If you’re reading this you’re mostly likely expecting your first baby, or know someone who is (go on, share it with them). If you already have a baby this won’t be much help to you, this list contains things that are mostly only do-able before you become a parent at all.
Most of the “getting ready for baby” articles involve long lists of things that you need to buy, I even wrote one like that myself, read it, it’s really good (Cough). (What you really need to get for your first baby).
They all seem to send you shopping. There’s more that you can do than shopping to prep yourself for impending motherhood, and as your bump grows and your legs swell shopping is the last thing on your mind.
I’ve gone on maternity leave three times, and with each maternity leave I’ve learned extra bits that make things easier when leaving work and winding down before baby arrives. I worked to 38 weeks on my first and it was all go right up to the end. As luck would have it he was 13 days overdue so I got lots and lots of time to rest. On my second pregnancy I was laid off month before my maternity leave so I stopped working abruptly at 34 weeks and found myself at home with a 2-year-old. I finished work at 33 weeks on my third baby on the advice of my doctor as I was suffering from pelvic girdle pain. (ouch).
So, while I’m not calling myself an expert, I have done this three times so I thought I’d share some bits and pieces that I’ve learned along the way . So here are ten things you should do before your first baby is born, in no particular order.
1. First things first- get your claim in – you have to claim maternity benefit at least 6 weeks before you plan to go on leave. Your doctor can’t sign the form until you are at least 24 weeks, diary at 24 weeks or your closest GP appointment to get this done, don’t delay. More information is available here.
2. Know your rights at work: If you work for a big employer they’ll have a maternity policy, print it and bring it home with you. If not, check out Citizens Information. You might want to explore additional maternity leave, or wait til you have to to decide, you must give your employer 4 weeks’ notice if your intention to take any of the additional leave.
3. Go for coffee or breakfast alone . It’ll be a while before you do this again. Have the pancakes with bacon and maple syrup or a pain au chocolat and read a magazine. I have very fond memories of reading the Irish Times in my favourite café a week after my first baby was due (and a week before he was born) and suddenly realising that life was about to change forever.
4. Start handing over work as early as you can. Yes, you’re still getting paid to do your full job but the handover will be much smoother for everyone involved if you can wind down more slowly and prepare your work to hand over. You could end up having your baby early, or being signed off for health reasons, so be prepared.
5. Get your hair done. (And your eyebrows while you’re at it). You’re feeling large and unglamourous so a blow dry will make you feel fabulous for a day and you’ll only have to sit in the one (uncomfortable) position for a very short time. If you are OK at sitting having your roots done or hair cut for the million photos that will be taken during the first few days will stand to you.
6. Don’t make promises to attend social occasions three weeks after your due date. You might not even have a baby by then and you’ll feel like you’re letting the host down. I was very sad to turn down a wedding invitation that was four weeks after my first baby was due, I came up with all sort of metrics for crossing the country with a baby, breastfeeding between courses and having my younger sister in the hotel room to mind my newborn (colic isn’t evident from scans). On my second baby a close friend got married 8 weeks after he was born and I knew to say no when I heard the date. If you’ve said no and then it turns out you can make it it’s a bonus, you’ve said yes and then can’t you’ll feel like you’re letting people down.
7. Fill the freezer Have the freezer dinners ready- but they don’t have to be homemade. Buy in food that’s nutritious and tasty and easy to cook for the first few weeks and then you won’t have to think about what to make, it’ll just be there. (Italian Foodies, based in Limerick have just launched their new online store which includes a “New Baby in the House” Box as well as all types of pasta, fresh sauces and lasagne like you’d buy in their shop in Limerick, oh and chocolate. Check them out, they deliver nationwide.)
8. Buy a couple of tops to wear after baby arrives that are loose around the tummy and a size bigger than you’d normally wear. New scarves or cardigans are great too. Then, when you start to emerge from the newborn cocoon put one on with your maternity jeans and some mascara, a jizz of your favourite perfume and you can relaunch yourself to the local coffeeshop. (baby steps and all that)
9. If you intend breastfeeding talk to people who’ve done it, or attend a breastfeeding group meeting (I didn’t do this but looking back I do think it would have been helpful). Most importantly, have someone who you can phone if you’re having difficulty with it, as one phone conversation in the early days can really help and reassure you.
10. Get excited. You don’t need to be told to do this, but just in case, try not to stress, and let the positive excitement take over. It’s such a special time, different, chaotic, full of love, exhausting, exhilarating. All of the emotions, all at once. Soak it up!