When I was seven months pregnant with my first daughter, I remember packing my hospital bag. It included my daughter’s little take-home outfit, pajamas for me and my husband, along with nursing bras and the clothes I planned to wear home. I even included a playlist on my phone with all the music we’d listen to during 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.’ But little did I know, my perfectly packed bag would be of no use. No one could have prepared me for the fact that my daughter would end up being stillborn.
When I became pregnant again with my Rainbow Baby, I had to face the challenge of packing a hospital bag once more. (A Rainbow Baby is a baby born subsequent to a loss). “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 resisted. I procrastinated. It hurt too much.
So when the week of my second daughter’s birth finally arrived, I decided to do things differently. I put a call out to my fellow loss mamas on Facebook and asked what they packed in their hospital bags the second time. They gave me some great answers which made packing for a rainbow birth far less triggering.
Use a Different Bag – One thing I did from the very start was to choose a different bag from the one I’d packed before. Maybe I’m superstitious, but I felt like I’d ‘jinx’ things if I packed the same bag. Even though the logical part of my brain knew that to be untrue, I got a completely new bag and started again. It felt good to start afresh.
Pack When You Are Ready – Despite what pregnancy magazines 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 to. After all, someone can always run home and get the stuff you really need when it comes right down to it.
A New Take Home Outfit – A few weeks before my husband and I were expecting to birth baby number two, we went out and bought her her very own going-home outfit. This was an important step for two reasons. One, since we were having another girl, we wanted to get her clothes meant only for her. Two, getting her her own outfit distinguished her from the baby who died and allowed us to lean into the hope that the new baby would come home.
Blessingway Beads – During the second pregnancy, I had a Blessingway instead of a baby shower because I felt that a shower focused too much on the end result of the pregnancy without acknowledging that not everyone is so lucky as to bring a baby home. A Blessingway is a great alternative to a baby shower that allows participants to celebrate the mother and baby in the present moment and offer love and well wishes for the journey ahead. Oftentimes, as part of the Blessingway ceremony, women provide the pregnant mama with beads that symbolize their hopes for this birthing experience that are often made into a bracelet. I brought mine to the birth with me. 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.
Memory Jewelry – Probably the most important item we packed in the hospital bag was the remembrance necklace I still wear for my stillborn daughter. The reason it had been packed was because I wasn’t allowed to wear jewelry into the OR since I was having a scheduled C-section. Instead, my husband wore it in the delivery room so Nora could be with us on that special day.
Memorial Items – Similar to memory jewelry, other loss mamas suggested bringing photos of the child who died or stuffed animals that represent the child, including Slumberkins Snuggler, Rainbow Sprite, Molly Bears or weighted hearts.
Anything Rainbow – You’ve probably heard babies born after a loss being referred to as rainbow babies, a term taken from the saying, “After every storm there is a rainbow of hope." This one isn’t for everyone, but some women in the PAL community love rainbows and even bring this symbol of hope into the delivery room during 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!
Playlist – Depending on your birthing environment, you could always play a special song that symbolizes the presence of your lost child. It acknowledges that even with this new bundle of life, you will always love and miss the child who died.
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