By Adelaide Zindler
Previously published in Birth Issues, Spring 2008
Little can adequately prepare us for the change in our family that comes with the addition of a child. Caring for that little one is a 24-7 responsibility to which everything else takes second place – particularly during the first years. And becoming a new parent is always fraught with at least some level of insecurity – Will I be able to handle it all? Thus, getting organized prior to the birth of a little one is essential. It helps avoid feelings of frustration and impotence that so many experience, in retrospect, often tainting a bit of the joy in those first few weeks following such huge life change. Some tips for doing so are:
Get your house in order ahead of time. Whether adopting or giving birth, clean out those closets and cupboards you were meaning to get to, rearrange the furniture, have that garage sale. You won’t have time to get to these things for quite a while after the child arrives, and not having the time will make them all the more frustrating. So take care of those honey-do lists in advance.
Think and plan ahead for the baby’s needs. Will you choose co-sleeping or a crib, a dressing table/dresser, space for toys, a high chair or a table attachment, a car seat that transitions as they grow, clothes, a diaper bag, cloth or disposable diapers… Think and plan ahead for these needs. Make sure that regarding diapers, baby wash, and, a breastfeeding support system, you may want to plan for at least a month’s supply when your baby comes.
If you are going back to work, line up child care in advance. Choosing the right person to take care of your child is an imperative, and doing so prior to the birth of your baby can take a lot of the pressure off.
Interview providers in advance. Your child will likely visit them several times during his or her first year. Your healthcare provider should be someone you trust; someone who is responsive to your input; someone with whom you can form a collaborative relationship. You should also be comfortable with their office staff and partners. This is an important choice to make, so interview several providers and make this choice before your baby comes home.
Discuss, brainstorm, and decide on a parenting philosophy with your spouse prior to welcoming baby. Do we prefer attachment parenting for our child? What is the definition of a secure baby? What kind of schedule would work best for us? Will one of us stay home while one of us works? Or will we both work? Will our baby be breastfed, will we hire a wet nurse or choose an alternative? Will we feed on demand or on schedule? What books will we read together about child rearing? What role will spirituality and faith play in our child’s and our family’s life? Who will we allow to baby-sit? All of these seemingly simple decisions can become overwhelming when parents disagree – particularly after the baby is born. So talk about it and decide in advance! Then anticipate adjustments after the baby arrives!
Stock your cupboards and freezer. While you will look forward to getting out and about after the baby is born, you will still be developing a schedule with him or her, and shopping and cooking might fall by the wayside and/or become a source of frustration. So stock up on the essentials in advance, and make a few casseroles and put them in your freezer. Or check out one of those food prep kitchens for a fun group experience. It will help you feel organized and more in control in those first couple of weeks. Invest in a crockpot.
Arrange for some help. Whether it is your parents, your in-laws, other family members, or some friends, arrange for a bit of assistance those first few weeks. From running errands to just bringing over a dinner, this help can be invaluable.
Plan in advance for some time for yourself. Whether you set a time each day for your spouse to be the primary parent (handling the after-dinner bath, for example, and getting the baby ready for bed), or you prevail upon a grandparent for a couple of hours a week to watch the baby while you take a leisurely bath, plan in advance for some time to decompress and just be you.
Prepare yourself emotionally to be totally focused on your baby. Go beyond just bonding. Allow yourself the joy of new parenthood untainted by the guilt of not getting enough done. There will be plenty of time for it all later! Take this time to get inspired about assuming the mantle of motherhood
There’s a Fearless Parent in all of us. Seen yours lately?
Adelaide Zindler is a former preschool director, pediatric health educator and pharmacy consultant, and family strategist. She lives in San Diego, California, and has 2 children 28 years apart. She develops strategic plans for moms who work from home that integrate children into their busy-ness.