I realize I haven't shared the stories behind some of the items on the checklist below, so this is also a type of preview of some of the posts I've got planned in the coming weeks before the baby's arrival.
So, without further ado, here's my personal list I've been following:
Before getting pregnant
- Know your work leave policies and aim to plan accordingly. Do you qualify for FMLA? Is there a "better time" to have a baby based on your work situation?
- Quadruple check your finances. Do you plan to take extended maternity leave? Is this realistic? How will you pay for childcare and other baby expenses?
- Look closely at your health and lifestyle. Do you need to lose weight, cut down on alcohol/caffeine, eat healthier foods, exercise, get more sleep, address your mental health, etc.?
- Start taking a prenatal vitamin (or multivitamin with plenty of folic acid) at least three months before trying to conceive. (I've read some news of more recent studies that suggest that taking a prenatal vitamin at least six months before trying to conceive might provide the optimal benefits, but I'm clearly no expert.)
- Get any blood work you can for genetic screenings, such as cystic fibrosis. See what you could be a carrier for based on your ethnicity.
- Read some pregnancy books/websites so you get a small sense of what you're in for.
- If you're using hormonal birth control, consider going off birth control three months before trying to conceive so you can see what's "normal" for your body. Also consider using a free site or app, such as Fertility Friend, to chart your basal body temperature. (These are the two things I did not do in the very beginning that I wish I had.)
Honestly, I was so worried about having a miscarriage/in such disbelief about actually being pregnant that I spent most of the first trimester trying to simply eat as much healthy food as I could stomach and hold my breath between doctor's appointments as we waited for the heartbeat, blood work and ultrasounds. But, I did sort of get started with two things:
- Look into major nursery purchases, such as a crib, dresser/changing table and chair.
- Start investigating major baby gear purchases by talking to experienced friends and family and picking up a book such as Baby Bargains.
- Will you have any genetic testing conducted, such as an NT scan?
- Will you find out the baby's sex?
- Will you share your baby's name with anyone, if you decide to choose it before the baby's arrival?
I recommend trying to get as much of the serious physical preparation done as possible during this time. (This was great advice I received from veteran moms, and it worked out perfectly in my case that my second trimester coincided with my summer vacation. Well played, Baby Awesomerod.)
- Start a registry! Figure out what store's policies, physical locations, websites, etc. best fit your lifestyle and those of your friends and family.
- Clean out a space in your home for your future nursery, whether it's an entire room, a part of a room (such as your master bedroom) or even a walk-in closet (looks like lots of people in New York do this). In retrospect, cleaning out our office and reassigning its contents to many other parts of our house took a lot longer than I anticipated (read about it here, here, here and here). In fact, assembling the nursery felt small by comparison.
- Decide on the look you want in your nursery. Gender neutral? Something super girly or super boy-y? (is there no equivalent of girly for boys?) Will you DIY anything, add items to your registry, etc.?
- Before you do anything else, paint the nursery, if needed. It's much easier to do it before any furniture or gear arrives. I'm of the personal belief that if you're using low or no-VOC paint in a well-ventilated area, the pregnant lady can assist in the painting, but be prepared to get tired much more easily than you did when you painted your whole house.
- Order/purchase nursery furniture if you haven't done so. Some cribs are considered special-order items and could take weeks to arrive. Don't forget a crib mattress! It likely does not come with your crib.
- Get started on any DIY projects you might have up your sleeve. (Ours included making curtains, refinishing the dresser, making the crib skirt, lining the bookcase and dresser drawers...and a couple more I still have up my sleeve.)
- If your maternity leave policy is unclear (as I feel mine is) contact your Human Resources department. I also recommend following up with an email to someone with authority in HR clarifying more complicated questions so you have the responses in writing.
- Write a will. (I will admit we need to get this finalized.)
- Get life insurance beyond whatever is offered through your work. (I will also admit we need to do this one still. We should have done this forever ago.)
- Fill out a medical directive/living will. (Sense a pattern here? I still need to fill this out and give it to my hospital. I think I'm dragging my feet on this one because it's pretty hard to figure out how long you'd like to be kept alive through life support, you know? Big stuff.)
- Put all account information and passwords in writing. I am the handler of everyday financial matters in our house, while Matt is responsible for taking the lead on big, life-altering decisions (see will and life insurance above). We pay everything online, so, in the event that I'm in the hospital, dead, or simply overwhelmed with early motherhood, I thought I should put all our account login and password info in writing (and literally in writing, not stored electronically for security purposes) so that Matt could have access to everything in one place. My biggest discovery? We have a lot of accounts. Wow, so many logins and passwords to track.
- Get your flu shot if you're pregnant during flu season! Remember that your partner should also get a flu shot to protect the baby for its first six months of life.
- Register for childbirth classes or other related classes. We are fortunate that Kaiser Permanente offers several free prenatal classes, but we also registered for a one-day six-hour Childbirth Express class that we'll be attending in early December.
- Register for a hospital tour.
- Register for any other special tours/classes/appointments, such as a pet readiness class, if one is offered in your area.
- Interview/decide on a pediatrician.
- Interview/decide on a daycare provider, if necessary.
- If you're having a boy, look into the pros and cons of circumcision and decide on with your partner on which route you'll take.
- Buy maternity clothes. Decide on what you truly need and how, if at all, you'd like to extend the life of your non-maternity clothing (through items such as a BeBand or bra extender). In terms of designated maternity clothes, I purchased (or received as gifts) the following that got me through my entire pregnancy: three pairs of work pants (black, gray and khaki), one pair of nice jeans, two pairs of maternity leggings (black and gray), two maternity dresses, one jean skirt (specifically this one from Old Navy that I highly recommend, but remember to order it one or two sizes smaller than your normal size), one nicer skirt, four long-sleeve maternity shirts, eight short-sleeve maternity shirts (tip: scour the sale rack of Target's maternity section as well as Gap Maternity [located inside some Baby Gap stores]). Of course, I wore a lot more than this during pregnancy because I had plenty of non-maternity dresses, tops (of the tunic variety) and cardigans that could work (though I did not have as many of any of these items that wound up working as I had hoped they would pre-pregnancy).
This is the trimester of the nitty-gritty, with lots of items that can't really be accomplished until you've acquired the majority of your baby gear and until you're closer to your due date.
- Put finishing touches on nursery decor, including items such as wall art, decals, mobiles, shelving, etc.
- Keep track of baby gifts. I recommend making a spreadsheet where you also add a column indicating whether you've sent a thank you note.
- Write all thank you notes for baby gifts.
- Assemble/test all baby gear to make sure it's in working order.
- Return/exchange non-functioning items, duplicate gifts, etc.
- Purchase whatever baby gear essentials you still need for the early days. In our case we needed changing pad covers, some more basic baby clothes (in the newborn and 0-3 month sizes), crib sheets, bottles, baby rectal thermometer, baby nail clippers.
- Fill out all product safety recall information. Most of this can now be done online through the manufacturers' websites. Keep all baby gear receipts and manuals organized together in your filing system (we've added a Baby folder to our filing system, and it's already bursting at the seams).
- Purchase the necessary baby health/toiletries to get you started, including newborn diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream, saline spray.
- Wash all baby clothes and baby gear (receiving blankets, swaddlers, burp cloths, bibs, bedding, towels and wash cloths, changing pad covers, blankets).
- Determine and institute an organizational system for all baby clothes and gear. Purchase containers or storage solutions for closets and dressers.
- Install your car seat. Then contact your local fire department's non-emergency line and see if you can bring your car by to have the car seat installation inspected. (Many jurisdictions, ours included, have stopped doing this as a routine, organized event, but according to nurses at my doctor's office, the fire department still tells them they're happy to check car seat installation of anyone who comes in because they'd rather help you now than later.)
- If your employer handles initiation of maternity leave through a third-party company, contact them according to the company's policies. In my case, I have to contact Liberty Mutual at least 30 days before my expected due date.
- Start kick counts at 28 weeks according to your doctor's instructions.
- Pre-register with your hospital.
- Prepare a "birth plan."
- Buy nursing-friendly clothing, such as pajama tops that button and nursing tanks. Invest in a couple nursing bars when you're pretty close to going into labor so you have a better sense of what size you'll need as your boobs will continue to grow up to and following labor.
- Buy nursing accessories, such as nipple cream, gel soothies, nursing pads, pumping supplies.
- Buy postpartum toiletries, such as sanitary pads, Tucks.
- Schedule any personal maintenance appointments, such as a hair cut.
- Pack hospital bag.
- Check all smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Consider minimal baby proofing. In our case this involved putting outlet covers in the nursery (right next to the crib, lest she should be a hyper-advanced newborn) and installing a permanent baby gate where we had a temporary and unsafe baby gate that has served for years as our dog gate (we did not install this new gate for the baby's sake right now but rather for the dogs and for ease of navigating our house with fewer free hands).
- Stock up on batteries in various sizes to fit all your battery-operated baby gear. Although we're fans of rechargeable batteries, baby gear can require so many batteries that it seemed impractical to wait for batteries to charge when you're dealing with a crying baby.
- Stock up on household goods such as toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies (especially a mild detergent for cleaning baby clothes and stain removal) and toiletries for mom and dad.
- Stock up on pantry essentials.
- Cook and freeze some meals for the early days of parenthood.
- Make sure pets are up to date on appointments and shots.
- Get animals groomed, as necessary (we need to get our dogs' nails clipped asap!)
- Stock up on pet food and medications.
- Train your animals as much as possible to adjust to having a little one in the house.
- Have a plan for who will take care of the animals when you go into labor, when you're in the hospital, or even in the early days home from the hospital.
- Decide on a baby name if you haven't already. (This, I realize, isn't exactly a sentimental item, but I didn't know where else to put it!)
- Purchase and begin a baby book, or DIY your own.
- Prepare a baby's arrival mass email and/or text message list (with all recipients bbc'ed so no one can mistakenly reply all) so you fill in the information and hit send after the little one arrives.
- Decide on a birth announcement.
- Make a mailing address list of birth announcement recipients and make labels or address envelopes, if possible.