No matter how many books we may read or how much advice comes our way during pregnancy, it seems no one tells us how to practically prepare for the few weeks immediately following the birth of a baby. We hear things like “stock the freezer” and “sleep when the baby sleeps”–but there are some very ordinary, practical things expectant parents can do to prepare for those early, chaotic weeks after bringing home a new baby…
First of all, expect to arrange your living and sleeping situation to accommodate a brand new baby and a mother who has just given birth. Depending on how the birthing experience goes, a woman can be very weak, tired and sore after the delivery. Things like going up and down stairs, getting up and running to a room in a different part of the house to retrieve the baby, and even getting in and out of the bathtub can be challenging. Make sure you have portable phones, or phones with very long cords so you can keep the phone nearby. Gather all the necessities close together–whether they are for the baby, nursing and breastfeeding, bathing–keep everything in one spot for the first few days to save time and energy.
A good, loose, comfortable, yet stylish wardrobe for post-partum is a must! Many women mistakenly expect that they will be able to get back into their favorite pre-pregnancy garments and when they can’t, it can be depressing. It also is pretty un-fun to still be wearing the maternity clothes you are likely sick to death of after the baby has been born. Prepare by having a few comfortable, stylish outfits you can wear post-partum–ones you can nap in and receive guests in. The better you feel you look, the better you will feel overall.
It’s a good idea to get your hair cut, see the dentist, have your nails done, or whatever makes you feel and look fabulous in the final weeks before the baby is born. It might be a few weeks (or months) before you get around to these things again and it’s a good way to pass the time when the waiting seems excruciating. You’ll feel much better with the little things taken care of.
Stock up on thick maxi pads, great smelling soaps, lotions and shampoos–and other practical hygiene items. You’ll be amazed how many maxi pads you go through in the early days and it’s better just to have them on hand then to have to run out to the store. And, you’ll be more likely to take that quick shower if you know you’ll come out feeling at least a little lovely.
Finally, make a “back-up” plan for the post-partum period. Who you can call on when you need help with the baby or errands, who you can call for advice or cheering up, etc. Even though you may have a spouse, the more support and help you can gather around you in preparation for bringing the baby home, the easier the adjustment will go. You may not need to call on your support team, but it makes practical sense to have one in place prior to birth just in case.
If I was to go back and do one thing differently during the post-partum period, I would have given myself little treats–stocked up on snacks, special lotion, new pillowcases, etc. so that I could have simple, nice things to keep me going when everything seemed so focused on the baby. Now, when I give gifts to new parents, I always include something just for the parents–a gift certificate to a restaurant or for dvd rentals, a basket of tea and chocolate–something luxuries and “grown-up” to encourage a little focus on the folks who did all the hard work.