Wow, information overload! There is no time like in pregnancy, especially the first time, that can make our brains sizzle with information. Nausea relief, my baby has fingerprints now, Braxton hicks, leg cramps, my baby is the size of a cantaloupe, nursery decorations, prenatal appointment, birth classes, prenatal yoga, etc. And that's just the stuff you remember, because you know, pregnancy brain is real! No wonder so many of us don't even think too much about how to actually prepare for when baby is here. Sure, we think about having a baby, but do we really think about what that is going to be like and how to get ready for it? Here are 6 things with tons of links to local resources (Oahu, HI) to do before baby comes, so it will be easier once baby is here.
1. Have realistic expectations.
Your baby will sleep, a lot, in the first 2-3 weeks. 16-20 hours out of every 24 are spent sleeping in short increments of about 1-3 hours. After those initial weeks your baby is going to be awake more so that means you will be too. So when those aunties tell you to sleep when baby sleeps, try to, or at least rest.
Your baby will also need you, a lot! Babies want to be held and comforted. They know nothing about this outside world, the lights, the sounds, the space. All they know is you and your heartbeat. You are comfort, and food, even if you don't breastfeed, you feed your baby, right.
So, if you get stir-crazy and feel like you are doing nothing but napping, holding and feeding your baby, you are doing it right. Don't worry, its only for the first 3-4 weeks and you'll never get those newborn snuggles back.
2. Ask for and accept help.
You were never meant to do this childrearing alone, as in, without support from friends and family. Sure its great to do all this stuff just the two of you as new parents, but no, really ask for help and accept it for the first 4-6 weeks. You will be so happy you did. Make a list of things you need help with such as meal prep, groceries, light housework, baby laundry, dog walking and more. The Birthful Podcast has a great planning guide available for free when you sign up for their monthly newsletter. And don't forget to plan on someone to come and hold your baby so you can (both) take a nap, or wash your hair, or just keep you company.
3. Get connected with a Lactation Consultant
A local lactation consultant may know a class for you to take prior to baby being born to get you off to a good start. Unfortunately, 9 out of 10 moms who start off with breastfeeding run into trouble in the first week. Having a relationship established will make it so much more likely that you will actually remember to reach out for help. Most of the breastfeeding challenges you might face are easily resolved with a little bit of help early on.
4. Start building your proverbial village to help you raise your baby.
Connect with other couples who are in the same season through childbirth classes. Join a prenatal yoga class or workout class. Look into and sign up for groups specifically for those first 4 months or for the long term.
It is surprising how lonely it can get as a new mom once your partner goes back to work and family go back to their lives too. (usually around the 2-3 weeks when baby starts behaving very differently) Having others to share your experiences with is not only very helpful and comforting, but helps ward off postpartum depression too.
5. Book your professional services.
There actually are a lot of professional services available to you that can truly help you with your physical recovery after pregnancy and birth. Some of my favorites are placenta encapsulation and postpartum belly binding as well as
chiropractic care and physical therapy to help with abdominal muscle separation (diastasis recti) and pelvic floor strength. The first two can be scheduled in advance, and the latter can start in pregnancy as they can make a tremendous difference in how your birth will and therefore your recovery.
Also be sure to look into postpartum doula services for in-home support, encouragement and education while you make the transition to this life as a new family.
6. Prepare for your birth.
This may seem out of place but actually should be at the very top of the list. The way your birth goes will dramatically influence your postpartum period. This relates to your physical recovery; a vaginal birth is easier to recover from than a cesarean birth, and an unmedicated, low intervention vaginal birth typically has a faster recovery than a highly medically managed birth. Your breastfeeding experience will also be affected by this in a positive or negative way. But most importantly, your emotional state will strongly be influenced by your birth experience, and this has nothing to do with the technicalities of the birth. It has everything to do with how supported and respected you felt. If you were part of the decision making process and if you were heard, encouraged and cared for. So please, take time to learn about birth and how to prepare for it, watch our Facebook video, take a class, hire a doula and find the care provider and location that supports you, rather than allows you, to have the birth you want.
Did you notice none of these tips actually have to do with baby? Nothing about learning how to change a diaper or give your baby a bath. That's because taking care of you, means you can take care of those things for baby. Of course its a good idea to take an infant care class, offered at all the local hospitals, but I believe all these other things are more important.
Below are a few more local resources I think you may find helpful. If there are any you have used and would like to share, please do so in the comments.
Local Baby Wearing Education and Support
Postpartum Depression Support Group
Walk and Talk Therapy