I can't believe there are less than 3 months left until baby #9 is due! We still do not know if we are having a boy or a girl, and likely won't find out, but my guess is boy. I am feeling really good, with lots of energy as long as I don't skip my daily 20-minute afternoon nap. Without it, I tend to crash and burn by dinnertime, which is NOT a good situation as the hours from dinner until bedtime are some of the most intense in our house.
This week, I started with the usual pre-baby preparations. It's just a lot easier to do that when it's not so hot outside yet, and I'm not too huge to comfortably be on my feet.
That, plus the fact that we have had 5 babies born at our church this month, with two more coming any day now, got me thinking about this post.
For me, some of the best ways to prepare for baby are to:
- Wind down all homeschooling before baby comes, and plan on taking three months off from it completely after the birth. Being due at the end of May works out pretty nicely this time around, as this coincides with our usual summer break.
- Make and freeze at least one month's worth of food, plus have lots of stuff in the house for throwing together easy meals. I find that this usually ends up feeding us for more like 6 weeks or longer, since others might bring dinner, Dad might take the kids out or cook up something, etc.
- Buy enough paper dishes for at least the first month.
- Stock up on all non-perishable household supplies for at least one month (diapers, TP, laundry soap, toiletries, etc.) so you won't need to run to the store unnecessarily. Utilizing automatic subscription services such as Amazon Subscribe and Save can save you time and money, plus they help counteract mommy brain.
- Familiarize yourself with same-day home-delivery services for groceries and other goods in your area. If you do end up needing something urgently right after baby comes, you will know where to find it, fast. Where we live, not only do most items ship same day on Amazon (and virtually everything ships within 48 hours), but we now also have Amazon Now, which offers free delivery by courier within two hours, including every imaginable household staple, groceries, and even refrigerated and frozen goods, with many natural and organic choices. So, so worth it, even if you tip the courier (as I suggest you do).
- Have a good routine in place for yourself and the older kids before baby arrives (bedtimes, chore assignments, meal plans, etc.). Not only will they be better able to help take over for you after the baby comes, but it will also keep them busy, and make them feel like an asset to the family.
- Stock up on oodles and oodles of good books and other entertainment for the older kids right before the birth. You could stash some books out of sight, and pull new ones out as needed. If you have one library card for every member of the family, you will be able to get out enough books to last quite a while! ;) Most libraries will let you renew online for 3 times, for a total of 12 weeks or more, so this really is an endless, free treasure trove of quiet entertainment for everyone in the family.
- Have good reading and other entertainment in the house for yourself. You will want to have something better to do with your brain and time than just scrolling through Facebook on your phone for hours each day as you nurse. Books on possible postpartum issues such as breastfeeding and newborn care are always good to have on hand in case you need them (even veteran moms do!), or you might enjoy doing some favorite crafts with baby in arms, read through your cookbooks in search of new recipes to add to your regular meal rotation, finally have time to read other books that have been collecting dust, browse Pinterest for inspiration on any given topic, view a free Craftsy class, find something wholesome to watch on Amazon Prime - the options are near endless.
- Plan on finishing up any necessary projects (home repairs, deep cleaning, de-cluttering, organizing, seasonal wardrobe switches, etc.) before baby comes. Your husband and older kids can be a great help with this. You will be spending a lot of time sitting down in your house after the baby, and you won't want to be looking at dirty windows and dusty blinds. These are great projects for kids to help with, though! Even a toddler can wipe down surfaces with a damp rag. Don't be afraid to toss things and projects mercilessly that just sneer at you day after day, unfinished. You don't need that kind of negativity. :) For example, if your mending pile is only ever growing, it might just be easier to toss clothes than to fix them. If you bought a pair of shorts for you son at a garage sale for pennies on the dollar, there is no reason to keep them in the mending pile, collecting dust for months and making you feel defeated, only to find he has long outgrown them by the time you finally get around to fixing them.
As a friend of the new parents, here are some ways to help the growing family if you are so inclined:
- As the birth is approaching, do not make comments about when the baby will show up. Never use the term "past due" - this is not a bill, it's a baby. When mom is in labor, do not call and/or text for updates.
- Bite your lip and do not criticize their name choice, even if it's before the birth and "there's still time to change it."
- If there is a meal train being organized, sign up for one of the days. If there isn't, offer to bring a meal for the family, being careful to inquire about allergies, food dislikes, dinner times, etc. Try to make something that is good for mom's milk supply, won't bother the little nursling, and will be appealing to the rest of the family. Bring food in disposable dishes, labeled, and with instructions attached if necessary. If you are taking a meal, send a text message first with your approximate time of arrival. When you drop off the meal, do just that - drop it off and leave. Don't be offended if the family does not want any meals - there could be many reasons for this.
- Do not invite yourself over just to visit, or drop hints about wanting to come see the baby. Definitely do not show up unannounced, no matter how close you are with the mom! Even if you are wanting to come over to help out, realize that unless you are very close, most moms would rather be at home alone with their family in their own mess, than for you to putter around their house cleaning up for them.
- Don't ask to hold the baby. If mom offers for you to hold her precious bundle, wash your hands first, even if mom doesn't care. Don't go near the family if you are sick, and don't touch baby at all if you have been around someone who is sick. Don't kiss baby's face or hands (I realize the temptation is real, but still). Do not wear perfume or other strongly scented body products - many babies are bothered by them, especially if the smell rubs off on their clothes, or lingers in the house long after you are gone.
- If you do visit the family for whatever reason, leave your own children at home. Yes, they are precious, but you want to be as quiet and calm as possible. Not to mention your kids might be bringing all sorts of germs with them.
- If you are visiting mom at the hospital, step out of the room anytime medical staff comes into her room to take care of her, so as to give her privacy.
- Respect her breastfeeding preferences: If she would rather be alone to feed the baby, step out. If she wants to feed the baby without a cover, relax and get over it.
- Try to never disrupt nap time. This is a rule that should be observed for all families with small children, not just during the postpartum period.
- Give extra attention to the other siblings.
- Don't expect a thank you card.
- Listen more than you talk. Mom might want to share her birth story (or not) - don't try to one up it by telling her your own. She might have questions if you are more experienced, or she may just want to pour her hormonal heart out to you. Be sensitive and listen, offering help and/or advice only when asked.
- Don't put any pressure on mom to volunteer for any tasks, especially not during the first three months postpartum.
And for all the new moms out there, here is a realistic timeline for recovery:
- Don't leave the house AT ALL for the first 2 weeks (exception: stepping just outside the front door to soak in the sunlight and fresh air with baby in arms), and strictly limit any and all visitors. There will be plenty of time to show baby off later.
- Stay home, rest, and enjoy baby as much as possible for the first 6 weeks (i.e. no school work, cooking, errands - don't do anything you can prepare ahead of time, or have someone else help with afterward). This is also a great time to focus your attention on the older kids while you are "stuck" at home.
- Slowly ease back into a new routine between weeks 6-12. No exercise or weight loss efforts yet, though adding a daily walk outside with baby is great at this point.
- By 12 weeks, you can expect to have found your new normal, with breastfeeding well established, baby having fallen into a predictable "schedule" that suits him/her, and the rest of the family having adjusted to the new addition.
These time frames are of course just approximate, and a MINIMUM, so if anything, take longer if you need to. No trophy will be awarded to moms who prove they can do it all the day after giving birth. We all could, if we needed to. Being able to slow down is the real challenge - but both your baby, as well as the rest of your family, will be thankful for the chance to adjust at a gentle pace. Not to mention your recovery will be that much smoother, and your long-term health that much better.
Motherhood is a marathon, not a 100-yard dash. Just as there are seasons throughout the year, and just as all living things go through cycles of harvest followed by hibernation, it is important to recognize these same needs in our own lives if we are in it for the long haul, and don't want to lose our sanity, health, and family relationships along the way.