How will we prepare for baby #1?
I recently announced that Mark and I would be trying to start a family this year. I also shared how we decided that this was a good time to start, especially with respect to managing both of our schedules. When it comes to starting a family, there are a lot of things that can be done ahead of time to make the transition to parent life even easier. My worst nightmare is being unprepared, scrambling at the last minute, and having to struggle unnecessarily. Here are ten things that we are doing to get ready emotionally, physically and financially:
1. Clean up our diet, prenatals, self-care products and get regular exercise
We started this in January as part of a New Year’s resolution. I just want to make it a priority to increase my consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables and lean proteins. We no longer drink wine, and while my husband has already sworn off coffee, I will be transitioning to green tea. I still need a little bit of caffeine to get through my remaining rotations. I have also started taking prenatal vitamins with DHA. These vitamins from Target are really cheap, have the right amount of nutrients and you only need to take one per day. Ask your doctor if you have questions about which prenatal vitamins to take. They can also prescribe some for you. In terms of skincare, I will also be discontinuing my retinols and BHAs, and transitioning to fragrance-free lotions and body washes.
Finally, for exercise, I get on the elliptical for 20 minutes for at least 3X per week. I know I should be doing more. I started from nothing, so I need to be realistic and give myself a goal that I can stick to. Mark and I also have a standing gym date every Saturday morning for accountability. If I slack off during the week, I know I will have at least one guaranteed workout session with him. I also take the stairs whenever I can and park far away from where I shop so that I can get a few more steps in my day. I can’t wait for the weather to warm up so that I can take some long walks outside as well.
2. Pre-Conception check-ups
We each want to go in for a full physical exam with blood work, and get up-to-date on our vaccinations. This includes the pap smears. I also read that it is important to make sure your teeth and gums are healthy, so I will be going to the dentist for a cleaning and exam, as well. Going to the doctor’s office can bring on some anxiety. However, I want to make sure that we are fully prepared to have a healthy baby when the time comes. Mark already knows he will be taking care of the litter box on his own.
3. Go on a bunch of date nights
We are terrible at this because we are on a budget and our schedules are so tight. I am also a home-body and would very much prefer to have a date night in. However, after our one year wedding anniversary date, I realized how nice it was to get gussied up and get out of the house. It helped us to connect and check in with each other intentionally. We also bought these cards called “Uncommon Questions for Couples”. We just pick one and talk about our responses to the questions over dinner. It gets us asking the deep questions we asked when we were dating. Those deep conversations are how we connected in the first place. I want our relationship to be strong before we introduce the stress of a new baby into our lives.
4. Go to church more regularly
We had been going to church regularly for six months after moving to Chicago, but then life happened. Mark was job hunting, I was trying to manage my course load, we bought a house and got married, etc. Dealing with life would have been easier if we stayed connected with our church family. It is hard to see it that way when you’re in the midst of everything. We knew that we wanted to raise our kids in the church, and we want to establish that discipline as we prepare for baby.
Starting on Easter of this year, we are committing to try to go to church every weekend. It is nice to have this community of friends who can help out if you fall on tough times, especially you don’t live near family.
5. Mindset change
The way I thought about this the other day is that this is the beginning of a huge paradigm shift. For our entire lives, we have been choosing what is convenient, and what makes us happy and successful as individuals. When you start to think about bringing a child into the world, that attitude needs to shift towards something more selfless.
Being disciplined in going to church, having a cleaning routine, and being organized, is going to make it easier to prepare for baby. By the time the baby comes, we will have had some practice with developing good routines. This is our greatest challenge, but this has also already started to make us a little bit more mature. Now is the time to grow up and be an adult.
6. Save $10,000
Goal met! We have $10,000 in savings to cover any emergency expenses that pop up. We are fortunate to have this much saved. Having anything set aside before the baby gets here will help ease some anxiety about baby expenses. We also want to spend the least amount on baby things, including taking hand-me-downs and buying used. However, we will be purchasing a new infant car seat and crib. We aren’t trying to be fancy, we are trying to be financially stable. As we prepare for baby, we also don’t plan on financing a new car anytime soon. That will save us some money. And since we don’t have to make student loan payments right now, we will hold off on knocking those out. We are prioritizing having more disposable income.
7. Start tracking my cycles
I started tracking my ovulation in February. We won’t start trying until March, so I will have a month’s worth of data to help me predict when my fertile window will be. First thing every morning, I measure my basal body temperature (BBT). Throughout the day, I enter all of my data on the Ovia Fertility app. I can enter my ovulation test strip results, my period dates, my symptoms and BBT all in one place. Fertility Friend is also a great app for tracking BBT and ovulation. You can see your temperature trends in chart form to visually identify when your temperature has shifted upward after ovulation.
The Ovia app also does a pretty good job predicting the fertile window. If you enter your partner’s email, it will also notify them when you are in your fertile window. I find it really easy to use. Just knowing exactly when your period starts can be incredibly helpful in determining your estimated due date. They always ask at OB/GYN appointments, and it is helpful to have all of this information in one place.
8. Arrange for Family Leave and Health Insurance coverage
First thing, as you prepare for baby make sure you have really good health insurance. Mark is in between jobs and we are planning for him to have a job with benefits starting in June of this year. If you are unable to get health insurance through your employer, you can wait until December and enroll on healthcare.gov.
I am also arranging for at least 4 weeks off after the birth to recover and transition into motherhood, while still meeting all my requirements to graduate on time. I have written a post here about the logistics of starting a family in medical school. Also, consider setting up a living will and getting life insurance policies for both parents before the baby comes along. That way, if something should happen to either one of you, your child will be protected. Term life insurance can be as low as $20/month, so don’t let cost get in the way of peace of mind.
9. Get major house projects out of the way or postpone them
We didn’t have too many projects, but the ones we worked on, my husband and I worked on together. I found myself standing on our kitchen island to help hold our new light fixture up so that my husband could adjust the wires. I couldn’t imagine doing that as a pregnant lady. If you have a husband who encourages you to “participate” in working on home projects, I would wrap those up or ask for help as you prepare for baby.
Leave the heavy lifting to your partner. Postpone any major home renovations, or stay at another location like a parent’s house or friend’s house until the renovations are done. Renovations can produce a lot of fumes and dust, which could potentially be harmful.
The other issue with the home projects is the cost. The money you would have spent on a project might be better used to save for baby expenses. We were originally thinking of renovating our master bathroom, and changing the floors. However, for the sake of our budget and our current needs not to take on anymore projects. Your baby doesn’t need an Instagram-worthy house with luxury furnishings. They just need a safe place to sleep, eat and grow.
10. Research childcare costs and plan to budget for them
Childcare costs always come up in the conversation as you prepare for baby. Childcare can be very expensive, like $2000 per month expensive. There are so many options to choose from: Nanny, nanny-share, private day care, publicly funded daycare, the list goes on. The best way to cut down on this major expense is to enlist the help of family members. This avenue works for a lot of families, but not for us while we’re in Chicago.
Our family is down south in Florida and Georgia, and it is expensive for them to travel here to visit us. My impression of daycare is that it is hit or miss. Some are really good, have low teacher to baby ratios and provide a lot of enrichment activities. I am just wondering about the ones that are not as safe. The good ones cost more than our monthly mortgage payment!
This is a huge issue for us right now. However, our parents are already scoping out our top location picks so that they can move to be near us once we move to our final location. We can’t do it alone, we need a village and a support system. Most importantly, we want our kids to grow up being close to family. Until we are able to move, we will use our savings to help cover the cost of daycare. Your job might also have a flexible spending account (FSA) to save for daycare expenses tax-free.
Wow! These are the ten things we are doing to help us prepare well for a new addition to our family. I hope some of these are helpful to you. Let me know in the comments section what things you and your family are doing to prepare for baby!