At the end of pregnancy, one of the big topics on to do lists is packing a hospital bag. Many parents-to-be spend lots of time carefully deciding what to bring to the hospital for their baby’s birth. While the contents of an adoptive family’s hospital bag will be different, it remains an important topic to consider.
Here is one adoption social worker’s tips for packing your hospital bag:
You’ll want several outfit choices – at least one in Newborn size and one in 0-3 month size. We recommend one-piece sleepers with zippers – you can easily lay the baby on top of them and zip them in, rather than trying to put pieces over their head or messing with multiple pieces.
Social Worker Tip: Leave the sentimental pieces at home – you don’t want your great grandmother’s baby blanket to get lost in the shuffle with so many moving parts at the hospital. Wait to take those photos when you get back home.
Most of us use our cell phones as cameras these days, but if you have a digital or DSLR camera, now is the time to put it to use! The hospital experience will be one you won’t soon forget, but you’ll want to have nice photos to look back on as well. Also – your first set of pictures and letters to the birth parents is due within the first 5 days of the placement, and including some great hospital photos is always a good idea.
Social Worker Tip: While you’re completing placement paperwork, ask the social worker if she would mind taking some photos when you first meet the baby. Hand her your camera before you go in, and she’ll capture those shots if it is appropriate.
A Gift for Birth Parents
Whether you’ve met them before, you’ll meet them for the first time at the hospital, or you won’t get a chance to meet, it is always a good idea to bring a gift to the hospital for the birth parents. If you’ll be seeing them in the hospital, you can share the gift yourself. If you won’t get the chance, the social worker can pass the gift along. Remembering the incredible gift the birth parents are giving you, it is a good idea to share a thoughtful token at this emotional time. Some ideas include: a photo album or memory box if you’ll be sharing in openness, some “pamper yourself” goods like lotions and body wash, a gift card to a restaurant, massage, or the movies, or a piece of jewelry that symbolizes your connection. Your social worker can help you brainstorm some ideas when you’re matched.
Social Worker Tip: Always include a personalized card with your gift, expressing your deep gratitude.
Social Worker Tip #2: Don’t forget the birth father if he is involved! Birth mom will rightfully be getting a lot of attention at the hospital, but this is an equally difficult decision for the birth father and he should be included
You need something to bring this baby out of the hospital in! If you get a hand-me-down, make sure to check the recall list and the expiration date (on the bottom of the carseat). You should install the base of the carseat into your car and bring just the seat into the hospital.
Social Worker Tip: Practice, Practice, Practice! Read the manual, adjust the straps to the smallest setting, and actually practice strapping something in (a teddy bear or baby doll will do just fine!).
And Probably the MOST IMPORTANT Thing to Bring…
The hospital experience is often the most emotional part of the adoption experience for everyone involved. The biological parents are experiencing great grief as they consider leaving without the baby, and prospective adoptive parents are joyful but also cautious, as well as pained by the grief of the biological parents. It is essential to be flexible and “go with the flow” as much as possible to allow things to move forward. Perhaps mom’s hospital plan was for you visit the day after the baby was born, but now she wants you to wait until the day of discharge. Go with it. She may need that time to make sure she feels confident about her plan. Perhaps you walk in the room expecting to hold the baby and mom can’t bear to let her go in that moment. Go with it. She gets 2-3 days in the hospital with the baby and if the plan moves forward, you get a lifetime. Let her have that time.
Social Worker Tip: The social worker will tell you if something is a red flag, or if it is “normal”, in the course of this seemingly abnormal process. If you’re unsure, you can always ask the social worker!