“Stock up on sleep before the baby comes” was probably the most common and most useless piece of advice I received while pregnant.
It is ridiculous because (a) Sleep is not like money—you can’t bank it for six months from now, and (b) ligament pain, heartburn, and other fun pregnancy health issues can make it hard to sit, let alone sleep.
Of course, there’s plenty of other worthless advice you’ll receive. Like that babies need nothing but love and can sleep in a drawer if need be. (Okay, but child protection services might disagree, plus…clothing? a car seat? some sort of carrier so mom’s arms don’t fall off?) Or that you shouldn’t be drinking coffee/riding a bike/working so hard or doing anything but lying prone for nine months as your personal chef makes you macrobiotic meals.
Forget that. Here’s some real advice for things you should do while pregnant—i.e, before it’s too late!
1. Go out to relaxing, leisurely dinners at restaurants.
You will not want to leave the house during the 5 pm to 9 pm “witching hour” for quite a while. Years, even. When your child is old enough that impromptu screaming is a thing of the past, you are on to the phases of mega-messes, meltdowns over MORE FRENCH FRIES!, outside voices, endless wiggling, and watching them like a hawk to be sure they’re not spilling water or poking neighbouring diners with breadsticks.
In short, it can be fun to go out to dinner as a family, but it will never again be relaxing.
2. Go on a vacation (or day-cations).
Taking a “babymoon” is some common advice that I support. I didn’t do it during my first pregnancy. Instead, my husband and I took a vacation away from our child when she was 14 months old. Where did we go? Guilt City. Yes, it was fun, but I couldn’t 100% enjoy myself the way I would have done pre-baby. Apart from the booze.?
3. Shop for yourself.
Especially, shop for clothes you’ll need in the first few months after the baby is born. The sleep deprivation of early parenthood means you’ll need to take extra care to dress smartly—to distract people from the circles under your eyes and your general ghostly pallor.
You may think mat leave is an ideal time to go shopping, but the effort it takes to get out of the house with the diapers, wipes, pacifiers, change of clothes, sun hat, etc., makes it entirely unappealing. And if you are doing bottles instead of boobs, I’m sorry, but you will not leave the house.
Plus, once your child is born you’ll probably start to feel guilty about spending money on yourself rather than shoving into their RESP or spending way too much on organic grapes.
A word of caution, though: You may not be back to your pre-pregnancy size right away…or ever! Loose, stretchy items are recommended. And if your shoe size has grown, hold off on shoe shopping until you’re sure of your post-pregnancy size.
4. Go to the movies. In a theatre.
Then, before just you give birth, order Netflix and make a list of all the TV series you never watched. (I mean, what did moms do while nursing before all the episodes of Grey’s Anatomy were available for binge-watching? You don’t even have a hand free to hold a book.)
5. Spend time out of the house with your partner—doing anything.
It will be a while before you’ll “hang” alone. From now on, only one of you can go to that party/join the ultimate Frisbee team/take those free Raptors tickets.
Sure, there are babysitters, but they’re expensive and it’s almost not worth it to go out when you come home to a hysterical baby whom you have to spend hours calming. Plus, how much fun is it really to go out when you have to be up at the crack of dawn? Or, if you’ve got a non-sleeper like mine was, at 1 am, then 3 am, then 5 am…
6. Take a marriage sabbatical.
Yes, this is a time of love and bonding between you and your partner. But it can also be a time of arguing about baby names and why the more expensive stroller is a good investment, unmet expectations, and hormonal ups and downs. Taking a breather from your partner can be healthy.
And you will not be able to do it after the child is born (arguably the time you need it most). After the baby is born, it is no longer a marriage sabbatical. It’s Abandoning Your Family.
7. Spend time with single friends.
Be extra-nice to them and buy them things. Then let them know, gently, that you may not see them for a while. And that they should please only come over before 6 pm for the next, oh, 18 months. Because babies are not fun after 6 pm.
The exception is if single friends are coming over to do dishes or laundry or make dinner—or they are one of those rare childless people who love holding screaming babies while mom naps. In which case, ANY time is good. (2 am? We’ll take it!)
8. Paperwork and planning.
There will be many new responsibilities after your child is born, and you will have decidedly less time and mental energy to take them. on. Here’s a brief list of the things I’d recommended taking care of before you give birth:
- get on daycare lists
- set up automatic bill paying
- create your child’s RESP
- get life insurance
- make a will
- mark immunization and checkup reminders in your calendar (see the Government of Canada’s immunization schedule tool)
- bookmark instructions for applying for your child’s SIN, birth registration, birth certificate, health coverage, Universal Childcare Benefit, and Canada’s Child Tax Benefit (you can apply for some of this jointly through Service Canada’s Newborn Registration Service)
- find out how to add your child to your/your partner’s health and/or dental insurance plan
- bookmark instructions and/or get forms for applying for passport and dual citizenship status, if applicable
This stuff is decidedly NOT FUN, but it will seem downright impossible later, when you are exhausted from caring for a newborn. Take it from someone who’s been there: It will only add to the new-mom guilt you feel if every time you look at your sweet little babe’s face, you are reminded that you are still uninsured or not contributing to his or her education fund.
9. Exercise and eat well.
When you’re pregnant, there’s this accepted attitude that you’re “eating for two” and that you can allow yourself to give in to every craving. I’m no expert, but that seems like faulty logic to me, since the “two” I’m eating for is a brand-new human who deserves the best start in life possible, which relies entirely at this point on me—his or her home for nine months—being healthy.
Also, giving birth is hard work, and recovering from it is no picnic. If your body is in good shape, it just stands to reason that (barring complications) you’ll have more stamina during labour and your body will recover more quickly afterward.
Reducing labour time and pain seems like a good plan to me. And trust me: recovering quickly is going to be key as well—you are going to need your body to be in tip-top shape to keep up with your new babe 24/7!
10. Do nothing.
Spend some quality time doing absolutely nothing. One of the things my husband and I miss most are leisurely weekend days where we lazed about in the morning, grabbed a coffee, walked around our neighbourhood, popped into shops, and then just sat in the park for a while and read a book. Not doing anything much at all is a luxury you will not have for many moons. Many moons!?
Shannon Kelly is the Managing Editor at Help! We’ve Got Kids.
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