Pregnancy is an amazing block of time where we, as humans, have an opportunity to think about what an impact this new creature will have on our lives. As I type this, I'm closing in on having child #3 and, trust me, most of these topics are still ones that my wife and I discuss to this day. I want to take my experience and help you organize your 9 months into a period of expectations for your precious newborn, and preparation.
There really is no way to prep yourself for many years of little people who are diaper-dirtying, whining, virus-carrying critters who seem to take joy in whittling away what used to be an 8-hour block of seamless sleep, only to turn it into 3 or 4 chunks of 45-minute naps.
Scared yet? No? Well good! But there are definitely ways for you to take the time that you do have left prior to baby’s arrival (if you are reading this in your final trimester, you just better get cracking on these 7 lists PRONTO!). If you are a natural born list maker already, then you are already 2 ‘baby’ steps ahead……..if you are not (like me!), then this ‘list of lists’ is just the thing the doctor ordered!
7 : Places to Go Before Having Your Child
Now this list is good for those of you who are either on your first child or fifth – they apply regardless. When you eventually look back and think of the freedom that you had before having children, it will simply amaze you.
In every phase of life, you always feel as if there are just not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything – extra time does NOT exist when you become a parent. Here are some places that you must go before the baby gets delivered:
- The grocery store: Even though you will inevitably go to the grocery store millions of times after having kids, going to the grocery store by yourself seems like meditation. You can actually think without 4 or 6 hands grabbing store shelves for fruit snacks and drink boxes.
- - A restaurant with a bar: Yes, I admit that I am a guy and I am not the one carrying the baby (some would question that after seeing my stomach next to my wife’s, but I digress), however if you're the future father or mother you'll NEVER have a chance to sit on a bar stool for many, many years (well you could, but they always give us funny glances when we bring the car carrier in with a newborn – STOP staring at us!)
- Don’t forget, most bars will serve fancy non-alcoholic drinks, so I am not promoting drinking during pregnancy (at least not very often)!
- - To a friend’s house: The majority of the time your friends will allow you to bring children (they basically have no choice), but take advantage of the 1-on-1 time you can have before the little people invade your space. Trust me, it’s much easier to sit down and catch up with a buddy without having to wipe up poop and sprinkle some baby powder on a butt crack in between quick conversations.
- - The book store: Another store? Why yes – trust me, whenever I have a chance to hit the B&N by myself, it’s like a mini-date night! No, I’m not there cruising for chicks, but I am sipping my Americano while I relax and enjoy a few magazine articles and check out a few ‘How-To’ books.
- It definitely is a much different experience than when accompanied by my 2 lovely daughters who are torn between Lego-rama and the train set…my, how relaxing!
6 : Items to Purchase before Having Your Child
- - Several pregnancy books, as well as a journal: This can be a wonderful 9-month journey into a part of your life that not every person (female or male) gets to experience – why not keep a written journal of your experience? Also, there are several well-written books on the shelves these days, which can help you through the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of your ride.
- - A car seat: It can take quite some time to find that perfect contraption to take home your beautiful baby for the first time. Make certain that you take safety into consideration before you simply purchase the one with the cheapest price tag. Even better than buying one, make sure to register for the one you really want (Let Uncle Ned foot the bill this time around!).
It's Best to Be Prepared, Rather Than Surprised
- Plenty of supplies, such as diapers, wipes, onesies, and seasonal clothes. If you are planning on having a baby in the winter, the clothing needs that you have will be much different than a newborn that comes home in mid-June. Also, never underestimate how many diapers you will need early on – those little people go to the bathroom much more often than you would imagine! Plus, you never want to run out of diapers during that middle-of-the-night diaper change……..oops!
5 : Paperwork to Have in Order
- Writing up or altering your will to include your children: This is something that I have to admit I have yet to work on, however I think about it very often. The less clutter you have in your brain, the easier the day-to-day functions of your life will be. Putting together a will can be as simple or as complicated as you need it to be and adding your children or future children to your will can ease your mind during these very tumultuous times.
- Health insurance coverage: Never assume that your carrier will automatically add your newborn to your already existing coverage. Generally you have about 30 days to add your baby to your plan, however why wait? A day or 2 after the baby is born (before mom even makes it through the door), add little Johnny or Suzie to your coverage – picture being stuck with any number of bills associated with newborns.
- Speak with a financial advisor: Take this as an opportunity to straighten out all of your finances. Believe me, whenever I have heard the phrase, ‘we are waiting to have children until all of our finances are in order,' I chuckle loudly on the inside. I firmly believe that there is no way to be 100% financially prepared for children, however speaking with a professional on this matter can definitely help. Perhaps opening an education fund (like a 529 account) before the baby is born is a great jump start.
4 : Support Network
- Make a list of people in your life that can be helpers: There may be a lot of people that you surround yourself with on a daily basis, however let’s face facts: how many of them would you actually trust to help you or to assist with the raising of your child? Even if you and your spouse are planning on facing the world with your newborn alone, you really need to have backup plans in place: what if you (or worse yet, both!) of you come down with an illness and you cannot physically take care of your baby? Trust me, it happens and you want the support system of friends and family available, just in case.
- Deciding what you will do on the subject of daycare vs. staying home with your children: This topic is a very difficult one and one that you cannot delay discussing with your significant other. If you are both currently working, then there can be a big crossroads: will one of you sacrifice your current job to stay home with your child or do you decide to continue on with both jobs and factor in daycare (or help from family/friends). My wife and I have gone both routes and there are true pros and cons to both sides of the coin.
Build Your Network Up Before You Need It
- Choosing a pediatrician: Interviewing potential doctors that will be responsible for diagnosing the health in the early years of your child is quite a daunting task. It definitely is a subject that you want to approach early on in your pregnancy, so you have plenty of time to make an educated decision. As we are swiftly approaching baby #3, I am very happy to say that we are pleased with our decision of pediatricians. Actually I cannot say that in my 41 years, I have personally ever had a doctor that I liked as much!!
3 : Baby Proofing
- - It’s all about the baby proofing: Making your home a safe environment is such an important part of what needs to get done, that I dare say it is the single most important part of this process.
- From making certain to keep all medications in safe places to ensuring that your child will not fall down a flight of stairs, are all essential ways to keep your baby as injury-free as possible (outside of padding all of your walls, of course – which some parents still do).
- - Nesting, nesting, nesting: For all of you currently experiencing what is referred to as the ‘nesting syndrome’, you are not alone.
- I believe that most parents have an urge during some point of the pregnancy (yes, men actually deal with nesting too) to make certain that their house is in proper form for baby’s arrival. Whether this is in the form of setting up the nursery so that every wall is painted and each bolt on the crib is tightened perfectly to making sure that all of the supplies have been purchased and are readily available for use on day #1.
You'll Want Everything Ready and Perfect
- I have had that feeling on more than 1 occasion and I believe it is common, as there are many parts of pregnancy we cannot control and nesting helps you to put together the pieces you can control.
- - Stocking the house with much needed parental supplies: Now this would include anything that you need around the house for the first few weeks of your mini-me’s arrival. This includes anything from your favorite candy or coffee to stocking up on a plethora of meals that you made ahead of time and froze.
- My wife and I affectionately call this ‘freezer diving’ – a great way to enjoy a home-cooked meal when you had about 2 hours of sleep the night before (hmmm…someone just couldn’t get enough of mama’s milk last night and would NOT let you catch a wink of shuteye) and you have no intentions of putting together a nutritious meal on the spot.
- Don’t forget that for the first few weeks that your baby calls your home their new home, you may not want to be on the road too much – better to be safely stocked up, rather than sorry and have to take the crying little one to the grocery store on a packed Saturday afternoon.
2 : Activities to Do With Your Spouse Before the Birth
- - Make sure to take time for yourselves before the baby arrives: I realize that there will be a lot to get ready beforehand, however this will be the last time you will ever have this opportunity as a couple. Yes, you may get an occasional weekend getaway without the kids when the grandparents are watching them, however it will not be the same worry-free feeling. Definitely time to plan that babymoon!
- - Take some time to have honest discussions with your significant other: this includes how you want to raise your children. Look around you at other couples who already have kids and take what you deem as the good and the bad of their parenting styles and start to mold your own.
- Also use what you know about parenting styles from the way both of you were raised. Jot down the positive and the negative – it helps to have something to compare your styles to.
Treasure These Moment Because You'll Never Be Alone Again Once Baby Comes
- - Sleep late: This is a big one – your opportunities to sleep in far decrease once you have a crying baby under the same roof (like never!). Trust me, I used to be the total definition of a night owl – the old me sometimes going to bed at the same hour as I currently wake up most mornings (between 5 and 6 AM).
- So when you have the opportunity to sleep in a little on the weekend or take an occasional nap – don’t feel guilty – do it while the sleeping is good.
1 : What to Learn Prior to Baby’s Arrival
- - Take some time to learn about what to expect: This goes for both the gals and the guys – not only take the opportunity to learn what it will be like to deliver that bundle of joy, but read up on what the full 9-month journey will be like. Take this chance to soak up every minute and understand the changes that your body is going through.
- For men, this is an opportunity for you to earn some extra bonus points: if you can show her an inkling of support through the process, this is the time. Make sure to give her plenty of back and foot massages while she is going through this labor of love.
- - Also this is a good time to check out the unexpected: This is a category that the Mrs. and I are all too familiar with. Our first daughter was born at 25 weeks – not knowing what preterm labor was at the time, put us in a very scary situation.
Lucky for us, we had a wonderful staff of NICU nurses, doctors, and quite a support team (including a wonderful organization called the March of Dimes). This team included all of the friends we made along the way – other parents who were going through the same situation that we were. While you don’t want to spend your whole pregnancy worrying, it never hurts to have more info.
With 2 beautiful little girls (ages 5 and almost 2), plus my third (a son) closing in on being born – I think I better wrap this article up and keep working on some of these lists that I have been preaching about. Lots to get done in the next few weeks – bye for now!