By: Karen Sullen

The countdown has begun, and the big day is almost here!  Everyone is all aglow with anticipation and excitement.  The baby's room is filled with beautiful picture-perfect décor.  All the gifts from all of the baby showers have been neatly put away, and now it's time for baby's arrival.  The only problem is that, unless you're having a C-section, you don't truly know when that will be.  Rest assured, the baby will definitely let you know when it is time.  But that's not the time to begin preparing for the trip.  Packing the hospital bag, arranging schedules and determining whom to notify should be done well in advance.  Keep in mind that a baby is considered "full term" at 38 weeks (even though the due date may be weeks away), so be on alert.  Use these helpful tips and checklist to be prepared for the baby's big move!

Create your Call List
Pull together all the names of people who you'd like to be called first.  Include phone numbers and emails.  In addition to family and friends, be sure to include a contact person at work because everyone at the office will be on pins and needles until they hear as well.  It's also a great idea to enter the list in the cell phone so a quick text message can be sent to everyone at the same time. 

Think and Cook Ahead
If possible, cook a little extra food over the two weeks prior to the baby's arrival and store food in the freezer.  Or designate a family or friend to handle the meals for the first two weeks you are at home.

On Standby
Arrange for sitters (for pets and baby's siblings) to be on standby so they can be prepared to step in at a moment's notice.  Be sure they know where the school/day care is located and inform them of any other weekly commitments.  If you live alone, be sure someone takes care of plants, mail, newspapers, etc.

Pack Your Bags
Here is a quick checklist of some important but sometimes overlooked items to include: 

1) Paperwork
Insurance cards, health care provider phone numbers, hospital pre-admittance forms and your birth plan

2) Items for Labor
Object to use as a focal point, slippers, bathrobe, extra socks, hair bands, lip balm, lollipop/hard candy to keep mouth from drying out, favorite pillow, MP3 or CD player with relaxing music, books, magazines or other reading material, glasses (some hospitals will not allow contacts), toiletries, watch with a second hand, camera or video camera, extra batteries, and address or phone book.

3) Items for Your Husband or Partner
Change of clothes, toiletries, snacks, and reading material

4) Items for After Delivery
Nightgown, clothes to wear home, baby book, thank you cards or notes, nursing bras, nursing pads, sanitary napkins, deodorant, makeup, prescription medications, and sibling gifts.

5) Items for Baby
An outfit to wear home, hat or cap, diapers, car seat, and receiving blanket