'What should I pack in my hospital bag?' If you're pregnant and planning to give birth at hospital chances are you've scoured the internet for the answer to the question about what to pack, and possibly even worried weeks ahead of your due date about what to take with you to hospital when the time comes to have your baby.
But it's a truth universally acknowledged (well, the few people I asked all agreed with me) that most of the things you diligently pack in your carefully-chosen hospital bag won't make it out of said luggage until long after you're home from hospital with a flood or hormones so monumental as to make you forget you've got a baby to look after, never mind a bag to unpack.
I laughed myself silly at the sight of half the things I had taken with me when I unpacked after the arrival of my first-born. To think I trekked all the way to a super-sized Boots store in search of one of those expensive Evian face-sprays. When the big day came it was as much as I could do to stagger through the hospital doors and up five floors in a crowded lift. It was frankly a miracle that I didn't give birth in an overpoweringly pine-scented taxi (curse those air-freshener things that dangle from the rear-view mirror) driven by a terrified Turkish man who was mortally concerned about his interior upholstery, never mind the life inside me that was clearly in something of a hurry to get out. Suffice it to say no-one thought to whip out the posh face spray at any point during the proceedings.
So, to save you the hassle of expensive face sprays and other laughably useless accoutrements for giving birth at hospital, here's our no-frills modern girl's guide to what you really need to pack in your hospital bag.
A celebrity mum memoir
Don't bother with a birth plan - just bring one of those irritatingly keen books about motherhood penned by a celebrity mum. Much like a birth plan, it won't be of any practical use whatsoever but it might give you a good laugh while you embark on the last leg of your journey into motherhood.
Failing that if you opt for a hardback version you can always try biting on it when the contractions become unbearable.
Who needs pain relief when you can bear down at one end while biting down hard on Jools Oliver or Tess Daly at the other?
Of course, birth plans do serve a purpose. They exist mainly for the benefit of midwives. What else are they supposed to do when you're being drugged to oblivion or rushed off for an emergency C-section but have a little titter to themselves over your earnestly-articulated desire to avoid all pain relief and give birth naturally while listening to whale music, inhaling neroli oil and sipping raspberry leaf tea?
I'm not knocking these, they worked wonders for me during two drug-free natural deliveries. When it all gets too much strap one to your birth partner, turn it up to the highest setting, and watch how high he jumps while re-enacting Edvard Munch's famous painting The Scream.
Quite literally hours of fun during labour - and shouting NOW YOU KNOW HOW I FEEL, SUCKER while twiddling with the setting on the TENS machine without warning can also be a surprisingly effective method of birth control that won't wear off for months to come.
We're talking giant maternity bras that look like comedy props, plus disposable knickers, breast pads and the discreetly-named maternity pads, which are really just terrifyingly gigantic sanitary towels.
Yes you will need them, no you haven't packed nearly enough of them, and yes they are a much better hint of the reality of new motherhood than any posh new maternity nightie from a chic boutique, so don't waste your money. An old T-shirt will do. One that you won't mind throwing away.
Baby car seat
According to urban legend, hospitals won't allow you to leave the premises with your newborn baby without a car seat. It may be quite tempting to ditch the car seat and do a runner after your first sleepless night on a ward filled with screaming babies, but best to bring one anyway.
Expect to have your first argument as new parents about how to fit the damn thing in the car, and how to do do up the straps.
Weirdly, you'll find yourself sitting in the back-seat clinging on to your child's car seat instead of sitting in the front with your partner. This may be a sign of things to come. If you're still not in the front seat after a month, seek help.
Mobile phone and charger
Frankly this is more important than your going-home outfit, nappies or even your offspring's first baby-gro.
Your phone and charger are absolutely essential for minute-by-minute Twitter updates of your baby's progress into the world, not to mention for uploading baby's first pic to Facebook.
Try following @Schofe and ask him to keep the world updated on your baby's behalf if you need to save your battery.
Above all, bear in mind that women have been birthing babies since time began, long before hospital bags were even thought of. I
It's strangely sobering to remember this if you ever find yourself agonising over exactly what to put in your hospital bag. Ultimately, a baby is really the only thing you need to become a mum. Everything else is a non-essential.
How much of your carefully packed hospital bag made it out of the bag?
What are your essentials you would advise others to take?