Our shoebox for Operation Christmas Child

For a few years now we’ve been joining in with Operation Christmas Child – the world’s largest children’s Christmas project, run by the Christian charity Samaritan’s Purse. The mission of the project is to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to needy children around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. 

Since having children of our own, we have really appreciated how blessed we are to have enough money to feed and clothe them, as well as buy them other nice things, and to have family and friends who give us so many gifts for them that they are never in want of anything. For many children around the world, this is not what life is like.

The idea behind OCC is for people in the UK to send shoeboxes packed with gifts that children in less well-off countries would like to receive. These gifts can include various items from toys and stationary to toiletries and woolies. The shoe boxes should be wrapped up in bright and cheerful wrapping paper, and a sticker stuck on indicating if the gifts inside are for a boy or a girl and which age range they are suitable for.

IMG 2743

In previous years we’ve always done one for a boy, just because I happen to have seen gifts that are more suitable for boys, and since having boys myself, I guess my eye is drawn towards these items in shops anyway. This year, however, when we popped into a few shops, I mainly saw things suitable for girls (or gender neutral) so we went for that. Andrew helped me choose what to buy, and I explained that we were getting these things as presents for a little girl who lives far away from us but who would love to have some nice presents this Christmas, just like he will. I’m not sure he gets the concept of someone living far away from us, but he seemed to understand that we were buying the gifts and putting them in the box for another child.

IMG 2740

OCC like the gifts in the box to include items from all four categories: toys, stationary and school supplies, toiletries and other (sweets/hat/gloves/jewellery etc.) Our gifts included a bumper pack of wax crayons, a ‘Hello Kitty’ notepad/pencil/rubber/sharpener set, a beany teddy, a slinky spring, toothbrushes, soap, flannel, necklace, hair clips. All together these cost us around £10. In order to help with shipping costs, OCC also suggest a £3 donation, which can be done online by credit card.

IMG 2742

We decorated our shoebox with red wrapping paper on the bottom, silver wrapping paper on the lid, and a ribbon stuck on the lid (you’re not supposed to wrap the whole box up or seal it by tying ribbon around the box, because sometimes they need to look in it for customs or other reasons), and finished off with a reindeer tag on the lid. We hope that the little girl who receives it will enjoy opening it and finding out what’s inside.

If you’d like to find out more about Operation Christmas Child, and even get involved yourself by packing a shoebox (or two, or three), visit the OCC website.

Pregnancy diary: week 33 – hospital bag and home birth kit

As I mentioned at the end of last week’s post, I thought it was about time that I at least started thinking about packing my hospital bag. Although I hope I don’t go into labour for at least another month, it can’t harm to have things organised well in advance of when the time comes. Tom has been asking me for a couple of weeks when I’m going to pack my hospital bag, I think because last time I did get it packed around this many weeks of pregnancy, because we were going to my parents’ house for Christmas and I wanted to have it with me, just in case. (Of course it came all the way with us and all the way back completely untouched, but better to be prepared than not.) And I guess Tom knows that he’d only have to do it if I went into labour and it wasn’t already done, and I suppose that thought terrifies him slightly!

Stripy bump!

I know I’ve already given birth once, but when I sat down and thought about what I needed to prepare for this second birth, my mind went almost blank. I say ‘almost’, because I had a few patches of inspiration, like nappies for baby and drinks for me and Tom – funny what stuck in my mind from last time and what didn’t. What I do remember quite vividly from last time is having quite an enormous bag for what turned out to be a short stay, and most of the contents went unused; I remember Tom dragging it through the hospital corridors on the way in and out, whilst I carried just myself and a baby, either inside my bump (in) or in a car seat (out). Not that I regret taking most of that stuff – we might well have needed it if things had gone less smoothly and we were in hospital for much longer than we were. But I can’t honestly remember what most of that ‘stuff’ was! So I thought I’d better look up some hospital bag checklists for inspiration, and maybe that would bring back some of my memory of packing the bag last time.

One of the first websites that came up on a google search was a Mumsnet guide to packing your hospital bag. As I read through it, I thought it looked promising and was also quite comical in places with comments from various mums, rather than just a dry list of things. Here are the things that they suggest, with my comments as to whether or not I’ve packed them.

  • An old nightdress to give birth in – I’ve found a couple that I packed for giving birth to Andrew, but as I was in the pool for most of it until the very end, I didn’t have any clothes on at all! At the time I had a few seconds worth of a strange feeling that I was naked in front of two people I had only just met (the midwife and midwifery assistant), but then came another contraction and I jumped into the pool, after which I didn’t give another thought to the fact that I had no clothes on. I’ve packed one nightdress again, just in case I don’t end up in a pool for some reason (I hope not, but you never know).
  • Nightdress to wear in hospital – One of my best maternity wear bargains has been a simple nightdress with poppers down the front at the top – it cost me about £5 in the sale and I’ve worn it since Andrew was born, as it allows easy access for feeding at night (I also have other pyjamas, so I don’t just wear that nightie all the time and can wash it!!) I’m taking that again, though I was so hot last time in the hospital overnight that I just lay with no nightie on under a thin bed sheet.
  • Clothes to go home in (me and the baby) – My mum is bringing over all our newborn baby clothes next week, as they’ve been stored in their loft since Andrew grew out of them. So I’ll add some babygros, vests and cardies to the bag when they arrive. My joggers, a t-shirt and a jumper are in; I’m sure these were what I wore for a few weeks after Andrew was born as they were the most comfortable thing, especially the joggers as I had a 2nd degree tear which was quite painful and I needed something loose and comfortable on by lower body.
  • Bodysuits and babygros (five of each – just in case) – Hmmm, not sure five of each is really necessary? I’ve gone for 3, because if we did need to stay in for longer, I know that Tom or my parents could always bring us in more clean stuff and take dirty ones away. It’s not like we live miles away from the hospital and would have no visitors!
  • Baby blanket – This is an interesting one. Last time we were given plenty of blankets to swaddle Andrew in at the Birth Centre. Also, from what I now know about breastfeeding, I’m going to make sure we have much more skin to skin contact in the early hours and days, rather than what happened to Andrew – he fed well straight after birth, but once he’d finished and I was getting cleaned up (after about 2 hours of skin to skin), the midwives layered him up with clothes and swaddled him, and he stayed like that all night until the next morning because he sept so soundly. This time I’m going to keep baby close to my skin until we go home, to maximise the help it will give to my milk coming in. Of course I can put a blanket over baby whilst we’re skin to skin, but I don’t think we need lots of layers like last time.
  • Maternity towels – Check. I still have some left from last time, and will get some more for coming home to.
  • Loads of pairs of ‘old’ knickers – I did this last time (rather than buying paper knickers) and it worked out well. This time I have quite a few old pairs that really could do with being thrown out once they’ve been used for maternity purposes!
  • Toiletries – Toothbrush and toothpaste were essential last time, as I was very sick after the synotocin injection and really needed to brush my teeth after that. I also washed my hair and had a good shower a while after the birth, so I have the shampoo, conditioner and shower gel to do that again. A hairbrush was also useful, and I keep one in my handbag all the time anyway.
  • Nappies, wipes, nappy sacks – I can’t believe how tiny the newborn nappies are! I bought some last week, and went straight for size 2, because the weight range said 3-6kg, and given that Andrew was 3.5kg at birth, it’s unlikely that we’ll have a baby much below that this time, unless he/she comes very early, in which case we’d need the premature baby nappies anyway. Of course the wipes and sacks are what we have in anyway for Andrew, so they’re all in.
  • Camera – Yes this sounds obvious. We took it for Andrew, but I wasn’t really up for having lots of shots literally straight after birth, it’s not really our style. We just wanted it to be a moment for the three of us to enjoy, and besides, I really didn’t want photos of me having just given birth. The first pictures we have of Andrew were a few hours after birth once he was swaddled and asleep. Then we have loads from the first few days when we were back home and our family were visiting – they took loads of him and us.
  • Your birth plan and hospital notes – Good point, I need to write a birth plan! Well, last time I wrote something resembling a ‘plan’, but given that birth can so often not go according to how you imagined it would, I wrote at the top that is was less of a ‘plan’ but rather a general list of things I was hoping for and not hoping for. Even though last time things did turn out smoothly and how I was hoping, I do intend to write something similar this time, and this will need to include an option for home birth if things go even faster than last time.
  • A list of phone numbers – All in the mobile, both mine and Tom’s. Last time Tom phoned both sets of parents straight away, and they started passing the news around family. He was allowed to phone from inside the Birth Centre on a mobile, which we were’t necessarily expecting. We then put an announcement on Facebook the day after – that seems to be by far the easiest way of reaching lots of friends in one go, and they all like to see pictures with the announcement anyway.
  • Change for the car park – Last time we got a reduced flat rate for the two occasions that Tom parked the car at the maternity hospital: once for the birth itself and once the day after to come and collect us to go home. So it was handy to have change available for this (I think it was a couple of pounds each time).
  • Towel – For me to use after a shower after the birth. I’ve got an old one that we don’t mind getting a bit red. I’m trying to think whether last time I was provided a hospital towel for after the birth, but I can’t be sure, so I’m taking one just in case, or in case they’ve changed the policy of giving out towels.
  • Plastic bag to take dirty stuff home in – This is a good tip from a mum on the Mumsnet webpage.
  • Food and drink – Last time I remember taking quite a few snacks and drinks in, like bottles of water, cartons of juice, flapjacks and cereal bars. I didn’t actually eat/drink any of them in labour, because it all happened so fast and not long after I’d eaten dinner (I like to think that the hot curry I’d eaten made my waters break and push me into proper labour!), and the midwife gave me a bottle of ice cold energy drink, which is all I consumed before the birth. Then in the first hour after the birth, we were brought drinks and snacks (juice, tea, toast) by the midwives – not that I had much of that either, because I was sick so many times from the synotocin injection, and Tom had most of it! By the time the sickness and nausea caused by the injection wore off, it was about 4am, and I finally tucked into some of my snacks and drinks. This time I’ve packed similar things to eat and drink; I’m just wondering how much of it I’ll consume this time…. Better to have it than not though.
  • A water spray – Last time I took some water in an old hair product bottle with one of those spray tops on, as I’d heard it would be refreshing when I got all hot and sweaty. But again, because it happened quickly, and I was in the birth pool for the hardest part of labour, I didn’t actually use it. I plan to take one again, in case I labour for longer or for some reason don’t get a pool. I’ve just got to find another bottle as I must have thrown away the one from before.
That’s the main things on the list from the Mumsnet webpage. There are also a few other suggestions that might be relevant to some mums, but I’ve decided that most of them are not for me. One thing, though, that I hand’t thought of is a present that the baby can give to Andrew when he first meets his new brother or sister. I’ll have a think about this; the first thing that springs to mind is a t-shirt that says ‘I’m a big brother’ or something like that.

Hospital bag almost ready - just got babygros and vests for baby to go in. Oh and I've actually packed it all in the bag, it's not just spread all over our bed still 😉
Having prepared all this for going to hospital, there is still the possibility that I could end up having a home birth. My latest thought on this is the same as when I last wrote about it on the blog. I’d like to plan for giving birth in the Rosie Birth Centre, but if baby comes faster than Andrew did, I may decide that staying at home is the better option, because although we don’t live far from the hospital, I’d rather stay at home and give birth rather than risk giving birth in the car. I will have to see how things progress on the day/night itself, and make a decision based on my previous experience and what I feel is happening this time. This means that we need to have some things prepared at home as well. My midwife gave me a leaflet on home birth at my last appointment, so I’ve copied out here the list given in the leaflet.
  • Good torch with new batteries or extension lead.
  • New box of tissues.
  • Plastic sheeting approximately 2 square metres, preferably bubble wrap (padded and non-slip).
  • Old sheet or large old towel to cover plastic sheeting.
  • Two bowls and a bucket.
  • Soap and hand towel for the midwife.
  • Large old towels including one in which to wrap the newborn baby.
  • Work surface in the room chosen for the birth.
  • A set of baby clothes, including hat, and nappy in a warm place.
  • Birth paperwork provided by the midwife.
  • Bag packed for you and baby in case of transfer to the hospital.
Well, the one thing I can say I definitely have on this list is the last one! Of course we have things like a hand towel and soap out in the bathroom anyway, and the baby clothes can easily be got out of the hospital bag if needed. The other things need some more action before the day/night itself. Some are easy enough, like getting our torch out and making sure we have new batteries, and buying a new box of tissues. The harder things are the plastic sheeting, which we don’t have at all (and I have no idea where to get such a thing), and finding enough old towels and sheets. The only work surface we have is the kitchen – it would have to be the table because the other bits of work surface aren’t big enough to fit a baby on. You see, this is one of the reasons why I wouldn’t plan a home birth – our flat it just not very big to have all this stuff around our ordinary furniture without getting blood and gore all over everything!
So at the end of week 33 I’m feeling more organised in terms of preparation for the birth. I’m also happy that our wrap for me to wear baby in for the first months has just arrived, literally in the past hour! It had been out of stock for a while, but I’m so glad that we now have it. I feel like things are gradually coming together more and more. Next week I have another midwife appointment, so that will be the main thing to write about; I hope to discuss my latest blood test results with her. As I haven’t heard much from the doctor (other than they’d like to test me again in a month’s time for the platelets), I’m assuming that things can’t be that bad, but it will be good to chat with the midwife about this. And I’m sure I’ll be sitting down to write week 34’s post before I know it – time is really flying now!
Thought we'd better have a shot from the front - after all, I do love my bump! This top was a nice birthday present 🙂