Preparing for baby’s arrival?
Make sure your hours upon hours of preparing are actually being used effectively. Those nesting hormones aren’t always so logical. And if you are preparing for the birth of your first child, you might not know how you really want to prepare.
Because well, hindsight is 20/20.
After my first child was born, those first few months with her painfully showed me how I should have prepared. Here are my 17 ways to prepare over those 9 months of pregnancy broken down in how I prepared well and how I wished I had prepared.
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1. Documenting my pregnancy
How I prepared well: When we found out, we were so excited. Before tackling the to-do list once you are pregnant, we celebrated by going out to breakfast. We knew we wanted some fun way to remember the pregnancy and made a plan to take weekly bump pictures. Now that L is 2, I am really glad I have those photos.
How I wish I prepared: In addition to those weekly pictures, I wish I did a weekly pregnancy journal. One that also includes the other partner. I also wish I had some fun way of documenting pregnancy milestones such as first ultrasound, first kicks, sharing with family etc. I also wished we had both taken some time to write letters to L while she was still in utero.
Now that I am going through my second pregnancy, I am taking my own advice. I am doing weekly bump updates, documenting milestones, and reactions to finding out and sharing with family.
To receive free weekly journal printables, sign up for our free Bump Smart course where you will get emails on how to prepare specific to your due date.
2. Building my registry
How I prepared well: I registered at a lot of different places so there were options for everyone, and then made it easy by merging all my items at MyRegistry.com, which is free. Registering at places like Target or Macy’s is great especially if you have grandparents or relatives who aren’t into computers. Amazon is a must especially since a lot of people have prime and that allows free shipping for those who live far away but still want to send something. I also used Wayfair because I really loved how many choices in style they had for nursery furniture and shipping is always free over $49. It is also a great, more reasonably priced option to Pottery Barn. Wayfair also has fantastic storage solutions, which I should have utilized more while preparing (see more on this point under nursery below).
How I wish I prepared: I should have paid more attention to our current modes of transportation and the season my baby would be born in. I really wanted to wear baby and picked out a fantastic wrap by Boba. The wrap was great, the only issue was that L was born in July and that wrap is not made for summer babies. L lived it in because she loved it so much and I lived under the AC literally and still sweated. I should have bought a wrap with a lot less fabric like a ring wrap.
I also really thought we needed a stroller. However, if I took two seconds to think about our modes of transportation, I could have saved myself some money. We drive everywhere. Additionally, when we are outside, we like to hike or be in nature. Again, wearing baby is actually easier than hauling a stroller. I also thought a stroller was necessary for shopping, but you can’t push a stroller and a cart. You either need to put the car seat in the cart, taking up an insane amount of room, or not use a cart or wear baby. Wearing baby was always easier.
You can find more questions to consider when making your registry in how to build a registry based on a collection of actual mom advice.
3. Preparing the Nursery
How I prepared well: I know this isn’t essential to a nursery, but I am very proud of the time and effort I put into decorating L’s nursery. I made her an owl quilt and carried the theme throughout. It was important to me to welcome my child. Now as a toddler, she is obsessed with owls. I can’t imagine why? If you are looking for a theme, one awesome idea is to consider a children’s book that has fantastic quotes you could use. Neverland, Dr. Seuss and Winnie the Pooh are all great options.
How I wish I prepared: While I definitely had everything I needed in the nursery, my prego brain didn’t even think of functionality or organization. I could and should have spent more time making an organization system that was logical. Alli’s article highlights how to make a functional nursery on any budget or in any space.
How I prepared well: I didn’t think this was an actual thing until I had the crazy urge to clean and organize our whole house to an insane degree. I was very sure we couldn’t have or properly care for a baby until I got new bathroom decor. I know how crazy that sounds but at the time it didn’t, thanks to those pregnancy hormones. Long story short, our house was spotless before baby arrived. Having a very clean house was great. When baby arrived and I didn’t have a lot of time to clean, the house only needed a little bit of cleaning here and there.
How I wish I had prepared: I wish I had diverted some of that cleaning motivation to focusing on decluttering, organization, and making more storage room. In addition to having organization solution in the actual nursery, I didn’t have a plan on how to store and switch out clothing and other baby items. We planned on having more than one kid, which meant we needed a storage system for all of the baby items. Babies also grow so fast, so you need a convenient system for switching and storing different sizes.
5. Freezer meals
How I prepared well: I did take the advice to stock your freezer seriously even though I didn’t quite understand why. I am really glad I did this. You don’t have time to cook because baby is unpredictable on when they will need you. You are also sleep deprived and still recovering, so the last thing you want is to cook. Preparing meals before-hand freezer meal style allowed me to focus on baby, eat healthy, breastfeed and lose weight. Seriously, the most legit thing you can do.
How I wish I prepared: I did this the hard way. To prepare freezer meals, you chop, measure and combine all the ingredients into a Ziplock safe bag and freeze it. When you want to have that meal, just defrost and crockpot it. I spent a lot of time trying to find freezer meals recipes and then making my own grocery lists. If you use a freezer meal cookbook, the meals come in sets along with instructions and premade grocery lists. This is such a time saver. There are also websites dedicated to this type of cooking that allow you to pick meals based on dietary restrictions and then will auto-generate the grocery list and instructions for the set of meals you choose.
6. Prepare your relationship
How I prepared well: We were ready to be parents. We knew what we both wanted, we had talked about our own upbringings and were on the same page. We even made a will for our child to ensure our child would be taken care of no matter what happened during childbirth and beyond.
We made an effort to spend time during pregnancy to communicate. We realized communication would be stressed once baby arrived. A lack of sleep and trying to figure out how to care for a baby is hard. Before baby, we both worked hard to implement a thought process during communication, which was HALT. HALT stands for hungry, angry, lonely or tired. If we were starting to argue, we both had to think about which one of these is the other person feeling. It really helped us come to a solution instead of escalating.
We now use HALT with our toddler. If she is losing it, it is almost one of these reasons. Preparing for your relationship to change can prevent a lot of stress in those first few months.
How I wish I prepared: We were almost too excited for baby that we forgot the relish those last few days of just being the two of us. We did do a babymoon, which I highly recommend. It doesn’t need to cost a lot but just set aside a weekend to get away and be with each other. When we were in the last trimester, we were very focused on preparing for baby. I am glad we got to share that excitement and prepare together but I wish we had gone on a few more date nights. Your life changes a lot after baby and it will never be just the two of you. You will always have this new baby and new responsibility. Find ways to make this time memorable and special before your wonderful new addition arrives.
7. Ready to become a mom
How I prepared well: While this is similar to preparing your relationship. Your identity also changes. You now have a child. You are now a mother. Before the baby, the mother didn’t exist. I am really glad that I did spend some time in those last two months specifically having some me days. Your life is about to be really busy and you won’t get much alone time. Trust me, toddlers even love to follow you to the bathroom. Pick an afternoon and spend it sitting in a coffee shop or the corner of a library reading one of your favorite novels. Go to a fun cooking class or do a paint night with some friends and “sparking apple cider.”
How I wish I prepared: While I was ready to be a mom, I wasn’t ready for the “feelings” I would go through with my new mom title. Having a toolbox not only for birth but also for the aftermath is really becoming popular. When I say this, I don’t mean I regret or don’t want to be a mom. Your life just changes, and you can’t predict it all and you discover you have feelings about being a mom as you start that journey. The best way I can describe it is you don’t know what it’s like to have your heart walk outside your body until you have a child.
8. Preparing for Maternity Leave
How I prepared well: Before baby, we looked into what both Cole and I could get for maternity and paternity leave. Knowing how long I had allowed me to start planning on how I could meet my breastfeeding goals while working. I learned all about when to start preparing, pumping and storing milk at work, and how to pace feed baby so baby wouldn’t reject the boob.
How I wish I prepared: I was pretty sure I wanted to stay with a traditional industry job until one week after having L. There was just no way I could go with that option. If someone would have told me before L that I would be taking a non-traditional career path in order to be home more with my child, I would have never believed them. However, in retrospect, it was the best career choice I have made. Not only does my job allow me to be the type of mom I want to be but also, I REALLY enjoy it, way more than I predicted.
My biggest regret here was not investing in a work from home option sooner. While I am so glad I decided to take up blogging, I wish I had started while pregnant. I wouldn’t have had to spend so much time during the first few months searching for a work from home option that fit me. I looked into so many options until I found blogging.
While Alli and I met when our babies were 4 months, she was already working for VIPKID as an online teacher. Alli had also decided that she wanted to stay at home and like me began a massive search to find an option that fit her and her family. She teaches in the morning before her husband goes to work and then has the whole day to spend with N.
How I prepared well: I did my research and decided while I was pregnant to invest in a nice camera, so I could have it to capture them growing up. I did this while pregnant to give myself time to seriously learn how to use it. I am so happy I did this because it meant I didn’t have to continuously pay for photo sessions but could capture every baseball game, the first day of school, and daily life.
I also spent time determining an organization method to store all of these photos and then how to back them up. For my organization system, I took into account how I would use them. I plan on making a picture album each year for each kid through a program like Shutterfly, Minted or Artifact Uprising. Therefore, I made folders that go first in year and then by month. This has worked really well for us.
How I wish I prepared: While the nice camera will allow me to get so many fantastic photos over the years. I will still want to book photo sessions to get all of us as a family. The first session I wanted was newborn as that was the first time we were a family of three. However, I made one terrible mistake. I didn’t get the rights to all the digitals!
Never book a photo session without the digitals. If you do, you just paid a lot of money to have your photo taken but you don’t get the actual photos. You have to pay the photographer to print them, who will mark them up. This means you can’t send them out to your family if they want to print them. You can’t use them in a photo book you make for baby. You can even just have them on your computer.
10. Clothing to wear
How I prepared well: I made sure a lot of the items I got would work for both maternity and postpartum. This is where Stitch Fix comes in handy because you can ask your stylist for clothing items that work for maternity but aren’t maternity specific. I also made sure to invest in two high quality nursing bras while pregnant that doubled as both maternity and postpartum bras. Remember, no underwire for nursing bras as that can cause clogged ducts!
Spend some time finding online stores you like because when baby comes you won’t have time to shop. You either need to get everything before, which I recommend, or be able to hop online between nursing, sleeping and eating.
How I wish I prepared: I wish I invested in a few nice outfits for maternity, hospital and newborn photography. My go-to this time around for photo shoot outfits and nursing staples is Figure8 Maternity. You need lounge wear that works well with nursing around the clock. I also wanted to wear a nursing robe type outfit for my hospital pictures. You just gave birth, you won’t want to get into a fancy outfit. You also want to wear something that matches the scene. This fits the bill for something that can make the photos candid.
11. My hospital bag
How I prepared well: I had the essentials covered. You could even say I over-packed. I also made sure to have our bags ready in advance and had the car seat installed and ready to go. We also asked beforehand about food for dad. It wasn’t provided so we made sure to have his food bag ready to go along with good snacks just in case.
How I wish I prepared: While I had everything with me, I did not organize our bags well. I packed baby and me in one. First, I should have packed separate bags for delivery and postpartum. This way you don’t have to dig through everything during labor or even bring it all in. Leave all postpartum in the car, bring in only the labor and delivery bag. I also didn’t need to pack as much as I did.
12. Preparing for birth
How I prepared well: I researched each topic surrounding birth well. I not only researched the risks and benefits of each routine procedure but also what hospital stats matter. I knew the level of NICU at the hospital. By the way, if your hospital doesn’t have an NICU, there is a chance you and baby may be separated if something goes wrong.
How I wish I prepared: While I knew what I wanted, I didn’t really have a birth toolbox. I didn’t have a plan on ways to cope with pain. When one strategy wasn’t working anymore, I would try A, B or C. I needed that type of plan during birth. Instead, when asked what I wanted to try, I just said “I don’t know.”
I was in Germany for most of my pregnancy, so I didn’t really have a chance to take a class where I delivered. I wish I had realized that there are a lot of online birth classes tailored to different philosophies and also online birth classes by medical professionals. If you want a specific type of birth, you need to have tools that will help you achieve that.
I also should have utilized more free online birth and pregnancy preparation e-courses and materials. A few that will really help you have a better handle on what to expect medically during pregnancy and will actually prepare you for the birth you desire are:
- Mama Natural’s free weekly pregnancy email series that will teach you everything you need to know about having the ultimate natural pregnancy and birth.
- Pulling Curls’ free 3rd trimester prenatal class, taught by a labor and delivery nurse, is an amazing free excerpt from her online childbirth class.
- Our free 6-day Birth Smart course via the Bump Smart Series to help you determine the best birth choices for you.
How I prepared well: I knew the benefits of breastfeeding, not only for baby but also for mom. I also knew I wanted to breastfeed during the first hour after birth. That alone lowers infant mortality by 50%. I also knew my breastfeeding goal, which was to reach 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding and then reach 12 months of breastfeeding. Knowing the benefits and my goals helped me find success.
It also allowed me to share with my husband why breastfeeding was important to me and to get his support. There are also a lot of resources within communities for breastfeeding support, you just need to find them. Take our free 5 day email course geared toward the expecting mama to get a jump start at success.
How I wish I prepared: I had no idea breastfeeding was a learned skill that both you and baby learn together in those first few weeks. I also had no idea how much you had to breastfeed during those first few weeks. Basically, I didn’t have the right knowledge to succeed. I thankfully had tremendous help at the hospital and I know I would have failed without it. The lactation consultant spent hours upon hours teaching me so much about breastfeeding.
14. After birth
How I prepared well: Mainly because of the help I got at the hospital, I understood how to breastfeed on demand. By doing so, I didn’t have any supply issues. Yep, that’s how critical those first few days and weeks are to breastfeeding. As a result, L gained so much weight and fast, which was awesome and just one less thing to stress over.
How I wish I prepared: I somehow missed the memo on postpartum recovery and didn’t realize I needed anything. At the hospital they had awesome maternity pads and would coat them with witch hazel wipes. Alternating between ice packs and sitz baths was also a must. My husband had to go out and try to find recovery items for me. It was not the ideal way at all. In general, try to minimize shopping post birth.
I also believe that had I been doing a more intentional and true prenatal fitness program my physical recovery from birth would have been a lot easier. Recovering my core and pelvic floor after birth was a lot different that I imagined it would be. There was even some PT involved. Don’t make this mistake. If there aren’t a lot of prenatal exercise options near you, or you can’t fit it into your schedule, Erica Ziel offers an awesome online prenatal fitness program.
15. Visitors after baby
How I prepared well: I am glad I decided on no visitors at the hospital. It was one the biggest reasons I had so much time to work on breastfeeding with the lactation consultant. Also, you have no idea how your birth will go, I had a 3-degree tear and was insanely exhausted from a long labor. I needed that time with nurses around to learn and to rest and recover as much as I could with a newborn. I wanted to spend time bonding with my new baby, not entertaining guests.
How I wish I prepared: I didn’t do visitors at home very well. If I could do it again, I would do a sip and see. It is so hard to keep any type of schedule and having a lot of individual visitors was so hard. I had to continuously make sure the house was in order, have drinks and food to offer and try to have L happy when they arrived. I also didn’t know how to tell people how to help me when they asked, I wish I did a meal train and also had a list of items that people could help with. You can get a meal train worksheet in all the versions of our Nesting Planner.
16. Social Media Policy
How I prepared well: I am really glad we discussed our social media policy together before L was here and shared that with family. It also allowed us to spend some time determining how we would share photos and anything L related. We ended up using the Cluster app because you can create private photo share groups.
How I wish I prepared: We didn’t have a plan on announcing L’s birth. Did we want to send updates throughout labor and delivery? Did we want to even tell people when I went into labor? Did we plan on FaceTiming? Who would we tell and in what order? Having this planned out would have just been one less thing to stress about.
If you plan on doing birth announcement cards. Pick them out beforehand and have your address list ready to go. Get as much done on this as possible before baby.
17. Making dad feel included
How I prepared well: We spent a great deal of time coming up with ways that Cole could help me in those first few weeks. Outside of actual tasks he could help with, having him be supportive of breastfeeding and also having him be very aware of postpartum were key. Lastly, I wanted to find some way for him to feel part of birth. Before birth, I had him pick an item out that we could get stamped with L’s foot at the hospital.
How I wish I prepared: I wish we had focused on preparing my husband for birth. I wish we had a plan of ways that my husband could have helped me during childbirth. I would have picked a class that would have focused on his involvement during birth. I would have also chosen an online class that we could have done in the evenings at home. It could’ve been a fun at-home date night with popcorn as a fun way for us to prepare and bond over baby’s arrival.
Bonus Tip: Making Time For Myself
How I prepared well: Before my baby arrived, I had an ample amount of time to myself that I used just the way I wanted too. I was able to go to sleep whenever I wanted to and I was able to get up and do things around the house whenever I wanted to. The upside was that I didn’t have much stress surrounding me because there wasn’t this crunch for time that followed me everywhere I went. After my baby was born, however, that changed all too quickly. Instead of using my precious time to get as many things done around the house, there are times where I felt like I squandered it. Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and I started to realize all the things that I could have done differently
How I wish I prepared: If I could go back before I gave birth, there are several ways I would have managed my time a little differently. For starters, many of my personal goals had to be put on the back burner after I gave birth. Thinks as simple as finishing knitting the baby blanket I was working on never saw the light of day again. There’s a lot of fulfillment for myself when I achieve personal goals and the fact that I didn’t have any more time to get to them really added to the stress level I felt, making me feel like an even more inadequate individual.
With that being said, after bringing children into the world time is of the essence. Simple tasks like deep cleaning the house, organizing cluttered areas, and even servicing my vehicles are things that I should have done before the baby arrived. While these seem like arbitrary nuances, the reality was I could have done more to free up more time to spend with my little one.
Regardless, although there were some mistakes I made, I did learn plenty of neat ways to get back on track. The old saying “sleep when the baby sleeps” what sounds like a great idea, but the reality is there was too much to get too and when the baby was sleeping, that was the ideal time to get it done. One of the best ways I fixed this issue was by reorganizing my schedule. Learning how to do things like getting your baby on a fixed schedule, especially is a sleeping schedule, will open up some time that you didn’t realize you had. Instead of putting my baby down to sleep and then going to sleep right alongside her, I would strive for an extra hour in the evening for myself so that I can catch up on things I needed to do or just relax. Regardless, working out a schedule and optimizing my time was one of the best ways I was able to reclaim all the time that I had felt I had wasted before my little one arrived.
If you are expecting, then first and foremost, congrats! This period of time is one of the most exciting that any woman can go through. With that being said, it is an especially vulnerable time because there are so many things that you might feel like you need to get right the first time. This facade of motherhood being a journey without mistakes is one that every mom will tell you is inaccurate. However, while you will hit some bumps along the way, there are ways to make your journey smooth out. Hopefully, my guide on the different ways I had wished I prepared better will hopefully give you some insight on what to do and what not to do during yours. While your journey will look a lot different than mine, there is some comfort in knowing that you can learn from someone else’s mistakes.
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Trina Fitzgerald is a wife, mom, and blogger. She is the co-author of the Week-by-Week Bump Smart Course, the Nesting Planner and the Breastfeeding Handbook. She attributes her success at breastfeeding her own children with working with lactation consultants in the hospital in the early stages and on a weekly basis afterwards. By writing at MomSmartNotHard, she educates mamas-to-be on all things pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. Read more about Trina.