The last time I was pregnant I was planning on a homebirth, so I never bothered to pack a hospital bag. That’s why, when I ended up in an ambulance speeding towards the hospital anyway in the last hour of labor, I didn’t even have a pair of shoes with me. This time around there is a different plan, involving a hospital room, midwives, and a back-up doctor just in case, and this plan requires the packing of a bag.

What do you really need in a hospital bag? I asked myself setting down to the task. A nightgown would be nice I suppose, and maybe a pair of comfy socks. I couldn’t think of much else. Then the hospital gave me a print-out sheet of all the things I should bring. Then the midwives added a few more suggestions. Then my doula mentioned a couple items I might really want. The bag is now bulging. Newborn diapers, nuts and chocolate, our passports, outfits for the baby, a nightlight, blankets, and a full arsenal of medical items for the baby.

One of the most foreign things about being in a different country is checking out a different pharmacy and using completely unfamiliar medicinal supplies. Of course there’s no Tylenol here, or Benadryl, or infant Motrin in the handy dye-free formula. Instead you need to ask for Panadol, Allergix, and gripe water.

The supplies pictured above remind me of a French war hospital in the ’40s but they include¬†the necessary items recommended by the hospital to bring with you for your newborn baby right here in 2014. When the list said “baby ear buds,” I was thinking he is to too young to enjoy listening to classic rock on Drew’s iPod before I figured out they meant Q-tips. I also guarantee 99% of my reading audience has never heard of “weeping wound powder.” This gets dabbed on the baby’s umbilical cord to dry it up like a raisin so it can fall off.

The spiky thing deserves a special mention. This is actually a contribution from my doula, a device for giving remarkably effective head massages to relax and calm the mother at down times during labor. It cost six rand, or about .60 cents, and is worth every penny.

DSC_0008Lest you think that only the baby-on-the-way requires medical supplies, I give you Exhibit B: the tools I had to use the other night to suck out a pea that Lila had shoved up her nose during dinner while she screamed bloody murder and tried to wriggle away like a slippery piglet. Points to anyone who can name the very useful, albeit strange, baby instrument on the left. It really came in handy for the pea. For anyone in a similar situation, I recommend a one-two punch: suck the pea right to the entrance of the nostril where you can then delicately spear it with the tweezers.

Bag is packed, baby clothes are washed, all noses in the house are pea-free, and we are ready to rock. Only six days until due date.