A commenter from a couple posts back asked if there was any advice I'd give for her and her husband. You see, they are expecting in December.
All I can say is, CONGRATULATIONS!!! It is absolutely true that this will change your life forever. I took that with a grain of salt before, and believe it to be true now.
Advice... Hmmm, where to begin.
Have you sought out the hospital where baby is to be born? Take the tour yet? It is just like test driving a car. Try a couple of them out and see what works. Make sure your baby catcher has privileges at the hospital you choose. Chances are good his nurses have informed you where he practices.
Does the hospital you picked out allow the baby to reside in the room with you after delivery? Ours did. Baby stayed with us the whole time. I changed ALL the diapers while at the hospital. I also slept on the fold-out couch they had in the room. Pretty neat set up. I never left my wife and child...except to eat at the McDonalds in the lobby. I was fortunate enough to also carry Windage up to the nursery to be examined, LoJacked, printed and probed. Well, I didn't actually carry her up twenty floors. I carried her to the baby warmer and then wheeled her to the nursery upstairs from Labor and Delivery while momma rested.
What sort of support services are available? We could have dropped baby Windage off in the nursery any time we wanted some peace and quiet (never happened). There was a Lactation Support Nurse on call during the day to help with pump rentals, breastfeeding, and other information. The nurses were all fantastic and full of advice, too. Actually, I think they were smitten with baby Windage and wanted to be around her cute little face.
Security in this day and age is always at the front of our minds. What sort of security measures are in place so that your baby is safe in the hospital? We had LoJack on her ankle, matching wristbands, numbers and ID cards. Visitors had to get a color coded pass to get in the room. Points of entry and exit were tightly controlled. I was able to point out the RFID antennas that could pinpoint our daughter anywhere on the nursery floor. I never left her side when she left our room anyway, and no one was going to question the 6'4" and 265# father of the little bundle being wheeled around the nursery floor. Daddy cut an imposing figure...if it weren't for the mile-wide grin on his face.
There's a whole list of stuff that you, as the momma, will figure out and ask about. I can really comment on what Daddy needs to bring to the table.
First, get your game face on. This is the big show, and your wife needs you there. Since we induced, I was at Swede's side except for a couple of spells so I could stretch my legs. Made sure the nurse was available and in the room while I stepped out.
Next, bring a book. Not kidding on this one. I brought Correia's classic "Monster Hunters International" to read again. I was able to read a couple of chapters before the real work began. Never got the chance to read to Swede, but I was able to hold the book in one hand and read while holding hers in the other. Had the iPod loaded with videos and music. Brought it in case we wanted to watch something to take our minds of contractions. Never did get around to watching, and personally thought that the extra wires would have gotten in the way. I did have my t.v. cables and dock handy, but couldn't figure out if the hospital t.v. was compatible.
Camera. Most. Important. Item. Ever! Do not forget. Keep it around your neck at all times when the doctor says "It's time to push." This is an inviolate rule. You break it, you are PSOL. I'll let you figure what that means. This is two fold. First, you have a record of the baby's first moments. Second, since they don't allow video in most hospitals now due to malpractice suits, my Canon G9 is equipped with a video record function. I learned how to manipulate the button and would let it hang and record if things went south. You might look into a camera that can do that. Also, redundancy. 'Nuff said. Bring extra batteries, charger, flash cards and a spare camera if need be. Have it packed and in a handy place if need be. Do what my dad did during my birth. I was born in a teaching hospital. He metered the room beforehand and set the exposure on his SLR (way back in the day) and handed it to a med student watching the festivities. He gave her specific instructions on what to shoot and not shoot. Mom didn't want crotch shots. Most cameras have an auto setting for this purpose and you can use it. I metered and locked it in. Never got a chance to use it, though. Bring a spare camera to the game, even if it is camera phone or cheap disposable. Remember, two is one & one is none.
Keep your cell phone handy. Never hurts to check in with relatives and friends. I gave updates about every two hours before delivery and a massive email about an hour later when I could stop to catch my breath. Keep it charged.
Don't forget the change of clothes, toiletries and whatnot. I packed two days worth of clothes. We were there for four. Had to have mom raid my underwear drawer for fresh skivvies. Slept in my clothes anyway. Don't forget to help your wife pack her necessary comforts. Boppie pillow for breastfeeding, favorite robe, nightgown, slippers and PACK SOME SOCKS FOR HER!!! GAWD! Go out and buy her some of those ankle height socks to wear during delivery. Trust me and don't argue on this one. Do it.
Once you have yourself and your wife taken care of, prepare everything else. Get a diaper bag ready with all the things you'll think you need for the trip home. Diapers, wipes, burp cloth, fresh onsies, and the ever important "going home" outfit. Hospitals are a lot like hotels. If your baby is in your room, her/his bassinet will have a drawer with all the supplies you'll need. Take the extra diapers, wipes, bulb syringe and emesis tray...and a couple of swaddling cloths, too. These are consumable items for the hospital, and it will save you the cost of buying extra, or the embarrasment if you forgot the diaper bag.
With regards to the baby seat...make sure you know how to use it before going to the hospital. Swede and I thought we had it figured out the night before. WRONG! Sure, we got it in the car okay, but didn't figure out how to loosen the restraints until we were putting Windage in the car. The nurse helped a bit, but even she had a time trying to get it straight. Thankfully, the valets were patient and no one was honking at us to move. I suggest going to the local fire station and asking them for help. In Houston, you can go to any fire station in town and ask that they give an inspection to make sure your car seat is safely installed and the proper one for the child.
Lastly, get some rest. You will need it. Get out of the room and stretch your legs. Go for a walk. Read your book. Visit with other fathers on the floor and share war stories of the delivery and photos. Also, don't be afraid to question everything about your baby. Why are they drawing blood, why is she yellow, when does the poop start to stink, why is she crying now?
Now, when you've done all that...kiss the baby and your spouse and start to enjoy the next several years of your life.