Unlike most other things that come down the pike of life, having a baby gives you 9 great months to prepare mentally, physically, spiritually and financially. If you read my first post, What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting, then a big part of your preparation will start by coming to terms with how your life will change when having your baby. (It’s not as bad as you might think)
First things first:
1. Figure out how/where you want to have your baby.
Contrary to popular belief, there are a few different avenues you can take to having your baby. Organizations such as Choices in Childbirth exist to distill information and educate newly pregnant folks on what each way of having a baby looks like and what you need to consider. Once Whitney and I got our heads in the game on baby-prep we first scanned Netflix and came across the movie The Business of Being Born.
The movie made a significant impact on us; before seeing it Whitney was the “let’s schedule the C-section type” and I was the “let’s go as natural as possible, but I don’t know what that means” type. We attended a Choices in Childbirth meeting at a local YMCA, and heard stories of several couples who had their kids at hospitals, at home, and at birthing centers and were able to weigh things out ourselves. After watching the movie, and meeting the couples sharing stories, we opted for a home birth. Some of the following advice may diverge if you’re going to have baby in the hospital, but I’ll try to stay as universally relevant as possible.
2. Figure out who you want to deliver your baby.
Chances are your lady already has some form of female health provider, she may be able to continue with that provider, or else he/she can recommend a specialist to see out the rest of your pregnancy. In our case, Whitney started with a GYN/OB who prescribed all of our initial ultrasounds and blood tests. We then opted for a home birth and left her care. She was a bit shocked, but also gave us a “good luck crazy kids” as though statistically it wasn’t safer to have the kid at home.
You may have a choice of hospitals in your area, in which case there are some key factors you need to consider:
+ Will you have your own room?
+ How long are patients allowed to stay post-delivery?
+ What is the c-section rate of physicians at the hospital?
+ Are newborns allowed to stay with the mother after delivery?
+ Is the hospital flexible about things such as Vitamin K and other preventative procedures?
Choosing a Midwife (if applicable)
In New York City there are probably only 15-20 women who are licensed, and actively performing home births. As surprising as that may sound, these ladies stay insanely busy with clients and the learning curve to join their elite ranks is steep. We started off with a list on the back of a Choices in Childbirth pamphlet and added to that with some Googling. Having a July due date, several mid-wives were away on vacation which made the search easier. We setup an appointment with Soul Love Midwifery, and it was (soul) love at first site (more on Simone later).
Once you’ve got your primary care providers and location setup, you’re actually almost there–no, really.
3. Do you want a Doula?
A what? Doula is the Greek word for servant. No, this isn’t a form of indentured servitude, it’s an age-old practice that’s coming back into common-practice as the U.S. infant mortality rate goes up, and people are starting to wonder how babies ever existed without medical teams and extensive intervention. Doulas are part of that age-old miracle; sometimes also called labor assistants. They act as another female set of hands, who knows the ins and outs of birth and can help with the physical burden, for everyone, that occurs during a labor.
We started our Doula search at a local baby shop, Caribou Baby, that was having a Meet & Greet. We had a strong prospect from that meeting, but ended up with a scheduling conflict. From there it continued mostly via word of mouth until we met a lady at our church who was previously a midwife in another state, and again we hit it off. You’ll find that the bigger the baby belly gets, the more attention you’ll get from doulas and people who know doulas. Having a strong connection with the people delivering your baby is a very important consideration though, so don’t rush.
4. What will your family be like after baby arrives?
There’s no deadline to hash #4 out, but it’s definitely time to think about who’s taking care of bambino once he/she comes out. Will you, Dad, have to get a second job to cover lost income for Stay-at-Home Mom? Should you launch a side business? Are you and your wife content raising your baby in a city, country, suburb, etc.? Do you need to live closer to family? What’s your support network like in terms of friends, friends with kids, babysitters?
In our case, I worked as a freelance graphic designer and had ultimate flexibility to add or subtract work as needed. Whitney worked for the Avon Foundation, on a contract that ended in late March before the July delivery. We decided that she would stay at home after that, helping me with freelance work wherever possible, and spending time to mentally and physically prepare for the baby.
5. Don’t Worry About Moving
If you think you need bigger space before having a baby, you’re wrong. We often forget that babies accustomed to a home that is so small, that it literally dictates the shape and position of their bodies. Babies LOVE tight spaces, and actually get scared when they have too large of an area to internalize. We lived in a microscopic apartment by almost all standards. I lived there alone before Whitney and I got married, and when our friends helped move Whitney in they all said “how are the two of you ever going to fit in here?” You should’ve seen how happy we were with the three of us (but it did get old). Whitney did a great job documenting life in the “shoebox” on her tumblr.
If you’re having a home birth, I’ll tell the story later of how things looked in our place. Let’s just say look at Whitney’s tumblr pics and imagine a swimming pool big enough to hold two adults in there.
Again, remember that if you have a baby in a hospital room then that’s all the space you have to deliver. Charlie ended up being born on the bed, despite the little floorspace that we didn’t have. A few midwives we talked to even told us that ladies in cavernous apartments often end up standing in the corner the entire labor and having the baby there, even though they had a huge roaming area available. The psychology there is that during labor, women need to feel totally in control of their bodies and environment. The smaller that space is, often, the more they feel at ease–but the issue is a bit deeper than just that.
6. Get Out of Town
This one is simple enough. Plan a Baby Moon. Growing up I’d never heard of such a thing, but it’s one of the few modern “inventions” that I don’t think is a complete waste.
Taking a “final fling” vacation some time before the baby comes is a great way to reassert the fact that you’re having a kid because you’re madly in love with your wife. Even if only a tiny bit, having a baby does slightly inhibit how easy it is to travel (but it’s still very possible to travel with a baby and kids). Also keep in mind that some medical professionals won’t allow you to fly in the third trimester, so go early, and even if the doctor says its okay get a permission note–some airlines won’t allow it either.
We opted to go to San Francisco, because I love the city and Whitney liked it enough to go back. By the time we were out there, Whitney was quite pregnant so it’s also interesting to see how folks react to pregnancy in a different neck of the woods. Adding to the adventure, we used the site ScoutMob and aimed to eat most of the time at restaurants with local deals. It took us to a lot of neighborhoods that otherwise we never would’ve considered.
7. Gear UP
Having a baby doesn’t require nearly as much purchasing as we’re lead to believe. Again, they come out caring about one thing ( . ) and that’s about it. There are a few things though that you will eventually need and it’s best to at least shop for them now–or look to acquire them for free from sites such as CraigsList. Your lady will probably also enjoy a baby shower at some point. Nowadays it’s not such a big deal if these are co-ed, so just see what she wants and be there to deliver. We had ours at a park, and the girls planning it did a great job of making it less about gift-giving, and more about supporting Whitney and providing continued advice and support through the use of time-based cards and notes.
It’s in progress, but I do keep a running list of my personally endorsed Kid Gear.
8. Defense, defense, defense
Pregnancy empowers women, elevates them and enriches their lives in ways that are unimaginable to men. Simultaneously however it puts them in an incredibly vulnerable state in almost every aspect of their being. Think about it like this, in nine months your wife will go from normal, to having another human growing inside of her, to pushing that human out through a slot that is nowhere near big enough–and that’s just the basics.
The details of #8, include less obvious things like protecting your wife’s time so that she can rest and stay strong. This might mean making less plans with friends, picking up more of your shared duties or maybe even researching and implementing a new diet that is more conducive to pregnancy health. Now here’s a bit of a touchy subject: depending on your geographic/personal situation having parents, mother-in-laws, father-in-laws, etc. that are over-involved in the pregnancy can be a huge hazard. If they stress your wife out, then it’s your responsibility to politely and gracefully fend them off. Again, your top priority is your wife, and not those folks. Take care of your wife and everything else will take care of itself.
Another level of this is protecting your wife from negativity and harmful information. When you enter into the pregnancy/parenting world there is a high saturation of fear mongers, constantly telling you what could happened, what happened once and why your wife should/shouldn’t do x,y,z. I also recommend avoiding blogs and online media showing visuals of baby deformities, gruesome medical photos and the like. It all boils down to pollution that will spoil your wife’s mental comfort.
9. Get Some Class
Just kidding, I’m sure you’re a damn classy guy. Taking a birthing class is a super tool for prepping for little tyke’s arrival. If possible, I recommend finding one that’s as specific as possible to your birth plan. Since we were having a home birth, we took a local class specifically for couples having a home birth. It lasted 3 or 4 sessions each lasting 3 or 4 hours each if I recall, covering topics such as the stages of labor, what delivery looks like and how to help your lady cope with the process.
Some may opt for Lamaze classes, The Bradley Method, or even an online class but the point is it’s very helpful to understand from start to finish how things are likely to progress.
Having a local parents network to join is invaluable. We are very fortunate that in North Brooklyn we have the Brooklyn Baby Hui which is a gigantic Yahoo group covering topics ranging from “what to do when baby…” to “Selling a breast pump.” Even better is that a large group can often be subdivided into smaller groups based around Moms delivering in a particular time span. Whitney started a “Summer Moms 2012” group, and it has grown from 6 ladies at a cookie shop to over 100 Moms, each sharing the experience of life before and after delivery. It has also been amazing for procuring baby gear along the way, and the other side of that coin is getting rid of things as Charlie outgrows them is a cinch.
Several of my family members and friends live outside of metropolitan areas, and I think they’re often left with a feeling of isolation that the only Moms they have to converse with are their own Moms, or otherwise Moms of another generation. Though this is still valuable, things do change a bit as time goes on, even if just in terms of information delivery. What I recommend there is that both you and your lady be on the lookout for pregnant ladies in your area, and engage them in some friendly conversation. Chances are they’re looking for a bit of community, and you can make your own network the old-fashioned way–face to face.
In your 9 months of pregnancy there is obviously more that will come into play beyond this advice, but I do think it’s a solid starting point. The key takeaway here is to relax, despite what anxiety you might have. Stress is very detrimental to a pregnancy and can complicate labor and delivery. Remember that you’re having a baby to add to your life’s joy, and so finding joy in the process is paramount.Follow worklifedad