He shoots, he scores!
April 13, 2010 5:54 AM   Subscribe

OhMyGod we did it! We're pregnant! Umm...now what?

I'm 30, she's 26, we're unmarried but we've been together almost 6 years, we own a house and a car together. We're ready for this (as much as anyone can be), it's not entirely an accident.

I just found out last evening when she picked me up @ work. I went online to look at books...but man...there's like 80 billion of them.

So...recommend to me books. Recommend to me what kind of doctors we need to be seeing. Tell me about baby sign, tell me about decorating nurseries, about cloth versus disposable diapers...about whatever you want to tell me.

We're still really early, doctor estimates today is 5 weeks. We're not telling families and friends just yet---not because we're not thrilled but because we want it to be special. She's going to send her mom a mothers day card that says "Next year we'll both get cards!" and I'm going to tell my parents like this: "I've got a really great reason for you to finally quit smoking." "Why's that?" "Because I want you to be able to spend lots of time with your grandchild."

But yea, you don't care about all that. Yay for us. Just...yay. You can feel free to chide us about the married thing, we're discussing our options on that, too. I mean, it's going to happen, but we either hurry it for this summer or we wait until next spring. There are definite benefits for both.
posted by TomMelee to Health & Fitness (54 answers total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'll hit baby sign - we used Signing Time with both of our kids. You will find me extolling its virtues in many ask.me questions.

The program is terrific - we started around 8 or 9 months with our first when it was clear that she was likely to have a speech delay but not necessarily a language delay. We used Pidgin Signed English, which is ASL signs, no endings in English word order. Effectively, sign acted as a kinesthetic highlighter to the spoken word.

On Wednesday evenings, Signing Time hosts an online chat session (the site has a link to it) - go ahead and show up and ask questions.
posted by plinth at 6:00 AM on April 13, 2010 [4 favorites]

Best answer: She gets a mother's day card this year.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 6:03 AM on April 13, 2010 [14 favorites]

We tried and got pregnant before we got married. Then we got married more than a year after. There is a special joy having your child at your wedding. I'm really happy he was a part of it. He was the ring bearer and at his insistance was our arms during the vows.
posted by beccaj at 6:10 AM on April 13, 2010

Best answer: Also: absolutely try baby sign. My daughter was able to sign "milk" at six months, and able to distinguish between "milk" and "hurt" and perhaps some other troubles before a year. Being able to communicate with her before before she was verbal made our life as parents infinitely easier.

If you're serious about signing you can pick up a second language, but even if you only learn a pidgin it'll help your relationship with your baby.

Also, congratulations!
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 6:15 AM on April 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Zero to Forty, not that there aren't a million week-by-week calenders, but if I ever get pregnant this is the one I'm going back to. She also has an advice column which is usually full of baby stuff (cloth diapering, baby sign language, what to gift registry, etc., etc., etc.).
posted by anaelith at 6:17 AM on April 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

Definitely look into basic sign language. Babies have the ability to communicate before they can talk. Saves a lot of 'why are you crying' moments when they can let you know what they want. Not a father myself, but saw it on an interesting Discovery episode, recommended it to a co-worker who was having a child, and they had great success.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 6:25 AM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you guys don't get married or choose not to, make up one of those agreements they have for financial care of the baby if you guys break up or just decide to be co-parents, or what to do if it has significant health problems that need care and expensive treatment.
posted by anniecat at 6:29 AM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The pregnancy book I liked best and found most useful was The Panic-Free Pregnancy.
posted by redfoxtail at 6:32 AM on April 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Congratulations!

Without wanting to be a damp squib, try not to treat this as a certainty until twelve weeks have passed. Mrs Morte and I went through several miscarriages (one of them at 11 weeks, on my birthday of all days) en route to our two perfectly-formed small boys. Sometimes nature takes a couple of attempts to get things right, and too much emotional investment early on can lead to unnecessary unhappiness. At three months the odds are pretty good that it'll all go swimmingly, and at that stage it's safe to go pick some nursery paint.

The advice I always give people is to buy only what you'll absolutely need for the first few weeks, and sort out the rest after the birth when things have settled. We bought much of our baby stuff used, and friends and family provided us with more clothes and toys, both used and new, than we'll ever need. Having a baby needn't be expensive.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 6:36 AM on April 13, 2010 [11 favorites]

Best answer: Congratulations!

I see you've already seen a doctor, but I want to emphasize that there are a number of different caregiver types and models of care out there. I'll save you the trouble of looking it up. Options are:

Hospital birth --- with an OB/GYN, CNM (certified nurse midwife), and sometimes Family Doctors who do obstetrics can deliver babies at hospitals, too.

Birth Center -- usually with CNMs and usually with a no-intervention focus. Most are overseen by hospitals are a part of a particular hospital system. The location is usually across the street or next to the hospital or a particular building on the hospital's campus. This can be a great in-between choice for someone who doesn't want a hospital birth and doesn't want a homebirth.

Home -- usually with a CPM (certified professional midwife) and in some states can be with a CNM. I know many people get squicked out by the term "homebirth," but I really believe that women need to research ALL OPTIONS, and homebirth is an option for many low-risk women. I recommend keeping your mind open to it as you research the different types of providers and care models. But I wish to emphasize that for a homebirth you only consider licensed providers. If homebirth is illegal where you are, there are still options for having one. I know women who have stayed with friends in other states during the last month of pregnancy in order to have a homebirth, for example. Still yet others have gone to The Farm to birth with Ina May Gaskin (and for books, read hers. She has a number of them out there.)

I want to also say that it's okay to change providers at any point in the game if something is making your girlfriend uncomfortable and she should not hesitate to do so if need be. Many pregnant woman find themselves feeling trapped with a provider they're not comfortable with because they don't think someone will take them later on. It's always worth calling, though.

For other immediate considerations, morning sickness, if she gets it, will likely start up fairly soon. Candied ginger worked really well for me as did citrus flavored carbonated water (the Poland Spring lime was the best for some reason) in small sips at a time. Small snacks many times/day as opposed to three regular meals can also keep the nausea away.

Starting in the later second trimester, a body pillow will be her best friend.

Also in the second trimester, she should begin to pay attention to the baby's positioning. Positioning can have a great impact on labor and delivery.

And while she may not think it could happen to her, it's really worth it for her to look at ICAN. April happens to be International Cesarean Awareness Month, and there's lots of good information and stories going on around ICAN right now. She should really read up on how to prevent an unnecessary c-section and really grill her providers on their rates. Unfortunately, most women come to ICAN only after they've been cut when we'd like to see them before.

I could write an entire book on all of this, but if you have any particular questions, I'm more than happy to answer them by MeMail.
posted by zizzle at 6:36 AM on April 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

Oh, and enjoy sleeping in. It'll be a few years before you get to do that again.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 6:37 AM on April 13, 2010

Best answer: Hey, congrats! I am sitting here wearing my almost-6-week-old first child, so I am intimately familiar with the books etc.!!

- I hated 'what to expect when you're expecting' AND the 'Dr. Sears Pregnancy Book'-- never found a pregnancy book I liked, actually. Someone gave us 'The Expectant Father' which is pretty good. HOWEVER if you want the 2 preg books noted above I am happy to mail them to you (only planning one kid)-- memail me your address. I feel like the reference info is fine, it's just the hortatory tone in both is a little irritating. Check out the alphamom pregnancy calendar.

- I wish someone had told us that it was pretty likely the baby wouldn't sleep in her crib right away. Apparently it is very common in the first 3 months that babies won't sleep away from close proximity to you, and if you try to get them to they cry (a lot). Depending on your feelings about that you might want to look into a co-sleeper-- someone loaned us the arm's reach co-sleeper and it's great. And this is coming from someone who thought the whole co-sleeping thing was hogwash.But you do what you have to!

- I love the baby bjorn. You will probably end up keeping the baby in a carrier more than you ever imagined, inside the house. (See wearing baby note, above).

- a swing is a good idea, although I understand some babies never like them. Mine likes it about 1/4 of the time, but that time is lovely since it enables me to eat breakfast on my own occasionally.

- we received a ton of clothes as gifts... and she pretty much only wears her footy pjs all day long. YMMV if you or your wife likes dressing up babies.

- the diaper-changing thing is much less unpleasant than I expected. It doesn't really bother me.

Hmmm. I will think about any additional info that might be helpful...
posted by miss tea at 6:42 AM on April 13, 2010

Best answer: First off, congratulations! Next: as a parent and former nanny, the best advice I can give you is - don't buy any books, don't buy any magazines, just...be.

People have been having babies for as long as there have been people, and they've managed it without a user's manual. Books will give you conflicting advice, and anyway, there is no one "right" way to be a parent. I understand your excitement, and that feeling of just wanting to "do" something - so go to Babies R Us and look around; go to Toys R Us and imagine yourself buying Tonka trucks and Barbie dolls, get out a a calculator and figure out how many diapers you're likely to have to change before the baby is potty trained. But don't stress yourself out about doing things "right". No baby ever grew up to be a serial killer because Mom and Dad didn't read the right book. However, children have been mentally screwed up by parents who stressed too much about doing every little thing correctly.

Teach them to be respectful of other people, encourage their curiosity about the world, and read, read, read to them! (When they're very young, read poetry.)

And relax! You'll do just fine.

On preview: I actually do have some book recommendations: Harold and the Purple Crayon. Goodnight, Moon. Books by Sandra Boynton. Jamberry. Slugs. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb.
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:43 AM on April 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone so far! You're right, she DOES get a mothers day card this year! And...yes, I'm aware of the rate of early terminations before 12 weeks, which is why we're not sharing to everyone until then.

And...as for sleeping in, I'm up at the crack of dawn anyway, without an alarm clock, so no worries there. I'm sure the tired will get me...but the getting up...not an an issue.

Seriously, just about every answer so far is a best answer, I just want more answers so I'm not marking them yet.
posted by TomMelee at 6:46 AM on April 13, 2010

Best answer: My wife roundly rejected What to Expect When You're Expecting, on the grounds that it tells you every tiny thing that could possibly go wrong but is such a low-probability event that it's not worth losing sleep over, but of course it winds you up anyway.

We're about to have ours, but I'm all excited about the signing too--I've always feared the worst part will be simply not knowing what's wrong.

When registry time comes, don't forget Thinkgeek--we have quite the set of Star Trek uniform onesies.

Doctors, you really should just need the OB/GYN...we had extra screening done because of our ages, but I don't think you'll need them.

And for all the advice you get...every pregnancy is different. Remember the advice about plans not surviving contact with the "enemy" and roll with things. Congrats and best wishes!
posted by stevis23 at 6:47 AM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: One book I really liked, now that I think of it, was My Mother Wears Combat Boots.

The reason I liked it was because it had a lot of take-it-or-leave-it. The author had her opinions and understanding of certain things and was a little preachy at times in some ways, but her overall message of, "Here's what worked for us! Find what works for you!" was really refreshing. There was a lot about her experiences that didn't mesh with me, but then there were other parts that really resonated, especially the gender roles and the story about the stickers from the bank teller. It was great to read a book where I could take what worked for me and leave the rest.
posted by zizzle at 6:52 AM on April 13, 2010

Best answer: The book "What to Expect When You're Expecting" seems to be one of the many things that divides mothers-to-be into two camps. I loved it and read it week to week through my pregnancy. Someone else called it "The Big Book of Worries" and refused to open it after a while. Another one that my firends and I enjoyed and found useful was "The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy."

Your wife will get lots and lots of contradictory advice, and lots of judgemental comments on what she decides (C-section, breast feeding, store-bought food), but if she she just takes everything under advisement, and makes the best decisions for her, she will be fine. Enjoy!
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:54 AM on April 13, 2010

Best answer: Tons of fabulous baby-related advice above, but I just wanted to chime in with the obvious advice not to get so caught up in baby prepping that you forget about prepping for the pregnancy, as well (and particularly, figuring out how to care for your pregnant partner).

Five weeks is the sweet spot just before onset of morning sickness/depression/soreness/fatigue/whatever other first-trimester misery your gf may be destined for. She may be one of the lucky ones who has a great time being pregnant, but she may also have some tough days ahead. Don't forget to keep tabs on her, to be kind and generous, to ask her how she's doing and how the journey is going for her. Be understanding if she has moments, or days, or weeks, of not being at all excited about the prospect of being a mom, and modulate your tone accordingly. Practice stepping up during the pregnancy, and you'll be in great form to keep stepping up as a dad!
posted by Bardolph at 7:03 AM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Congrats. Take prenatals, start exploring childcare options, figure out what your medical care covers, and relax.

People at work or neighbors will likely start loading you up with books and maternity clothes.

Don't buy anything new except for car seat. Subscribe to Craigslist baby and kid to get a sense of what things sell for in your area.

I'm also an unmarried parent. Sometimes (like at swim class or with elderly neighbors) I refer to my partner as my husband. He also had to sign some paternity paperwork at the hospital.
posted by k8t at 7:22 AM on April 13, 2010

I was told by my father that one of the best things he did when he was just about to be a father is he went out and asked other good fathers he saw their secrets to being a good father and husband.

He approached it like any other situation; you go out in your life and find the people who are doing the things you want to do and you ask them how they do it. While books are great, you can also seek the advice of the people around you too because they've got a wealth of knowledge to tap as well.

posted by Hiker at 7:28 AM on April 13, 2010

Best answer: 1. Plan a nice leisurely trip for just the two of you sometime in the second trimester. it will be your last opportunity to travel light for awhile.

2. Keep your ears open for local babysitting co-ops. You will feel much more at ease leaving your child with like minded people who also have children the same age when you do need a sitter. Not only is it free, but you will meet new friends that won't be bored talking about kids.

3. There is so much beautiful used baby things it's a shame to buy new. Baby sitting co-ops often have clothing and equipment swaps.

And congrats!
posted by readery at 7:30 AM on April 13, 2010

Best answer: I'll restrict myself to n'thing baby sign (we just used an ASL dictionary and waited until they were eating solids to introduce signs) and making a couple book recommendations. For the pregnancy: Henci Goerr's The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth is full of great info. For those times when you're not sure how serious some health condition is: The Holistic Pediatrician offers researched comparisons of various conventional, traditional and flaky treatments for most common childhood health complaints. For breastfeeding, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and La Leche League should get her through.

One other thing. Our childbirth class recommends raising her protein intake to 80-100 grams daily to maximize health for mom & baby. The earlier you start paying attention to nutrition, the healthier she'll be.

posted by richyoung at 7:32 AM on April 13, 2010

Best answer: Congratulations!

I'm at an age where my friends are starting to have their second babies, so while I'm not a mom myself, I have had first-hand input from some awesome mamas. The only thing I can add to the fantastic advice above is to keep in mind that if your birthing plan changes, you are not a failure. A very dear friend of mine needed an emergency C-section and had a tough time adjusting emotionally. She was fine, her son was fine, but it was such a surprise that it really caught her off guard and she felt that she hadn't done things "right."

Also, breastfeeding is super easy for some women, not so easy for others. Again, if plans change, you are not a failure. At all. (Even if total strangers try to convince you that feeding the baby formula is the moral and nutritional equivalent of giving him a sippy cup of gasoline.)
posted by corey flood at 7:56 AM on April 13, 2010

Best answer: Don't overprepare, don't freak out, and prepare to go with the flow.

It's really easy to go nuts and spend thousands of dollars on babycare products and books and toys and furniture. By all means have fun with it, but remember that all you actually need for the first year or so are
* A place for the baby to sleep
* A place to change the baby
* Clothes and burp cloths
* Diapers and wipes
* A car seat

All the other doodads range from occasionally helpful (a baby swing was a lifesaver for us) to outright waste of space (I bring you: the wipes warmer. Gah.) Toys will just start to magically accrete around you no matter what you do, but pretty much any household object can be just as fascinating to the kid as the most expensive and educational toy.

If you have any friends who already have kids, they'll soon start swarming around you offering hand-me-downs. Take them. Soon enough you'll be looking around for someone else to pass them on to.

It's easy to fall into a sort of hurricane-preparedness mindset, where you think you have to have everything lined up and ready to go ahead of time. Just isn't true. There will still be stores available even after the birth; if one day you suddenly discover that you can't live without a boppi pillow or a wipes warmer or a sling or a bottle or whatever, you can go out and buy that thing.

Prepare to fend off unsolicited advice on each of the great Baby Controversies Of Our Time, on which everyone around you will suddenly have Strong Opinions Which You Must Agree With Or Else. (As I list them, I will of course offer my own personal strong opinion which is obviously correct, unlike everyone else's opinion.)

Natural childbirth versus hospital childbirth. Some people will try to make you feel guilty if you don't have some magical mystical natural drug-free experience. All I'll say here is don't get too attached to any particular plan for how the delivery will go, because that'll basically guarantee that it won't go as planned. The point isn't to have a perfect birth experience; the point is to have a baby, and that'll pretty much happen despite your plans and preparation.

Co-sleep versus crib/bassinet. Early on there are going to be a lot of screaming and sleepless nights, no matter what approach you take. Sleep deprivation will make you crazy. You are going to spend some time as a crazy person. Roll with it. Babies will soon adapt to whatever you get them used to: if you put them in your bed, they'll want to sleep in your bed. If you put them in a crib, they'll want to sleep in a crib. If you tiptoe around quietly whenever they're asleep, they'll wake up at the slightest noise. If you anxiously pick them up and rock them every time they make a peep, they'll soon be unable to sleep anywhere but in your arms. Bottom line is, no baby ever died from lack of sleep; you don't have to try to force it. If you just can't take it anymore and need to put the screaming thing in another room for a while, you are not a bad person.

Disposable versus cloth. This one actually isn't much of a controversy. Environmentally speaking they're basically equivalent; either you're filling a landfill with disposables or you're consuming energy and water by washing cloth (or, better, hiring a diaper service to wash them for you). Take your pick.

Formula versus breast milk. Few people will actually recommend starting with formula from day one, but know that even if you choose to you are not killing your baby or otherwise being a bad person. Breastfeeding is harder than it looks; it's not automatic. A lactation consultant can be really helpful if you're having trouble. There's some evidence that breastfeeding for the first six months will strengthen the baby's immune system; continuing to breastfeed for months or years beyond that is either nurturing and wonderful, or borderline creepy, depending on who you ask.

Make your own decisions; none of them are wrong.

Really the tl;dr version is: go with the flow. Babies are a lot harder to break than you think they are, and you'll have a lot less control over the process than you think you will. And that's okay.

posted by ook at 8:04 AM on April 13, 2010 [8 favorites]

Oh yeah, almost forgot: trail mix. Lots of trail mix.
posted by ook at 8:25 AM on April 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Congratulations!!

First, everything you plan will likely not go the way you think it will go. If it does, you are a very, very fortunate individual. Kids are nothing if not unpredictable and that starts as early as pregnancy. Every pregnancy is unique, every pregnancy has different effects on different women. Whatever your partner experiences (aside from serious medical complications) is normal - for her. Get used to having plans changed last minute, to living with unpredictability, and to rolling with the punches. That will only get more relevant as your child grows.

Second, there are so many pregnancy books out there that it's worth an afternoon of you and your beloved perusing that section at the bookstore to see what appeals to you both. She might be a "What to Expect When You're Expecting" kind of person, or she might be a "Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy" kind of person. I didn't care for "What to Expect" because it just seemed so preachy sometimes, but it was full of good information.

Third, I highly, highly recommend the T. Berry Brazelton Touchpoints books. What my husband and I liked about them is their non-confrontational tone, the fact that Brazelton really insists that all kids are different and will reach milestones at different points, and they just seemed really gentle. Brazelton is quite touchy-feely and that grated on me occasionally, but all-in-all, I think it's a great series.

Fourth, I practiced benign neglect with both of my children and it saved my sanity. Basically, as the baby gets older and can occupy him/herself, let him/her do that. Don't hover unnecessarily. If your kid is happy for 20 minutes playing with his/hers toes, don't butt in! There are few things more annoying than a child who cannot entertain him/herself. I should know; I've had those kids in my home on playdates with my own children. A lot of people over-think this parenting thing. You don't have to hover, you don't have to supply entertainment non-stop all day every day. My kids are 13 and nearly 10 now and I have honestly, never ever heard either of them say, "I'm bored, there's nothing to do!" They can always find something to do.

Lastly, congratulations again! Kids are amazing!
posted by cooker girl at 8:27 AM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My wife liked "The Complete Organic Pregnancy" but frankly I had to stop reading it partway through, because it essentially says "Hey, you know everything you own? Well it's bad for your baby." I couldn't take the guilt so I dropped the book. And this is coming from a recycling, plastic-bottle-hating, natural-based cleanser loving, whole grain eating, locally grown, organic-loving household. The major concessions we made on that point were to be very vigilant about food source and ingredients, and to check all plastics for BPA and replace the ones that had it - my first present to our now 11-month old boy was a new BPA-free water bottle to replace mom's older Nalgene. (We were pretty vigilant about food before this, but still had to turn it up a notch!)

"The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy" was another one my wife picked up, and she seemed to like it as well. I didn't really like it myself; the content was mostly OK (with a few really questionable bits of advice, in my mind) but I didn't really like the almost slumber-party-gossip writing style. "Your Pregnancy Week By Week" was I think my wife's favorite, and really helped her out a lot. She really liked the drawings showing the stages of development, and it helped her visualize the tiny person she was growing. She really liked knowing what he was up to ("This week he is almost done growing his ears. Isn't that cool? By next week he will be able to hear us talk...")

There may be good books for expectant dads, but in my experience they fall into two categories: Either 1) "funny" books assuming you are a clueless, bumbling oaf with the attention span of a gnat, or 2) books purportedly written for dads but actually just written for moms with a few "dad tips" thrown in. There really isn't anything I found that hit the right balance between informative and honest about what to expect as a father. The mom books are so detailed that you can get a lot of the important information there, but they aren't written for you. (Read them anyway - at least you know what your SO will be going through!)

The birth process itself can be stressful or it can be beautiful. That depends a lot on the people helping your SO through delivery, on your insurance, and on your personal attributes. Some people are easily stressed, others are calm under fire; you know yourself best, so prepare accordingly. We had a great experience with nurse-midwives. I'm glad we went that route and not with a doctor (although a doctor was available for the actual delivery as needed). Because we had been seeing the midwives all the way through the process, my wife and I knew them and were more comfortable with the delivery. They were very good at letting us decide what we did and did not want to happen. My sister didn't have that option - her insurance wouldn't cover things as well as ours, so she ended up with a doctor she'd never met and nurses who didn't have any idea what was important to her about the delivery process.

One thing that helped us out a lot was the classes offered for expectant parents. It was very nice to get together in a room full of other people (some experienced, some not) and just have the chance to ask questions, hear about some of the things we might not have considered, and even see some of the tools used during delivery. (For example, the "suction cup" wasn't nearly as scary as it sounds, once we'd seen it and had the nurses explain it. When the doctor was called in to use one to assist with our son's birth we knew what it was, how it worked, and weren't nervous about the whole deal.) The best part about a group class are the questions - half the people there will be thinking the same thing, but most will be too embarrassed to actually ask - but there's always at least one person willing to raise his or her hand, so you'll get the answer in the end.

There are post-delivery questions you will need to consider, and you really want to start some of these conversations early just in case. Names are a big deal. LAST names are a big deal for anyone not married, too. Do you want your kid to have your last name? Does your SO agree with this decision, and are you SURE she does? Suppose you find out you're having a boy - are you going to get him circumsized, or not? Does your SO feel the same way? Is it even covered by insurance? Many coverage plans list it as elective, and don't cover it - and it's not cheap! Speaking of insurance, who is covering the kid post-delivery? My wife and I put our boy on my insurance after he was born, because it was more cost-effective than leaving him on hers - but switching insurance can leave some things up in the air during the whole process. Make sure you know what is and is not covered ahead of time, because you will be too damn exhausted to figure it out after the fact.

Speaking from experience, the first two months are the worst. You will have a small demanding blob on your hands. You will be sleep-deprived in ways you never thought were possible outside of Guantanamo Bay interrogation chambers. Your SO will be recovering from the actual delivery and dealing with all the new surprised that happen post-baby. Right when the uterus and associated plumbing is going back to normal (and that takes a LONG time to get normal - 9 months worth of growth and expansion doesn't go away overnight!) the breasts will be revving up to do their job, whether she wants them to or not. If she doesn't use them, they'll be tender, painful, and rock-hard for some time before they give up. If she does use them, well, the initial engorgement is just as much fun, coupled with the joy of an "instant boob job" (my wife's words, not mine) as they refill every few hours. Also, babies are often remarkably bad at breastfeeding. It isn't very natural. If it's something important to you, find a good lactation coach/consultant, and stick with it. If you can make it past the first few weeks you're golden, but those first few weeks can be sheer hell. The last thing my wife wanted was one more person touching her but that's what it took - expert help. In the old days this job would fall to older, experienced female relatives. Today we don't have that luxury, hence the coaches/consultants.

The good news is that at the end of the two months of hell, you're usually about at the point that the kid smiles at you for the first time. Amazing how that can make it all worth it!

We've had mixed success with baby signs. We have tried, but haven't made much progress. The only sign our guy makes consistently is to hold his hand up near his head for "dada" (but he makes the same sign for "mama" too). Probably our fault for not doing more signing, but we talk to him a LOT and he seems to understand us fairly well. He waves goodbye on his own, and he responds to the sign for "milk" but doesn't make it himself. We do take pains to speak to him as if he were a person though - we use simple short sentences, not baby talk babble. The only real concession we make there is that infants apparently have trouble with pronouns, so we generally refer to people by name rather than "you", "me", "her", etc.

I need to stop here because otherwise I'll end up giving you a blow-by-blow account of how scary and fun and scarily fun the whole process is. My only closing bit of advice is this: Enjoy every part of it. You might not ever do this again. You don't want to look back and regret not doing something you won't have a chance to do in the future. The pregnant belly photo, the tummy cast, the "babymoon" trip you might take to relax before the big day, the silly baby shower games, all of it. Be willing to do it all, and enjoy it all. And trust yourself! You will find out what works for you, and for your baby. Congratulations and good luck to you both!
posted by caution live frogs at 8:28 AM on April 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Resist the baby-industrial complex. It's plum crazy.

Remember that babies don't care whether you use a monogrammed sueded terry burp cloth or the 20-for-seven-bucks towelette from the automotive department. Cribs are recyclable. A dresser drawer lined with bath towels doubles as a bassinet in a pinch (whether you put the drawer back in the dresser is on you). Hand me downs from cousins and friends are usually every bit as adorable on your kid. Nurseries are optional, but by my lights the kid's going to want to paint the room purple! and green! and orange! with unicorns! and monsters! by the time they're old enough to even care what's on the walls.

Don't get blinded by the 67 layette sets and electric wipe warmers (?!) and packages of dainty, animal-themed cloths to dab at the kiddo's face. Do cloth diapers if you wish, disposable if you'd rather not. Get lots of Desitin for sore bottoms, cotton balls and warm blankets. Remember that the kid's going to be a squalling, pooping, urping little monster for a good while.

Your perfect little monster. And you'll go all wobbly in the knees and your eyes and nose will fill up and you'll wonder how something so miraculous and strange and wonderful came from mundane, flawed, boring ol' you. And that, when you get down to it, is the only thing that kid's really going to need, no matter what.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 8:37 AM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You can read my question on baby hacks

From that, I learned all about the Miracle Blanket and The Happiest Baby on The Block. It may not work for all babies but it sure did for mine.

My other piece of advice: Get yourself healthy and in shape. You aren't going to be getting much sleep and will be stressed. The fitter you are, the better you will be able to handle it.
posted by jasondigitized at 8:48 AM on April 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Go do something awesome together before it gets a lot more complicated. Extravagant hikes, long camping trips, etc. all get harder, though of course not impossible, when you have an infant or toddler.

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth contains a zillion birth stories (some highly medicalized, some totally DIY, some in between) and has gone a long way to help many first time moms I know get a grip on what to expect.

Nothing will go the way you plan. Think of it as "the fun way."
posted by range at 9:15 AM on April 13, 2010

Best answer: I would recommend the book YOU: Being Pregnant. I've read numerous pregnancy books, and this one is great! It explains things on a more biological level, and thoroughly explains what nutrition is important, how the placenta works, recommended exercises, how your body changes, etc. Anyway, after being very disappointed in other books, THIS one really got me motivated and excited (and not scared half out of my wits about what complications might arise).

For morning sickness: my husband bought fresh ginger root and grated it into a tea strainer and I drank that straight. Worked wonders for me!!!

Find a good infant swing!! We found that to be one of our most appreciated baby tools, besides a crib and a changing table.

Congratulations on your pregnancy!!! Wishing you a happy and healthy pregnancy!
posted by Happydaz at 9:32 AM on April 13, 2010

Best answer: I forgot to add:

Get a doula. Get a doula. Get a doula. Get a doula. Get a doula.

Start saving now and a well-trained doula can be essential to providing support during game time and worth every last penny.
posted by zizzle at 9:45 AM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't have kids, but friends recommend books by Armin Brott for expectant dads. YMMV.
posted by canine epigram at 10:30 AM on April 13, 2010

Best answer: Toward the end of the pregnancy, take a childbirth class at your hospital (once a week for 6 weeks is a typical meeting schedule). The information is sometimes helpful, sometimes cheesy, but it keeps your minds occupied and helps you feel that you are doing *something* to prepare yourselves for the baby.

I didn't take a breastfeeding class, figuring "How hard could it be? Baby. Breast." But I wish I had, because I really was surprised about many aspects of it. Sore nipples for a few weeks. Latch-on techniques. The fact that I couldn't have daddy get up with the baby at night for me, because my breasts were full to bursting.

Also, don't overpurchase gadgets. It's fun, I know. But most end up unused. As for Stuff to Set the Baby In, we had many choices, but she liked the (nonmechanized) bouncy seat the best. These are only about $25. They don't run on batteries, play music, or offer early preschool admission. They just bounce when the baby lays there and kicks. Set baby in front of floor length mirror, let baby bounce, viola! Ten free minutes to shower.
posted by Knowyournuts at 11:02 AM on April 13, 2010

The best advice anyone gave me was: Buy a book, any book...but only buy ONE book. Otherwise, you spend time comparing them, finding where they disagree on something, etc.

That and I'll nth the "be careful until 12 weeks" crowd.

posted by griffey at 11:04 AM on April 13, 2010

Best answer: Congratulations! I'm almost 17 weeks so I'm trying to figure this stuff out as well. So I ca'nt chime in on what's useful to have, but I can share book recs.

There are basically two kinds of books out there, pregancy books and birth books. One tells you--pardon the cliche--what to expect during the pregnancy, and the other tells you what to expect during the birth and your options for pain relief, etc. I was NOT prepared to read birth books early on--too much info at once. I'm just starting to feel ready to read about contractions and so on now. YMMV.

For pregnancy books, I liked the Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy--clear, straight information and not much else. I thought I would hate What to Expect, but I actually like it. Everyone said "Oh, it will tell you everything that could possibly go wrong!" but my experience so far is that it's a list of questions: "I have X weird symptom, is that normal?" and the answer is always a resounding YES, THIS IS NORMAL, DO NOT PANIC. Which I find reassuring. I have the newest version, so perhaps they've made some changes over the years.

For birth books, as I said, I'm just getting into these now, but I currently have The Big Book of Birth and The Birth Partner out from the library. Both were recommended to me by a midwife friend; like anything, both have pros and cons. The Big Book of Birth is slightly condescending in tone--really, book, I'm not as dumb as you seem to think I am!--but full of some good straightforward info. The Birth Partner is clearly geared towards those wanting a natural birth--something I do not really feel strongly about--but has a ton of info on counterpressure, massage, and various techniques for easing the mother's discomfort, all geared towards the partner. Really helpful.

The thing I'm finding most helpful so far is to kind of take things in stride. I know people who tried to plan every aspect of their birth experience and could not flex when it didn't go as planned... and they were miserable. Likewise, I know people who had plans, and when those plans ganged agley, they went with what worked and were much, much happier and less stressed. So I'm trying to fall into the latter camp, myself. Good luck!
posted by Ms. Informed at 11:15 AM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Congratulations! Seconding le morte de bea arthur about the miscarriages--we had at least four in the course of producing four healthy children, the first of the miscarriages before our first child. And seconding the idea of banking sleep. Finally, nthing everyone who said to avoid letting people do a guilt trip on you. Unfortunately there is a huge guilt-manufacturing industry around babies and kids. Love your kids and love your partner and everything will be fine. Not necessarily easy, but fine.

Nthing Sandra Boyton. Otherwise my kids are now too old for book recommendations to mean much--the ones that they had when they were small are probably long gone now. Except that I can still recite quite a lot of "Fox in Socks" ...
posted by Logophiliac at 11:17 AM on April 13, 2010

(Boynton. Yes. Our boy absolutely will NOT relax and go to sleep until we have read him "The Going To Bed Book" at the end of the day. I can read six books to him, and sing to him, but he makes sure I know that book had better be last on the list. I could transcribe it here for you word-for-word... Boynton is good stuff for the wee ones!)
posted by caution live frogs at 11:55 AM on April 13, 2010

Response by poster: I just wanted to pop in again and say thanks to everyone. Lots of good stuff here. I'm about to head home for the day and don't know if I'll be back before tomorrow.

Only because I feel like sharing, I'll tell you that you needn't worry about me overbuying new stuff or whatever, I feel like the "baby industrial complex" is as awful as the "bridal industrial complex" as the "hannah montana spongebob industrial complex". I'm not all organic and natural, but I retain just enough of my punk upbringing to believe that brand names and material consumerism are poison. I have a feeling I'll be sewing and screening a lot of my own prints. The nice thing is that everybody who knows me at all knows my feelings on this stuff (and most fisher-price plastic garbage), and they know that guilting me won't work for beans, so they won't try. They also know I'll have no problem giving away or returning stuff they give me that I don't want, so...that's good, I guess.

ANYWAY--politics aren't the point here, but I did have a couple ideas that I want to share and you can give me your thoughts. Crib wise, at least bassinet wise, I'm going to build my own. I've been learning woodworking, and I have romantic ideas about building for your family, I've already done bookshelves and working on tables and whatnot. Also, I plan to buy a nice, simple journal today and start keeping it, but writing it to him or her. I want to write what I'm afraid of and hopeful for. Not every day, just when the mood strikes. And I want to keep it as he or she grows up and I'm proud or sad or whatever it is I am on any given day, and then sometime when everything is just right, I'll give it to them. I know how my dad feels about me, but I can't imagine how much it would mean to be able to read his thoughts to me before I could remember them. I've also got a fun heart defect that could, possibly, take me away one day...and I feel like leaving my emotions can't hurt.

But yes...I'm scared of the 12 week thing too, and that's why we're staying sorta secretive until then. I've got this awesome bonus incentive to get my personal business really kicking a lot of butt in the next 7 months so that when the time comes I won't be slave to a desk in my normal office...

Gosh I'm excited. Lame, I guess. Whatever. This is gonna be awesome.
posted by TomMelee at 12:42 PM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Aw, that first round of excitement is so fun!

But, you know, take time to breathe. :)

Books: "The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth" by Henci Goer.

For you: "The Birth Partner" by Angela England.

Assuming she's breastfeeding: invest in a GOOD pump, like the Medela 300.00 jobbies, if you can. Nothing worse than a crappy breast pump (unless she's not working while the baby is small, then may not be necessary to get a fancy pump).

Rent/watch: "The Business of Being Born"

Discuss how you feel re circumcision if it's a boy.

Hire: a doula. Interview many first.

Go to a local baby boutique that has slings--there are many different types. Try them out and see if you like them or a carrier better. They need to be able to fit you both!

You may or may not need a stroller, but if you do, a regular Graco is usually fine, you don't need the fancy-ass ones. The baby is going to vomit on it, remember.

Decide how you feel re: co-sleeping. You can buy a special bed-attaching co-sleeper, but actually you can also put a crib next to the bed and use that just as well if you have room. Or of course have baby in bed w/ you; my son happened to hate this (!) YMMV.

Clothes: you will probably be swamped w/ these at showers. "Sleep sacks" are nice for cold weather, no snaps/wrangling of tiny legs.

Swaddling: is your friend. Get swaddle blankets on your gift list.

Diapers: if you use cloth, you can usually get a "sample pack" of different types (There are many!) to try w/ the baby, then order more of whatever works. Cloth diapers tend to be made to cover a wide array of sizes, so you won't be re-buying them every few months once you get a good supply.

Random: I always wanted to try out the "bath buckets" I saw advertised for bathing babies, but didn't get to with mine.

Mental: seriously, take every opportunity to sleep in together for the next 9 months. You won't get to do it again for probably 5-6 years. Or longer.
posted by emjaybee at 12:55 PM on April 13, 2010 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Grab Dr. Sears The Baby Book. We have a 4 and 1 year old and use that book all the time.

We did a Bradley Method class series and had both boys in hospital with a nurse/midwife. I felt like I could have delivered a baby in an emergency by myself (barring complications) after the classes. Hospital: It was nice to know that the machines that go *ping* were there if we needed them.

Ergo baby carriers for the win. Easy to use and very comfortable.
posted by sisquoc15 at 1:18 PM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Regarding being married or not...
Check out your medical insurance(s). Double coverage might be a great bonus for you! Free baby! Or you might live in a state with the Affidavit of Domestic Partnership, and you can get on each other's insurance without being married.

Also, for when the baby is born...
Being needed, really needed, 24 hours a day, is likely to be a brand new feeling for the mommy. It's emotionally draining. Be prepared for her feel it. You might get yelled at. You might be resented for your relative freedom. She still loves you and it doesn't mean anything is wrong with your relationship. As the baby gets older, s/he won't be quite as much like, "mommy, only mommy will do," and daddy's role becomes larger and larger from there on out.

I love your journal idea. It sounds like you're pretty prepared already. Congrats to you both!
posted by Knowyournuts at 1:41 PM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: So...recommend to me books. Recommend to me what kind of doctors we need to be seeing. Tell me about baby sign, tell me about decorating nurseries, about cloth versus disposable diapers...about whatever you want to tell me.

Ok, so I have a 5 week old baby right now, so I'll try and share what I've learned so far.

I enjoyed the Canadian BabyCenter for its forums and week-by-week pregnancy updates. Pretty sure there are forums over there at the .com too.

Books are pretty personal, so I don't think I can really recommend any. I will say though that I didn't find What to Expect... as bad as people say around here. If you're the paranoid, worrying type, sure... but I don't know, I thought it was informative, although not entirely geared towards the [more natural] experience I was looking for.

I had a midwife, and it was a fantastic experience. I spent months ahead of my delivery getting to know two midwives who were both present throughout my labour. I chose to have the baby in hospital, because we live in a rural area and I didn't feel comfortable with our distance from hospital if I'd stayed at home. I will probably have a home birth for my next child though. Knowing my care givers was very important to me, and I think I would have been a lot more uncomfortable during my time in hospital if I'd had to meet every body right then. Of course, when I ended up needing suction at the end and the room filled up with nurses and doctors, I didn't care who the hell was there, I was lost in the moment. Another good thing about midwives- they tend to have more time for you during the months leading up to delivery. Doctors tend to be in a hurry, in and out after some quick tests if you have no questions. With my midwives though, I had 45 minutes for every appointment, never felt hurried and was constantly encouraged to ask more questions. I've never felt like that with a doctor! Anyway... all this to say that midwife= more personal, natural care. This may or may not be important to you and the mother.

Let her do all the planning for the nursery, and then you do all the work! Don't bother getting anything until much later in the pregnancy. Previous posters are right when they say you probably won't use the nursery/crib much in the first little while, so don't worry about it too much... I considered it more as something fun to do than a necessity. Right now, mine is serving mostly as a diaper changing and storage room. On that note: get a diaper genie for your disposables. Give cloth diapering a try- it's not necessarily harder than disposables, and you can save a lot of money in the long run, particularly if you plan on having more than one baby. There are lots of options these days, from all-in-one diapers that will fit from infancy through toilet training, to old fashioned prefolds with cute water proof covers. Don't worry about pins- for this style of diaper they now have these nifty things called Snappies. Prefolds are definitely the cheapest option, but pocket and all-in-ones are easier. What's an extra load of laundry every couple of days?

Look into baby wearing. There are lots of options out there these days beyond the classic baby bjorn. I currently have a wrap-style carrier called a Moby, and I love it. It's not the most convenient-- 18ft of fabric to tie in the parking lot? No thanks.... But it is simple to use, comfortable for everyone and very supportive for a small baby. For convenience, I'm planning on getting a soft structured carrier along the lines of an Ergo or a Beco II.

Also, don't be all freaked out by the fear mongering that's out there. I don't just mean "all the stuff that could go wrong with the pregnancy", but things like how/where baby should sleep and the like. I never thought I'd be into cosleeping (because god, you know it raises the risk of SIDS omgomgomgomg), but it's been a life saver for us in the past few weeks and helped us maintain some sanity. A lot of the things people tell you to be concerned about will likely be thrown out the window when push comes to shove.

Relax, enjoy your last few months of freedom. Sleep in lots. Have as much sex as she's willing and just enjoy each other's company. Try not to talk about the pregnancy all the time. It's hard not to, I know... but after a few months you'll really need to change the subject!

Your mileage will vary, so take as much advice you can with all the salt you have access to. Smile and nod at all the well-meaning people who tell you to do things you don't want to do, and just live your life.

Have fun, and congratulations. This is a wonderful experience.

sorry if this is incoherent... like I said.. five week old baby here!!
posted by sunshinesky at 4:43 PM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Book: Your Pregnancy Week by Week
Web site: babycenter.com
Medication: ZOFRAN for nausea

Advice: if you find out the sex of the baby, do NOT tell anyone before the baby shower! We did, and I ended up with more pink crap than you could shake a stick at. I would have preferred to get more stuff off of our baby registry instead of ugly pink clothes. Maybe make a shower the "surprise" party to reveal the sex? That'd be fun!

Gear: swing and bouncy seat
Clothing: sleep sacks with zippers!! until at least 3 months, the kid can wear them 24/7, and it's way easy to change a diaper in the middle of the night. After 3 months, you REALLY need to strap the kid into the bouncy seat, which will require pants.

Avoid: shoes smaller than size 3. What's the point of shoes on a newborn?
Avoid: changing table. Just use a changing pad on the dresser.
Avoid: diaper genie. requires special bags. just get a pail with a lid.
posted by wwartorff at 5:18 PM on April 13, 2010

Nthing The Birth Partner. I read it prior to each of my (3) births and referred to it again in each labour. It is my part of my go-to gift now for expecting moms and dads.

posted by Abbril at 6:50 PM on April 13, 2010

Best answer: Books: I liked The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy. And A Child is Born, for the gorgeous photos inside the womb.

I disliked What to Expect because it's short on information, long on opinions. For instance, they have a huge section on exactly how many servings of each type of food you should eat every day, and how there's no room for sweets in your pregnant-lady diet, and how a white-wheat bagel is approximately equivalent to a shot of whiskey for breakfast. But they never gave any information about different outcomes due to following their no-cake asceticism. It just all seemed like baseless moralizing. The Mayo Clinic book is much more evidence-based and informative.
posted by palliser at 7:42 PM on April 13, 2010

Avoid: shoes smaller than size 3. What's the point of shoes on a newborn?

Sock retention devices. At 3-4 months, both of mine could remove their socks unless they were wearing these.
posted by palliser at 7:46 PM on April 13, 2010

Best answer: 10 month old baby here. The sleep deprivation isn't necessarily a guarantee - at 6 weeks I was getting more sleep than my sister in law with a 12 month old. I coslept and breastfed which made a huge amount of difference. Even now she's going through a bunch of developmental stuff and waking fairly often I still get 8-9 hours a night (broken in places). Your child is an individual and their needs will change.

I do cloth nappies as well - the modern pocket style. While she was exclusively breastfed I simply chucked the soiled nappies in a bucket and washed them daily (our washing machine is tiny and we do a load a day to keep up even without nappies). Now she's on solids I use a liner so we shake it off into the toilet and then it goes into the washing machine to wait for the daily load. We use disposables overnight and while travelling sometimes.
posted by geek anachronism at 7:47 PM on April 13, 2010

Just remembered another book that was hugely helpful to me, and which I credit with my two wonderful birth experiences: Enjoy Your Labor. I took his advice for the specific type of pain relief I had (patient-controlled epidural).
posted by palliser at 8:19 PM on April 13, 2010

The story about the baby - some humor for you.

Gdiapers - hybrid diapers.

Baby sign - well, if he or she is a Cancer, he/she will be very emotional and loving...

I keed, I keed. Congratulations. :)
posted by IndigoRain at 8:34 PM on April 13, 2010

Ah, opinions. Here are some of mine (one child, 21 months old).

Do be cautious about telling all and sundry - there's a real risk of perfectly normal miscarriage up to twelve weeks, as was noted above. Sorry to be grim, but it's a fact. At twelve weeks you can relax into it more.

Breastfeeding - great if you can do it, not least for convenience, but it's really not the end of the world if you can't. There's a vicious political battle and some people will tell you you're essentially dooming your baby if a bottle touches his/her lips.

Sleeping - another political freefire zone - all I can say is that we took a fairly robust approach from about six weeks with Katya (in her own cot, letting her cry it out) and she has been reliably sleeping through the night ever since. The techniques of interpreting the crying (there's a really clear difference to the parent ear between 'I want my mum' and 'help come at once' and knowing that it takes three days to change a habit will help.

As will being aware that crying will rise and fall, rise and fall, rise and fall (each peak lower than the last), which gives you something to focus on (coz it's a bit awful listening to your child cry and not helping). Giving them the gift of being an easy sleeper is beyond price for them and you.

Don't buy to much - odds are you'll be showered with stuff, to the point that you'll be hard put to find places to put it.
posted by Sebmojo at 8:46 PM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks again everyone. Here's to an uneventful and calm pregnancy. (ya rite!)
posted by TomMelee at 5:29 AM on April 14, 2010

Oh shit, I can't believe I forgot babywearing!

We had a pouch style sling at first - get a good one and learn to use it safely. The pouch worked best with my husband, not with me. Apparently being next to the boob but separated from the boob was not acceptable to baby anachronism. So he used the pouch for a while, then we go a mei tai. So far it's my favourite and my mother and I just made one a few weeks back. It's fantastic for travelling, particularly planes, and it can be great when they're sick/super cranky because it puts them in a nice position for puking/burping/farting/pooping/coughing AND has them snuggled nicely so they feel safe. And your arms don't feel like they're going to drop off. I don't hardcore babywear but I love my meitai. A friend made herself something like an ergo for her son - he's older and bigger than baby anachronism and she said it's great for when you mostly back carry.

But research slings and make sure you're using them safely.
posted by geek anachronism at 4:49 PM on April 14, 2010

I was all

"organic wooden quiet baby toys"

and now look at my living room:


Fisher-Price, FWIW, is one of the best of the plastic noisy toys. And the plastic is a lot easier to clean and doesn't hurt as much when it is thrown at you.
posted by k8t at 10:56 PM on April 14, 2010

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