When I first looked down at those two little lines on my first at-home pregnancy test, I was equally elated and terrified. The elation, of course, was because we were getting ready to start our family. The terror?
I had never been around babies in my life. I’d never changed a diaper, soothed a crying infant or even held a baby in my entire life, and I had no idea what I was doing. Thankfully, I had plenty of people around me in my life who had more experience than me, but I still had a lot of work to do. Thankfully, you won’t have to go through the same guesswork I did. Here are nine things that I did to prepare for motherhood.
1. Realize There’s Never a Perfect Time
People tend to put off having children until they are ‘ready’ or meet some other totally arbitrary self-imposed requirement. First, you must come to terms with the fact that there is never a perfect time to start a family. Once you come to terms with this fact, it’s easier to start getting ready for the hard work that comes with being a mom.
2. Take a Childbirth Class (Or Two)
Nothing will ever prepare you for the experience of childbirth, but taking a childbirth class or two can help you understand what to expect. It can also be a valuable resource for answering your questions during prenatal visits. While these classes generally aren’t operated by medical professionals, you’ll be surrounded by people who have experience either giving birth themselves or supporting those that have. Sometimes, a bit of first-hand anecdotal expertise is all you need.
3. Take a Car Seat Safety Course
Do you know how to install a car seat correctly? I sure didn’t. Thankfully, my local health department hosted monthly car seat safety courses. The details may vary from area to area, but before my youngest was born, the course offered a brand new infant car seat at a dramatic discount in exchange for taking the course. If this isn’t an option or you already have a car seat, call your local fire department. Many have certified teachers who will help you learn to install the seat correctly.
4. Research Cord Blood Banking
The blood in the baby’s umbilical cord transfers the last bits of nutrients and oxygen to the infant before the placenta detaches from the uterine lining. This cord blood is also full of stem cells that, if stored, could be used for medical treatments in the future if the need ever arises. Storing the cord blood and tissue from the cord or placenta creates a medical security blanket to treat more than 80 different conditions.
5. Keep Exercising
Sitting still for nine months while I grew a baby in my uterus wasn’t an option. Thankfully, you’re not relegated to life as a couch potato just because you’re pregnant. Talk to your doctor, but in most cases, they’ll likely tell you it’s safe to continue any exercise regimen you are currently using. You won’t want to start any new intense exercise plans, but regular exercise can help you stay healthy and prepare you for labor and delivery.
6. Talk to a Lactation Consultant
Breastfeeding is supposed to be the most natural thing in the world, but it isn’t always easy. Make it a point to connect with your local lactation consultant or La Leche League representative before you go into labor. You’ll want to have someone you can call if you run into latching or milk supply problems.
7. Be Aware of Postpartum Depression Symptoms
Popular media would have us believe that birth is magical, you love your baby instantly and everything is sunshine and rainbows after you head home from the hospital. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Baby blues after birth are typical as your hormones start to rebalance, but if those signs and symptoms don’t fade, it could be a sign of postpartum depression (PPD). Symptoms include:
There’s a lot of overlap between PPD and baby blues, but if these symptoms don’t start getting better or they’re interfering with your ability to do basic tasks, talk to your doctor. There is no shame in getting help.
8. Sleep As Much As You Can
Once you bring your baby home, sleep becomes a thing of the past. You and your partner will likely spend a lot of time sleeping for just a few hours at a time, at least during the first few weeks. While it won’t help in the long run, sleeping as much as possible before birth can help you feel like you’re stocking up for those prolonged droughts when your new little one doesn’t want to close their eyes.
9. Don’t Start Forming Mom-Guilt
We’re conditioned, often from childhood, that you’re a ‘bad mom’ if you don’t put your baby first, even if that means running yourself ragged. Don’t start forming that mom guilt. Instead, make it a point to take some time for yourself to rest and recharge. Self-care isn’t selfish, and recharging your batteries — especially after you give birth — will help you be a better mom in the long run.
You’ve Got This, Mama.
Becoming a mother is one of your life’s most intense and magical experiences, but it can also be one of the most challenging. Make sure you’re taking some time to prepare as best you can. You might not always be ready for anything, but you can at least get the basics before you welcome your new little one to the family.
WRITTEN BYAva Roman