What can my pregnant self do for my future post-partum self?
February 8, 2011 3:19 PM   Subscribe

I'm giving birth in a few weeks. What can I do for myself now that my husband and I will appreciate later? I'd love to have recipes, things I can order and whatever else you can think of.

So, I'm down to the last few weeks, and I'm still mobile and fairly well rested. I'd like to take advantage of this last burst of energy to do things that will make my life better when I'm sleep deprived and had my whole life taken over by a tiny infant. Things for my husband, too, would be excellent.

I've mostly been thinking in terms of food. I have a side of bacon curing in the fridge, jars of home-canned peaches, a freezer full of garlic scape pesto and bread/pizza dough, and a cupboard crammed with endless jars of homemade jam and marmalade (mostly to be used as thank you gifts for helpers). I also just ordered a cake and some other treats to be delivered after the baby is born. I'll probably also use some of the recipes in this thread.

For non-food items I ordered a surprise beauty kit for myself, and keep a little notebook with me for writing little things to my unborn daughter.

Yes, I should probably finish my thank you cards and pre-address my birth announcements. I'll do that...someday.

What did you wish you'd had prepared when your baby arrived? What did you do ahead of time that made you pat yourself on the back? What was the best thing you had in your freezer?

Also, I want to thank you guys for answering my anonymous question at the other end of my pregnancy. I've been sleeping lots (mostly thanks to the world's politest fetus), spending time doing fun things with my husband, and reading lots of books, some of which were recommended by you. Thank you so much for the advice.
posted by Alison to Grab Bag (32 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I organized a basket of baby paraphernalia stocked full of diapers, wipes, alcohol wipes (for cord care) and other implements of baby care that I would need quickly and put it on Baby theBRKP's dresser. I also washed all the sheets, towels, clothing, burp clothes and put away in the dresser drawers, so I would not have to frantically dig through everything.

The best thing I had in my freezer was homemade clam chowder, one of my ultimate comfort foods.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 3:34 PM on February 8, 2011

Clean everything really, really well. It will be months before you get a chance to do it again. If you really scrub things now they won't be in too bad of shape if you leave everything alone for the next little while.

Organize as much as possible. Then even your sleep deprived self will know where things are.
posted by TooFewShoes at 3:37 PM on February 8, 2011 [6 favorites]

Best answer: If you can have some people delivering dinners, on a schedule it will help a lot, plus it will spread out the visits, so your friends will get to see the baby, and you'll have food in the house. A friend arranged 20+ dinner deliveries for us, and I have turned around and done it several times for other friends. Even a few dinners is a blessing, when you are exhausted, as you both shall be.
posted by Danf at 3:45 PM on February 8, 2011

Nthing everything above: getting the house clean and organized now.
So, that said, go out to the movies now as much as you possibly can.
posted by Tylwyth Teg at 3:51 PM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

One more thing I didn't know: The first couple of weeks aren't too bad. Your newborn will need to be fed and changed every couple of hours, but they'll sleep the rest of the time. It's after that when things start getting hairy. Those first two weeks gave me a false sense of security.

If you have people offering to come help (like mom or mom-in-law) you might ask them to come sometime around the baby's 2 week birthday. For my second child my mom came during that two week easy time and I really didn't need her until about a week after she left.
posted by TooFewShoes at 3:59 PM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Now is the time to stock up on peanut butter, paper towels, toilet paper, your preferred shampoo, and feminine hygiene products, assuming the frantic shopping trips I know new dads to have been sent on are any indication. Anything you know you use - it's like prepping for a blizzard.
posted by SMPA at 4:05 PM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Plan ahead for entertainment (paperbacks, movies, tablet) that you can manage with one or no hands while nursing/holding the baby. Get a Boppy or (better) My Brest Friend pillow. Despite the awful name, it was indispensable for positioning my girls for nursing in the early days.

Try on some slings or other babywearing apparatus. If you start off with one right away, you'll be less pinned to the couch.

Read up on on warning signs for postpartum depression, and ask your SO to be on alert. The hormones can be a bit of a wild ride.

Figure out who you'll turn to when you need it: friends, relatives, pros (lactation consultant, pediatrician, your doc). When it's 3am and what you need is some perspective or advice, I highly recommend Ask Moxie and Kelly Mom (AskMe is so-so on baby questions).
posted by libraryhead at 4:24 PM on February 8, 2011 [4 favorites]

Make sure you have comfortable sleeping for yourself. Buy a new pillow, get comfier blankets, mattress pad, foam, pillowtop, blackout curtains, etc. You won't get much sleep, so you should enjoy what sleep you do get.

My sister didn't do this and kept the same crappy pillows she hated prior to birth. When I secretly switched her crappy pillow with an awesome pillow her stress seemed to drop a teensy bit.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 4:39 PM on February 8, 2011

I recently purchased the "Don't Panic, Dinner's in the Freezer!" cookbook, and so far, so good. My husband and I work opposite schedules, so we rarely eat together, and this was a nice way to put together a bunch of single-serving home-made TV dinners.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 4:53 PM on February 8, 2011

Best answer: Douse a couple of maxi-pads with witch hazel and put them in the freezer.
posted by bq at 5:06 PM on February 8, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Make sure you read the instructions and practice adjusting the car seat you'll be using to bring baby home. I didn't do this and had to have a nurse come down to the car and school my pathetic ass ;)

Put together diapering kits to keep in the rooms you'll be in the most. We have a decorative box in our living room that's deep enough to hide a container of wipes and big enough to hold almost half of one of those mega packs of diapers. We also have the typical set up on the dresser in her room, and I keep a small stash in the basement family room, too.

Lay in the following supplies for yourself: the biggest pads you can find, and a medium size and panty liners. You're about to have a really heavy period that will last about 3 weeks. The hospital provides this "disposable" underwear while you're in the hospital, and even larger pads than you can get at the store. They'll give you some to take home if you ask. Nursing pads and nipple cream if you plan on breast feeding. A bottle of stool softener (NOT a laxative), and hemorrhoid treatment. For some reason, not many people talk about this kind of stuff, but for a vaginal birth you will likely tear and push so hard you'll get hemorrhoids. Even if you end up having a c-section, the pads, etc., will be necessary. I've never had one, so I can't speak to post-op needs for that.

posted by wwartorff at 5:29 PM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding the organizing and cleaning, especially if you're having help stay at your house for a while.

As the father of triplets, I can tell you that the nicest thing I remember was that some friends gave us a sizable gift card to the local pizza place. If we were both too wiped out to do anything but pick up a phone, not having to cook dinner seemed like an amazing luxury.

You might also want to check out your local MOMS Club. Mrs_Eep and I were amazed that other families would bring us a complete meal. We have reciprocated several times for other families since then.
posted by Wild_Eep at 5:41 PM on February 8, 2011

So this is a little bit further down the road, but my own Sainted Mother gave me 2 pieces of wonderful advice shortly after the birth of my first: Plan a 3-day weekend for you and your partner, say 120 days from the date of birth, without baby. Reconnect with your partner -- babyless -- not too far away from the birthdate. The second part of this advice has served me so well -- the couple relationship needs to come back into first position and that doesn't happen automatically or easily.
posted by thinkpiece at 5:58 PM on February 8, 2011 [5 favorites]

One more thing (riffing off Mister Fabulous' comfortable sleep suggestion). Buy a really nice, high quality sweat pant/shirt/hoody combination that can be worn around the house, is comfortable to sleep in and looks good if you need to go out. I purchased two sets from Roots and practically lived in them the first few weeks I was home with baby.

I had a lot of success using Always Overnight Ultra Thin pads. Not bulky, highly absorbent, rather comfortable.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 6:12 PM on February 8, 2011

2nd the cleaning and organizing! Make it so others/husband can help you without asking where things are. Set up your bill-paying, calendars etc. -- otherwise, things will fall through the cracks. I am proud of the fact that I got all birthday cards out on time, even my dad's, whose birthday came six days after my c-section. Set up your photo/video system for storing on your computer, backing up, blogging or what-have-you; there will be a lot of media generated and it's good to keep it all safe.
posted by xo at 6:28 PM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

You need one pot dinners in the freezer. The most complicated thing you want to be doing is making rice or boiling pasta. I had three weeks worth of dinners in the freezer - curries, spaghetti sauce, etc. It was so worth it.

The other thing I did was quit work early, sit down, have a rest, and read trashy paperback novels. This was a great idea, I did not have the opportunity to do that again for years.
posted by crazycanuck at 6:44 PM on February 8, 2011

Buy a six pack of prune juice and put it in the refrigerator. Seriously. If you don't like prune juice, do it anyway. You can hold your nose and drink it. You will thank me later.
posted by tamitang at 7:01 PM on February 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best thing I had in the freezer was some yummy pulled pork in small portions. Meatballs and homemade sauce was nice too. Lots of the bags of frozen veggies that you toss in the microwave to steam.

Get yourself a really nice water bottle. If you're nursing, you'll want to keep as well hydrated as possible. Make a little basket with some clean washcloths, water bottle, magazines, kindle and whatever else you might want at arms reach while nursing.

Look into Amazon Prime.

Make a list of phone numbers you might need and put them on the fridge.
- Pediatrician
- Your OB
- Lactation Consultant
- Doses of infant medication
- Urgent Care Phone # and Location
- Car seat check location
- LLL phone # and meeting time
- Poison Control
- Visiting nurse
- Pizza / Chinese delivery

Seconding the previous suggestion to buy a crap ton of non perishable goods.

Get the furnace cleaned, make sure the house itself is in tip top condition.

Make some bran muffins and freeze them. Eat with the prune juice.

Get an extra battery and storage card for your camera. Set up a flickr account, or some other way to easily share photos of the little one with far flung family and friends.

Fill any prescriptions early, if you are able.

Buy a rubbermaid tote to keep in the closet for outgrown clothes. If something doesn't fit, it automatically goes into the storage tote, easy peasy.

posted by Nickel Pickle at 8:41 PM on February 8, 2011

You sound all set, frankly. Not worrying about cooking--and cleaning--will be crucial for the next month or so.

And you may be one of the lucky parents whose young infant will actually sleep for 8 plus hours on her/his own. This was not the case with my son, but I know a couple who have a 6 month old and claim bafflement at all the new parents who say they're sleep deprived. My friends aren't; they say they pretty much sleep a normal night's sleep. Every baby is different.
posted by zardoz at 9:28 PM on February 8, 2011

One of the most luxurious memories I have is showering after the birth of my second, and using some fabulous Bliss shower gel that my best friend gave me. I splurge on it whenever I can now, and it still makes me happy.

Be prepared to let go. You sound super-organized and very thoughtful-awesome! Give yourself permission to be sloppy and selfish after baby comes. Don't worry too much about giving gifts to people who help you-if you have stuff, that's wonderful, but do just let people help. They love it, and you're obviously someone who will reciprocate.

Think of some ground rules for post baby visitors. If folks bring you meals, it's completely ok not to feel obligated to visit with them. I was always pretty social after my three babies, but I also always felt physically well. A harder birth can leave you flattened, and regular baby care can leave you exhausted. I had friends just drop a meal on the porch and leave-it was fabulous, and much appreciated.

posted by purenitrous at 9:28 PM on February 8, 2011

Nthing the notes about putting the couple relationship first. Recalling studies that children from homes where this is done are far more secure and form more stable relationships as adults. Maybe you could ask your partner to watch out for trouble here because you know you might be a little too close to see it. You could come up with a word or gesture to signal the need for more attention on your "twoness." He could draw you a bath, give you a massage, and a few hours of protected sleep, for example.
posted by Mertonian at 9:45 PM on February 8, 2011

Seriously, put the maxi pads in the freezer. Be generous with soaking them with water and witch hazel. And try to freeze them in a kind of curved position.

Make sure you have a stool softener handy. They gave me some at the hospital, but I needed them for a couple of weeks.

Make sure you have some formula on hand at home, even if you plan on breastfeeding. It may not go as planned, or you may need to supplement. if you never need it, it can go to the food bank.

posted by kitcat at 10:57 PM on February 8, 2011

Best answer: Buy a pack of Depends to deal with the lochia. Embarrassing? Maybe. but there is a veritable WATERFALL of former-life-support-system that comes marching out of your ladybusiness. As a side bonus, if your water breaks before you're in the place where you'll give birth, you can slip one on to avoid ruining car upholstery.
posted by KathrynT at 11:27 PM on February 8, 2011

Yeah, uh, ew, don't buy prune juice -- it's 2011, no need to suffer; you can get a jumbo thing of stool softener for four bucks, safe for your nursling. And don't plan a vacation away from your young baby (!) or buy formula if you want to nurse; those are very bad ideas...

The 'Tena' disposable underpants were great. I would not bother with bunchy shifty leaky pads for a while; disposable underpants sort out so many problems and were surprisingly comfy. And extra ice packs n the freezer don't hurt, to jam in said disposable underpants -- that's another thing about the Tenas; they'll keep an ice pack in place better than regular skivvies plus a pad (plus you want some sort of something, like a very clean new dishtowel, to wrap around the ice pack).

I was most pleased with myself for making a big pile of crepes -- they freeze beautifully (put a circle of waxed paper between each, chuck the piles in zip-lock bags) and a little filling makes them a good meal. Good plain, too. Julia Child's recipe is foolproof. My frozen individual servings of lasagna were nice, but one can only eat the same meal so many times, and the crepes were so easy to vary. And those now-ubiquitous platters of pre-chopped fruit or veg seem so spendy and mediocre but they sure were useful with a newborn.

One thing I wish I had had a greater heads-up on was how many different sizes various parts of my body would be at various times. Bras, pants, even shoes... If a generous soul says "I want to get you a present," say, "Gift card to [clothing retailer big on decently-priced sturdy basics] please!"
posted by kmennie at 6:20 AM on February 9, 2011

And don't plan a vacation away from your young baby (!) or buy formula if you want to nurse; those are very bad ideas...

Um, pumping and refrigerating?
posted by thinkpiece at 9:31 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Stock up on food you can eat with one hand like healthy granola bars and such, or make yourself breakfast cookies or muffins, and keep them accessible to grab (with only one hand) (or in a place where anyone can find one and fetch it for you easily. Nursing, if you're going to, makes you HUNGRY in ways that the need to eat becomes urgent. You'll need to snack on the run sometimes; or you might be up and ferociously hungry in the middle of the night with a yowling baby without a hand free to do more than stuff something in your mouth to take the edge off until you can eat properly. But also, you have something you can grab for yourself if you need to make a run to a clinic or if there's a long wait for an appointment in the early days.

Pack a spare mini diaper bag and keep it in the trunk, if you have a car - or by the door if you don't. It should have some of the usual stuff and a change of clothes for the baby, and a mini kit for yourself with maybe a fresh shirt too. And don't dip into it. If you or one of your caregiver have to make a run to the hospital after the baby's born, it's there to grab so you don't have that one thing to worry about if there's a crisis - you'll at least have the bare minimum until someone else can help you. Or, if someone else is taking the baby, they don't have to have your main bag, which may double as your purse.

And for all this talk of stool softening, let me add that at the hospital, after the birth, I was offered painkillers that were safe for nursing - but only so many. First, some can constipate you - so yes, get what you're going to need to poop more easily in order. Second, it's not so bad, the pains for first couple of days, with the rush and excitement of it all still in your system. One nurse recommended that I not take the painkillers there and then, but to save them for the first couple of days at home where the gravity from being up and around would take its toll on the lady parts (which is why the frozen witch hazel pads are a great recommendation); the milk would be coming in; and getting back to eating normally will affect your system.

Warm wishes for all the best !
posted by peagood at 10:59 AM on February 9, 2011

Best answer: What can my pregnant self do for my future post-partum self?

Send me your address by memail so I can deliver a dinner once babby is here! And congratulations!!

FWIW, I would not have wanted to have planned a vacation away from a nursing 6-month-old. It would have been a source of enormous stress to me, trying to work my supply up that I could store enough for 3 days of feedings, and then actually doing all that pumping. A six-month-old takes in a lot of breastmilk! YMMV, of course -- just that it's not a realistic expectation for a lot of nursing relationships.
posted by palliser at 12:54 PM on February 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

Um, pumping and refrigerating?

I'm the mother of a nursing three-month-old. I have an abundant milk supply and a double-electric pump that I respond really well to. It's very easy for me to pump milk. But it's a source of stress for me to try and keep enough milk in the fridge for a once-weekly five-hour rehearsal, never mind a THREE DAY trip. Skipping one or two feedings is one thing; three days is a really big deal.

To the OP, I forgot something else. Make some big flannel blankets. I don't mean the receiving blankets that come 5 to a pack or whatever, I mean some BIG suckers. Go to a fabric store and buy two 1.25 yard pieces of quilter's flannel; sew them together, right sides facing and leaving a gap, then turn them right side out, press, and topstitch. If you don't sew, find someone who does and beg them to make these for you. These blankets are the bomb and you will use them for everything, and mysteriously they are impossible to buy already made.
posted by KathrynT at 2:06 PM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice, guys! I just took the most embarrassing shopping trip of my life, but I'll probably need every single item. I don't know what kind of advice I was expecting, but it's nice to know that my bits will be cared for.

I think I'll pass on vacation planning for now. I don't even know enough about the future to make plans for Valentine's Day.

I'll be leaving more feedback once I actually have a chance to put your suggestions into practice, which could be anywhere from tomorrow to the first week of March. Again, thanks!
posted by Alison at 6:49 AM on February 11, 2011

Great ideas above - one more and you do not even have to buy anything. Make little stations around the house (bedroom, living room, dinning room, etc) for you to rest with your feet touching the ground or able to be raised, hold the baby, nurse or bottle feed, have a place to put your water and your snack, your phone, some wipes/clothes for spit up will make a big difference. Once you sit down it is very hard to get back up (post vaginal or Cesarean birth) and little babies eat for 8-12 hours a day (even when they are sleeping). Coordinating all those things in one place plus new babe in arms is challenging so stocked stations are very helpful. Good luck.
posted by mutt.cyberspace at 9:47 PM on February 11, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice, everyone! I've got my three week old baby in my lap and we're both doing well. The birth ended up being...not so bad. It only took three hours and left little damage. So, no prune juice for me!

Breast feeding has proved to be a little bit more challenging, so I've been using breast pads soaked in witch hazel instead of the maxi pads suggested above. I was really glad to have a bottle of it stocked up.

We ended up having a multi-day stay in the NICU (as baby and baby's food supply) for jaundice (totally the "rich people problem" of the NICU), which was kind of hellish on establishing breast feeding. I wish I had been better prepared for the stay there, but having a dress designed for breast feeding that could also function as pajamas, plus a wrap, was the best I did for myself. Actually, I had two, one in black and one in cranberry that I rotated. They were life-savers because I didn't have time to buy nursing bras until week two.

The diaper basket suggestion has also been fantastic. We have one on each floor of the house that we keep stocked with diapers and wipes.

We had a friend set up meals through CareCalendar, so we've had some nice, organized visits and lots of thoughtful meals, including pie for Pi Day.

Again, thank you to everyone! Life has been pretty good to us so far.
posted by Alison at 1:28 PM on March 16, 2011

Yay! congratulations, she's beautiful! I'll see you on April 4th!
posted by palliser at 2:42 PM on March 16, 2011

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