So. Babies, eh?
January 11, 2010 11:51 AM   Subscribe

[ZygoteFilter] I'm apparently fully into that stage where everyone around me is pregnant and I'm actually not horrified at the prospect of becoming a parent. To me, that means ALL SYSTEMS GO... within, oh, a couple years or whatever. What should I/we do now, either things to do before trying to conceive/getting pregnant, or things you wish you'd have had in place before you Got To That Place?

I like having a plan, even if I know things will go all cattywompus :P

I'm 30, and about 18 months into a relationship with a wonderful partner. As we've both been married before, we're pretty sure that we're now in the right relationship to make this happen. We'd like to get married beforehand, but if our BC failed (we just use barrier methods), we'd be okay. We talk about it and discuss things like children and how we want our kids to be raised pretty frequently, and we're on the same page. I also try to spend more time with babies and little kids whenever I can.

I've finished the schooling I intend to have, and I have a reasonably stable job working for the state (yay for good health insurance!). We live near my family, and although my mother is batshit insane, she would be pretty helpful on a "we're not counting on you for everything" level. (I think a lot of our parenting will be "Don't do it like Grandma -- take a chill pill.")

What should I do for my body to get it ready to carry a baby? The obvious ones are starting folic acid supplements and probably improving my overall fitness level (I've got no real overriding health concerns, but I'm not in great shape), specifically my core and back muscles. I take a reasonably low dose of Effexor for depression, but I could probably switch to something else or taper down verrrrrry slowly (I'm not stupid, here). Should I bother trying to lose weight from my current size 18, or just focus on overall functionality? Anything else?

What should we do for our finances? Is there some nice round figure that could help us plan, like "you need at least $500 a month extra for a baby"? We have no major non-school debt, but we don't own a house.

Aside from the obvious "take a crazy vacation that you can never do again," what other things should we should get out of the way as a couple?

Are there other places where I can head off some stuff now to make a potential pregnancy and early motherhood easier?

posted by Madamina to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 82 users marked this as a favorite
Don't worry about your weight, but definitely try to up your exercise levels. Essentially, you should be in training now for 9 months of carrying a bunch of extra weight around all the time followed by a huge physical exertion at the end. You also want to feel comfortable carrying your baby around, as you'll spend a huge portion of the first year or so of her/his life lugging a small person and various small-person paraphernalia. Walking/running and serious weight training will get you in great shape for that. If you've never lifted weights before, I'd recommend getting a few sessions with a trainer to show you how to lift safely and effectively. Good luck!

Oh, and I would recommend trying to save money where you can. Babies don't have to be expensive, but you'll want to have a good-sized emergency fund in case you need extra maternity/medical leave from work.
posted by decathecting at 11:57 AM on January 11, 2010

up your life insurance now!
posted by citystalk at 11:58 AM on January 11, 2010

Save as much money as you can (spending as much time with your baby as possible will feel worth the sacrifices you made to save the money) and get lots of sleep. Biggest thing? Cultivate your relationships with family and friends who will be helping you out later. The rest of it will get figured out once the baby is here.
posted by serazin at 12:03 PM on January 11, 2010

Aside from the obvious "take a crazy vacation that you can never do again," what other things should we should get out of the way as a couple?

It's not that you'll miss the crazy vacations. They'll still happen, although they'll be more difficult. It's the smaller adventures that get put by the wayside. Weekend retreat to that little B&B by the (insert picturesque locale here) that's within an easy drive? That's where you won't be going because of the kids' schedule.

Also, cultivate a low-cost housebound hobby so you're not climbing the walls. You like cooking? Cook. You like gardening? Dig. You like television? Get one of those big-ass LED units and set up a home theater.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:04 PM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you want to actively plan your pregnancy (rather than just hoping it happens at some point), I recommend using the charting method in Taking Charge of Your Fertility. A prenatal vitamin contains other vitamins and minerals besides just folic acid and you can start taking one now.
posted by mattbucher at 12:10 PM on January 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

You can start taking prenatal vitamins anytime.
posted by amro at 12:21 PM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I recommend Yoga. In addition to the other stuff. Yoga really helped me both during the pregnancy and after when it came time to get my body back. Also, learning how to breathe through problems will be helpful during the delivery, and invaluable during the terrible twos.

I have no citation for this, but I think a baby costs something closer to $1200 a month for the first year. I'm not sure, and I didn't keep track with mine so don't take that as gospel.

I second what Cool Papa Bell said about a housebound hobby. If all you like to do is go out you will get Cabin Fever the first week. I was put on bed rest with two of my three pregnancies and I would have gone nuts without my knitting. Also on the home front: get your house super organized. "A place for everything, and everything in it's place." Babies have a ton of stuff, and when you are unbelievably sleep deprived just 'knowing' where everything is is so helpful.

I was on Effexor XR during my last pregnancy. According to my doctor it isn't dangerous to the baby until the last trimester. Just so you know I wasn't able to go off the Effexor totally and my baby was just fine. It's one of those drugs that is considered better for the mom to be off, but if it is more important to the mother's health to be on it then she should be on it.
posted by TooFewShoes at 12:27 PM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

My best advice:

1. Folic acid
2. Prenatal vitamins
3. Charting your basal temp, if you're not using birth control
4. Work with your doctor about the Effexor. Both your psychiatrist and obstetrician will need to come to an agreement on if you stay on/taper off. There are risks and benefits to the baby here.
5. Start tapering off the coffee and soda habits. It was actually pretty easy to do this for me. And I am a die-hard caffeine-aholic.
6. Get as much physical activity as you can. It's not about hitting a certain number on a scale, it's about being as strong as you can. So cardio (like walking) and light weights are great.
7. Talk with your partner about expectations for the baby. Such as, will he/she be in daycare or will your partner expect to stay at home? This is kind of like the pre-marital discussions everyone should have about domestic chores and roles that people assume in a two-person household.
8. Then... talk about expenses and find out how much things cost in your area, such as the said daycare or nanny.
9. Plan for the unexpected. Get disability insurance if you are not already covered through an employer plan. And definitely get life insurance for you and your partner; most financial advisors say 10x your salary is a good figure to buy.
10. PLAN FOR THE UNEXPECTED. I mean short-term this time. If you are told to go on bedrest at 5 months, will you have enough money saved up? What if you decide to stay home after the baby is born? Or what if you need to stay home because the baby came early? (That's what happened to me.)

Best of luck to you!
posted by FergieBelle at 12:30 PM on January 11, 2010

Yeah, start taking prenatals. If nothing else, your hair and fingernails will LOVE you. From my own experience, I would strongly recommend building up your core strength and maybe getting into a decent exercise routine; your abs and pelvic girdle muscles are going to be doing a lot of work supporting and then birthing a baby, and the stronger they are, the less likely you are to have problems. I was fat when I got pregnant, and due to horrible morning sickness plus a bizarre HFCS intolerance, I actually weighed 10 pounds less when I gave birth than I did when I conceived.

One thing you might want to consider doing, though it is a crazy edge case, is taking one of those "Can I get pregnant?" fertility tests they sell at the drugstore now. That tests levels of a hormone called Follicle Stimulating Hormone, or FSH. If your FSH levels are high, it can indicate that your ovaries aren't responding to your pituitary stimulation, and it can mean some fertility troubles. At 30 it's very, very unlikely that anything will be wrong, but it's like a $25 test that can alert you if maybe you need to move sooner rather than later.
posted by KathrynT at 12:31 PM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm with Cool papa Bell here. The crazy vacation is like the opposite of effective preparation because it will not alleviate or satiate those desires. It may, in fact, achieve the opposite effect. People that are excited to be parents and spend some time getting themselves to a good enough place pursue a family generally do a pretty good job of identifying the things they can do to help themselves. Lord knows...there is no shortage of advice out there.

But in my experience, the hardest thing to really anticipate was the constant unpredictability of there being an instant and all-trumping priority in your life. No plans are safe. No quiet, alone moment is unassailable. I'm not saying this is bad, it just is. And it's a capitulation to a priority outside ourselves that many new parents have had little experience with prior to parenthood. an attempt at real preparation and practice:

Make a little pie chart with a spinner arrow. Color 40% of that pie chart red for "No." Color 60% of it green for "Yes." For one month, each and every time you are about to walk out the door to pursue some non-planned adult thing (happy hour, concert, sit-down dinner, theater, etc.), spin the wheel. Agree to abide by the outcome. No Matter What.

Obviously this doesn't mirror life as a parent, but it will be a way to get "practice and preparation" for bringing a little being into your life that will have a radically different agenda than that of a typical, socially active couple. You may find that imposition difficult. Or not. Babies are wonderful and joyous, and and and. But they can also rock the fuck outta your previous way of going about life.

Good luck.
posted by nickjadlowe at 12:32 PM on January 11, 2010 [5 favorites]

Spend time really firming up your relationship with your partner, building up a stock of intimacy and trust to carry you through the grind of the first year as a parent. Remember, once you're pregnant it's 9 months and counting until your family changes permanently from a twosome into a threesome, so make sure you've spent time relishing being just the two of you. Also, if you're certain you're willing to be bound to this guy by something as irrevocable as co-parenthood, perhaps consider marriage a little more seriously than you've done so far? I know it's technically just a piece of paper, but being married does make it a lot easier to navigate some of the financial/legal/logistical straits of new parenthood.

Also, if you have any mild vices that you don't want to carry over into pregnancy (like smoking, or drinking lots of coffee, or unhealthy eating, or irregular sleep habits), then now is the time to (a) judiciously indulge, then (b) develop a plan to get yourself back on track. You may or may not have a lot of willpower to draw on when pregnant, so try to be your best possible self going into the experience.

Lastly, if I could go back and do one thing, I'd take up some sort of meditation/mindfulness practice. Pregnancy is both a very weirdly embodied time and one rife with sources of anxiety; having some sort of way to keep mind and body calm and in sync will definitely help you weather the experience with greater joy and grace.
posted by Bardolph at 12:36 PM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Go to the dentist. If there's any dental work you've been putting off, get it done now.
posted by jrossi4r at 12:37 PM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

This may be odd advice, but I was recently speaking to my kindergarten-teaching aunt about children who enter kindergarten too young or too old because they were born in the cutoff months of Oct/Nov/Dec. She advised that everyone who can should have a baby born in the first half of the year so that the child is at the right age to enter kindergarten when the time comes. This way you don't have to deal with the decisions one has to make regarding whether or not your young child is ready for school. Thought it was interesting.
posted by anthropoid at 12:42 PM on January 11, 2010

Everyone has given great suggestions so far. The only one I would add is that if you have any reason to you think you need preconception genetic counseling (e.g., anything-- birth defect, etc.-- that runs on either side of your families, are of Jewish or Mediterranean descent, etc.) you should get that done asap to get the results before you conceive so you know what you're in for. This is generally covered by insurance if there is any family history.
posted by picklebird at 12:48 PM on January 11, 2010

1. preconception OB and internist for routine checkups, booster immunizations, blood tests that can be done ahead of time (for us I believe I got my cystic fibrosis check before hand).

2. try for 1 year and then have an open mind about options--adoption, infertility, give up?

3. if you're not in 4 states w/ over 50 employees that cover infertility treatments by law, SAVE!

4. make 100% sure you're on the same path as your partner about discipline, money, college, saving, school, nanny vs daycare vs staying home, stres management, sharing parental duties because man, having a newborn is ROUGH.

5. stay calm, cool, collected and enjoy the journey from preconception, to conception, to birth. I relish every moment I have with my son and before he was here.

Good luck and happy pregnancy when the time comes.
posted by stormpooper at 1:00 PM on January 11, 2010

It's never too early to decide what type of care you want for your pregnancy, and it's good to read up on the different models of care and to get suggestions for practitioners in your area. Know ALL YOUR OPTIONS for care and it's never too early to ask to speak with a practitioner about it.

Hospital birth?
Birth Center?

What type of model within that model would you like? A primary care model where you see one practitioner for your entire pregnancy but get whoever is on call for the birth? A group care model where you see everyone in the practice a handful of times and get who is on call for the birth? A sole practitioner model where the person who treats you prenatally is the person who is there when you're in labor?

Ob/GYN? Certified Nurse Midwife? Family Practitioner/Doctor (some do do obstetrics!)?

Home birth? Certified Professional Midwife or a CNM? Can a CNM attend homebirths in your state? If so, that likely opens up the options of providers for homebirths.

You should think about this now because many good practitioners fill up early, and depending on who you think you want, you may have to make that first appointment as soon as you know you are pregnant to "save a spot," as it were.

Research the local supports in place for new mothers. Is there a playgroup? Is there a breastfeeding support group? Talk to parents who have children under two now.

What are your options for leave? Do you have sick and vacation time that you can use during your leave? Do you need to start thinking about saving up some of that vacation time for those purposes now? What about short term disability? Money aside, would you have the option of taking longer than FMLA if you wanted/needed?

A lot of this is active thinking ---- nothing you really need an answer for at the moment, but just as you move forward, areas you'll want to look more into especially as you move closer to actually trying to get pregnant instead of just not worrying about it.
posted by zizzle at 1:08 PM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I hate, hate, hate taking vitamins. No idea why, but there it is. If you are like that, and maybe even anyway, rather than just taking prenatals, I would look into developing a diet rich in folates. The benefit to doing that over prenatal vitamins is that foods rich in folate are really freakin' good for you, so you'll be working towards having a healthier diet and body as a lifestyle that can be sustained during and after pregnancy. Having a healthy diet is good for fertility, also for energy and avoiding depression, so in all, I think it's a better way to prepare for parenthood than just taking a pill.

Exercise is good, but I don't think it needs to be athletic-training style. My friend's midwife told her that women who come from cultures where the primary transportation is walking have less pain during labour. My conclusion: walk, walk, walk. I also think that cultivating physical activities that are fun and enjoyable that you could do as a family are good: stuff that gets you out of the house and is social, stuff that you might not be able to do with a baby but could introduce a toddler or young child to.

And overall, I think it's good to enjoy life and pursue things that bring you pleasure and satisfaction. I recently saw an interview with a child psychologist who said that one of the biggest predictors for whether a person transitions well to being a parent is whether they were satisfied with their lives before they had kids. I suspect that the more practice you get in living life fully and to your satisfaction, the more transferable those skills/practices are to new situations, parenting or otherwise.
posted by carmen at 1:14 PM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Nthing to not worry about your weight, but to start and maintain an exercise routine. I had a plus-sized pregnancy -- and the whole thing went very well, part of which I attribute to the fact that I had been doing steady exercise for 1 year prior to getting pregnant. I also continued exercising (with my doctor's guideline of wearing a heart-rate monitor and not exceeding 135 BPM) all the way through the end of my pregnancy. It wasn't till the 38th week that I really felt like it was time to stop.

One other thing we did was to refinance our mortgage, while we were both still working and had the dual incomes. I'm really, really glad we did that.
posted by BlahLaLa at 1:19 PM on January 11, 2010

I gave birth six weeks ago. It was relatively easy, and I credit moderate exercise and weight lifting during pregnancy for it. My doctor did advise me, though, after becoming pregnant do not increase the intensity of your exercise, but only maintain the level you are at.

I found that the two most important things to work on in my exercise routine were abdominal / core strength (for the actual birth, and for walking around with a big belly) and pelvic floor strength. Your pelvic floor REALLY takes a beating with a vaginal birth, and while I did kegel exercises, I didn't do them enough. Even with my routine, I am still trying to get my strength back to a state where I can reliably stop my urination at will. It's hard. I cannot stress enough that you should really do fast and slow kegel exercises multiple times a day before birth to make this easier for you after. Water pilates is also good for working both the abdominal muscles and pelvic floor.
posted by naturesgreatestmiracle at 2:26 PM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree with the posts above that recommend you focus on exercise and and saving money but the other thing you need to start thinking about and planning for is child care. Now I realize that this may seem like crazy talk since you aren't even pregnant yet BUT if you are planning on returning to work after you have your baby, you will need to have the child care situation ironed out. Many of the better day cares have waiting list that run about 1 year to 2.5 years long. You need to decide what you'd like to do in that regard and if your choice involves getting Baby Madamina in to a day care start looking around and maybe put your name on some waiting lists.

Trust me on this one. I learned that the hard way!
posted by lrkuperman at 2:26 PM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Core strength and any niggling little odd health things. For me I ignored my back (it's just a sore back, I'm a nerd, it's no biggie - no, the muscles were tight enough that combined with pregnancy they fucked up my pelvis real good), some odd digestion things (gall bladder was filling with stones, pregnancy hastened the agonising onset of stones getting stuck which culminated in surgery when baby anachronism was three months old. Dentist is another good one, but pregnancy fucked up my teeth (thanks, vomiting profusely and continually for months!).

Educate yourself on pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. Solidify your finances. Talk about discipline, sleeping, child birth and everything you can think of about kids. Don't assume.
posted by geek anachronism at 6:16 PM on January 11, 2010

Don't believe Irkuperman unless you live in Manhattan. The daycare shortage crisis is basically fear-mongering. You can get quality childcare on at most a few months' notice if you're willing to do the legwork. Not something to worry about now. Getting finances, bod, and relationship in shape all are much higher priorities.
posted by libraryhead at 6:17 PM on January 11, 2010

Don't plan anything and just go with the flow like you'll end up doing with your second kid.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:25 AM on January 12, 2010

Speaking as a brand new parent, I wish I had appreciated sleep more. The lack of sleep for new parents is something that's mentioned often, but I never thought it was going to be this bad. It's the real deal, man. Sleep for 8+ hours and appreciate it while you can.
posted by bjork24 at 10:24 AM on January 12, 2010

Complete anecdata, but FYI, I've now heard three singers say pregnancy changed their voices long-term. (For scale, I've worked with a variety of singers; this is three out of dozens.)

Two say projection and breath support markedly increased (I can confirm that in the case of the one I've heard live -- frankly pretty amazing increase in potential-volume that she's still working on exploring and controlling!). The third saw her range expand; previously she was a very typical soubrette, and now she feels she actually can try tackling mezzo rep in most contexts). Obviously no guarantee anything specific would happen to you, but might be worth asking your colleagues and/or googling. :)
posted by kalapierson at 3:17 PM on July 27, 2010

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