Having just kept a baby alive for 4 months, I’m an expert now. I now have friends who are about to do the same thing! Here’s some things we did, sorted into roughly chronological order of when you have to think about them. This is geared towards dads; more disclaimers here.1
a few months before the due date
- set up your housing situation. We were debating moving cross-country pre-baby or post-baby; thank god we did it pre-baby. Ideally you’re not at month 8 going “oh huh we live in a little studio and want more than that.”
- set up the nursery, or wherever the baby will sleep. Ideally this is a room with a closeable door near where the parents sleep, but all kinds of configurations can work.
- do you have a car? do you want one? I hate cars so much, but they make life easier with a small baby. It can take a while to get a car these days; start shopping.
- you’re probably already getting regular doctor checkups as you go through pregnancy; make sure you know what hospital you want to deliver at, and ask your doctor how to get ready for that.
- do you have a therapist? do you want one? This was the hardest 3 months of my life and I’m glad I had a pre-existing relationship with one. This is always a time-consuming search. If you’re a generally pretty happy person, you might not need this, but if you’re as depressive as I am, make sure they’re at least ready to go in case you need them.
- get on All The Day Care Lists, if you plan to do day care. Too bad you’re already too late. (jk! we did this and got admitted to one place in time for after our leave ended! but then we decided to hire a nanny anyway.)
a couple months before the due date
- get connected with a doula (optional, highly recommended). Our hospital set us up with one! If that isn’t the case, start asking around for recommendations. Get to know them before you or your wife is in labor.
- get connected with postpartum/night doulas (optional, highly recommended). These are people who will come to your house at night and watch your baby overnight so you can sleep. Cost (Pittsburgh) was like $30-33/hr = $240/8hr ~ $1100 per month for each day of the week you want them. We got 3; that seems good; at least you can sleep about every other night. Plus, in addition to giving you some much-needed sleep, they can help you learn how to help your baby sleep better in general.
- think about your parental leave at work. My company gave 4 months (generous for US, par for the course in Europe, :shrug: I’ll take it) and I took it all at once; I wish I had broken it into two chunks and taken maybe 2-3 months now and 1-2 months later, just because my life went so much better after I had some daily time with adults again, and that difference wasn’t as stark for T.
- get some Stuff. I think I’ll make a whole other post about Baby Stuff. This is not so critical to be super prepared in the Age of Amazon, but I mention it now because your family or friends might want to throw you a baby shower. If so, make an online registry; we used Babylist; like most software it was kind of bad.
- it might be helpful to get any medications you might need. Depends on you and your doctor, but if you’ve been on-and-off antidepressants, maybe stock up a little in case you need them. Similarly, other milder herbs and stuff have been helpful for me: melatonin has been great for sleep, I’m still figuring out kava for mood but it’s amazing when it works, kanna might be helping my mood, valerian might be helping sleep, chamomile is always pleasant, and cannabis is absolutely a medicine.
- set up a support network! It’d be nice to find a local support group for moms/dads, respectively; somehow (post covid I guess) we couldn’t find one that would take us. In its place, I set up a discord for all my dad friends. This was a really good decision. (if you’re a friend of mine and you want in on Dadscord, let me know.)
a month before the due date
- Stop traveling about now. Here’s when babies actually arrive, relative to the due date, so if you stop traveling 1mo before then, you only have like a 2% chance of being on an airplane while your wife goes into labor.
- Finalize things at work. Moms may have some time off pre-baby, e.g. in California. This is nice.
- Set up appointments with a pelvic floor physical therapist for after the birth. Mom will probably need it; delivering a baby is physically pretty rough.
- Any family that you want to be around after the birth, set that up with them.
- If you want, set up Mealtrain to have friends and family bring you food after the birth. I would actually instead just make a google doc or something, because the Mealtrain website focuses kind of a lot on the food, which is not the important bit; the important bit is that you schedule a place where ppl can sign up to come over and see you, and it’s low effort to you. Just order takeout or something.
- Find a pediatrician you think you want to go to. Maybe someone close to home. Write down their name and phone number.
- Decide things about the birth, with your doula. (epidural yes/no/when? other pain meds? other practices you want to do? music/etc? who’s in the room? circumcise?)
- Decide a first, middle, last name. Probably don’t tell anyone; just easier that way.
- Decide whose insurance he’ll be on, if you have two choices. Make sure the hospital is on that insurance. If they’re about equal, use mom’s, it’s easier. (supposedly the baby is on mom’s for the first 30 days automatically, but in our case, they said “that’s only the case if you put him on mom’s insurance later.” We gave everyone his mom’s insurance info but then put him on mine, so I had to do a bunch of retroactive Insurance Company Calling.
after the baby’s born
- go to a pediatrician within 48 hours after you come home from the hospital. They probably won’t let you make an appointment before then, but they’ll get you in quick once you have a baby.
- probably see a breastfeeding consultant. AFAICT breastfeeding is always hard; different reason for everyone. If there’s a breastfeeding consultant at the hospital, you probably see them for 15 minutes and it’s useless.
- get the baby on your insurance. You might use a bullshit-looking feet pic as his “birth certificate” before the real birth certificate arrives; this is goofy but it works.
- keep seeing:
- pediatrician, as prescribed
- friends and family
- night doulas
- gym/whatever fitness thing you do
- each other, without baby
- these are all to keep you sane. You probably can’t do all of them perfectly. Do your best.
- survive! you’re in it now! more expounding on this state to follow!
2-3 months before you return to work
- If you’re hiring a nanny through an agency, start talking to the agency. Hiring can actually happen pretty quick - in a few weeks - but better not to hurry. If you’re hiring a nanny without an agency, maybe start on the earlier end.
most of this will apply to parents who aren’t dads; I’d say it all would but I can’t honestly say how much of my experience was influenced by being a dad. This is also geared towards semi-rich people; if a step strikes you as extravagant and luxurious and out of touch, my apologies. I offer it all with the humble acknowledgement that it was tough as shit even though we had the ability to spend a lot of money. ↩︎
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