No, we’re NOT expecting any more babies — but since I’ve already had that “expecting experience” 4 times (and since I get asked for my tips on this topic all the time) I’m re-sharing a post I wrote a few years ago (with several updates based on more years of mothering experience!)
There are SO many words of wisdom, life lessons, and pieces of advice seasoned parents can share with soon-to-be parents… however, I also think it’s nearly impossible for new parents to truly grasp, understand, and believe most of it until after they have their first baby and actually have first-hand experience.
At least that’s how it worked for me!
All the books, classes, and helpful tips from well-meaning friends and family were essentially pointless for me because I learned parenthood by “doing” and “first-hand experiences” — whether I was ready for it or not!
That said, I DO think there are several tangible things expecting parents can do NOW to help make the transition to parenthood a little smoother.
These are not things like attend birthing classes, listen to podcasts on natural birthing strategies, visit lactation consultants, or read every single parenting book on the market (although feel free to do any of those too!)
NO, these are actual to-dos you can complete and cross off your list NOW, and then rest a little easier knowing that some of these important tasks are out of the way before baby arrives!
1. Get Life Insurance
I realize that with a new baby on the way, the added yearly expense of a life insurance policy might not be your top priority — but I would highly encourage you to give it some thought.
Even if you have $0 in debt, a fully funded retirement account, a nicely padded emergency fund, a hefty amount in your savings account, and 2 full-time, somewhat secure incomes, I would personally suggest buying some sort of life insurance.
Dave and I pay less than $400 a year for $500,000 of insurance — and based on our standard of living, that’s plenty to give us peace of mind in the event of a tragedy.
Some people suggest only buying life insurance for the working parent(s), but I suggest buying it for both parents because if the non-working spouse dies, the working spouse now needs to hire someone to care for the child, take care of the house, etc.
And heaven-forbid, if something happens to both parents, this insurance money would go to your new baby and would pay for future expenses, schooling, etc. to help out whatever family member will now be caring for your child.
2. Make a Will and/or Living Trust
Speaking of both parents passing away, I think anyone with children absolutely MUST have a Will and/or a Living Trust.
I explained a bit more about the process Dave and I went through to create our Dekker Family Living Trust in this post… but it’s honestly a really simple process once you find an attorney you want to work with.
It literally took Dave and I a couple hours to get some of the requested paperwork together, then we had to bring a letter (provided by our attorney) to our bank, Dave’s school, and our various investment places, sign a few documents, write the check, and we were finished.
Now I can sleep a little easier knowing that if something DID happen to both Dave and I, our kids would be fully protected and taken care of (without needing to go to court or, potentially, a foster family until things got sorted out). Our assets would be allocated accordingly, and our family would have easy access to everything they needed to care for our things and our children.
3. Learn how to properly install your car seat.
I know, this one might sound trivial compared to the first two, but it’s really important… and I’ve read statistics that as many as 60% of carseats are installed incorrectly! Also, make sure anyone who will be driving your children around knows how to properly install their car seat (and how to properly secure the child in the car seat).
My best advice would be to visit the website for the brand of car seat you have. They usually have installation videos right on their site. You can also visit a local fire station to have your car seat inspected if you are concerned about anything.
Although you might feel silly, it’s not a bad idea to practice getting the car seat in and out of the car a few times before you have a baby in it. Dave and I did not do this and we literally spent a good 5-10 minutes trying to figure out how to get the infant car seat to latch onto the base in the back of our car. Our nurse even tried helping (and it was freezing cold at the end of November!)
4. Schedule your own appointments before baby is born.
Again, this might sound trivial, but anything you can do NOW, before the baby is born, will save you lots of stress later.
When Nora was born, I never even considered how much more difficult it would be to schedule Dr. appointments, dentist appointments, haircuts, etc. until about 2 weeks after she was born and I literally had a dentist appointment, a Dr. appointment, and a haircut all in the same day!
I can still vividly remember that day (every single detail — even what we were wearing!) Nora basically screamed all day long — which made me SO stressed, which I’m sure didn’t help her at all, and by the time I got to my haircut appointment, I literally broke down in tears.
When the other kids were born, I made sure to schedule a hair cut and my dentist appointment the week before (I never go early!) and enjoyed a cute new hairstyle and nice clean teeth without all the stress of trying to work my schedule around a newborn!
5. Pack your freezer with healthy meals and snacks.
If this is your first baby, you will probably have the luxury of getting several meals brought in from family and friends — however it’s not always a ‘for sure’ deal.
I would HIGHLY suggest spending a good amount of time in your kitchen before you head to the hospital, because even if you love to cook and bake, there will be plenty of days after the baby is born when you just can’t muster up the energy to make something as simple as a grilled cheese (not that I’m speaking from experience or anything!)
And when you’re trying to eat healthy for your baby, to lose those extra pounds, and to keep your emotions in check, snacking on junk food all day and eating fast food for dinner every night is not the way to go.
I tried to have several fully-prepared meals in my freezer (around 10) plus lots of cooked, chopped, and pre-portioned meats so I could make up a quick casserole, add grilled chicken to a salad, or make a pulled pork sandwich at the last minute.
This was a huge sanity-saver for me after all of my deliveries — and something I recommend to every expectant mother!
6. Know what resources are available for you and your baby.
Before Nora was born, I had absolutely NO idea all the different free (and paid-for) parenting and baby programs and resources that were all around me. There are SO many local programs in my area for information, support, counseling, fun activities, etc. and I didn’t take advantage of any of them until well after Nora’s first birthday.
If you’re expecting a baby or if you have young children, do a Google search for your city or town, ask friends with older kids, talk with your doctor or healthcare providers, contact local public schools, and consult with county officials — you might just be amazed at the free resources you find. And just being aware of what’s out there might be really helpful for you once the baby is born.
7. Talk to your health insurance company.
This is another one of those “I don’t want to do it, but know I should do it” tasks I would highly recommend crossing off your list before you head to the hospital.
Insurance companies are sneaky and unless you REALLY REALLY understand your insurance policy, you could get caught off-guard with some major medical expenses after the baby is born.
Do you know what your deductible is? What about your out-of-pocket maximum? Do you know what percentage of labor and delivery your insurance company covers? And better yet, do you know what your insurance company actually considers as acceptable “labor and delivery charges” or “mother/baby charges” or “prenatal care charges” or “well child charges”?
If not, you might want to figure that out as soon as possible so you can prepare financially.
Since Dave works for a Christian non-profit, non-government employer, they have a lot of control over their insurance, so we actually have pretty good insurance. But we have friends whose insurance is crazy and they end up with more than $10,000 of medical bills after each baby is born (after insurance covers their portion).
Thankfully, Dave and I knew what our “out-of-pocket maximum was” so we could plan accordingly and save up money in our HSA (health savings account) to cover any medical bills and baby expenses ahead of time — which made paying our hospital bills a lot less stressful after our babies were born.
8. Take a deep breath and realize that you won’t ever be 100% prepared!
You know me, I LOVE LOVE LOVE to plan ahead and be prepared. And you better believe that if there was a sure-fire, fool-proof way to assure I was 100% prepared to bring my babies home from the hospital, I would have done anything and everything I could to have crossed that off my list.
Unfortunately, there’s not!
So while you may certainly continue to attend your natural birthing classes, read up on all those parenting books, and smile graciously when well-wishers tell you to “sleep when baby sleeps” and that “your life will never be the same”, I hope you also realize there is most likely no way you can possibly grasp what being a parent will be like until you’re actually living it and doing it.
I’m not saying this to scare you or make you worry more than you might already be worrying — but instead, to allow you to step back and relax, knowing that there is no class or book or friend or old lady in the grocery store who can articulate just what being a parent is going to be like for you. I guess that’s both really cool and really scary at the same time!
Meanwhile, take some of the advice on my list above to make the transition go more smoothly!
Even if you aren’t expecting a baby right now, if you have older kids, (or you’re expecting your 3rd, 4th, or 5th baby) I still think almost everything on the list above could apply to you in some way or another.
However, for those of you who are embarking on the huge life-change journey called Parenthood, I think this list is THAT much more important for you to think about — and hopefully take action on!
Oh, and CONGRATULATIONS, by the way!
Parenthood is amazing… challenging, overwhelming, exhausting, aggravating, but still amazing!
Seasoned parents… share YOUR practical advice for expectant parents in the comments!