Waiting for Baby

The Importance of Pre-Planning for New Parenthood

by jen molk

You’ve got the name picked out and the nursery walls are almost painted. Dad has even finished assembling the crib, and the new diaper bag is by the door. Planning ahead for baby, especially for your first, is fundamental in achieving bliss after giving birth.

Successful pre-planning for a baby goes far beyond fantasizing about names and which fairy tale will adorn the walls of the nursery. Choosing to have a baby is a life-changing decision that can produce a wonderfully gratifying outcome, if well-planned in advance.

And while all those symbolic steps just mentioned have their place in becoming a new parent, there are many other vital steps that must be taken to ensure a healthy pregnancy, delivery and return home.

New parents-to-be may not want to focus right now on what kind of medical coverage is best; nor is it easy to swallow the bitter pill of facing and tackling your less-than-admirable health habits

But it’s all about baby now. There is no better time to quit smoking or drinking and facing head on the steps that really matter in the long run.

Zoey Hallam is a registered nurse and the Childbirth Education Coordinator with Billings Clinic. She teaches classes for parents-to-be designed to prepare new moms and dads for everything that could come up once the decision has been made to have a baby.

“The biggest thing people overlook is they spend a lot of time focused on labor and birth because that’s a really scary thing for them to go through,” Hallam says. “They don’t realize how hard it’s going to be. It’s hard for them to focus beyond the labor.”

Pre-planning your pregnancy

There are many smart reasons to plan ahead when to get pregnant. Here are the top two:

• Commit to quit smoking and using alcohol

This should take place several months in advance of even trying to

become pregnant, because pregnancy in itself can cause nervousness and anxiety, provoking setbacks. You should never actually be pregnant while still addressing addictions. (This isn’t to say there’s anything wrong with a spontaneous pregnancy in most cases, if your health is in check.)

• Obtain medical insurance

Not an easy task, but imperative. Medical costs will climb as surely as

baby will. Some medical insurance is better than no medical insurance.

Labor and delivery

“Everyone has in their mind how childbirth will go and how childrearing is going to go but it never seems to go that way,” says Hallam.

For example, one common expectation for expectant mothers is that they will breastfeed their new baby. Hallam warns not all women will be able to succeed at this task or will find the undertaking to be not as easy as imagined. She suggests being flexible in your thinking and planning about what childbirth could be like, and to be wary of bringing along certain expectations with you to the hospital.

Beyond birth

Probably most crucial at this stage is to watch for the possible onset of postpartum depression. Hallam cautions, however, to know the distinction between that and the so-called “baby blues,” which is a mild state of sadness that often immediately follows delivery.

“After two weeks, that flood of hormones leave you,” she says. But postpartum depression, which would likely continue on and be more severe, is something that needs prompt medical attention.

And don’t forget about Dad. “Ten percent of new dads get postpartum depression,” she added.

Hallam lists these classic symptoms of possible postpartum depression for both mom and dad:

Having a loss of appetite

• Crying all the time

• Feeling exhausted but not being able to sleep

• Experiencing a lack of interest in things you used to like to do

• Having thoughts of harming yourself or your baby

Oops! Don’t forget:

Child safety seat

It’s the law. You must have one in the car to take baby home. “A majority of car seats are not installed correctly,” Hallam points out. She suggests having a skilled technician from American Medical Response (AMR) in Billings perform a regular check to make sure it’s installed correctly.

Start the search for childcare today

Again, this one is a hard necessity to grasp at the beginning, but a good daycare is hard to come by and one of the most important steps if you’re planning to return to work. Start now. You’ll be stunned at how difficult this step will be to achieve, and how costly.

Get, and keep, Dad involved

Hallam says the baby shower is the perfect opportunity to start getting Dad in the spirit. “I’ve been hearing a lot more of trying to include Dad,” she says. “I really think this generation looks at parenthood like it is 50/50.”

Simplify your life

“Spend a Sunday cooking and freezing a bunch of meals,” Hallam suggests. “I tell people to pass around a meal sign up sheet at their baby shower. It’s really mom’s job to nurse and take care of her new baby. The first six weeks are hard; you’re tired. So put visitors to work.”

Finally, Hallam says while the Internet is a great tool to aid in your quest for finding the best information on pregnancy and parenthood, be wary. “Take the advice with a grain of salt,” she advises. “There is a lot of information out there that maybe isn’t the best.”

She encourages attending childbirth classes. “A group setting offers experienced and compassionate support,” she says, that is available long after you return home with baby in tow, tuck them in their new nursery and begin the best journey of your lives. SFM

Jennifer Molk is a freelance writer in Billings. She enjoys writing aout topics and issues that she herself seeks the answers to. She is a mother of two.