What to pack in your baby hospital bag

I am 4 weeks away from having this sweet baby, so it’s time to pack my overnight hospital bag!

As a first-time mom, I had no idea what to pack, so I reached out to my awesome community on Instagram and received some really great tips. I wanted to share a bulleted list of the top “must-haves” that I received from my pals, and then share what I am packing in my bag!

Here are some of those “must have” baby hospital bag items:

  • Change of clothes: Your comfiest pants (dark pants) and a shirt that is easy for breastfeeding
  • Dark robe and nightgown for post delivery. Basically, just pack as comfy as possible!
  • Slippers (slip-ons) with enough room just in case you have swollen ankles/feet
  • Warm, fuzzy socks
  • Your own pillow for comfort
  • Hair ties
  • Chapstick (didn’t think of this one!)
  • Extra long phone charger(s)
  • Dry shampoo
  • Face wash/face wipes
  • Headphones for Netflix/audio/phone calls
  • Noise cancelling ear plugs
  • Throw-away panties with pads
  • Baby swaddles with velcro
  • Going home outfit(s) for baby
  • SNACKS! This was the biggest one. Everyone said to pack lots of snacks.
  • Water bottle with straw so partner can just hand you the bottle and you can sip.
  • Your own preferred hygiene products (I already put in an order for this)!

AND … for your partner/support person:

  • Phone charger
  • Pillow and blanket
  • Snacks
  • Change of clothes
  • Toiletries

Everyone was so helpful, and I can’t thank them enough for all of their advice.

Here’s what I am packing in my hospital bag:

  • Slippers (with enough room to put my feet in … my ankles are getting swollen!)
  • Flip flops for the shower
  • Black, button up nightgown (long sleeved)
  • Comfy maternity joggers
  • Maternity shirt
  • Maternity bras (2)
  • Fuzzy socks
  • Manual breast pump
  • Toiletries:
    • Inhalers, other medications, night guard (adorable, right?)
    • Face wash
    • Chapstick
    • Lotion
    • Hair ties
    • Frida Postpartum kit
    • Always disposable diapers

Then, for the baby:

  • Name sign
  • Blanket
  • Pacifiers
  • Velcro swaddles
  • Going home outfit
  • Additional going home outfit (just in case)
  • Hat, gloves, and booties (She’s a winter baby in New England!)
  • Car seat and base

My husband’s bag:

  • Change of clothes
  • Pillow/blanket
  • Snacks
  • iPad/charger
  • Toiletries

I can’t believe how real this is getting. Tell me — am I missing anything? Experienced parents: Please share!

Anticipated Book Releases for Q1

There are some really intriguing books coming out in the next three months, so I wanted to share a list of the ones that I have my eye on.

…I am going to do my best to not buy them all. My goal this year is to read the books I already have on my shelves!

Is my husband reading this? No? OK, good. Because I already pre-ordered two of them.

Here are some of the books that I am excited to read in early 2022!

January

Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan

Daughter of the Moon Goddess: A Novel

(Perhaps my most anticipated book for 2022.)

Growing up on the moon, Xingyin is accustomed to solitude, unaware that she is being hidden from the feared Celestial Emperor who exiled her mother for stealing his elixir of immortality. But when Xingyin’s magic flares and her existence is discovered, she is forced to flee her home, leaving her mother behind.

Alone, powerless, and afraid, she makes her way to the Celestial Kingdom, a land of wonder and secrets. Disguising her identity, she seizes an opportunity to learn alongside the emperor’s son, mastering archery and magic, even as passion flames between her and the prince.

To save her mother, Xingyin embarks on a perilous quest, confronting legendary creatures and vicious enemies across the earth and skies. But when treachery looms and forbidden magic threatens the kingdom, she must challenge the ruthless Celestial Emperor for her dream—striking a dangerous bargain in which she is torn between losing all she loves or plunging the realm into chaos.

Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Weather Girl

Ari Abrams has always been fascinated by the weather, and she loves almost everything about her job as a TV meteorologist. Her boss, legendary Seattle weatherwoman Torrance Hale, is too distracted by her tempestuous relationship with her ex-husband, the station’s news director, to give Ari the mentorship she wants. Ari, who runs on sunshine and optimism, is at her wits’ end. The only person who seems to understand how she feels is sweet but reserved sports reporter Russell Barringer.

In the aftermath of a disastrous holiday party, Ari and Russell decide to team up to solve their bosses’ relationship issues. Between secret gifts and double dates, they start nudging their bosses back together. But their well-meaning meddling backfires when the real chemistry builds between Ari and Russell.

Working closely with Russell means allowing him to get to know parts of herself that Ari keeps hidden from everyone. Will he be able to embrace her dark clouds as well as her clear skies?

You Don’t Know Us Negroes and Other Essays by Zora Neale Hurston

You Don't Know Us Negroes and Other Essays

You Don’t Know Us Negroes is the quintessential gathering of provocative essays from one of the world’s most celebrated writers, Zora Neale Hurston. Spanning more than three decades and penned during the backdrop of the birth of the Harlem Renaissance, Montgomery bus boycott, desegregation of the military, and school integration, Hurston’s writing articulates the beauty and authenticity of Black life as only she could. Collectively, these essays showcase the roles enslavement and Jim Crow have played in intensifying Black people’s inner lives and culture rather than destroying it. She argues that in the process of surviving, Black people re-interpreted every aspect of American culture—”modif[ying] the language, mode of food preparation, practice of medicine, and most certainly religion.” White supremacy prevents the world from seeing or completely recognizing Black people in their full humanity and Hurston made it her job to lift the veil and reveal the heart and soul of the race. These pages reflect Hurston as the controversial figure she was—someone who stated that feminism is a mirage and that the integration of schools did not necessarily improve the education of Black students. Also covered is the sensational trial of Ruby McCollum, a wealthy Black woman convicted in 1952 for killing her lover, a white doctor.

Demonstrating the breadth of this revered and influential writer’s work, You Don’t Know Us Negroes and Other Essays is an invaluable chronicle of a writer’s development and a window into her world and mind.

Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez

Olga Dies Dreaming

It’s 2017, and Olga and her brother, Pedro “Prieto” Acevedo, are boldfaced names in their hometown of New York. Prieto is a popular congressman representing their gentrifying Latinx neighborhood in Brooklyn, while Olga is the tony wedding planner for Manhattan’s power brokers.

Despite their alluring public lives, behind closed doors things are far less rosy. Sure, Olga can orchestrate the love stories of the 1 percent but she can’t seem to find her own. . . until she meets Matteo, who forces her to confront the effects of long-held family secrets.

Olga and Prieto’s mother, Blanca, a Young Lord turned radical, abandoned her children to advance a militant political cause, leaving them to be raised by their grandmother. Now, with the winds of hurricane season, Blanca has come barreling back into their lives.

Set against the backdrop of New York City in the months surrounding the most devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico’s history, Xochitl Gonzalez’s Olga Dies Dreaming is a story that examines political corruption, familial strife, and the very notion of the American dream—all while asking what it really means to weather a storm.

February

What the Fireflies Knew by Kai Harris

What the Fireflies Knew: A Novel

After almost-eleven-year-old Kenyatta Bernice’s (KB) father dies of an overdose and the debts incurred from his addiction cause the loss of the family home in Detroit, she and her teenage sister, Nia, are sent by their overwhelmed mother to live with their estranged grandfather in Lansing. Over the course of a single, sweltering summer, KB attempts to get her bearings in a world that has turned upside down—a father who is labeled a fiend; a mother whose smile no longer reaches her eyes; a sister, once her best friend, who has crossed the threshold of adolescence and suddenly wants nothing to do with her; a grandfather who is grumpy and silent; the white kids across the street who are friendly, but only sometimes. And all of them are keeping secrets. Pinballing between resentment, abandonment, and loneliness, KB is forced to carve out a different identity for herself and find her own voice. As she examines the jagged pieces of her recently shattered world, she learns that while some truths cut deep, a new life—and a new KB—can be built from the shards.

Capturing all the vulnerability, perceptiveness, and inquisitiveness of a young Black girl on the cusp of puberty, Harris’s prose perfectly inhabits that hazy space between childhood and adolescence, where everything that was once familiar develops a veneer of strangeness when seen through newer, older eyes. Through KB’s disillusionment and subsequent discovery of her own power, What the Fireflies Knew poignantly reveals that heartbreaking but necessary component of growing up—the realization that loved ones can be flawed, sometimes significantly so, and that the perfect family we all dream of looks different up close.

The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

The Paris Apartment

Jess needs a fresh start. She’s broke and alone, and she’s just left her job under less than ideal circumstances. Her half-brother Ben didn’t sound thrilled when she asked if she could crash with him for a bit, but he didn’t say no, and surely everything will look better from Paris. Only when she shows up – to find a very nice apartment, could Ben really have afforded this? – he’s not there.

The longer Ben stays missing, the more Jess starts to dig into her brother’s situation, and the more questions she has. Ben’s neighbors are an eclectic bunch, and not particularly friendly. Jess may have come to Paris to escape her past, but it’s starting to look like it’s Ben’s future that’s in question.

The socialite – The nice guy – The alcoholic – The girl on the verge – The concierge

Everyone’s a neighbor. Everyone’s a suspect. And everyone knows something they’re not telling.

House of Sky and Breath by Sarah J. Maas

House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City Series #2)

(Crescent City has been my favorite of SJM’s books so far, so I cannot wait for this sequel.)

Bryce Quinlan and Hunt Athalar are trying to get back to normal—they may have saved Crescent City, but with so much upheaval in their lives lately, they mostly want a chance to relax. Slow down. Figure out what the future holds.

The Asteri have kept their word so far, leaving Bryce and Hunt alone. But with the rebels chipping away at the Asteri’s power, the threat the rulers pose is growing. As Bryce, Hunt, and their friends get pulled into the rebels’ plans, the choice becomes clear: stay silent while others are oppressed, or fight for what’s right. And they’ve never been very good at staying silent.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh

The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea

Deadly storms have ravaged Mina’s homeland for generations. Floods sweep away entire villages, while bloody wars are waged over the few remaining resources. Her people believe the Sea God, once their protector, now curses them with death and despair. In an attempt to appease him, each year a beautiful maiden is thrown into the sea to serve as the Sea God’s bride, in the hopes that one day the “true bride” will be chosen and end the suffering.

Many believe that Shim Cheong, the most beautiful girl in the village—and the beloved of Mina’s older brother Joon—may be the legendary true bride. But on the night Cheong is to be sacrificed, Joon follows Cheong out to sea, even knowing that to interfere is a death sentence. To save her brother, Mina throws herself into the water in Cheong’s stead.

Swept away to the Spirit Realm, a magical city of lesser gods and mythical beasts, Mina seeks out the Sea God, only to find him caught in an enchanted sleep. With the help of a mysterious young man named Shin—as well as a motley crew of demons, gods and spirits—Mina sets out to wake the Sea God and bring an end to the killer storms once and for all.

But she doesn’t have much time: A human cannot live long in the land of the spirits. And there are those who would do anything to keep the Sea God from waking…

With Love from London by Sarah Jio

With Love from London: A Novel

When Valentina Baker was only eleven years old, her mother, Eloise, unexpectedly fled to her native London, leaving Val and her father on their own in California. Now a librarian in her thirties, fresh out of a failed marriage and still at odds with her mother’s abandonment, Val feels disenchanted with her life.

In a bittersweet twist of fate, she receives word that Eloise has died, leaving Val the deed to her mother’s Primrose Hill apartment and the Book Garden, the storied bookshop she opened almost two decades prior. Though the news is devastating, Val jumps at the chance for a new beginning and jets across the Atlantic, hoping to learn who her mother truly was while mourning the relationship they never had.

As Val begins to piece together Eloise’s life in the U.K., she finds herself falling in love with the pastel-colored third-floor flat and the cozy, treasure-filled bookshop, soon realizing that her mother’s life was much more complicated than she ever imagined. When Val stumbles across a series of intriguing notes left in a beloved old novel, she sets out to locate the book’s mysterious former owner, though her efforts are challenged from the start, as is the Book Garden’s future. In order to save the store from financial ruin and preserve her mother’s legacy, she must rally its eccentric staff and journey deep into her mother’s secrets. With Love from London is a story about healing and loss, revealing the emotional, relatable truths about love, family, and forgiveness.

March

One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle

One Italian Summer: A Novel

When Katy’s mother dies, she is left reeling. Carol wasn’t just Katy’s mom, but her best friend and first phone call. She had all the answers and now, when Katy needs her the most, she is gone. To make matters worse, their planned mother-daughter trip of a lifetime looms: to Positano, the magical town where Carol spent the summer right before she met Katy’s father. Katy has been waiting years for Carol to take her, and now she is faced with embarking on the adventure alone.

But as soon as she steps foot on the Amalfi Coast, Katy begins to feel her mother’s spirit. Buoyed by the stunning waters, beautiful cliffsides, delightful residents, and, of course, delectable food, Katy feels herself coming back to life.

And then Carol appears—in the flesh, healthy, sun-tanned, and thirty years old. Katy doesn’t understand what is happening, or how—all she can focus on is that she has somehow, impossibly, gotten her mother back. Over the course of one Italian summer, Katy gets to know Carol, not as her mother, but as the young woman before her. She is not exactly who Katy imagined she might be, however, and soon Katy must reconcile the mother who knew everything with the young woman who does not yet have a clue.

Rebecca Serle’s next great love story is here, and this time it’s between a mother and a daughter. With her signature “heartbreaking, redemptive, and authentic” (Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author) prose, Serle has crafted a transcendent novel about how we move on after loss, and how the people we love never truly leave us.

All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir

All My Rage (Signed Book)

Lahore, Pakistan. Then.
Misbah is a dreamer and storyteller, newly married to Toufiq in an arranged match. After their young life is shaken by tragedy, they come to the United States and open the Cloud’s Rest Inn Motel, hoping for a new start.

Juniper, California. Now.
Salahudin and Noor are more than best friends; they are family. Growing up as outcasts in the small desert town of Juniper, California, they understand each other the way no one else does. Until The Fight, which destroys their bond with the swift fury of a star exploding. 

Now, Sal scrambles to run the family motel as his mother Misbah’s health fails and his grieving father loses himself to alcoholism. Noor, meanwhile, walks a harrowing tightrope: working at her wrathful uncle’s liquor store while hiding the fact that she’s applying to college so she can escape him—and Juniper—forever.

When Sal’s attempts to save the motel spiral out of control, he and Noor must ask themselves what friendship is worth—and what it takes to defeat the monsters in their pasts and the ones in their midst. 

From one of today’s most cherished and bestselling young adult authors comes a breathtaking novel of young love, old regrets, and forgiveness—one that’s both tragic and poignant in its tender ferocity.

The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn

The Diamond Eye: A Novel

In the snowbound city of Kiev, wry and bookish history student Mila Pavlichenko organizes her life around her library job and her young son—but Hitler’s invasion of Russia sends her on a different path. Given a rifle and sent to join the fight, Mila must forge herself from studious girl to deadly sniper—a lethal hunter of Nazis known as Lady Death. When news of her three hundredth kill makes her a national heroine, Mila finds herself torn from the bloody battlefields of the eastern front and sent to America on a goodwill tour.

Still reeling from war wounds and devastated by loss, Mila finds herself isolated and lonely in the glittering world of Washington, DC—until an unexpected friendship with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and an even more unexpected connection with a silent fellow sniper offer the possibility of happiness. But when an old enemy from Mila’s past joins forces with a deadly new foe lurking in the shadows, Lady Death finds herself battling her own demons and enemy bullets in the deadliest duel of her life.

Based on a true story, The Diamond Eye is a haunting novel of heroism born of desperation, of a mother who became a soldier, of a woman who found her place in the world and changed the course of history forever.

January 2022 Hopefuls

Coffee, Cup, Drink, Dawn, Chocolate, Sugar, Mug, Hot

Hello, January. One of my least favorite months. But, since it is my last month before our baby arrives, I am going to soak up every moment that I have to myself…and fill it with thick fantasy books!

Here are the books I hope to read this month!

The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War #2) by R.F. Kuang

The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War, #2)

I devoured The Poppy War in December and immediately flagged it as one of the best fantasy books I’ve ever read. I plan on doing a full trilogy review once I am done … and I have a feeling I will finish The Dragon Republic and The Burning God this month! It’s so good, friends. Pick it up if you haven’t already.

The Wicked King (The Folk of the Air #2) by Holly Black

The Wicked King (The Folk of the Air, #2)

In a previous version of this post, I listed The Cruel Prince as a January 2022 read … well … I flew through the first one and now on to the second! I am excited to see what happens in this trilogy. The Cruel Prince was … dark and pretty messed up. Loved it, honestly.

Rule of Wolves (King of Scars #2) by Leigh Bardugo

Rule of Wolves (King of Scars, #2)

While I was not a fan of King of Scars (more on that later), the ending did pique my interest and encourage me to finish the duology and the Grishaverse series. I am going to go into this one cautiously optimistic …

Daughter of the Moon Goddess (The Celestial Kingdom Duology #1) by Sue Lynn Tan

Daughter of the Moon Goddess (The Celestial Kingdom Duology, #1)

The cover alone has me hooked, but I have heard nothing but amazing things about this book. It has a strong female lead, magic, monsters, adventure, romance … I simply cannot wait to get my hands on this book.

The Burning God (The Poppy War #3) by R.F. Kuang

The Burning God (The Poppy War, #3)

I can only assume once I finish The Dragon Republic I will need to pick up the final book in this trilogy. Kuang is also releasing a new book in August called Babel, and I cannot wait for more of her work!

2022: The Year of Embracing Joy

This particular blog post has been tough to write because let’s be honest … I am having a very hard time welcoming a new year right now. I think we all are, right? With the new variant spreading across the world and its existence impeding on the safe and happy arrival of our baby, it’s hard to stay positive … especially when I decided that my theme for 2022 is “Joy.”

Cliff, Adventure, Above, Hiking

What I am trying to achieve in 2022 is very similar to this picture here. We are all at the top of this hill looking down at a vast, dark, impossible void. While I don’t want to pretend it’s not there, I do want to take moments and turn towards the sun, stretch out my arms and welcome some light and positivity where I can. I write this very carefully. I don’t want to lose sight of where we are in the world and how much work we have to do. I am luckier than others, I know this. I want to play a role in making our world a better place, but I also recognize that I cannot be an active member of society if I do not take care of myself. It’s a privilege, and I struggle with that awareness.

The world just feels heavy again. I thought we were moving in a positive direction, but now another variant is making me afraid. I am afraid to leave my home again; I am afraid to get sick; I am afraid to get my loved ones sick; I am afraid that my baby will get sick. How can I find joy in so much darkness?

I think that’s why joy is the right theme for 2022. I am determined to find some light in this darkness. My daughter’s arrival in 6 weeks will be the ultimately light, and I don’t want that to dim. I want to also be a positive light for her and most importantly, a positive light for myself.

If you’ve been around for a while, you know that each year, I choose a theme. Back in 2015, I took some advice from Gretchen Rubin and decided to form habits rather than create resolutions in the new year. Since then, I have purposefully stuck to my themes to live a happier life. And it’s worked.

In 2021, my theme was to spark creativity, particularly in my writing, my home, and my music. Looking back at this year, I met my theme in many ways. While I wrote an entire Master’s thesis this spring, I also updated my blog regularly for the first time in a long time (yay!). I also participated in NaNoWriMo and started my first book! We have continued to add our own special touches to our home, and this year, I discovered a love for gardening, a new creative outlet. I learned new songs on the guitar, and I even posted a few singing videos and participated in virtual cabarets with my friends. While I didn’t start my own online bookmark store (oops), I am proud of what I achieved this year.

2022: A Year of Joy

As I enter a new chapter in my life, I aim to live as joyfully as possible. I’d like to embrace and experience joy through many outlets in my life, and I’d also like to spark joy for others, whether that is through my writing, performing, or charitable acts. As a mother, I believe that if I am taking steps to feel happiness, my daughter will also feel that joy through me.

When I think of a year of joy, I imagine adopting a few practices:

Meditation and Yoga: As a new mom, I want to make time for myself to feel grounded and calm. I plan to mediate for 10-15 minutes per day (with the help of the amazing Calm app), and practice yoga at least twice a week. While this may be difficult with a newborn, I am grateful that I have a partner who can help push me to meet these goals.

Practicing Mindfulness and Gratitude: While these are somewhat synonymous, I do want to break them down separately to explain my intentions with both. I recently read in Breathe Magazine (highly recommend) that it’s important to pause during your most mundane routines and find joy in those moments. Whether it is making a pot of tea or feeding my baby on the couch, I want to teach myself to stop and be mindful of the simplicity and peace in those routines. Meditation and yoga will help with mindfulness, and being mindful will help me feel gratitude, an emotion that I aim to focus on every day to help boost my happiness. (See this post).

Exercise: As someone who regularly combats anxiety and depression, exercise has always been a lifesaver. This pregnancy has been a little rough with round ligament pain and sciatica. I’ve been advised to avoid rigorous activity, and now at 34 weeks, walking is a painful task. Once I am healed after giving birth to our daughter, I aim to slowly get back into exercising, working out 2 times a week and increasing that to 4-5 times a week. I miss my Peloton, and can’t wait to get back in the saddle (literally).

Planting: I mentioned that I discovered a love for gardening this past year. In 2022, I want to continue plant and beautify our outdoor space. I am excited to bring our daughter outside, breathe in the fresh, spring air, and get my hands dirty. Planting seeds and watching them grow throughout the spring and summer will bring me joy, and it will also help spark mindfulness and gratitude. I love feeling connected to our planet.

What about you?

What are your goals/habits that you’d like to form in 2022? Please share in the comments below.

Happy New Year to my readers. Be well. Thank you for being here. Thank you for being you.