3 Things to Plan For Your Pregnancy (and 3 Things You Don't Need to Plan)
Whether you're trying to get pregnant, just found out you ARE pregnant, are ready to burst, or just birthed a tiny human, congratulations! Amidst the excitement, it can be overwhelming to realize how much there is to think about and remember. How much of that thinking is really necessary and how much of it can you just figure it out as you go?
There are 3 things that you absolutely need to plan out. In my experience, these things are non-negotiable. And then, there are 3 things that you absolutely do not need to plan out, contrary to what it may seem like. In fact there are some reasons why you should let those things come naturally. Let's get into it.
3 THINGS YOU NEED TO PLAN
- Are there any medical concerns for your pregnancy? Do you have any risk factors for you that need to be addressed? Do you have to take supplements or medications?
- Do you have a birth plan? Having discussions with your support person and/or your midwife will help ensure that your intentions for birth will be respected. These decisions are not things that should be made in a moment of distress or at the last minute during birth. Research pain management, assisted delivery options, etc., with some level of flexibility - births don't often go exactly the way we planned but having a well communicated plan is really important to having a smooth delivery.
#2: Baby's immediate needs within the first 3 months of birth.
- How will baby be fed? Do you intend to breastfeed? If you have difficulties with that, as I did, which formula will you use? If you need one, do you have a breast pump? Will your work insurance cover the cost of it? Do you have appropriate clothing to make breastfeeding as easy as possible - bras, shirts or coverings, nightgowns?
- Who will provide medical care for baby? Who is the baby's pediatrician, where is it located, does it have ample parking? If going back to work soon, will you get help from others, or do you need to search for daycare (some daycares require a year's waiting time to be admitted).
- Do you have enough clothes, diapers, a crib or bassinet? Baby spends most of the first few days naked or in just a few layers, but newborn or size 1 diapers are a must. Baby also needs a safe place to sleep that ideally isn't your bed.
#3: Mom's immediate needs within the first 3 months post partum.
- The fourth trimester can be ROUGH. You may still be recovering from delivery, and might not feel totally yourself. If you're breastfeeding you might feel like you're struggling, or that all you do is feed the baby. Talk to your support system about ensuring there is time for you to do self-maintenance and self-care (they're not the same thing). Are there ways to make things easier for you - a comfy chair, a breastfeeding caddy, an extra change station on another floor, a pillow for sitting on after delivery, pads or Depends for bleeding, medications for pain if you wanted them, etc.
- How will round the clock care work? Discuss with your support system what the initial plan is. If you have a partner, will you both wake up at night to feed the baby? What role can a non-breastfeeding partner play? If only one person is waking up overnight, is there a time where there is at least 2 hours of relief provided later in the day? If you're tracking feeds and diapers, do all support persons know what they're tracking and how
- Classes and education - does your hospital, midwife, or local community provide pre-natal classes? Hospital or delivery center tours? Do you have information for your local lactation consultant organization? What does your midwife aftercare look like?
3 THINGS YOU DON'T NEED TO PLAN
#1: Baby clothes, diapers, toys, equipment beyond the first 3 months.
- Every baby grows differently, and sometimes babies will completely blow through a certain clothing age range. I recommend you allow people to gift you clothes beyond the first 3 months, and then supplement that as you go, otherwise you may find you've "wasted" a lot of clothing that was only worn once.
- Most babies don't recognize or "play" with toys in the 4th trimester. There is supposed to be nothing in the crib, including stuffed animals, so don't overbuy toys and plushes.
- Not every piece of equipment is needed, or useful to your baby. Not all babies want a jumper or a sit-me-up chair. As your baby grows, you'll get indications as to what kinds of things you should buy. This also goes for food - don't buy a ton of rice cereal. First of all one box goes a really long way. Secondly, not all babies like purees or soft foods!
#2: Baby's "Schedule"
- Most babies before 4 months will not have a set schedule where they sleep through the night or are put down at the same time every day. If they do, it's often a fluke before the 4-5 month sleep regression. Due to sheer exhaustion a lot of moms are itching to get their newborn into a set schedule much too early. It's simply a fact of life that babies do not care about your schedule needs. They came from an environment where everything was provided to and comfy for them 24/7. Now they're programmed to alert you whenever they need anything at all, but they are not trying to victimize you. Changing this mindset can help approach your baby's round the clock needs with more compassion.
#3: Mom "bouncing back"
- Don't anticipate what your body will look like post-partum. Even if you've been through pregnancy before, there is little use to setting an expectation of yourself, good or bad. Every situation is different, and your body will naturally give you cues about when it's ready to get more active, to see more people, etc.
- Allow yourself to have mental health fluctuations day to day, and even hour to hour. Practice kindness and patience to yourself! There is no "should feel" or "shouldn't feel."
The overarching message is that, while it seems like there are so many things to remember and do, there really are only a few things that are EXTREMELY important, and the rest can be figured out later, or will come naturally. Focusing your efforts on those things that really need to be done can clear some mental space to spend on enjoying your pregnancy and newborn.