What to do in the time before baby comes?
September 12, 2018 5:23 PM   Subscribe

I am due with just_duckling in 11 weeks. It will be our first. What should I be doing in my spare time between now and then to prepare?

Mr. just_ducky and I have bought or are working on buying all the essential baby gear etc, so I am more wondering about other things to do ahead of time. I have already bought Christmas cards, and am feeling pretty good about that. What do you wish you had done while you still had some free time? Visit friends? Sleep? I am still working, so my spare time is just evenings/weekends, though I will probably start my mat leave around 38 weeks. I keep thinking I should be using my remaining time wisely, but I don't know what is wise!
posted by just_ducky to Health & Fitness (35 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Depending on how much disposable income you have, my friend who is currently expecting her 2nd kid says that one of the best things she did was pay a professional organizer to come and help her get rid of stuff and better organize her place.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 5:31 PM on September 12, 2018 [5 favorites]

If there are any house organizing projects that have been on your to do list -- maybe consign some old clothes, organize boxes of photos or books, etc. -- better to do them now.
posted by k8t at 5:32 PM on September 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

I wish I had done more furniture moving and child-proofing when we had four hands and 29 whole consecutive minutes to use them. To me that was the biggest setback and obstacle with young baby: all hands on deck becomes a rare privilege, instead of the norm.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:32 PM on September 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

Recommend taking a research-based marriage course like PREP.
posted by cross_impact at 5:35 PM on September 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

With my daughter, I laid awake talking to her. She was a very shifty sort of baby. Now's she's into lots of things, growing roses and marketing, etc.

With my son, I played a lot of classical music. He's a musician and a very musical person. He's very sensitive.

I just tried to be in tune to my baby. I was working at various jobs, but my pregnancy came first, in both cases.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:41 PM on September 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

What an exciting time for you. I'm not sure I have pragmatic suggestions for actual things to accomplish in these evenings and weekends (honestly, you already sound "ready"), but here are a couple of ideas that I think would be useful. You can anticipate that in 11 weeks you will begin a period where you will be sleeping less, and sleeping irregularly, for an extended period of time (of course nothing is true for everybody, but this is a good guess). I know that I remember my wife and I feeling exhausted a lot of the time. So one possible thing to do now is to imagine yourself performing the routines that you know you will have to do during that exhausted state, and see if you can now make them simpler, more dead obvious to accomplish. Like, if you sometimes keep your car keys in one spot, and sometimes another (or fill in another example yourself), you might decide now to set up some absolutely rock solid systems and organizational routines that you can follow without any cognitive processing power whatsoever. I found it amazing how little ability I had to make any "decisions", it all seemed too much effort to make even a choice between two roughly equal outcomes.

My other inclination is to encourage you to enjoy these days for what they are in and of themselves (I know this is kind of not answering your question directly, for which I apologize). But I wish I had spent more imaginative or spiritual or meditative time dreaming about my coming relationship with my child - I mean, I did that, but perhaps I could have spent more time doing that and less time worrying if I had purchased the correct car seat. Because many of those pragmatic concerns did not seem to matter as much as, for example, suddenly trying to remember the lyrics to a lot of baby lullabies and 80s pop songs when I was soothing my first child to sleep. So ok, maybe that is a concrete suggestion. Look up the lyrics to the second verses of a bunch of songs that you love to sing or that you think you might sing to your child.

Good luck.
posted by sommerfeld at 5:42 PM on September 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

My suggestion is to relax (if you can) about your "remaining time" and try not to feel guilty if you do things that are not the optimal use of your unencumbered child-free time. Remember that being pregnant is also hard, in a different way from having a newborn. That feeling of OH NO MY MINUTES ARE NUMBERED is so real and so overwhelming, but your life really will continue after just_duckling arrives!

FWIW there is nothing I wish I had done prior to having kids. Maybe I'm just bad at regret? Like, I see how vacation and impromptu nights out were easier, but my life would not be better if I had done more of those. It just would have been fun at the time.
posted by cogitron at 5:43 PM on September 12, 2018 [20 favorites]

- haircut
- stock up on toiletries for myself
- babymoon was physically difficult for me but is now a cherished memory
- connect with your spouse as much as you can
- have a day where you chuck in all your responsibilities and are totally spontaneous
posted by CMcG at 6:25 PM on September 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yes, it's good to baby-proof while you're not at your largest and most encumbered.
Make freezer food.
Read the baby sleep books now, before baby arrives (and take notes). Reading is hard when you're tired.
Learn a few lullabies that you won't mind singing.
Go ahead and address the envelopes for those Christmas cards.
posted by xo at 6:56 PM on September 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

More Broadway musicals when I didn’t need to hire a sitter. YMMV.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:13 PM on September 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

Fill the freezer with food, if you’re the cooking type.

(We did this... and then somebody, not my partner, left the freezer door open. I can’t stand that guy.)
posted by madcaptenor at 7:21 PM on September 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

I disagree about the babyproofing.. not every baby needs to be protected from the same exact hazards. And I thought I wanted to lock most cabinets, but we ended up just gating off the kitchen. Good thing we didn't buy a million cabinet locks! And babies don't go from immobile to getting themselves into trouble overnight - you'll see what needs to be babyproofed as the baby starts moving around. Why make life more inconvenient now, when the next 6 months will be when you need the *most* convenience because of your pregnancy and then lack of sleep.

Take yourself out for a lunch or coffee date when you're on maternity leave. Just you and a book, no giant bags, stroller, wipes, bottles. I wish I did that more because even "relaxing" outings with the baby were not relaxing and I got tired of making the choice between being bored at home or running around for 1 hour getting us ready to go outside only to come back home in 30 minutes because the baby won't settle down.

I don't know where you are, but enjoy spending evenings outside if you like that kind of thing. I never liked going *out* out much at night, but I do miss going for a walk in the evening. We don't live near family and it doesn't make sense to pay a babysitter to go for a stroll at night.. so we haven't gotten to enjoy gorgeous summer nights.

Prepare some meals or food prep you can heat up or cook quickly. In addition to freezing precooked meals and casseroles that can be popped into the oven, I chopped and froze ingredients like bell peppers and marinated sliced chicken so I can make quick stir fries. Label everything so you know what it is and how to prepare it.. things start to look the same in freezer bags when you're sleep deprived.

Learn how to use your breast pump, find a daycare, if applicable. Find a pediatrician.

Haircut, pedicure. Get stool softener, switch hazel pads, regular pads. Get thank you notes to send out for the gifts you'll receive. Find shows you'll want to watch while on maternity leave, maybe books (ebook?) or podcasts you'll want to listen to. Find an app for keeping track of feeds, diapers, if you want. Find an app for sharing photos with people, if you want. Get a rumba or other cleaning robot, if you've been contemplating it and if your house doesn't have too many levels. Not sweeping is glorious.

And yea, sleep. Sleep in, take naps whenever you feel like it.
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 7:42 PM on September 12, 2018 [6 favorites]

On the practical front:

Find a daycare or nanny (if relevant). Maybe even get on the extremely long wait list for a good preschool, or at least prepare to get on it. (Think I'm crazy? At a Montessori near me, you have to tour before you can get on the wait list, and the earliest available tour is February 2020. God only knows when you'd actually get a spot in the school. If your child was 1 when you started, you'd get on the wait list at 2 years 5 months of age. Guess you're not enrolling with the 2-year-olds!)

Schedule a haircut and dental cleaning for near the end of your pregnancy

Find a pediatrician

Get a jump start on next year's taxes if there's anything you can do now

Prep the birth announcement (get the email list together, or whatever)

Find a newborn photographer if you want to do that

Learn all about your preferred feeding system. Like if you want to breastfeed, take a breastfeeding class. (This was my scenario, so I'll just share what I wish I would've done, but ymmv if you're not going back to work, etc.) Figure out how to use a breast pump, as you might be using one basically right away to amp up your supply. Make up problems and Google things like "how do i know if baby's eating enough?" "How do I get baby to latch?" Figure out how you want to store milk you pump and how you'll transport all that to/from work. Learn how to sterilize bottles. And then learn some about formula in case things end up not working out according to plan.

Read a "your baby from 0 to 1" book. Hang out in Internet forums for parents of newborns to try to learn what their worries are

Learn how to use your baby carrier and baby car seat

Plan ahead a bit for how you'll fill any alone time you or your partner will have with a newborn. Google the mom-and-baby classes in your area. What parks if any can you walk to? What cafes?

On the self-care and relationships front: (put second but more important)

Go out to eat at restaurants that you can't bring a baby to. This is my number 1 recommendation. Go on lots of dates with your partner (if applicable). My child is two, and I've been out to eat for dinner without him (not counting work trips) a total of 4 times.* So get a salad course and a desert. Then, wonder around a bookstore leisurely. (* I'm probably an extreme example, but I already spend 9-5 away, five days a week, and all my money on daytime daycare, and that's enough. )

Hang out with your close friends and talk about how your relationship might change.

Consider scheduling a vacation to see family or friends some time (like 5 months) after the birth.
posted by slidell at 8:27 PM on September 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

Nthing filling your freezer. It will come in handy when the baby is here and you're too bleary eyed to use a knife or an oven. Or a phone.

Sign up for a good prenatal class in your area. Dont wait until the last minute. A good one... that people you know have enjoyed.
posted by Ashwagandha at 9:11 PM on September 12, 2018

Congratulations! A couple more: see a movie, play, opera, ballet, etc. Sleep as much as you can, and when you wake up on your day off, lie still and relish the silence and getting to stay in bed as long as you like. If you have any pets, you might want to start getting them oriented to futures household changes.

Pregnancy and birth-wise: do you have a birth plan? Is your hospital bag packed? Do you and your spouse (and any other family/birth partners) have a plan for getting to the hospital (or birth center), know the route, how you get in touch if you're apart and you go into labor? Is the L&D triage number programmed into your and spouse's phones? Perhaps download an app (if that's your thing) and figure out now how to use it to track/time contractions. And yes to batch cooking now, and also putting some pads in the freezer for postpartum comfort.

And some other stuff: do you have a will drawn up, and made decisions about who you would want to care for baby if you and your spouse were unable? Also, do you know already how to set up a bank account, passport, etc for baby (if those are things you're planning to do early on)? Do you know how to get the baby on your insurance when it is born, how to get a SSN, etc? Do you have a pediatrician, daycare, etc chosen? Do you know how to get breastfeeding support if you need it? Add that number to your phone's contacts now, too.

Congrats again and good luck!
posted by stillmoving at 10:11 PM on September 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Go to the movies!! It’ll be years before you can regularly go the movie theater again.
posted by lydhre at 11:10 PM on September 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

Prepare freezer food so all you need to do is heat a portion. I did that and it was a life saver.

Tell friends who ask what to bring for new baby food to bring a meal.

Dont worry about putting on safety locks everything, we did and changed it all once baby actually was mobile as everyone is different.

Don't read on the internet about newborns. You will find stuff you never knew which will give you nightmares.
Get real people instead, a doula, a lactation counselor, i wish i had a lactation counselor lined up before birth because once i realised I do need on it was hard to do the research and hire someone due to fatigue. If you can look into pediatrician now, to find someone compatible with you.
posted by 15L06 at 11:13 PM on September 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Whatever grown-up things you love most. Sleep-ins? Long leisurely brunches? Reading a book outside in the sun? Tune in to whatever you feel like doing at any given moment, and enjoy taking care of yourself.
posted by TheLittlestRobot at 11:36 PM on September 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

I will add that our household definitely descended into confusion and squalor with baby #1, but honestly I don't think any pre-birth prep could have prevented that, so don't feel like you have to organize all your closets or deep clean your freezer or schedule all your dental cleanings or anything. You will eventually adapt to your new lovely normal, and during that whole first year I was so so grateful that I spent my last few weeks pre-baby waddling around art galleries and eating cake.
posted by TheLittlestRobot at 11:44 PM on September 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

Hey I’m two weeks ahead of you! Yay! I’m also pretty set with buying all the things. Now I’m focusing on preparing my body and mind.

Some stuff I’m doing:
- Listening to hypnobirthing audio before I go to sleep. My partner and I are also planning on doing some partner involved hypnobirthing exercises starting in a couple of weeks. I am reading The Hypnobirthing Book by Katharine Graves.
- I’m reading a lot books on “how to baby”. Husband and I are not that experienced with labor or babies. So far I really really liked The Positive Birth Book (focused on labor, I am def going to refer to this when I start to write my birth plan) and Your Baby Skin to Skin (understanding babies from the first hour through the first year, focused on evolution and trusting your body/instincts) I am asking my partner to read both of these and the second one in particular has sections at the end of each chapter speaking to the non-birthing partner on how they might be feeling and what they can do.
- Prenatal Yoga/Fitness classes: Fitness classes has been great for just keeping myself moving and feeling limber. I’ve only been to one prenatal yoga class but it was amazing. I’ve never really done non-prenatal yoga, but I found it so relaxing and helpful for learning relaxation positions and techniques that will be handy for labor.

I just realised these sound a bit woowooo hippy for me and usually I am cynical and prefer hard science. So I dunno if it’s hormones but I am enjoying and getting a lot out of all of the above. One thing I liked about these activities is how woman focused/empowering they felt to me. Something I don’t see and experience often enough!
posted by like_neon at 11:46 PM on September 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh and I’ve started using a house cleaner. I normally LOVE cleaning the house myself (truly) but I’ve found it’s become more awkward with my changing body, particularly the bathroom. I am currently having someone over once every two weeks, which works for us. I can still do light dusting and tidying but the help has been marvellous for the bathroom and kitchen. I think we’ll probably continue to use this service for a few months after the baby arrives.
posted by like_neon at 12:00 AM on September 13, 2018

Go to the movies!! It’ll be years before you can regularly go the movie theater again.

Where I live, there are "baby and mom" movie times during the day, which are filled with moms and strollers and it's OK if your baby cries loudly Or you walk in and out with them a couple times - and this was one of my sisters earliest and favorite outings with her newborn (two week old) because it basically meant getting out of the house to a comfy seat to be entertained for a couple hours. So maybe look up any options like that now, so if you go crazy at home you have an idea of what you can do?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 12:07 AM on September 13, 2018


Clear hard drive space and get/prepare whatever gadgets you'll need for photos and videos, assuming you won't have bandwidth to handle data management for a couple months.

Buy a few items of clothing for your baby at different sizes up to about 6 months, and put it in storage so you don't have to shop madly when baby is tiny.

Declutter as much as possible.

Go visit someone who has a small baby (under 2 months if possible) and hang out. Watch how they hold, change, soothe the baby. Make sure to bring them a ready to eat delicious meal.

Fill your freezer with ready to eat delicious meals.

Colour / cut your hair (and do your nails if you're into that). You'll be photographed a lot looking tired, at least have hair you like!

Make sure you have a couple of options of baby kangaroo carrier thingies (borrow from other moms). Once babe is a couple weeks old, you'll appreciate having a few options to pop them in so you can do stuff with your hands.

Cradle a heavy lump (like a 10 lb dumbell wrapped in a blanket) and move around the house, sit where you're picturing sitting- holding the lump as you'd hold a baby to feed it, etc. Walk through your baby routine with this lump, and assess if any parts of the house feel uncomfortable or make you nervous and you can ameliorate. Make sure stairs feel grippy on your feet (add grip tape?) and you have a secure bannister, make sure you have some cozy nests to nurse, keeping in mind that you'll be tired, sore, and feeding the baby for about 6-10 hours a day.

Keep the house clean in case you go into labour earlier than expected, so you can come home to a nice clean house. Maybe arrange with a trusted friend how to get a cleaner in while you're in the hospital, if needed.

Maybe take a baby CPR class?

Buy several 10 foot long phone charger cables and put them permanently near your bed, sofa, nursing area, etc. You'll probably be on your phone a lot!

Look into Hypnobirthing, maybe even consider taking a course. Even if you don't buy into it 100%, you may be able to draw on some of its techniques and affirmations to help stay calm and focussed and brave during your birth. And it gives your birthing companion things to do too. It's amazing.

No matter what happens, none of it will be perfect and all of it will be fine, and the baby will be wonderful. Congratulations!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:30 AM on September 13, 2018

You mentioned Christmas cards - I’d also invest in a few packs of thank you cards. And stock up on stamps.
posted by sciencegeek at 1:50 AM on September 13, 2018

Sit down with Mr just_ducky and talk through how the division of responsibility will work. How much leave will you get and how much leave will he get? Who's going to wake up in the middle of the night to change a diaper if he's back at work and you're still on leave (you might both assume it'd be you, but you'll probably feel differently at 3 am after you've been up three times a night for the past 3 weeks)? If there are certain things only you can do (such as breastfeeding if you plan to do that), what can your husband do to take other things off your plate. Who will be visiting after birth, and will they actually help or just make more work? Do you have a plan in place for childcare if neither of you will be staying home?
posted by peacheater at 4:00 AM on September 13, 2018

Maybe this is too type A, but I researched a bunch of lists and printed them up. Not a color-coded binder or anything, but physical prints of information I wanted to have handy for me or people who would be helping:

- List of items for the 'to go' bag
- Estimated schedules for formula ratios / diaper sizes / nap estimates
- First aid techniques for infants
- Contact #s for doctors, etc
- Breastfeeding techniques
- List of soothing techniques / things to try when the baby is screaming, etc

We were first timers without a lot of family nearby and let me tell you, when it's 3am and there's a wall of sound in your ear you can't always summon this stuff easily on your phone.

It was also stuff that would help prime us for tracking how the baby was doing. Is he a heavy/light sleeper or eater...does this make us want to adjust anything we're doing?

It just made stuff handier and prompted more consideration during a time when you're managing 20 different new learning curves.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 6:25 AM on September 13, 2018

Get rid of all the extra shit in your house. I mean, take a giant Rubbermaid bin and put all your tchotchkes and decorative shells and candles in it. The name of the game is SIMPLIFICATION.
posted by pintapicasso at 6:34 AM on September 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

Find a daycare or nanny (if relevant). Maybe even get on the extremely long wait list for a good preschool...

Was dropping in to suggest sourcing daycares, too. Unless one of you will always be a home-parent, there will come the time when you will need to find a daycare for your duckling. It is not a bad idea to investigate the options in your area (or the areas near where you work, or on the way between home and work) now, before you’re faced with the need and only a few weeks to find a daycare. The quality of daycares vary wildly, and the waiting lists for the better ones can be measured on geological time scales, especially for infants. Ask neighbors and friends for suggestions, too. You might discover someone awesome working out of their home. We got lucky in that regard when our two were little.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:40 AM on September 13, 2018

Book in with a sleep coach for when baby is 8 or 16 weeks ( around then) they fill up fast and can be hard to find one you click with. Your first 12-16 weeks will be about sleep and helping them pass wind. Stock up on all types of baby wind passing supplies. This determines the quality of your life.
posted by catspajammies at 8:15 AM on September 13, 2018

Ps we booked a sleep coach and cancelled (and lost our deposit, which was fine) because we managed sleep education to perfection- with 2 babies in a row and I had confidence in my method... but most people can’t do that and it will save your sanity having a happy sleeping child... and habits start immediately...
posted by catspajammies at 8:19 AM on September 13, 2018

Ah- and I see someone said to learn about your preferred feeding system- I would add that if you intend to breastfeed- also look into formula, not because you will do it- but because so many women are taught that if your formula feed your baby then you’re a failure or it won’t be as healthy and that’s not true. Like, maybe your baby would be slightly more healthy in a different way than breastfeeding but formula doesn’t mean your baby and your relationship is doomed.
posted by catspajammies at 8:25 AM on September 13, 2018

Thanks so much for the support and advice! I like the balance between some practical stuff and then also trying not to feel bad about just resting and relaxing. We live next door to our hospital, so planning our route is one thing we don't have to worry about :)
posted by just_ducky at 9:37 AM on September 13, 2018

Read/listen to How Not to Hate your Husband After Having Kids with your partner. Both of you should preemptively take care of any self-care tasks that are due (dentist, doctor's visits, haircuts, etc.) Pick a pediatrician. Put some money in the the takeout/housekeeping fund. Take long walks with your partner. Put mattress and pillow protectors on your bed, even if you don't plan on co-sleeping. Go through your medicine cabinet and throw out anything expired. Restock with ibuprofen, colace, and heavy duty maxi pads. Set up your Netflix queue with shows to binge. Get to prenatal yoga if you can.
posted by snickerdoodle at 11:02 AM on September 13, 2018

If there's a comfort luxury you enjoy - reading while curled up with a cup of tea, long hot bubble bath, karaoke to your favorite album - take a bit of time to do it now, because you can't expect to have an uninterrupted hour that's not dedicated to chores or sleep in the next year. (Doesn't mean it won't happen, but you can't plan for it.) Enjoy a bit of "me time," not so much because you'll miss it terribly later (you'll be too busy to really think about it), but because this is your last chance for a while.

Review your house for baby-proofing, but don't fret too much about what gets done right away; you have several months for that. Key detail: everything under 4' is in reach of the baby as soon as it can stand on its own, which is as young as 4 months with a wall to brace against. (You can never have too many child-gates in a house. "One at every doorway, top and bottom of each staircase, and another one between the kitchen table and the counter" is not overdoing it.)
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:02 PM on September 13, 2018

I took a lot of naps.

Also prenatal yoga and a weekly massage - I had a lot of hip pain late in pregnancy and it helped to do gentle stretching.

I liked yoga partly for the chance to be in a room with a lot of pregnant people, since there was such diversity of bodies. I had not spent a lot of time with pregnant people or babies until I went through it, so the variety of peoples’ experiences was fascinating for me.

In my yoga class I made friends with a woman whose due date was close to mine, and we started going for coffee (“coffee”) or lunch every week or two just to talk pregnancy. That was really good. We did a lot of complaining and comparing notes.

My cats loved me when I was pregnant so I spent a lot of time covered in them. Then when my kid came home they avoided me, the baby, and everything that smelled like me or the baby for 10 days, it was very funny how offended they were.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 7:05 AM on September 14, 2018

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