nottopackinbag_sizedI had a big bag packed for the hospital a month before my due date. Not just an overnight bag, but a full-on suitcase packed to the gills with all sorts of must-haves I thought I needed. There are lots of great “What to Pack” lists for helping you stock your suitcase for when you head to the hospital for delivery, and I had read them all. I know they mean well, really. But the fantasy of what you think you’ll use and need and what you actually do, can be quite different. Here are those list items that I lugged to the hospital but should have left at home:

1. Delivery playlist. It seems like most prenatal classes suggest making a playlist of calming music as a technique to help get through labor, and I had a lovely one. In the weeks before my labor, I had compiled a list of my favorite classical symphonies, calming new age pieces, and ambiant sounds to soothe me into relaxed labor bliss. Except that when those contractions started, I had zero time or interest in soothing music. I wanted to GET THE BABY OUT, not bliss out and relax. The iPod and speakers never even made it out of my bag.

2. Cute birthing outfit. Let me explain. In my life as a writer and reviewer, I often get sent various products to try. One of these was a birthing skirt — an alternative to the less-than-stylish and less-than-covering hospital gowns. The touted benefits of the skirt are that it gives your doctor easy access to both your belly and nether regions, makes it easy to squat, sit, stand, or bend into whatever position happens to make your contractions more tolerable, and it’s cute. It sounded great. But when it came down to labor, I didn’t care what I was wearing. It didn’t matter if I looked cute or had to hike up the hospital gown around my midsection. The hospital gown was comfy enough, kept me covered enough, and at the end of the birthing process, the nurses whisked it away and brought me a new, fresh one.

3. Birth announcement envelopes to address. I’m sure I saw this on some type-A mom’s website and how to make the most of your time before and after delivery. After all, you’re just sitting there, right? Might as well put that time to good use and be productive by addressing your birth announcement envelopes. Yeah right. Before the baby, you are trying to survive contractions without ripping the head off your spouse, crazily calling for an epidural (me!), or sitting in wonder that you are ABOUT TO HAVE A BABY. After baby arrives, you are feeding, sleeping, holding, diaper changing, hosting visitors ,and staring into the eyes of your newborn child. Leave those address lables at home. No one faults a new mother for not getting birth announcements out “on time.” (BTW – “on time” means anytime before your kid is two.)

4. Shampoo and a hair dryer. What was I thinking?! Yes, a shower would be been great, and yes, my hair probably would have looked better if it had been washed and dried, but that was the last thing I had time for. I took every spare second after delivery to hold my newborn, try to nab some sleep, or ponder the mysteries of going #2 after an episiotomy.

5. A cute coming home outfit for baby. I had the most adorable coming home outfit for my newborn son. A cute tee, soft little pants, and adorable socks. Except that that 0-3 month outfit I had packed was way too big and too complicated to make it worth putting on my three-day-old boy. Instead we dressed him in a hospital onesie, beanie, and blanket — and called it good.

6. A cute coming home outfit for me. With my first delivery, I had high expectations for what I would feel like wearing and be able to wear home from the hospital. I mistakenly believed I would slip back into my skinny jeans and a cute top to carry my newborn out of the hospital doors. Wrong! In case this is news to you, in the days and weeks following delivery, you still look about four months pregnant. Except that there’s no baby in there so it’s more of a Santa-ish bowl full of jelly. Add that to the layers of gauze and ice packs trying to keep “down there” soothed, and the only thing I was fitting into was a very comfy pair of well-loved yoga pants I had my husband run home and get for me.

What did you pack in your hospital bag that you never used?