We're over 10 months into our parenting journey (crazy, I know!), and I've had some recent inquiries about preparing to have a child from friends with baby on the brain. So today, I'm sharing all. the. things: what we did to prepare, plus the things I wish we did. This list is going to be quite long. As always, I can only speak to our experiences--your mileage may vary (and that's totally okay!).
- Take a trip together just the two of you. Enjoy the planning and make it a trip that'd be hard to pull off post kids (for us, it was our trip to Namibia). Pre-baby, I thought I'd be jet-setting with the baby, but now I realize neither traveling with nor leaving without her is desirable (and I never expected that). You can take a "babymoon" too, but one last trip pre-pregnancy is a great idea too.
- If you don't have one, get a therapist. Seriously, you're about to undertake a huge transition and great communication is the secret to success in any partnership. Schedule it even if you don't think you need it: it will reserve time for you guys to talk over how things are going and focus on each other.
- Realize no one knows entirely what to expect from parenthood, and that's normal! Just check your reasons for wanting kids and make sure it doesn't include things like "my life lacks purpose," "I think it will make my relationship better," or "I want someone to take care of me later," or "being a parent will make me more or less _____." In other words: don't give your child a job to do before he or she is born.
- Talk about how you want to raise your kids and make sure that your basic philosophies and priorities align. If certain issues are extremely important to you, talk to your partner about them before you have the baby. Notice I said "talk to your partner" not "talk to everyone you know." These preferences are all about what work for the two of you.
- Go see movies, go out to eat, sleep in.
- Increase your life insurance policies, and do it before you even get pregnant. This is advice we didn't know to heed, and it turned into a huge ordeal. For one, you have to give your real weight, and they use that to calculate the rates (and they don't care if you're pregnant or recently postpartum). Also, the company tracks down medical records from your past (and if your doctor is slow to release them), it can literally take months to get approved. We started the process in June, and it took nearly 8 months to settle everything.
- Plan how you will save for college now. We didn't start until six months in (I think we were just overwhelmed!) I can't give anyone financial advice (there are so many options), but we ended up doing a 529 education savings plan.
- Before saving for college, make sure you're saving for your own retirement. It doesn't make sense to pay for your child's education and then not have a way to cover your own expenses in retirement.
- Also, make sure you've saved an emergency fund that could cover about six months of living expenses in an emergency. This can take years, but it's worth it.
- Consider a carrier screening pre-conception. We did this through a company called Counsyl: insurance mostly covered it (I think we paid $300 out of pocket), and it certainly gave us peace of mind.
- Be as fit as possible pre-pregnancy. It does help with getting pregnant, pregnancy, and recovery. Find a physical activity you actually enjoy and stick with it. Clean up your diet but don't feel the need to be ultra restrictive: just use common sense.
- If you are interested in learning how fertility works, I highly recommend the books Taking Charge of Your Fertility and The Impatient Woman's Guide to Getting Pregnant, and the app Fertility Friend.
- Of course, you can always go the "just see what happens route" if you aren't in a hurry. About 85% of couples will be pregnant within a year. There's no real reason to wait a year to see a doctor though. If you aren't pregnant after six months of trying, you have nothing to lose by scheduling an appointment.
- Invest in cheap ovulation and pregnancy tests. You'll save yourself money and trips to the store.
- Take a prenatal vitamin before you start trying.
- Meet with your doctor for a preconception visit. Bring a list of all your questions. You can also do this at your yearly well woman exam.
- Get your will and your medical power of attorney together. Make sure the hospital has a copy of your medical power of attorney before you go into labor.
- Make sure you and your partner both have health insurance.
- Usually, you have 30 days to add the baby to your plan. Talk to human resources and make sure you don't miss any important deadlines.
- Dental Health: Stay on top of it. Gum disease can lead to pre-term birth. Make sure to get your teeth cleaned twice a year before, during, and after pregnancy.
- Get a TDaP vaccine while pregnant and make sure everyone that will spend time around your newborn is vaccinated.
- Books: Expecting Better (my favorite), The Panic Free Pregnancy (some good advice), and What to Expect When You're Expecting (a classic).
- As soon as you get pregnant, find a pediatrician that takes your insurance and join their waitlist.
- During pregnancy, get a prescription for a breast pump from your OB. Survey friends for recommendations, and order your pump before baby arrives (I like my spectra S2 if that helps!)
- Flange sizing is so confusing! At my pediatrician's office, I scheduled a consult with their lactation consultant. I wish I had brought my pump and flanges with me: I would have saved myself months of using the wrong size. Also, I recommend ordering these.
- Ideally: finish your education and be settled in your career. Making changes is always possible--just a little more challenging post baby.
- Save up sick leave if your company doesn't offer maternity leave (mine didn't). I dragged myself to work even when I felt less than ideal for years, but it paid off.
- Lean in now because you'll probably need to lean out later. When I was pregnant, I taught overload and went to so many evening events on campus because I knew it would be awhile until I could do that again. Long before pregnancy, I said yes to everything, and that earned me flexibility to prioritize what I say yes to now.
- Read Here's the Plan: it's a great book for understanding laws that impact your leave and how to keep your career stable while adding to your family.
- Call local childcare centers and get on the waiting lists now! We waited over 2.5 years for Willa's spot (and they couldn't take her one day sooner!)
- Make sure your transportation is reliable and your car is up to date on all inspections and maintenance. Before we had a child, we were both driving old cars (12 and 22 years old to be exact!) We upgraded our vehicles, and while we spend more money, we now have peace of mind and no car issues (knock on wood).
- Realize that buying or inheriting used baby stuff is sometimes not okay (which is a bummer for those of us that are frugal minded). For instance, drop side cribs are illegal to sell. There are so many warnings about baby sleep spaces. You can look up products online and make sure they aren't recalled. If you can't find info, just air on the side of caution: better safe than sorry.
- Car seats have expiration dates and should never be reused if they've been involved in any accident, even if it was a fender bender.
- Your local hospital should offer courses that cover infant CPR and babycare 101. Make sure you attend these classes and read through the information. People you know may give you outdated advice about child-rearing. I've even heard of doctors giving friends outdated advice. It's really up to you to educate yourself.
Well faithful blog readers, I've had this one saved in draft mode for weeks, and that's all I can think of. For those of you that love to plan, I hope this helps. And remember: the most important part of parenting is simply loving your child.
Flashback to Portland, OR, July 2017: we didn't know just how much our lives were about to change.
Did I leave anything off the list? Let me know in the comments section!