Preparing My Hospital Bag

It’s about that time! I’m in the home stretch of this pregnancy at 37 weeks! Since we are waiting to hear if we’ve been granted a two-bedroom apartment, I haven’t been able to do much nesting though the desire is definitely there. Instead, I’ve prepared in different ways, such as finishing several writing projects, preparing freezer meals, and getting my hospital bag organized (and since I’m a planner, I definitely did this during week 33 because you never know!). The latter is no small feat. The hospital bag in Kazakhstan is much more complicated and extensive than anything I’ve heard of in the States (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong in the comments). Allow me to break it down for you.

The Bag

Yes, the bag is different. For births, hospitals do not permit you to bring a regular suitcase (though I have seen some women enter the hospital with them anyway). Instead, you are to pack everything in a clear vinyl “Mommy Bag,” which is available for about $5 in various stores, or you bring what you need in plastic grocery bags. Yes, this had my head spinning too. While you might be thinking, perhaps it’s a way of limiting the amount of stuff a woman brings to the hospital, you’d be wrong. The reasoning behind plastic bags, so I’ve been told, is that it is more hygienic than a suitcase which may harbor fluids and bacterial and that nurses can find what you need from your bag more easily since they are clear. I opted for something in between; I’m bringing everything in one of those big reusable tote shopping bags with cloth handles and a woven plastic body (I’ve never been much for breaking the rules, and I’d really rather not take a chance of being turned away at such an important moment).

Stuff for Mom

This is where things get interesting. The hospital provided a list of things that should be in your bag and a friend shared a similar list from a Kazakh publication so I knew what I needed. I was surprised about some things, but less so about others since I heard through the grapevine about some of the odd things one needs to provide for themselves. Things that seem nearly universal include identification and a copy of your birth contract with the hospital, nightgowns, a robe, nursing bras/tops, underwear, toiletries, rubber/plastic slippers or sandals, phone charger, and going home clothes. And then there are things that are a little more surprising because they are provided in most U.S. hospitals: pads, adult diapers, mesh underwear, pain medications, compression socks, a towel/washcloth, and various things for nursing. And then there are the things that are most shocking and remind me that I’m not in Kansas anymore: toilet paper, my own dishes/utensils, and water. There are also other things that are listed as optional, but not required, such as an apron to keep you from getting wet as you wash your baby for the first time, and other similar things. Packing light is not an easy thing as you can see.

Stuff for Baby

I honestly have no idea what hospitals offer for babies in the U.S., but from what I’ve heard from friends, most of what you need is provided with the exception of what the baby will wear. In Kazakhstan, however, I need to bring all of these items for the baby: baby soap, a towel/washcloth, toiletries (especially nail clippers), cotton swabs, diapers, diaper cream, wet wipes, bottles, hats, and blankets. Before getting pregnant I picked the brains of a few women who gave birth here and one mentioned how she was surprised they didn’t have diapers and didn’t bring any, so they had to wrap the baby in a pillowcase until diapers could be purchased. There are additional suggestions, such as these elaborate “envelopes,” basically super fancy swaddle bags made from satin and covered in ruffles and lace which you bring the baby home in, as well as a bunch of other things that seem less practical and more for fun.

Stuff I’m Still Not Sure About

Since I broke my pelvis in a few spots critical for birthing 15 years ago this June, my doctor and I agree that a planned c-section is probably my safest option. This has me wondering what else I need to provide for myself. Do I need to bring my own bandages since pads are not even offered? I read that we should purchase a sterile surgical gown/outfit for my husband – seriously? And if I am to bring my own dishes, does my husband have to find meals for me? Luckily, I have one more appointment with my doctor before everything gets underway and can figure out these details, but boy oh boy, I seriously envy you ladies giving birth stateside!

And I would say, wish me luck hauling my clunky plastic bag around, but that’ll my husband’s responsibility. 😉

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