I had put it off for as long as I could, but even the most relaxed of pregnancy gurus advise that you have the hospital bag ready by 37 weeks at the latest.
Technically it is two bags – one for labour and one for the hospital stay after, but that is by the by.
I had been procrastinating for a number of reasons – lack of time, exhaustion, laziness – but mostly superstition. I am quite superstitious by nature and didn't really feel comfortable with having baby stuff in the house too soon before the event. I was worried it might jinx things.
But it was time to pull my finger out and get cracking. And boy, is there a lot of stuff to buy. Stuff you never knew existed before – disposable unmentionables, cream for this, witch hazel for that and pads for pretty much every part of you that could possibly spring a leak. It can be a messy business.
I started with the easy bit, the stuff for myself: a loose nightdress with buttons at the neck to give birth in – loose so the midwife can slip the baby up on your chest as soon as he/she is born; two nightdresses suitable for breastfeeding in while you are in the hospital; slippers; a dressing gown; toiletries; and other such mundane stuff.
As advised by friends, when it came to the clothes for me, I went for the cheapest of the cheap, but no synthetics. Easy peasy.
The various pads and disposables I bought all in one trip to a maternity shop.
Then came the difficult bit. It was time to go shopping for the baby – nappies, hats, socks, vests, babygros and something to go home in.
So last Saturday, my husband and I found ourselves in the baby section of a big department store. Baffled, we stared at the wall of baby stuff before us.
Buying little clothes for someone who doesn't exist yet, even though you can feel them squirming around in your belly, is very strange. Even more so when you have no idea whether you are buying for a boy or a girl. It made me very nervous.
"White babygros is what we need," I said. "Look for white babygros."
We scoured the wall. No white babygros.
"What about these?" my husband asked, holding up a red-and-white patterned thing in a packet.
I looked at it. "That says sleep suit," I replied. "I don't know if that's the right thing."
"It is," said a nice woman who was standing next to us. "Those are fine."
"Okay," I said to the husband, "pick out three or four of those." Next we got the vests, the little socks and little hats.
By this stage, I was a ball of nerves. We were buying stuff for our baby. Our baby. In a few weeks, these clothes, all going well, would be on our real live baby. I am not great with big emotions and the momentousness of what we were doing was beginning to overwhelm me.
We moved on to a more expensive baby shop which was having a sale – "just for a look," said my husband.
I walked straight past the baby stuff to the maternity wear and started looking at nursing bras. I was starting to freak out.
Thoughts ranging from 'What if something goes wrong and we have all this stuff in the house?' to 'I still can't drive properly, the house is filthy, we aren't anywhere near ready for a baby, the poor baby' ran through my head.
"What do you think of this?" I was torn away from my stress-fest by the sight of my husband holding up a little brown and cream outfit, with 'Mummy's Little Pudding' emblazoned across it.
"For Christmas Day? Or is it a bit girlie? Maybe we should wait until it's born, then we'll know if it's a boy or a girl. I'll just go and pay for the swing."
"What swing?" I asked.
"This swing," he said, pointing to a display model. "It has five different speeds and loads of different nursery rhymes on it. And you can connect your iPod to it. It's the bee's knees."
And off he went happily to the cash register.
I had to laugh. Thank God at least one of us was so comfortable with all this.
"I bought the baby stuff," I proudly told a friend later.
"Good woman," she replied. "But you know you have to wash it before the baby can wear it? Non-bio detergent."
Little babygros drying on the clothes horse. Not sure if I am ready for that!