Congratulations! You’re having a baby! Entering into parenthood is unlike any other adventure. Everyone who has traveled the path has great advise for the expecting parents. The thing is, every household operates differently and has different priorities and expectations. What worked wonders for one home may not work at all for another. Then you throw in the unpredictability of the baby. No two babies behave or react the same. The biggest key to the successes in our home began with setting expectations. I wish I could say we were able to set them all ahead of time, but as we bonded as a new family we found new situations we had to learn to communicate through. My husband and I brought a doula into our circle during pregnancy and she coached us through some of the basics. If a baby is on the way, here are few things to think about and discuss with your support system.
As you and your partner attend all the birthing classes and meet with your doctors you will make decisions on how you would like to proceed during labor. This is something you will need to put into writing. It is important to discus this plan with your doctor to ensure the hospital you will be delivering at can, and are willing, to accommodate your wishes. DISCUSS ALL OPTIONS. Research and understand the C-section process. I have many friends that planned on having a vaginal birth and for different circumstances ended up with a C-section. They were completely unprepared and reasonably scared and traumatized. When creating your plan, remember that the baby makes the final decision. Trust and follow the baby and the body will tell you and your doctor what you need.
Who will you want attending the birth? I recommend having a 3rd person in the room. Most delivering Moms will have the Dad and a plus one. In our case it was our Doula. I know many other women choose their mothers. Make sure your partner is 100% comfortable with this. This is a magical moment you can never get back. Is that something your husband wants to share with your mom? Make sure the person in the room can also support your spouse. This person should be able to support your birth plan and be prepared to coach you and your partner accordingly. They should be prepared, and capable if something should go wrong during labor. Walk through all these scenarios and discus who your plus one should be. My husband and I would highly recommend a Doula if you are considering that route.
On TV and in the Movies they make it look romantic to have your entire family and all your friends come to the hospital. No Way! The last thing I want is a room full of people after I just spent the last 36 hours in labor (yup, 36 hours). After discussing this with our Doula we decided that we would communicate to family and friends that after the baby is born we will invite people to come by for 10-15 minutes each. We know the baby will be feeding and sleeping, and I will be exhausted and gross. While part of me wanted to be completely alone in our bubble, there are many people who were so excited to meet our little one and I didn’t want to take that joy away from them. The 10-15 minute appointments was the compromise we made. My husband was in-charge of scheduling which was great for him. It gave him some control and something to keep him busy while keeping my world stress free!
Once we were home we continued the strict visiting guidelines. Again my husband was in-charge of the schedule and meal plan. It was known that a visit would be during brunch or dinner hours and food was expected. Everyone was more than happy to comply as they wanted to do anything they could to help. They also knew, and were very respectful, that while the invitation was for 30-45 minutes, if the baby or I needed to cut it short it was no big deal. This was the same for out of town guests too.
Almost everyone will tell you how much help they will be once you have the baby. In their mind coming over and holding the baby is helping, while you do your laundry or wash your dishes, or take a shower. Ask questions! When they offer, listen closely to what they are saying so you have reasonable expectations of their idea of helping. Learn to accept and ask for assistance. For most of us independent women this is super difficult. Have Dada help organize the help once the baby is born and he returns to work. For most, this makes them feel like they are contributing from afar.
We go through a nesting phase while pregnant getting everything ready for baby. Usually that means finishing a nursery. What most of us overlook is creating a space for the first few weeks of bonding with a newborn. In our home we have a converted basement. It has a large couch and the swing for the baby. I could rest on the couch and watch movies with my husband or he would play video games while I slept. There is a bathroom and a fridge. We set up camp downstairs during daylight hours. I don’t recommend staying in your bedroom, you will most likely want a change in scenery and being in bed all day might confuse your body when it is really time to sleep. The nursery wasn’t used for anything but storage the first few months as my husband and I co-slept at night.
Sleep seems to be the biggest topic of discussion before and after the baby. They aren’t kidding, you don’t get much. It is important for mommy, especially if you are breast feeding, to sleep when baby sleeps. Most babies are nocturnal in the beginning and if you miss the opportunity to nap throughout the day you will regret it. Have a game plan each night. If your partner is home on paternity they can help during the night, but if you are breastfeeding they can’t do much in the early days. My husband would get me ice-water, and change the diaper after the feed. Then be prepared for when your partner goes back to work, they will need their rest. If you plan on returning to work there will be a third transition. Come to an agreement on something fair for both of you. I would go to bed early and my husband would stay up late and do one or two bottle feedings before coming to bed. Then I would get up and nurse the rest of the night and early morning. And would rest as the baby napped in the early afternoon.
Back to Work
Paternity doesn’t last long so have a support system in place during at least one or two of the transition days. We don’t have family living in the area so my Mom came and stayed in our guest room for the first week. She respected our family time when my husband was home before and after work, and knew not to hover or offer advise without being asked. She was so great to have dinner for us each night and kept me fed, hydrated and rested during the day. If you are planning on staying at home make sure you push to do the work yourself during the day when family is around. My Mom would come visit frequently and every time she left I went into shock. The difference between 4 hands and 2 is everything. Take a break for a day when they first arrive, you deserve it, but be careful not to set yourself up for frustration and overwhelming once they leave.
House & Home
Priorities! If you are a stay at home mom now, you and your spouse need to agree that the only priorities in the first few weeks are the baby and your sanity. If you get behind in laundry and in housework it’s ok. The same goes for working moms. As you get used to life with the baby you will find ways and time to fit them in. Dinner – find a delivery service that delivers a variety of restaurants. Shop your stores ahead of time for pre-packaged salads and dinners that are good quality and stock up. Look into grocery delivery, either from something like Amazon Fresh or Albertson’s. Create a reasonable meal plan expectation and gradually work back to your normal routine. This is the most important discussion in my opinion. The shift that happens when you come home with Baby is bigger than you think. After the initial magic wears off, and you are both exhausted, stress can rear it’s ugly head. Both partners need to express their priority in expectations and how they feel the workload should be divided. The phrase “it takes a village…” is accurate. If you don’t have a village of helpers, you will want a clear understanding of what is most important to your partner.
Take care of you! Be honest with your partner and friends, let them know you just need to vent. Find some small things that bring you joy. Paint your nails, take a bubble bath, watch your favorite chick flick. Join a local mommy group. If you can find a group while your pregnant it is a wonderful circle of support, you will all go through the same things at the same time. When you get frustrated, the thing that helped me the most, was to remind myself how old the baby is. The baby has only been in the world for 3 weeks, it’s still trying to figure it out. I’ve been in the world 30 some years and I still don’t have it down. Your frustration will turn to sympathy and after you take a deep breath you will be able to refocus. This time is hard, but it passes so quickly. Don’t let the struggle overshadow the magic!