Choosing to have a baby is one of the biggest decisions you can make, and it goes right up there with marriage and career choices.
Obviously, it is one of those major milestones in your life that will turn it upside down and bring in the most wonderful chaos you will ever experience. The two hundred and eighty days of pregnancy will fly by – for all that it seems like a long time, you won’t even realize you’re close to your due date by the end of it.
Before your baby arrives, however you’ll need to get things in place. In this post, we are going to tell you about the challenges you will handle with the pregnancy itself, before we move into, managing finances and relationships and splitting your time between your work and your family.
Planning for a pregnancy begins before you can even get pregnant. The first thing you will have to do is have an open discussion with your partner/spouse about whether the two of you are ready to have a baby.
Communication is the key to making sure your relationship comes out with flying colors; so be ready to be honest and open. Don’t be shy about letting your partner know what you want – it’ll help them understand you better, and will keep you together in the long run! You both need to equally want this child.
Once you’re sure you want a child, you can go about the process of getting pregnant. Enjoy your moments with your partner, and enjoy the sex too, and make sure both of you are onboard with the whole idea.
When that pee stick finally does confirm that you’re expecting, then we can get into the nitty-gritty details! Do not let family hassle you into having kids.
It has to be a decision that you and your partner make together. Here are the quick steps you can follow to get you through a relatively-hassle free and healthy pregnant nine months.
Find The Perfect Doctor for You and Your Baby
The first step once your pee stick tells you of your pregnancy is to find yourself an obstetrician with whom you are absolutely comfortable. Ideally, you should have found yourself a doctor even before you chose to get pregnant so that they could advise you even during your early stages, but no worries!
As soon as symptoms point that you’re going the baby way, start looking out for a doctor with whom you would be comfortable spending the next eight-nine months.
Also find yourself the perfect pediatrician to look after your child once he/she arrives in the world. Your obstetrician will deliver your child, but they’re going to need post-natal care as well. The best idea is to get your doctor to refer you to someone to look after the baby after it’s born.
Picking the right doctor is absolutely essential; not only do you want them to be experienced, well informed and a good physician, you want to make sure that you are comfortable with them. At the very least, you will be stripping down in front of them and allowing them to inspect your body, so if you’re uncomfortable with your doctor, you’re in for a world of trouble. You need someone you like and trust to do the most important job – deliver your precious child.
Now if you’re one of the lucky ones who know of a good doctor even before you begin trying for a baby, good for you! But others – do not fear! It sounds scary, and it actually does involve a bit of homework, but it is not as difficult as it sounds.
Finding yourself an obstetrician is easy work; look out for doctors who are experienced, who have a history of delivering healthy babies and preferably run a practice with friendly and helpful nurses who can support them in a pinch.
The hard part comes after – picking a pediatrician to work with your baby. This is where you need to put in a bit more effort. Some people may prefer to take their child to a family practitioner – someone who specializes in family medicine and takes up treatment for all members of the family, both young and old.
If you’d like to go in for that, then make sure they’re well versed in dealing with kids! An advantage here is that your family doctor will be well knowledgeable about your entire family, so handling issues like genetic diseases becomes easier in this case.
If you’re looking to find yourself a pediatrician, however, here is what you do. First, approach your obstetrician for a few name recommendations. You could also ask your midwife or the nurses or approach the hospital management for further details.
Another place you could refer to is the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP); the doctors that have been certified by AAP are graduates of accredited medical schools who have completed accredited residency programs and have managed to clear the board exam in pediatrics with flying colors. In short, these doctors are well suited to care for your baby!
If none of these work out for you, go the traditional route – ask your friends, neighbors, relatives and co-workers who have had kids to help you out. One advantage with this method of looking for a pediatrician is that the people you spend time with more or less tend to share your philosophies on parenting and life, so any doctor they recommend is going to fall in with those ideals, obviously.
But do remember that each person is different; if a doctor does not work out for you; its no reflection on you or the doctor. This is why; instead of simply collecting names from all these sources, you need to ask yourself a few of these questions.
Essentially, this is the first question you should ask yourself, but since we’re looking at newborn care, it doesn’t make much of a difference right now. As long as the doctor is experienced with handling infants, your baby will not face many issues.
However, if you’re looking for a pediatrician for the first time after your child is about a year or two old and has developed quite the personality of its own, how the doctor interacts with your kid is the first thing you look out for.
Now once you have answered all these questions, you will find that you have narrowed your search down to a handful of doctors on your list. An important consideration to keep in mind is your health insurance, especially for those whose finances are tight.
Check to see if these doctors will accept your health insurance. Once that is out of the way, your next step is to identify the most convenient doctor for you – as important as being comfortable with your pediatrician is, it’s going to be a big hassle to travel three hours just to make sure your baby’s cold is simply a cold.
So check your list and spot the doctors that are easy to access; also keep an eye for the office hours and timings.
The final step in choosing a pediatrician is to fix an appointment at the doctor’s and do an interview; most doctors are willing to open their doors to a face-to-face interview with a potential patient, though some of them may charge you for it.
Don’t panic, then! If your potential doctor wants payment for a sit-in, check with your insurance company to see if they will pay for the meeting – some companies do that if you can get it billed as an office visit.
Now when you go to a sit in with a doctor, you obviously cannot be random and you cannot waste their time or your own. Go with specific questions about topics that are important to you and your child; remember, this is the person you are choosing to let care for your child on a professional level. Given that you are making this choice even before the baby is born, here are things you need to ask –
The reason you want to listen closely to the answer to the last question especially is because your pediatrician is not only going to handle your child’s physical health, but also mental well-being, at least for the first few years.
Unless your child is really in trouble and is in true need of a child psychologist, your pediatrician is usually more than qualified to help, which is why you need to be comfortable with them.
Pay close attention to details such as the doctor’s attitude and style. While some doctors will give you choices and lets you pick what you want to do, others tend to be more directional in nature and prefer to tell you what to do even as they explain the science behind it. Identify the style that you are more comfortable with and then pick someone who works for you.
The newborns first visit should help solidify your decision; if the visit goes well, then you could continue with the same pediatrician regularly. However, if for some reason, you are uncomfortable with the doctor you have picked – do not panic!
Be open and honest with the doctor – they cannot help you if they do not know what the problem is! Communicate with them, and even afterwards, if the problem persists and cannot be solves, do not hesitate to change doctors.
Ultimately, you need a strong, confident pediatrician in your corner who will support you without question when it comes to caring for your baby’s health.
Learn Everything About the Birth Process
This is the most important thing you can possibly do. From the first week to the last, scour the Internet for all the tiny details on how your baby is developing. Do your research into the process of the baby’s growth – the more you know, the better prepared you are to handle any emergencies and the birth itself.
Think about taking a birth class too. They teach you about the various stages of labor as well as other important details like managing pain, breathing techniques and the like.
Start looking out for such classes early into your pregnancy – maybe by halfway through the second trimester – so that you can pick the kind of class that appeals to you and have time to go through it fully.
You can actually see videos on the whole process and though it’s a little scary, you may find that having your partner with you to watch a video on child birth will give your partner an idea of what to expect from his end.
Men say that it’s the most amazing experience watching their child coming into this world and the nursing staff are there to make you feel comfortable and happy about the process.
Start Buying Baby Products and Set up the Nursery
Obviously, you’re going to have to start buying things for your child when you find out when they’re going to come! I’ve gone into more detail about this in the next section when we deal with financials, but it deserves a mention here too.
Baby proof your house to the best of your ability – no choke hazards for when your bundle of joy starts crawling and teething! Kids love to chew on things, so be careful not to have anything lying around that could hurt them.
You’ll need to have your nursery and crib set up. Diapers, formula (if you’re not breastfeeding), clothes, a car seat, sensitive skin wipes and some toys – these are the quick essentials you’re going to need to have the moment your baby comes home.
Buy them well in advance so that you don’t have to worry about making a run to the store last minute. Setting up the nursery, get your partner involved. He may want to paint the room with special non-toxic baby paints or personalize the crib with the name of the baby.
Be practical. It’s not all about being pretty.
You need a nursing chair, a changing mat, and a nice chest to keep all the baby clothes in. I actually had a great changing mat which was strategically placed on top of the chest with the clothes and diapers and that made the whole procedure of changing the baby so much easier. I’ve expanded more on this in the following section.
You need to decide between terry diapers and throw-away diapers and most young moms these days go for the disposables because they are easier to deal with. Whatever your choice is, talk about it with anyone that throws a baby shower because you may find that you will be inundated with the right kind of diapers as gifts and these make ideal gifts because they save you so much money long term.
Now setting the nursery up is the first thing to do on the list. Remember, the nursery is where your little sweetheart is going to be living, so make sure it is comfortable and safely built to suit the needs of your baby. At the top of the list is the crib; if you can afford to, go in for a custom made crib that has been built particularly for your baby.
If you cannot afford a custom made crib, that’s okay too! They tend to be on the more expensive side and in the end, perform the same function as store-bought ones. But when you are buying a generic crib from a store, check for comfort, for safety and for durability so that you are not cheated out of a good purchase.
Number two on the nursery list is a baby video monitor; you want something that is strong, durable and loud so that you know what your baby needs at all times. The set should be well-paired – be practical and buy a monitor that works well instead of picking out something that has been well-crafted (in lovely shapes) and looks amazing, but doesn’t actually work all that well.
Apart from these two items, here is a quick checklist of things you can set up in the nursery, put together by veteran moms and dads –
1 – Buy or find yourself an old basket and stuff it with towels, diapers and washcloths. The most important detail you have to take note of here – keep the basket open! You may like clutter within your closed drawers, but keep in mind that as a new parent, the first and foremost issue you have to face is ease of access. A crying baby hanging off one arm and you going mad trying to look for a diaper or towel does not a happy picture make! Have all your essentials neatly arranged in open baskets that allow you to get to them instantly; also organize them well (like one basket for clothes, one for diapers, one for towels, etc., etc.), so that you are not searching for things later. And when I say basket, I do not mean big, wooden woven monstrosities that cost an arm and a half; go for something practical and where possible, reuse old containers. Even old cardboard boxes lying around the house will do!
2 – Arrange for a small night-light. This is intended more for you than the baby; right now, your precious bundle of joy is too tiny to be afraid of the dark, though that stage will hit you earlier than you expect! But they do want food in the middle of the night, which means that you need to navigate the nursery in the dark. You could stub your toe or bump into the crib or even hurt your baby unknowingly; have a small night light that gives you just enough of a mellow glow to see by. This, you can buy in colorful shapes and sizes – hang it close to the crib and they will smile and laugh as they reach for it. It will also help them learn to differentiate between day and night.
3 – Have yourself a nice Mom/Dad Zone. This is your Zen area – this is where you will bond with your baby. It is especially important for women who choose to breastfeed; you want to recline against a comfortable seat and let your kid have its food without any interruptions or irritations. Even if you go the formula route, feedings can still take quite some time and it is best that you are not interrupted. Buy yourself a good rocking chair, or reuse and old one – pad it up nicely with a bunch of soft cushions. You will be sitting here for a lot of time, so be prepared!
4 – See if you can arrange for an electric fan to be placed inside the nursery; this is not a must, but it does help keep the room nice and cool. Apart from that, it also gives off a rhythmic noise that can play the role of a soothing lullaby for your child; it will definitely mask any other shrill noises within the house that will wake your baby and make them cry.
5 – Look into using a bouncer seat for the child. Again, this is not an absolute must but it is beneficial. While you did spend a good amount of money on the crib, the newborn baby is going to find it hard to get used to a crib mattress after having been curled inside Mommy’s tummy for nine whole months. A bouncer seat keeps them upright (do not forget to strap them in!) and helps them understand the change. Also, the bouncer seat is something you can carry along with you – it will help them differentiate between sleepy time and play time. The former is for when they are placed into the crib, the latter for when Mommy/Daddy straps them in to the bouncy-bouncy seat!
6 – This one is essential – a journal. Keep a small notebook stashed away in a drawer, where you make note of your baby’s developments over the months. Take down the times he/she pooped, the number of hours they slept, the number of bottles they had, etc. This served as a brilliant baby book where you can note down all your kid’s milestones; more importantly, it is a detailed log of all baby movements that you can show your pediatrician in case something happens. For instance, if you notice that your kid isn’t eating as much or is not pooping as much as they used to, you instantly know that something is not right and you can contact the doctor straight away.
Now this nursery checklist is not the be-all and end-all of nursery planning; it is just a quick starting point for you to begin! Like I said, I found it comfortable to use a changing mat placed on top of a chest with diapers and the like. Figure out what works for you and go to it from there; listen to advice, but in the end, feel your own way through it.
Now, the problem a lot of new parents face is that this kind of a specialized nursery can be very expensive; never fear! There are alternatives that will be easier on your wallet. A majority of these items can be easily set up within your own bedroom.
The night-light, for instance, can be attached to the store bought crib itself, which, in turn, can be placed opposite to your bed in the corner of your room. Your Zen Parent Zone need not necessarily be a special rocking chair/place – go use the bed! Use old cardboard boxes for diaper baskets and towel baskets and borrow a bouncer seat if it is available. Try to improvise as much as you can by using the items lying around the house – your bank account will thank you.
Once you have the nursery set up, there are still a few more things you need to arrange for. This one is a must – buy a car seat or borrow/reuse an old, functioning one that is safe. You will need it to bring your kid home from the hospital!
Buy baby clothes, diapers and toys. To make it financially easy for yourself, spread your purchases out over the nine months you’re going to be carrying the child – buy maybe one shirt every two months and two packets of diapers per month. That way, you don’t feel the pinch.
Do not go overboard with the toys as tempting as it is – newborns sleep as much as sixteen hours a day and can barely do any more. Expensive toys are actually a big waste right now. Buy a few, colorful items that will attract their attention and make them smile – for now, that’s more than enough!
As you get nearer to your due date, stock up on groceries. It is very possible that you will not be able to leave the house at all for a couple days after you bring the kid home; be prepared for at least a week of house arrest!
Make your House Baby-Proof
This may seem like a preemptive strike, but believe me – you need to get this done before the baby comes. While a newborn is not going to crawl over to the couch and throw the TV remote into his/her mouth, that stage will be on you before you can blink.
When you bring a baby home and start caring for it, you will not have time or energy to do anything else. If you put off baby proofing, then it is very possible that you will face your child choking on something because you didn’t even realize that they’re now crawling and teething! Toddlers love to gum on anything – they are not sticky and dirty all the time for nothing!
To make sure that your child rearing goes smoothly and in an uninterrupted manner, go ahead and do the baby proofing in the first few months of pregnancy!
Choking hazards liter the house; anything, from Christmas ornaments to small batteries, can be dangerous. One swipe of the baby’s curious hand and small objects will find their way into those drooling mouths and the next thing you know – your baby is choking.
Yes, that was meant to scare you. No, it will not happen if you take precautions!
The first order of things is to get rid of all those pesky small objects. Move those fragile and delicate vases and china to a higher place where kids cannot get at them; if possible, get rid of them altogether. Keep your house clean and get rid of the clutter – you may like messes, but they are a baby hazard nightmare.
And baby-proofing is not limited to just getting rid of the small items that could potentially choke your kid; a lot of items, parents overlook things like corners, edges, window sills and the like. Here is a list of those items you need to keep in mind when you baby proof –
- Stairs and Doorways – If your house has stairs, then having your crawling baby roll down the stairs or fall down the stairs is something you need to prevent! Attach safety gates both at the top and bottom end of the stairs; make sure they are sturdy and strong and that your child cannot accidentally pull or rip it apart from its hinges. Place the gate at the bottom two-three steps from the ground; this way, you can let your kid learn how to climb stairs when they begin walking and even if they fall, they wont be hurt, since it’s only one step or two.
- Edges and Corners – Your glass-topped coffee table maybe the crowning glory of your living room, but it could also potentially cut and maim your curious, crawling toddler. Mobile babies bump and walk into anything – you need to get your house rid of sharp edges and corners that could hurt them! The glass-topped coffee table, for instance – you do not have to get rid of it, just blunt the edges so that it becomes a tool to help your child push itself up instead of hurting the kid. Buy yourself some bumpers to cushion the sharp corners off; they are cheap and available in bulk too! Get a whole lot of them and go around sticking them in sharp corners to blunt the edges; your house may not look postcard perfect any longer, but it is a home to your kid in a way it couldn’t be otherwise.
- Windows – Open windows mean lovely views that attract your curious toddler outside and have them ending up jumping out. Add metal window guards – make sure the bars are not more than four inches from one another. Blinds are another choking hazard – the cords could harm your child, so keep them out of reach!
- Electrical Outlets – The plug behind the TV is every new parent’s nightmare. Electrical sockets must be well covered and kept away from the reach of toddlers; make sure all electrical appliances have been placed well above their reach. Cover your kitchen stoves with knob covers and do not – ever – leave electrical appliances unattended with your baby.
Work out these kinks and your house should be relatively safe for any new baby. Do keep in mind though that you cannot prevent every calamity and every accident; when kids start crawling and walking, they will fall, they will get hurt.
This is a natural part of life, no matter how hard it is for you to watch. Baby proofing will ensure that these accidents are not life threatening and that they are simply small bumps in the road.
Don’t be afraid to let your child explore – the world’s is its chief toy and curiosity is the sign of a healthy mind! Let your kid get hurt occasionally – just be watchful, have your first aid kit ready on hand and don’t be stingy with those kisses to get rid of those pesky boo-boos!
Also, pregnant mommies – this may be utterly sexist, but I would advise not to do too much heavy lifting through this entire process. You are going to be extra tired and irritable as you carry your kid around in your belly, so it’s best that the daddies do the work around the house. You need to focus on your health and keep yourself safe and comfortable and happy.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you can shove all the work on to your partner! Share the load as it makes sense; a lot of couples do not realize that 50-50 does not mean exactly 50-50. Mommies, if you are good at the heavy lifting, then as long as you get the okay from the doctor, don’t hesitate to pull out that screwdriver and do the work.
Daddies, you can worry about making sure your partner has the right kind of bra for breastfeeding – divide the work where it makes sense, instead of worrying about fairness. There is no right or wrong way to go about it; figure out what works within your particular dynamic as a couple and go to it from there.
It is a good idea to discuss with your spouse what you’re going to do once the baby is born. Maternity/paternity leave will, of course, cover the first few months of your child rearing, but once that’s over, what will you do?
Decide earlier on in your pregnancy itself that you’re going to designate as your go-to babysitter. If you choose to return to work as soon as possible, start looking out for good daycare options.
Finalizing a daycare center can be a difficult decision; take your time to vet out all the centers available to you within your budget and if needed, look for other options too. You could get a family member to do it for a lower fee or spring a professional nanny – it’s your choice.
Ask other new parents for recommendations. Find out what you’re most comfortable with. Remember though, this isn’t a permanent choice – it is trial and error.
After the baby arrives, try it out for a couple of days before you go to work so that you can see how much it works for you. If it doesn’t, change your plan. Whatever you do, you should be confident about leaving your child in the care of the person/agency you’ve chosen.
Remember, this may be a time when your man decides he wants you to stay at home and look after the baby. You should have already discussed this in advance and agreed upon what will happen because if you don’t, the chances are that you will have disagreements about it when the baby comes. Try to stick to a plan so that your partner and you are both sure of which way things are going to go.
The other thing is that if you suddenly change your mind and want to stay at home, that may put your partner under considerable financial stress, so you do need to have thought about it so as not to cause any arguments when the time comes.
You may well feel protective about your baby and being with your baby, but you know it’s not a bad thing for a parent to be away from baby for a while every day, because then they return refreshed and can give baby so much more than a tired out mom who never gets a break from baby at all.
Prepare any Older Siblings
If this is your second or third child, then you need to make sure your first is ready to be a big brother or sister. As an elder sibling myself, I can tell you – it is not an easy transition to make.
Your kid is used to being the center of your whole world, used to individual attention and used to being your first priority. You will now have to make them understand that they are going to have to share Mommy and Daddy with baby brother or sister and that it does not mean that Mommy and Daddy love them any less.
Fortunately, kids are super resilient and have nine months to get used to the idea. Here are some things you can do to help your first child get used to the idea of having a kid sibling.
Make use of a doll; toddlers and young kids, particularly preschoolers, love to play pretend. Hand them a doll and tell them that this could be your baby brother or sister, so will you not help Mommy/Daddy with them?
Show them how to diaper or feed them; mime all these actions and tell them right now how to look after a newborn so that they are not taken by surprise later. In fact, if you involve them in ‘caring’ for the ‘baby’, they will want to help when the actual kid comes.
And for all the commentary about girls playing better with dolls and playing house and Mommies, get your sons used to the idea of caring for kids too! Children have no qualms about those issues; don’t start the heteronormative so early in their lives.
There are a few hospitals that offer sibling classes; here, the kids can learn how to handle babies. They are taught to understand why infants cry, why they need to sleep so much, how they can look after baby brother/sister as a big sibling, etc., etc.
Now, classes for this may seem like a waste, but they do help. Being taught all these things makes the elder sibling feel a part of the family – instead of Mommy and Daddy ignoring them to get ready for the new baby, they are including the kid and making him/her feel important and essential to child rearing itself.
A very important consideration for the soon-to-be-parents – make sure you have some one to look after your firstborn when you are going to be busy with the new baby! Call a friend or a sibling of your own to come and keep your kid occupied, especially those hours of labor and the first two days or so. It’s no shame to ask for help at this time – you cannot handle everything by yourself!
And once the new baby is born, let your firstborn kid be the first to see their new sibling – it makes them feel important and included. Also, the first time you meet your firstborn after the birth (Mommy or Daddy) – hand your baby to your partner and open your arms for a hug. This way, the kid knows that he/she is not ignored or forgotten.
Decide who will Attend the Birth
This is an extremely personal decision for you to make as the Mother. And yes, I mean it exclusively for the Mommies, who are going to be huffing and puffing through hours and hours of labor to push a human being out of your vagina.
If you are uncomfortable or anxious during the birthing process because of too many/little people around you, it could adversely affect the child as well as your own health.
Some mothers will want a full room, including everybody from partner to parents to friends. If you want that support, do not be afraid to ask for it! Ask your hospital staff to look into hospital policy and see how many people are allowed inside with you; request your friends and family well in advance to be prepared to help you out when the time comes.
Other mothers may prefer to have an empty room as they give birth; this is okay too. For all the cliché about the partner coaching you through the birth and letting your break his hand, if you don’t want him there – kick him out.
Generally though, most mothers prefer to have their partners on hand. Figure out what works for you – again, no right or wrong here, since this is your body and your child and you have every right to make a decision regarding it. Just make sure to be open and communicate to all those concerned well in advance so that there is no miscommunication and there are no hurt feelings.
Also allot for yourself a ‘spokesperson’. This is someone whom you trust to pass on messages to the rest of the rabble so that they all do not crowd around the hospital waiting room; remember, birthing a child can take up twenty four full hours, so it really does not make sense to have the entire family sitting around and making a nuisance of themselves in the waiting room.
The spokesperson generally tends to be the partner, but you could choose to assign the role to a friend or family member so that your partner remains with you during the whole process without interruptions.
In the end, having visitors popping in and out after the baby has been born can be an honest, real pain sometimes! Most mothers feel uncomfortable and would like to rest after a while, but courtesy dictates that we entertain family members who have taken the time to show up and shower affection on parents and child.
In this case, take the nurses into confidence – they can play interference for you and help you save face too! Let them know in advance how many people you are up to seeing today or be on familiar enough terms with them that a few gestures will indicate to them that you are tired and would like to rest.
They will briskly and professionally kick out all visitors, who can return later to spend time with you and the baby. It’s not being impolite – you deserve the rest and the private time with your kid, so don’t feel bad about this!