I have some pregnant friends! As they get nearer to due dates, it's fun to remember the excitement, apprehension.. and the to do list. Here were the best things my husband and I did to "get ready":
1) Accept hand-me-downs/gifts from the village:
As I collected clothing and supplies, I felt so supported by my friends and family. It was a tangible way to begin to make room for our baby, and to welcome him into our community. Being surrounded by all the sweet things that came from our pals (especially the stuff that people had used with their kids) reminded us daily that we are not alone in this.
2) Find a lactation consultant ahead of time:
While pregnant, I visited The Baby Cafe in Melrose. When my son and I faced initial breastfeeding challenges, I knew just who to call. Lucia and the gang were miracle workers. And it was encouraging to be around other new moms, overcoming their own breastfeeding and general newborn challenges. Breastfeeding is great, by the way.
3) Read just enough childbirth info, no more:
Initially I did a lot of reading about birth. It's overwhelming. And no matter what you know, you have no idea how your birth is going to go. I decided to hold onto three pieces of info/advice that felt right for me (everyone will have a different list). And let it go from there. This is what got me through the anticipation and the amazing day:
- Keep your eyes open when things get heavy, otherwise you go back into a world of pain. Stay focused (literally, on a spot on the wall), and you'll rock it. That's what my yoga teacher said, and it was totally true for me.
- There may come a time during labor when you suddenly feel scared and not in
control. That's when birth is about to happen and your body will take
over. My friend Steph had told me this. Indeed, that moment came. It was such a comfort for me and for my husband to know what was happening. It was cool to let go.
- My friends Leanne, Jules, and Lindsay kept telling me it was going to be amazing. I have a deep memory of sitting with the three of them at Club Passim, and they were just radiating good vibes about childbirth. I trusted that whatever happened would be great, because it would lead to having a kid. That's what happened!
It's not rocket science. But never having done it before, I found it reassuring to go to the cop station to make sure we'd installed the car seat properly. Plus, it was fun to drive around with the car seat in. It was like practice. (While we were thinking safety, we went ahead and bolted the heavy furniture to the wall and adjusted our higher windows so they open from the top instead of the bottom. Not relevant until the crawling/pulling up stage--but that came sooner than we'd imagined!)
5) Put a waterproof mattress pad on your bed, and pack a hospital bag early:
My sister encouraged me to do both of these things a month out. I took her advice. Good thing. My water broke in bed, 3 weeks before my due date. We were ready to go! My hospital bag contained:
- a warm cardigan
- clean flannel dress/undies (something gentle to wear, easy to put on)
- face soap/lotion, toothbrushes
- for my husband: sweats for sleeping in, and clean Tshirts, sweater, toothbrush
- for my baby: an easy-on newborn outfit
- the phone number for lactation consultant in my phone
- and an extra EMPTY duffel (which we filled with TONS of maxi pads, witch hazel wipes, diapers that the hospital gave us. We used them all back at home!).
- I wish I would have put a note on my bag that said "remember cell phone charger."
Toward the end of my pregnancy, a bunch of friends came over with vegetables and soup pots. We chopped together and made and then canned 4 huge pots of incredible veggie soup. For the first 6 weeks after our son was born, friends stopped by with food, which was incredible. There was a lot of chicken; so I'd often shred leftovers and put them in ziplocs in the freezer. After the inital burst of help, our food life was still convenient: I'd heat a jar of great soup with some of the frozen shredded chicken, maybe make some rice. Delicious and EASY.
7) Find a pediatrician ahead of time:
Um, we did NOT deal with this before our son was born. You should. But even if you do and you don't like your person, switch! You'll be seeing that person a lot, especially at first. Those visits slow down pretty soon! In our haste to line up a doctor for the hospital form, we ended up with a total lemon who told me I would HAVE to feed my son formula if I wanted to keep him alive. My gut said that this was not good advice for my family, and we took the time to find a better fit. Our awesome Pediatrician helped us worked out the breastfeeding, and it has always been a joy to see her.
8) Get (and learn to use) a few cloth carriers before your kid arrives:
Even tiny newborns get heavy after a few hours. "Baby wearing" really helped my back and arms. It's a great way to swaddle your kid, which was the central way we calmed our son when he got on a crying jag. The Moby wrap (which my husband and I both loved using during the infant stage) seems super complicated to use at first. But I learned very quickly (the folks at the Baby Cafe helped me dial it in); and I wore my baby walks and at home. It ended up being SO much easier and more comfortable than strollers, especially in the airport. We liked the Ergo as our kid got bigger.
9) Build up your own library of children's books NOW:
We have read great books to our son since he was first born. I would take my son when he was still just an infant to children's rooms at libraries. I would peruse beautiful, inspiring picture books and show them to him. Reading together continues to be a big part of our lives, a calming and inspiring ritual throughout the day and at bedtime, and our son has a stellar vocabulary. Initially, we received a number of beautiful books from friends. And we've slowly added to our collection by trying stuff out on library loan--and then finding used versions of our favorite books at stores/online. In hindsight, I would have gone to the library and made and shared a list of books with friends/family who were keen to buy us something when Nigel was first born. That would have made it easier for people who wanted to buy us something enduring... and it would have helped us with our own library from the start. Anyway, books are great. And books with long, involved stories are perfect for the very beginning.
10) Aim for truly equal parenting:
Everybody is going to have a different way with this. Ours was grueling and maybe weird at the start. But my husband and I have BOTH been totally in it to win it with the parenting since that first month when we BOTH stayed up when our kid was up. I did pump a bit and built up a milk supply in the freezer, so eventually we could tag team more after the first six weeks. But initially we just both walked around in an exhausted fog. And, yeah, we were also working, though we work for ourselves, so we rock flexible hours. From the start, I never felt any resentment, and Matt never felt any distance from the process. We were both full time, and deliriously exhausted. from the start. That paved the way for complete ease and trust with the three of us four years later--Mom/kid, Dad/kid, all the same. We are all different. But however it's done, aiming for equal parenting is prime!
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STUFF that ended up being our true essentials:
- changing pad on top of dresser with wipes and diaper pail right beside.
- Country Save laundry detergent we used for EVERYONE's clothes, so no separating clothes
- cloth carriers: Moby wrap, Ergo carrier
- we used cloth diapers, and the Diaper Lab in Somerville and Cambridge was a great resource for all things diaper and baby wearing... and just general baby support/advice
- breast pump, milk freezer bags; and also a small battery operated breast pump for when you are out/in car
- lots of little throw pillows and comfy blankets on the couch instead of a big weird nursing pillow, so you can adjust to comfort each time. (breastfeeding gets super easy and convenient--I used to walk off of airplanes holding my kid... discreetly... at my breast. But it's a little awkward at first
- we had a bassinet that could attach to our bed. We ended up keeping that in the kitchen for naps and our son ended up sleeping with us at night, which was super convenient for middle of night nursing (once I'd mastered the side-lying nursing). Sharing the bed did NOT make Nigel reticent to go solo--after a year, he moved to his own little toddler bed in his own room, which we'd set up for him, but let him choose when he wanted to do that. He digs his own space; but when we're traveling and need to share a bed, it's fine with all of us.
- having a good collection of lamps with lower wattage bulbs, for a soft and chill home environment at first. We now have an adorable turtle night light that projects stars on the ceiling. Here is a super weird, yet appealing video about one of these turtles that sings (ours doesn't, thankfully).
- lots of bibs (for the early spit up!!)
- lots of white rags in a big basket (for the early everything!)
- a dresser with SMALL, shallow drawers, since kid clothes swim around in a full-sized dresser. We filled the dresser with basic hand me downs from friends. Quickly, you'll have more clothing than you need. Our favorite early clothing was easy on/off, with zippers and no fussy snaps or buttons.
- cloth storage bins from Ikea for storing bigger sizes of clothing you acquire--label the 6 month, 1 year, 18 month, 2T bins. And then go "closet shopping" every six months!
- toy storage bins
- bouncy chair, swing