What to do in life before getting pregnant in a year or two.
July 10, 2014 12:28 PM   Subscribe

We're planning on trying for a baby in a year or two. I want a comprehensive list of goals for the time leading up to getting pregnant so that we're ready- psychologically, physically, and in every other way. I think my planned preparations fall under three categories- 1) getting our lives in order 2) enjoying the last of our unchained youth, and 3) practical stuff directly related to the baby. Please help me populate these lists.

I realize that there's no being fully prepared for a baby and that my lists are pretty aggressive and I won't be able to accomplish all these things. But I want to have some serious goals in mind and accomplish most of them to be in a healthier position to take care of a baby and myself. Here are some of the things on our list so far, to give you an idea of what I'm looking for:

1) getting our lives in order: living in a home and geography that we're happy to stay put in for 5 years, which is reasonably safe and baby friendly but still fun, developing healthier eating and exercise routines including losing my extra 15 pounds, seeing a therapist personally and as a couple, clean up our finances a little

2) enjoying the last of our unchained youth:
have lots of sex (with each other and for fun, not with the intention of having a baby yet), go on one big international trip together (as a married couple before becoming parents)

3) practical stuff directly related to the baby/getting pregnant: taking prenatal vitamins. developing a better support network of doctors (moving around a lot means I don't really have this right now) including a general practitioner, ob/gyn, and dentist, as well as have good pediatricians identified.

So what's missing? Thank you for any and all suggestions.
posted by cacao to Society & Culture (35 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: travel. have a lot of sex. you wrote those down but they are worth repeating.
posted by n9 at 12:31 PM on July 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

See movies in movie theaters.
posted by kestrel251 at 12:39 PM on July 10, 2014 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Jesus I wish my parents had been this organized.

Are you guys planning on pets? Get pets now if you want 'em.

Figure out how to manage stress. How to carve 'me time' into the daily grind. Find your stress-relief hobbies now, and bone up on your close relationships (so they can coast on that goodwill as you'll be crazy busy the 1st year). If you have any demons in your organized closets then exorcise them now.

watch how people parent in difficult situations and discuss how you'd handle it with your partner.

learn to deal with ambiguity? you can't pre-plan everything.

yes to travel
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:39 PM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do things with very little planning.

My friends who have recently had a baby still get to hang out and do stuff, but there must be a week's notice at least. There are no more last minute plans or impromptu gatherings for them.
posted by teleri025 at 12:40 PM on July 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Prenatal care. Go to your doctor and tell them you're looking to get pregnant. They can help you get the health stuff going in the right direction.
posted by Stewriffic at 12:41 PM on July 10, 2014

oh one more start charting your cycles now (are you on the pill?) so you are more in tune with your body's rhythms in case conception becomes an issue, you'll already have 1-2 years of data to go to the hormone specialist with.

Taking Charge of Your Fertility is 600pages of amazing information that is easy to read and 'holy cow I can't believe I didn't notice my body doing this all this time'.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:42 PM on July 10, 2014 [6 favorites]

Best answer: - Make sure your vaccinations are up-to-date, and get any dental work done now.
- The prospective father should have a full physical as well, and begin taking supplements/vitamins per his doctor's advice.
- Start charting your cycle (Taking Charge of Your Fertility is the classic book recommendation, but there are online trackers and apps, too).
- If you're a true hard-core caffeine addict, start slowly cutting back.
- First aid classes, including emergency infant/toddler information. (Many women plan to take these classes when pregnant, and then have the memory/focus problems that can occur during pregnancy.)
- Cross off any bucket-list items that might give you pause once you have a child (skydiving, race car driving, etc.).

Google "prenatal preparation checklist" for more.
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:43 PM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd caution that there may be a benefit in reframing how you think about these plans.

Everything you're talking about: getting healthier, strengthening your relationship, having more sex, traveling, getting closer with friends... it's all worth doing *anyway*.

If you do all this hyperfixated on having a baby in a couple years, when you start trying, if it takes a while, you'll likely feel incredibly frustrated because you've built it up so much.

Some folks take a lot of trying before they have a baby. Miscarriages happen. For all the great stuff, there are lots of opportunities for heartache and anxiety.

*Certainly* do all the things you're talking about. But do them because you want to, because you'll enjoy them, and because they'll make you happy. And when you start trying for the baby, you won't have had two years of built up planning and expectation weighing on you.
posted by colin_l at 12:45 PM on July 10, 2014 [18 favorites]


Similar questions asked while pregnant with first child: 1, 2.
posted by John Cohen at 12:46 PM on July 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: -- boot up your friendships while you still have time to be the giver instead of the taker

-- go out at ridiculous hours, go watch planes take off at 3am and go to the all-night diner; you'll get a little bit of that in the one-kid newborn era, but then...

-- don't get pets now, or at least I would not

-- de-clutter for the clutter to come; sell household stuff or throw it out, and don't replace it with anything nice

-- don't buy anything nice that comes in a particular size, but if it's something like a purse or bicycle, splash out like crazy
posted by kmennie at 12:47 PM on July 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: But, to not be such a downer, I'll add fine dining to the list. Treat yourselves to a five course prix fixe meal every few months or so, because you sure won't be doing that for a while once you've got a young'un.
posted by colin_l at 12:48 PM on July 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Money. If you are planning to work: look up how much daycare costs in your area. Have a job for long enough to have FMLA and max out your vacation time. Either way: Get your finances in order. Assume the baby will use a lot of money. (They might, they might not. Different babies are different.)

Legal. This is absolutely time to write up a will and have conversations about who would care for the baby if X,Y, or Z happened. Get life insurance and all that boring stuff.

Fertility. A conversation about what lengths you are willing to go to in order to get pregnant is a good thing to have happen beforehand. Related: Siblings, ideal birth spacing, that kind of thing. They can change, but it's useful to know what your "perfect world" scenario is before going in.

Friends. Figure out the ways that parents meet each other in your community. Find out where the consignment shops are, where the La Leche League meetings are held, where the Dad Outings are held, wherever the place is where you can hook into a network of your kind of folks.

Reading. Read some parenting books. Discuss approaches with your partner. Spend some time thinking about what kind of parent you want to be, and the ways that may and may not mesh with reality.

Relationship. Do something really difficult with your partner (travel is a way to kill two birds with one stone here.) Figure out the ways that you each deal with stress, fatigue, illness. Talk about who's going to do what. Make sure you both know the basics of caring for a small infant. Visit friends with new babies, help with diapers, get puked on.
posted by tchemgrrl at 12:53 PM on July 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

If you engage in any illicit activities, now would be a good time to wrap that up once & for all.
posted by aramaic at 12:55 PM on July 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

In the housing category, I have "find deleaded housing." YMMV depending on where you live, but our area is all pre-1978 housing stock and landlords have an obligation to delead if a child will live in the apartment, which leads to housing discrimination if you're pregnant ...
posted by teditrix at 12:57 PM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you ever want to establish an exercise habit or have any specific workout goals, start now. Exercise can help a ton during pregnancy, and it gets a lot harder once you're pregnant, so it'll be way easier to get into it well in advance.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:58 PM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Work on optimum exercise and nutrition now...I don't have it in front of me, but I recently saw a study talking about how much a mother's health matters long before she's actually pregnant, not just during the pregnancy.
posted by three_red_balloons at 1:13 PM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I forgot to add a fourth category (I've been planning to write this askme for a really long time): difficult conversations to have as a couple before trying for a baby (examples: what we would do if there was a problem with the fetus, discussing differences in opinion on general parenting strategy because I feel like some of this will be easier to discuss before it actually becomes an issue). Part of my drive to do this is because we are from different countries and cultural backgrounds. Some notes based on your answers so far (WHICH ARE AMAZING THANK YOU!!): I'm not on birth control (we use condoms), have no addictions including caffeine although I should eat less, no other generally dangerous behaviors.

Thanks so much.
posted by cacao at 1:14 PM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Make sure you actually, truly like each other, solve problems well together, and that you know what each other's parenting philosophies are.
posted by Hermione Granger at 1:18 PM on July 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: My Husband and I took out large Term Life policies before I got pregnant.
posted by saffry at 1:21 PM on July 10, 2014

I would recommend reading these two parenting books and then see if you're in agreement/disagreement

Between parent & child

Emotional life of the toddler

parenting - how do you discipline? what if the kid has all our bad traits rolled into one (i.e. the genetic dice came up 'snake eyes') and what do you NOT want to do that your parents did (what tide are you swimming against?) whose parenting do you admire? will you be kid-centric parenting or more european or 'it takes a village' or...?

have you seen his family? how was he parented? how does he react when frustrated & pushed to the limit? a lot of this stuff is emotional not cerebral.

someone upthread said all this stuff should be done anyways. I agree. Maybe they picked up on the anxiety of pre-parenthood in your question but anyways the parents I've admired are relaxed and take things as they come.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:27 PM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

My wife and I weren't able to have kids for several years and thought we never would, so we traveled a lot, got graduate degrees, and moved around a lot. All possible in that time frame you mention. Even in spite of all the cool stuff we did, we actually still think we wasted a lot of time now that we have three kids, frequently wondering what the hell we did with all that free time.
posted by resurrexit at 1:35 PM on July 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Here's my similar question on the matter, asked 4.5 years ago (eight months before I got engaged to my husband). Tomorrow I'll be a month from my due date with my first kid. You can follow my pregnancy saga, question by DELIGHTFUL question, through my profile.
posted by Madamina at 1:41 PM on July 10, 2014

Best answer: I'd read Taking Charge of Your Fertility and Expecting Better. Start charting your cycle now -- if you have an issue like luteal phase defect or irregular ovulation, you're going to want to know that sooner rather than later. Your husband may want to get a sperm count done sometime during the 1-2 years. Basically, there's no reason to wait 2 years, try unsuccessfully for a year (which is often recommended), and then pursue treatment for something that can be fixed now.

Lift weights; do yoga. Money-wise, pay off debt, save up (if you can) 12 months expenses as an emergency fund, get serious about budgeting and talking about your budget. I recommend YNAB. Set up wills and powers of attorney. I would also add finding a good housekeeper (for once-every-week-or-two deep cleaning) to your list of professionals to hire.

Talk to each other about important things like: what types of prenatal testing do you want, what are your preferences if a test comes back positive for certain birth defects, what are your attitudes toward breastfeeding, does one parent plan to stay home and for how long, what will your relatives' involvement in your baby's life be, who do you want as designated guardians if something happens to both of you, what are your preferences if something happens to you while pregnant, what type of birthing experience are you both expecting, what type of schooling do you want for the kid, will religion be involved in the kid's life, how and when do you talk about sex with your kid, what are your attitudes on gender norms, how will you discipline your child, what are your feelings on social media and photos of your child, do you plan on having more than one child and if so what is your expected timeline, what if you have trouble getting pregnant, how long do you try, what alternatives do you try, what is your philosophy on sleep training, etc.

I would also try to spend some time with other parents of small children. Perhaps ones that you aspire to be like - e.g., I wouldn't gain much personally from my sister in law who is a stay-at-home helicopter mom with every item sold at babies-r-us (works for her, but not how I want to parent), but I learn a lot from several of my friends who are more hippie, lgbt-friendly, international-travel-with-baby, multi-lingual household, small-space living -type people.
posted by melissasaurus at 2:10 PM on July 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

Go to the dentist and take care of anything that needs it.

If in the US, make sure your health insurance covers maternity, and make sure you know what the co-pays etc will be and save up.

Learn to meditate. Once you're pregnant your body's on autopilot, and once born the kid will be his own separate weirdo person. All you can do is keep calm and let go.

And as Melissasaurus notes toward the end of her post... It's not the end, so don't go too crazy trying to squeeze stuff in. Babies travel, and go hiking, and sleep in caf├ęs etc. which is mostly what we do anyway. Babies R Us is not going to close when he's born. He won't be a baby/toddler/kid/teen forever.

Watch Away We Go - hilarious, and lots of examples of parenting 'styles'. An excellent conversation starter. Being international/multi-cultural, you might also like the book How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm. :)
posted by jrobin276 at 2:58 PM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Once you have a child, you will still be able to travel and eat out, but the big thing I miss is that a vacation isn't really a vacation, it's just parenting in another location. I think that it's not just that you should travel, but that you should travel in ways that aren't easy to do with kids. An international trip, like you mentioned, is a great idea. I'd also suggest trips to cities, and beach/mountain trips where you just go and sit around, if that's your thing. That's my thing, and I miss it.

On the other hand, that whole stage is temporary. I keep reminding myself that in a few scant years, I will be able to say, "Go, 8 year old child, and build a beautiful sandcastle for me while I read this book in this chair." I will definitely help with some sandcastles, but yeah. Also, I am going to miss all this when he's older, so it's worth the trade-off for me. It's something like a million cuddles and hugs versus not being able to relax on vacation for up to 8 or 10 years, which is fine with me.

Smaller things for me would be: Spend lots of good time with your partner, not just having sex, but having long conversations and nice dinners and picnics and so on. If you have pets, love on them a lot.
posted by hought20 at 5:12 PM on July 10, 2014

Best answer: No one has mentioned it so I will: write a will, and consider foster options if something happens.

And get as fit as fuck. Before my first I was hitting the gym six times a week, I ran a half mara in 1:45, could bench my body weight and squat 1.5 times my body weight. I was gloriously fit.

This was a very handy base to have once baby came (is more physical toting a newborn than you think!). And also, it is very challenging, whether you are working or not, to find the time to exercise with a baby. Having such a high bar has made my subsequent two year break /deterioration less steep than it could have been. I also have the confidence that I know how to get myself fit again, when I get the time.
posted by smoke at 5:44 PM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you're on the pill, go off of it a year in advance. It can take a full year for you to get back to full fertility.

Also, if you have space, get a floor freezer. It was the best investment we made before having ours. Often, people will bring you more food than you can eat. It's also useful for the milk.
posted by originalname37 at 6:02 PM on July 10, 2014

Do as many things as you can at the spur of the moment. Just go to the movies. Just go out and stay out all hours. Just go to the grocery store. As mentioned above, once you have a kid, you can do the same things but everything involves planning. After a kid going anywhere means packing or unpacking a kid, getting a kid in and out of a car-seat, or getting a babysitter. I really missed just dropping everything and running to the store to say just get a gallon of milk. Also take a good look at your insurance, retirement, and savings accounts. Money for a 529 plan is also a good thing.
posted by PJMoore at 6:48 PM on July 10, 2014

Are you guys planning on pets? Get pets now if you want 'em.

Yeah, get a puppy. If you can't handle a small mammal that you have to train to shit in the appropriate place and destroys all your stuff, you might reconsider your overall plan.
posted by murphy slaw at 7:06 PM on July 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Save money. You seriously can't save enough money before kids.
posted by medusa at 8:22 PM on July 10, 2014

difficult conversations to have as a couple before trying for a baby

I think this is really, really important, but also really difficult to do, mainly because you don't really know which things will be of the utmost importance and which things will be trivial details until you're in the thick of it. Mr. McCatburglar is a wonderful father and loves our son very much, but when I first got pregnant he freaked out a little bit, and didn't want to hash anything out. I, on the other hand, thought it was really important to discuss all the little details, and it turned out that I was mostly right. We've had a lot of strife because we didn't talk about things like where the baby would sleep (I want to cosleep, he wants the kid in his own crib in another room).

In short, I think it's important to make sure you're on the same page, or that you can find a place of compromise (keeping in mind that a lot of your ideas will change). Melissasaurus's third paragraph is a great starting point.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 1:19 AM on July 11, 2014

Here is a list of things that got a lot harder to do after baby came along. These are thing things that you might want to do or think about. Also, this is just my list, not necessarily your situation.

- go out to dinner
- have sex ... especially any place other than bed, at night.
- connect with wife
- connect with friends
- stay at work after 5 pm
- go to parties
- host parties/dinners
- exercise
- maintain hobbies
- sleep enough
- theatre/cinema/night clubs
- spontaneous anything
- more than an hour at any adult activity like museums, meals out, time in a park
- travel
posted by BearClaw6 at 7:57 AM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have a 1 year old at home. My advice is go to any restaurants that are fancy that you wanted to go to. Fancy restaurants don't like children. Also anything that involves late night.

Keep in mind you can still do a lot of stuff when you have the baby. My wife and I still go to restaurants with our son. Since he was 3 months old.

My wife and I have never been the lets party people so bringing our son with us has never been a problem.

Sex is a big one. Not really because of the baby per se. My wife is still breast feeding at 1 year and it is causing her to not have any sex drive what so ever. So have the sex now.
posted by majortom1981 at 8:00 AM on July 11, 2014

Best answer: Move to a good school district. Seriously. Even if it's the cliche of the crappiest place in the best neighborhood. Because once you have a kid, you will be doing mommy & me classes, park playdates, birthday parties... you want to be doing those things with people/families that you want your kid associating with. You don't want to invest 4.5 years making friends and then move to a better school district and need to start over. In my experience, folks who live in coveted areas don't care to socialize with those of us who don't ( even as we insist that we are trying to find housing in the area).
posted by vignettist at 5:07 AM on July 12, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! Had a really hard time not simply picking everything as best answer. I doubt we will manage to put a dent into our pile of good ideas now, but it's good to be thinking in the right directions. Merci!
posted by cacao at 7:58 AM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

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