Bringing your baby home is probably the most exciting, but simultaneously, the most nerve-wracking episode of your life. There is months of anticipation, preparation, planning and organizing leading to that one day when you walk into your home with your child in your arms and the realization that nothing will ever be the same again. Most of the parents are well prepared for the arrival of their newborn and are done with major tasks and decisions such as shopping, assembling furniture, baby’s name and first outfit. So were we. But upon reflecting on the early days of BabyZ’s birth, I can think of a few decisions I took, unaware of how crucial they were going to be post-partum. Parallel to this, I can think of some things that I could have organized better and that would have really helped me in the initial days.
So here is what I will advise new parents to do when laying the groundwork for the arrival of their new baby:
- Have food in the freezer. You might not want to burden yourself with this task in the last days of your pregnancy, but my advice is, do it. Pick a day and do some prep on meals that will keep well in the freezer and will be easy to defrost and heat. You might think, how hard can it be to prepare a quick meal when my baby is home? That’s what I thought and I was eating my words when the time came, pun intended. You might also think, we will simply get some take-out. I did that when I realized how hard it was to spare time to even assemble a salad. But the truth is, when everything else around you is in a chaos, you crave the comfort of a home-cooked meal. You need to eat well to feed your baby and also to keep up your energy levels. And we all know that clean, healthy food from outside, generally costs a lot more than the crap you can buy. So it is fine for a few times but you can’t make a habit of it. Believe me when I say, the first few days are terribly difficult, you will be exhausted and will not have time to cook a meal from scratch. Prepare a few dishes, portion them out, label them and keep them in the freezer in boxes or freezer bags, so it will be easy for you, your husband or anyone else to have you fed, while you dedicate yourself to the care and demands of your newborn. You will thank your lucky stars that you listened to me.
- If you live far away from your immediate family, arrange for someone you are comfortable with to come over and stay for some time when your baby is born. The keyword here is “comfortable.” Do not ask someone because they expect to be asked or based on the norms of your culture and society. Think of someone who you can trust enough to take care of your baby if you want to take a shower, who you don’t mind asking to do menial tasks around your home and most importantly in front of whom you are comfortable enough to cry, because you will do a lot of that. In most cases, the baby’s maternal grandmother is the first person who comes to mind and that is what The Husband suggested to me. But in all honesty, I wouldn’t have been very comfortable if my mother had come over to stay with me. I wouldn’t have asked her for any help and would have felt horrible if I saw her doing chores around my home. I would have constantly felt that I needed to give her company or take her out to make her trip interesting and I might have ended up even more stressed and tired. She offered and I declined giving her these exact reasons, which she accepted like the logical person that she is. So it was just me and The Husband. But we genuinely felt the need of a third person, someone who was attached and unattached to the situation at the same time, for example, one of our sisters. If you live in a country like KSA where visa regulations are strict and unpredictable, prepare for the arrival of your guest well before time. Having them over a few days before your due date is a good idea, so they get familiar with your home and get an idea of how you have organized your personal things and the baby’s stuff, in case you have an extended stay in the hospital.
- Do not leave the packing of the hospital bag to the end. A good idea is to keep your bag ready once you have passed the 36th week mark in your pregnancy. In the unexpected scenario, where you might have to go to the hospital earlier than predicted, this will end up being one less thing to worry about. It also gives you enough time to review what you have packed and add items you might have missed. There are plenty of hospital bag packing lists available online that you can refer to and create your own list suitable to the facility where you will deliver your baby.
- A paternity leave is not only a good idea, it is essential. Not only will it give loads of time for father/baby bonding, but also no one can provide the love, attention and support to a new mother that her loving husband can. Also in my opinion, no two people on earth, except you and your partner, understand and appreciate what parenthood means to you and how it has affected you, so it is best that you spend most of this time together. The Husband took three weeks off from work when BabyZ was born and we fought a lot during these days, but the truth is, watching him trying to help (and mostly fail) made me love him even more. Obviously this needs to be planned well before time, so fathers, go with the due date and dedicate your annual leave to the love and care of the new mom and baby.
- Reduce clutter from your home. When your nesting instincts kick in and you start preparing your home for the arrival of your newborn, take this opportunity to get rid of the unnecessary things you might have accumulated over the years. The thing is, babies need a lot of space and before you know it, you will have more stuff than you can accommodate and it will take over your entire storage space. Donating, passing on to friends and family or selling things you do not need, before you welcome your baby into your home is a great idea. I didn’t think about this when I was pregnant and eventually I was overwhelmed by the amount of space I needed to store my baby’s belongings. Do it while you have the time and the ability to think!
- Talk to your friends and family who live in the same city as you and take recommendations for pediatricians. This is a very important decision for people living in countries where you get to choose your pediatrician and you might visit a few until you find one you are comfortable with. But it is a good idea to get some recommendations in advance, especially in a health facility close to your home. This will be very helpful in case of an emergency. I had discussed this with my friend/neighbor in advance and she loved her pediatrician, so we took BabyZ to her doctor in an emergency and ended up loving her too. A very easy process for us.
- Doesn’t matter whether you plan to breast feed or formula feed your baby, buy a breast pump before you come home from the hospital. It might take you and your baby a few days to get the hang of breast feeding but Mother Nature won’t wait for that to happen. Instead of waiting until you wake up in extreme pain one day and then making the husband run out to get the pump like I did, buy it when you are doing your baby shopping. Read the manual so you get an idea of how to use it, very helpful videos are also available online. In my experience, the early days of breast feeding are harder than delivering the baby, so the pump will be your best friend.
- Learn the correct way to install the car seat in your car. Do not wait until you have to put your baby into it and then fumble with the belts and buckles. Read the manual and install it when you buy it so that it can be returned if you are not happy with it. Then try it again a few days before your due date so you know exactly what to do when you bring your baby home from the hospital. I am certain you would never ever risk your baby’s life, and this is an easy, simple precaution that can be taken to ensure that your baby is safe in his seat on his first drive. As for the parents in countries where it is not a law to buckle your child in the car seat, the earlier you make a habit of this, the better. As soon as your baby gets aware of his surroundings, he will cry bloody murder when you try to put him in his seat. But that’s the safest way to travel and should not be compromised under any circumstances.
- And finally, make a bucket list of all the things you want to do before your baby comes and do them. Get a haircut and a great mani-pedi, go out for movies and eat in fancy restaurants, get a couples massage and talk to your partner late into the night. But most importantly, relax. Cherish the last few days of calm meals and unhurried baths, because life as you know is about to change for ever.