Congratulations! You’re pregnant. Whether you had been trying for months or this comes as a complete surprise (oops – it happened to me) there are a lot of things to get organized before the baby comes. Here’s 9 things to think about in the next few weeks and months.
1) How well do you know your body? If you’ve ever taken the pill you know that pharmaceutical manufacturers expect you to have a 28 day cycle, but that is not true of all women. One of the first things your doctor will ask you when you go to confirm your pregnancy is “When was the first day of your last period?” They will time your pregnancy from that moment, giving you a due date of 40 weeks later. But that assumes you ovulated on day 14. But what if you didn’t? What if you ovulated on day 18, or day 21? What if you have a 32 or 35 day cycle? Those few days don’t matter a lot in the early days, but when you are 40 weeks + 3 days and are feeling pressured to have an induction, knowing that you ovulate late in your cycle may help convince your caregiver to give you a bit more time. A good book to read before you even consider getting pregnant is Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler.
2) Do your research. Figure out what kind of birth experience you want. If all you know about childbirth is taken from TV, you will be surprised to find out that your water will not necessarily break all over your shoes, you will not be struck by agonizing contractions out of the blue, and you will not give birth in 22 minutes, sadly. A good basic book to read is Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn by Penny Simkin. In Canada read The Mother of all Pregnancy books by Ann Douglas. The more informed you are the better. Sign up for a prenatal class and learn as much as you can about what’s going to happen to you over the next few months. You wouldn’t buy a car without doing a ton of research, don’t have a baby without reading a few books about the subject.
3) Pick your caregiver wisely. Ask your friends, ask your neighbours, ask strangers pushing babies in strollers on the street. Ask about the amount of time spent waiting in the doctor’s office versus time discussing your concerns in the examination room. It’s a bit early to hire a doula but you might considering asking their opinions on caregivers as they will have seen all sorts of shit go down in the delivery room. Consider midwifery care over a traditional OB/GYN practice, as midwifes are known to spend more time with their clients and are more likely to actually be present at the birth. If midwifery is not an option in your area find out how your OB practices and ask to meet all the OB’s in the practice so you aren’t meeting them for the first time in the delivery room. Ask about C-section rates – the lower the better, though 15% is average and over 30% would be cause for concern. Ask about their views on administering erythromycin drops to your newborn – the research now shows that this has no benefit and up to date physicians should know this. Trust your instincts. If your physician is rubbing you the wrong way, then go somewhere else. A good book to read is “Expecting Better” by Emily Oster. I also like “Your Best Birth” by Ricky Lake and Abby Epstein. It includes lots of questions you should be asking before you sign on with a particular OB or Midwife.
4) If you intent to go back to work and you live in an urban centre, research childcare centres now. Some of them have wicked waiting lists. I myself called the Childcare Subsidy Office in Toronto to get Baby on the list before I informed my own mother that I was pregnant. You’d be surprised how rich you can be and still qualify for some subsidy money, so sign up as soon as you can. In Canada we are very lucky to have a full year of maternity leave, but that doesn’t mean that there’s a ton of cheap daycare available for one year olds. Daycare can be upwards of $70 a day, so budget accordingly. Which brings me to 5)
5) Get your finances in order. If you are partnered and used to living on two incomes, losing one of them will be a bit of a shock. Start saving now. It’s also a good idea to think about writing or revising your will, and getting a life insurance policy. It’s horrible to think about, but even in 2016 women still die in childbirth. Think about who you want to look after your child if the unthinkable happens and your partner is a basket case. Then try not to think about it ever again, because, hey, it’s 2016, statistically speaking your chances of making it are very, very good.
6) Exercise a little bit.
If you’re used to going to the gym you can keep going as long as you want to with some modification. If you aren’t much for exercising you might want to consider doing something pregnancy specific not just so you can get in shape for the delivery but also so you can meet other pregnant women. Who knows, you might meet a new best friend. I went to prenatal yoga classes and enjoyed them very much, but there’s all kinds of pregnancy exercise classes out there – dance, aqua fit, swimming. Do something. You’ve heard it said that labour is like running a marathon – don’t go into it without a little bit of training.
7) Eat right. Oh, I know, this is the first time in your life you don’t have to watch your weight, but seriously, now is not the time to throw all caution to the wind, either. Gestational diabetes and preeclampsia can be triggered by obesity but they can also be managed by good nutrition. Eat right now and you may not suffer needlessly later. Add another meal into your routine. Do not make that meal a dozen donuts. Myself, I consumed more breakfast sandwiches in the last few months of my second pregnancy than was probably wise, but I resisted my cravings for Coke and onion rings (most of the time) and only ate poutine once.
8) Get your home Baby Ready! Are you converting an office or a spare room into a nursery? You might want to do it now while you still feel comfortable on a step ladder. Think about where baby is going to sleep – in a crib in their own room, in a bassinet in yours, or do you plan to co-sleep? You might want to put away your breakable tchotchkes now and rethink your glass coffee table and glass fronted media centre. It’s a bit early to worry about baby proofing but anything you do now you don’t have to do later when you’re exhausted from lack of sleep and stressed out over chasing a crawling baby. Attach all bookcases and high chests of drawers to the wall so that they cannot tip over on top of a curious child. Be paranoid now so you can relax later.
9) Research baby gear. There is a ton of stuff on the market and most of it is unnecessary. The only thing you really need before the baby is born is a car seat, and that only if you give birth in hospital. Look around your home and think about where you are going to store things. Maybe your tiny condo won’t allow you to own a swing. You can’t use a jolly jumper in an open concept house with no door frames. If you live in a 4th floor walk-up you might need a carrier more than you need a stroller. Or maybe you need to move. Don’t spend a lot of money on gear, everything can be had second hand and it will all be pristine as it’s used for such a short time.
10) Didn’t I say nine things? Oh well get used to it because that 9 month pregnancy they promised you is actually closer to 10. I’m going to take you right back to #1. Get to know your new body. Sleep as much as you can. Naps are really good. Go get massages. Treat yourself like the goddess you are and try to enjoy the journey. Like any trip, if you do your research and know what to expect, you’ll have a much better time.
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