When I started this blog, one “list” I was very anxious to provide for you is my list of recommended preparations for baby’s arrival. In this case, I am not referring to baby products (for the most part, anyway). That is a different list for a different day, my friends – this list is about preparing you.
When Marley was born, our lives immediately became intense in a way we had never experienced. This intensity had many faces – confusion over how to accomplish daily activities, overwhelming love for our baby, challenging (and humorous!) trial and error adventures with baby-care and feeding, and deep emotional bonding… all of this while sleep deprived and healing from childbirth. As Nick and I say, the first week was the hardest and best week of our lives. I have tried to find appropriate words to describe my experience becoming a mom, but none seem good enough. So… instead of boring you all with my attempts at poetry, I will do what I do best – make a list!
In speaking to other moms, I’ve realized that we all have very unique experiences and needs. For example, while I yearned for private bonding time with my husband and baby, other women knew they wouldn’t have survived without their mom/sister/mother-in-law living with them for an extended period. Nonetheless, I have found some universal truths among us. It is from those universal truths and my own unique experience that I will attempt to provide this advice. 🙂
Toolkit for Baby’s Arrival
Professional Support Network
- Choose the right pediatrician. Not all pediatricians are created equal! Take the time while you are pregnant to research and then interview pediatricians. We did this about 3 weeks before my due date and I felt like it was too last minute – I wish I had gone around the 35 week mark or even earlier. Most pediatricians will allow you to simply make an appointment to come in for a complimentary “prenatal consultation”. The purpose of this visit is to choose a doctor, establish a relationship with that doctor, and plan for baby’s arrival. What does this mean? How do I choose? What do I ask? What kind of plan – doesn’t the baby just arrive and then we take him to the doctor and that’s that? Okay … I will tell you what this meant for us. First, we did some research online and through friends to determine which doctors we would interview. The local “mommy” groups are a great resource for this – here in Astoria, we have a great “Expecting and New Moms” meetup group. Meetup provides an online forum where we moms share ideas, sell & buy baby things, and so forth. Next, we assembled our list of questions to ask the pediatrician. I googled “interview a pediatrician” and then took questions that I liked from the various checklists that come up and wrote them down. This list will be very particular to your family’s beliefs and your ideas about what makes a good doctor. For example, my husband and I were very concerned with finding a doctor with a kind temperament who was VERY pro-breastfeeding. We were willing to dismiss a long wait in the office if we found a doctor with these qualities. We were lucky enough to absolutely adore the first doctor we interviewed (Northwest Queens mommies – this is Dr. Christopher Clemens on 21st St. and Broadway and we think he hung the moon!). We developed a plan for Marley’s birth that went kind of like this: Since the doctor was not affiliated with the hospital at which I gave birth, he would not be appearing to examine him in the hospital. Therefore, as soon as possible after Marley was born, we were to email or call Dr. Clemens. That’s right – EMAIL! Who knew? Anyway, since I was very busy with feeding Marley and recovery, Nick and the doc were emailing back and forth the whole time we were in the hospital, which was very helpful indeed. Dr. Clemens told us that since we were committed to breastfeeding, if we felt any pressure from the hospital staff to offer formula, we were to call him immediately to talk strategy. Thankfully, it didn’t come to this, but it was very reassuring to know we had him on our side! I could carry on forever on this subject, but I’ll bet you’ve got the gist – there are great pediatricians out there. Find one ahead of time.
- Know about some lactation consultants. Many moms say the best money they spent during their entire pregnancy and birth experience was on a visit with a lactation consultant! You may not need professional help at all, but if you find yourself in tears and in desperate need of breastfeeding advice, you will not want to begin your research in this bewildered state! Have a couple of phone numbers handy – it can’t hurt. Great resources for this are La Leche League and local breastfeeding shops (they sell nursing bras, etc), along with the meetup/community groups I mention above. Furthermore, most hospitals will provide a “warm” support line, where you can leave a message for the staff lactation consultants and someone will return your call within a given period of time. Have this number handy, as well.
Non-professional Support Network
- Get in touch with your “new mom” friends. I was the first among my very close girlfriends to have a baby. I also do not have close female family members who were going to be appearing in my home to help out. In very un-Sara-like character, I began to feel resigned to loneliness in my new emotionally insane world. Luckily, I had a few not-so-close friends and friends of friends who had become moms right before me. The support these women provided was absolutely priceless. One amazing friend strapped on her 30 pound baby and took the M60 bus to Queens (worst bus ever) to bring us a tray of ziti, while another offered to drop what she was doing (with her 4-week old son in tow!) and drive up the BQE to help out with breastfeeding challenges. One overseas cousin offered the kindest words of support and love via Skype, and one local mom (and now dear friend) encouraged me on an almost daily basis to get out of the house, come to meetups, and express my feelings. I needed this support more than anything else I talk about in this post. Find out who these women in your life are – swallow your pride, reach out to them, and tell them you will need their help very soon.
- Visitor and Meal Coordination. Okay, so this subject can be very touchy! It is also where I’ve seen the most variation in what new moms need/want. If you fancy yourself the hostess with the mostest, as I do, you will have visions of yourself sitting around holding/feeding your baby while others can simply loiter about in your home, being helpful or not.. whatever … how hard can it be??? I am here to tell you, girls, THIS IS NOT HOW IT IS! Even if you are fortunate enough to have Julia Child-reincarnate as your husband, as I do, you will need him to help YOU… that’s right – the one healing (ouch), the one feeding the baby (stressful), the one who will be thirsty/starving and trying to re-learn how to get around the house with a baby in your arms (yep). This is not to scare you, dear readers. No, no… this is my desperate attempt to convey that I needed much more help than I could have imagined and I wish I had prepared appropriately!!! Now, some of you will undoubtedly have very helpful parents, siblings, etc that will be TRULY helping you – this means cooking & cleaning, not holding the baby while you cook them dinner. If you do not have such family members/friends, or do not have the room nor the wherewithal to have people spending this kind of time in your home, I suggest having someone organize a “meal train” for you. A meal train simply means that, after the baby is born, someone will organize your friends/family to stop by every day for a given period with a meal. The organizer can be anyone you trust, he/she just needs to be ready to notify the group you designate as soon as your baby is born so people can sign up. This is done very easily through websites like mealTrain, CareCalendar, or MealBaby. I have played around on these sites, and I must say mealTrain is my favorite due to ease-of-use and lots of options/features! It allows anyone who is invited to the meal train to sign up to bring a particular meal on a given day – this is so neat because people can see what others are bringing and thus you will not receive 15 lasagnas. Your organizer can even specify food allergies/preferences and special instructions like “Please only stay for 15 minutes to allow the new family to rest”. Of course, this type of information is less awkwardly delivered by someone who is not you, which is why a system like this is so perfect. So, pregnant ladies and friends of pregnant ladies, please consider doing this. Don’t forget – you are a new mom and it is totally okay to set appropriate limits to create a comfortable healing and bonding environment for your family!
Prepare Your Household
- Have some of your favorite healthy (and not-so-healthy!) snacks on hand and at the ready. Granola bars are awesome because they are healthy and generally easy to eat with one hand. These are my favorites cause they sneak in chocolate chips… yum!
- Consider purchasing a few tubes of Lansinoh and placing strategically throughout your home. The stuff is great, but I found it to be a huge pain in the tookus having to go find it if I happened to be nursing somewhere other than “my chair”.
- Make sure you have visibility to a clock/watch in all the places you anticipate nursing. This will be a huge help when trying to keep track of how long you nursed.
- Speaking of tracking…. as I’m sure you’ve heard, you will want to track your baby’s, er … “input and output” for the first week at least. Yep – pees and poos and feedings oh my. This is super fun, you guys! The funnest part by far is tracking this all on a chart which you will place on the wall near your main nursing station and changing station! HA. Put it up on the wall with a pencil nearby before the baby is born so you have one less thing to worry about. Alas, I couldn’t find a great chart on the internet to point you towards – they all seem to be sponsored by Similac or Huggies (lame) or they don’t have the sections I found most helpful. So – I made you all one: Here it is. It’s in Excel – if you’re anything like me, this is a real thrill. Just copy down the headers as many times as you need. I even put a little example entry on there. Enjoy! 🙂
- If you have purchased a breast pump, you may come upon a time in those first few weeks where you feel you need to use it. Therefore, go ahead and wash all the parts and the bottles ahead of time and get a vague idea for how it works! I did not think of this, and so there was poor Nick washing the darn thing and reading the instructions at 3am. No good!
- I realized that I needed nursing bras, but until I went for a fancy nursing bra consultation I didn’t realize I needed a “sleeping” nursing bra. I don’t necessarily recommend a fancy consultation (unless you really get a kick out of that stuff), but I do recommend this sleeping bra! The general idea is that you will need to handle nighttime leaking while still being as comfortable as possible. 🙂 By the way, I also recommend these washable nursing pads, and these disposables.
- Put the following items in your freezer: (1) A couple of maxi pads soaked in water (I don’t need to explain this), and (2) a gallon Ziploc bag filled 1/3 with flour (for engorgement).
Well, that about does it for this post… this was a long one, but I hope you found it helpful!
Don’t forget you can email us @ firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or special feelings!