things special. I know that a few weeks before my husband and I were expecting to birth baby number two into the world, we went out and bought her very own going home outfit.
This was an important step for us for two reasons. One, since we were having another girl, she really didn’t have any clothes that were meant for her and not her sister before her. Two, getting her own outfit was distinguishing her from the baby who died while also allowing us to lean into the hope that this baby would come home. It was an important step, and it actually felt really nice to place her very own outfit in the hospital bag.
A way of looking at birth that helped me was viewing the pregnancy and birth of my second baby as a process of pampering the mother and celebrating her strength and courage as she creates and births new life. Blessingways are wonderful new mama ceremonies that do just that. I had a Blessingway instead of a baby shower, because I felt that a baby shower focused too much on the end result of pregnancy without acknowledging that we all don’t get so lucky as to bring a living baby home. Blessingways celebrate the mother and baby in the present moment and offer love and well wishes for the journey of the birth ahead.
Oftentimes as part of the ceremony, women provide the pregnant mama with beads that symbolize their hopes for this birthing experience and make a bracelet out of them. I took that bracelet and brought it to the birth. It was reassuring to look at the bracelet and remember that in the outside world I had so many loved ones sending well wishes our way on that hard but special day.
This was probably the most important item we packed in the go-bag. Right on top of all the other items and the newborn outfit, we packed my remembrance necklace that I wear for my daughter who died. The reason it was packed was because I could not wear jewelry in the OR since I was having a scheduled C-section, so my husband wore it in the delivery room instead, so that Nora could be with us on that special day.
Similar to memory jewelry, other loss mamas suggested these great ideas of items to bring to the delivery room on that special day. Others have brought photos of their child who died and stuffed animals that represent their child, including Molly Bears or weighted hearts.
This one isn’t for everyone, but if you are pregnant again after a loss, you probably have heard babies born after a loss being referred to as rainbow babies, taken from the quote, “After every storm there is a rainbow of hope.” Some women in the pregnancy after loss community love rainbows and even bring this symbol of hope into their delivery room during the subsequent pregnancies. PAL moms report bringing everything from rainbow-themed blankets to rainbow onesies into the birthing room. One mom even showed off her rainbow painted toenails!
Light a Candle or Play a Special Song
Depending on your birthing environment, once the baby is born, you could always light a candle or play a special song that symbolizes the presence of your child who died. It acknowledges that even with this new bundle of life, you will always love and miss your child who passed away.
These are my suggestions about what to pack in the hospital bag for a pregnancy after loss. What do you suggest? We would love to hear your ideas, so we can share them with other courageous mamas pregnant after a loss!