When we first learned we were expecting we waiting until after the first trimester to tell our boys. Upon hearing the news they were pretty excited and immediately wanted to feel the baby through my belly. (My SIL is a few months ahead of me pregnant so they already understand the concept of the baby in the belly) Of course they couldn’t feel anything at that point – but it did lead us to a discussion of whether they thought they’d have a new baby brother or sister.
“Captain Hook” thought about it for a moment, and said “Well, we’ll have to wait until it’s born, take a look at it and then we’ll know.” A well reasoned response for a 6 year old I thought. Meanwhile, our 4 year old “Peter Pan” didn’t have to think about it at all – “It’s a girl!” he said immediately. I asked, “Really? Are you sure? How do you know?” his response – “It just is.”
(image credit: a drawing of Mum and the baby, by “Peter Pan” age 4)
Over the next few weeks and months before we knew for sure – we’d check back in with the kids, and “Peter Pan” stuck to his guns about it being a girl. I did ask – “What happens if it’s a boy?” he then replied – “Then you’re not having a baby, because it’s a girl.” Hmmmm…
One evening, still before we knew the baby’s gender – as “Captain Hook” sat at the table coloring he turned to me and said – “Are you having a girl because you want a smart kid?” I think my heart just about broke. I told him we didn’t know if we were having a boy or girl, and that we thought he and his brother both were intelligent, kind boys who worked very hard and we were very proud of them. I asked him why he’d think something like that – and he said “Because girls are smarter than boys.” I had to wonder if this is something he’d heard in school, or felt – as young girls language skills developed at a faster rate at his age.
This incident did however remind me of something that had happened years earlier. The boys are 23 months apart. So when “Peter Pan” was born, “Captain Hook” was 2. A little less than a year after his birth – we began asking “Captain Hook” how he’d feel about another brother or sister. He always got really upset and would should “No!” at us. We were rather bemused since he got along so well with “Peter Pan” and really doted on him. Such an extreme reaction was a surprise to us. This went on for several months until one time when we asked – he expanded on the “No!” He said “No! I like ‘Peter Pan’ don’t take him back! I don’t want a different brother or sister!” Oh man – poor kid. For months we’d been asking if he’d wanted an additional brother or sister and the whole time we’d in effect been torturing him, as he’d perceived we were asking if we wanted him to replace/refund his baby brother!
At any rate as our 18-20 wk scan rolled around we grew increasingly nervous. While we’d have been happy with a boy or girl – “Peter Pan” was so convinced it was a girl we didn’t know how to break the news to him if it wasn’t. When we learned we are in fact having a girl we were so relieved. When we told the boys – there was no crowing from “Peter Pan,” just more of an eye roll as in – but of course, that’s what I’ve been saying all along.
Once they learned it was a girl – they wanted to help with the name selection. First up was “Rango” (having been watching Rango quite a bit during that time), then “Rexo” (which I’m pretty sure they got from “Flexo” Bender’s evil twin on Futurama) then Kadija (the name of girl in “Peter Pan’s” class) then “Rosie” (from that CBB’s show). Clearly if I want to influence their name choices I should start selectively slipping in tv shows and movies with names I like! After their initial naming spurt – a few days later, “Captain Hook” came to me to tell me he had the perfect name, “Lisa Simpson, so she’ll be really smart!” Again, my heart broke. I explained that while a lot of names have history or meaning to the people who pick the names, that they don’t imbue the person with skills or know-how, that’s learned. It’s something we develop, and work hard at – and can achieve when we try really hard.
We’ve officially selected a name, the boys know it and call baby girl by her name already. It hasn’t stopped them from contributing new names – they recently asked if the baby could be named after them with the exact same name. (not going to happen!) I asked them - wouldn’t that be confusing? And they didn’t seem to think so.
What I find so amazing – is that without having met the baby yet, or having a baby in the house that they can remember – our new little girl has become a part of their view of our family. All family pictures they draw feature the baby too. She’s either in my tummy – or in some images standing beside the boys, as part of our family. While the boys play quietly with toys – I often hear them discussing the new baby and their plans on big brotherhood. “Peter Pan”, 4 the other morning was patiently explaining to “Captain Hook”, 6 that they couldn’t let the baby play with their gooey alien in slime as the baby was too little and could choke on it.
In the same way that it’s hard to imagine life before the boys – here I am on the cusp of having a third child, a girl. Our life these last few years has been focused on the boys, the 4 of us as a family. In a few short weeks, it will be hard to remember what that life was like, as we won’t be able to imagine life without our little girl too, a family of 5.
This being my third baby I pretty much thought I had the drill down by now. But having this 3rd baby in a different country than the previous 2 has really thrown me some curveballs. I’ve previously mentioned my surprise about the differences in maternity wards in the US and UK. I thought I’d figured out all of differences and either planned around them and or made peace with them. That is until yesterday….
Ok UK Mums, please humor my naivety for a moment – it’s not based on a feeling of entitlement, rather, in my experience of having babies to date – this is how it’s been done (in the US).
When you pack your hospital bag in the US – it’s pretty much just for you. It’s stuff for the labor and after delivery, change of clothes etc. For the baby, pretty much the only stuff you need to bring is outfit for leaving/and or photo and a car seat or carrier (even then if you can’t afford one generally one will be provided). Everything else – and I mean everything is provided for baby. In fact – so much has been provided, you’re even supposed to pack up all of the extra diapers they give you to take home.
So they provide the little onesie, hat and blankie they put the baby in just after delivery. The nurses make sure you pack up the diapers, the wipes, the pacifiers, and nasal aspirator and comb etc. You seriously need to bring an empty bag to hospital with you for the baby stuff.
When perusing UK baby site yesterday I came across a few discussions about packing the hospital bag and couldn’t believe what I was reading. “You need to bring what? No they must be joking!” So I asked around in my office, and then to some Mum friends on Facebook and they confirmed it for me. You need to bring EVERYTHING for the baby – from the cap and outfit for just after birth, diapers/nappies, and shockingly, maternity pads! (My first thought – isn’t that a medical supply, can people even buy those??)
Seriously, not having discovered this now – I would have rolled up to the hospital with my stuff – nothing for baby and had a naked dirty baby! (Probably closely followed by a visit from family services for my clear ineptitude as a parent).
I suppose it makes sense from the perspective of NHS provided services, this would be a cost saving measure. In the US you (or your insurance) are automatically charged for these items – so if you don’t take them with you you’re leaving something you’ve already paid for. But I just find it so different, and I had no idea about this difference. My friends in Germany and Belgium, also expecting say there it’s just like the US and they too find this surprising about the UK.
Here’s a list a good friend of mine shared with me after I got over my initial surprise yesterday. I’m not sure where she got it from, so if it’s been copied from somewhere and you recognise it, please let me know so I can credit it.
What to pack for labour
- Your birth plan and maternity notes.
- Dressing gown. Hospitals can be very warm, so a lightweight one may be better
- Slippers / flip flops
- Socks. Believe it or not, your feet can get cold during labour
- An old nightdress or a T shirt to wear in labour. It will probably get a bit messy, so don’t buy anything specially to wear in hospital
- Massage oil or lotion if you would like to be massaged during your labour
- Lip balm
- Snacks and drinks for you while you are in labour
- Things to help you relax or pass the time, such as books, magazines, games etc
- A hairband. If you have long hair, you might want it tied up
- Pillows. The hospital might not have enough to make you really comfortable
- TENS pain relief machine if you are planning to use one
- Music to listen to. Take a battery-operated machine, as most hospitals won’t let you plug things in. Some hospitals provide their own CD players or radios – again, check first
For the birth partner
- Water spray, or a hand-held fan to keep cool down the mum-to-be while she’s in labour
- Comfortable shoes. You may be pacing the corridors!
- A change of clothes
- Watch with a second hand, to time contractions
- Swimwear, if you want to join the mum-to-be in a birth pool
- Camera or camcorder. If you want to bring a camcorder, check with the hospital beforehand, because not all of them allow them in delivery rooms
- Address book or a list of phone numbers. You and your partner will be able to use a mobile phone in parts of the hospital, but bring lots of change just in case
- Snacks and drinks. If you take some with you, they can stay with you rather than leaving the room to search for food!
For after the birth
- A going-home outfit. You’ll need loose comfortable clothes to wear while you’re in hospital and for the journey home. You’ll still be wearing maternity
- Nursing bras. Take two or three
- Breast pads
- Maternity pads. Bring a couple of packs
- Nightshirt or T-shirt. Front-opening shirts are useful in the early days of breastfeeding
- Towels, hairbrush, toothbrush and toothpaste
- Old or cheap knickers, or disposable knickers.
- Ear plugs, in case you end up on a noisy ward!
For your baby
- An infant car seat. Some hospitals won’t let you leave by car without one
- One outfit for the trip home (all-in-one stretchy outfits are easiest)
- Two or three sleepsuits and vests for baby to wear while you are in hospital
- Baby blanket. Take a warm one if the weather is cold
- Nappies and cotton wool
- One pair of socks or booties
- Jacket or snowsuit for winter babies
- Muslin squares
So after perusing the list – and deciding to ignore the first 2 sections since I’m having a c-section, I was still a bit confused when I got to the “For your baby” section – they lost me at “cotton wool” and “muslin squares.”
So I went back to my UK Mum friends and apparently for wiping newborn bums – they use cotton wool here. It seems like it would be a bit awkward and fiddly but apparently it’s the done thing. They use cotton wool and water to wipe the babies. I’ll be skipping that from my list and instead using wipes. The Muslin squares are apparently used as swaddling or burp cloths – an all purpose type of thing – in the US this would be the equivalent of “receiving blankets” although the texture seems a bit different.
There is a US and UK version of BabyCenter (BabyCenter.com and BabyCentre.co.uk) , it’s the same company but the packing list has been modified for the US/UK check out the differences for yourself on these packing lists.
But have no fear reader! My baby will not be naked after delivery. I’ve received the most wonderfully soft and colorful newborn set from “The Essential One” When they originally sent it they said they’d be sending me something for the hospital bag. I was thinking – uh huh, sure, just as soon as we get home from hospital. But now I know – it REALLY IS for the hospital bag! Good thing they’ve got me (and baby) covered! They’ve sent over these really bright and lovely sets for newborns. Some red, white and blue bodysuits and sleepsuits as well as some matching hats. Each set came in it’s own matching little drawstring bag which will make it handy for packing in my hospital bag. So thanks to the kindness and foresight of some lovely people at The Essential One, my baby will not go nakey in the hospital.