There’s more to do to get ready for a baby than just hang in there for nine months.
Dave used to say that he could always tell when I was getting close to labor. I kicked into high gear and tried to accomplish things that I had never bothered with before.
All my kids’ photo albums were updated (for the first time since the last baby, usually). I had this fear that if I died in childbirth, my kids’ photo albums would not have been up to date when their mama died. Horrible mother, you know.
The nursery (usually just a bedroom where other kids slept) had to be washed down and put in order. Baby clothes were washed and stacked. Diapers (yes, I used cloth diapers) were washed and folded neatly in the diaper stacker in the closet. The bassinet and crib were ready and the diaper bag with clothes for bringing the newborn home from the hospital was packed and ready.
In addition, I had my bag packed and ready – including my Rosebud salve, which guaranteed relief from nursing soreness. My list with every person we needed to call was typed and printed – in order of importance, you can be sure. I was not about to be caught napping before this baby came!
Windows I had never cared about before suddenly mattered. Dirty socks under the bunk beds were rooted out and washed. I’m sure I washed every tennis shoe in the house (and can someone tell me why I thought a newborn would care about everyone in the house having clean tennis shoes?).
However, in addition to my frenzy, I also came up with some good ideas for caring for my family after the baby and I were home from the hospital (assuming that I survived childbirth, you know.)
Here are three things that were helpful for me to remember to do. It made life easier for me and everyone else in the family when the baby arrived home from the hospital.
In the last month, I prepared double batches of recipes so that, when the meals stopped coming from friends, I’d have a few things in the freezer. Easy, simple recipes that my kids liked: meatloaf, lasagna, chili soup, chicken casseroles, and sloppy jo for sandwiches were easy to double and freeze.
I made sure I had peanut butter and bread (what kid isn’t happy with a PB & J sandwich?) and lunch meat and cheese for my hubby. Canned soups were a given, along with plenty of crackers on hand. I knew if I was desperate, tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches would keep everyone happy.
Before my trip to the hospital, I picked up a few special snacks. Our kids loved animal crackers in their own boxes. It was a small price to pay to make them feel special when my attention was more on the baby than on them. Special ice cream treats or other favors went a long way in making my children feel important when there was a new normal taking place in the house, especially if I declared it as special treat for being such good big brothers and sisters!
I planned things for the siblings of the newborn – especially for the youngest who would no longer be the baby of the family. When our second son was born, my mother gave me a puzzle to do with my oldest while I was nursing the baby. The puzzle stayed hidden until nursing time. I’d put the puzzle on my lap, and all during nursing my newborn, my 18-month old stayed at my side, putting his puzzle together. We made the sounds of the animals and talked about the colors of the ducks and the cows. It kept him from wandering through the house getting into things. He was excited when it was time to nurse the baby because that was when he got to play with his new puzzle.
When baby number four was born, we had purchased books for the big brothers – and I read those books to the boys when I was rocking the baby. Sometimes I put fun toys away a month or two before the baby was born, and then got them out when we came home from the hospital. Familiar not-seen-for-a-long-time toys were fun for our guys to connect with – and it gave them something new to play with.
Every time there was a new baby, the siblings got something new to do. For younger kids, a new box of crayons and a coloring book; for older kids, a book or a toy that took some time to assemble. I also had things on hand for later use. Choose things for each child and stash them away for a day when siblings are out of sorts and then bring out a surprise.
Plan to give yourself and your family time to adjust once you’re home with your newborn. After the baby arrives, let everything else go. This is the time to relax and recover.
Everything is different Even if the older siblings are excited about the new baby, there will still be adjustments, even for them. As the Mom, you will be more tired because you will have been up during the night. Your body will need time for recovering from labor and delivery. If you’re nursing, you’ll need additional liquids and nourishment. Your spouse is still your husband, and he needs to remain the most important to you.
For the first weeks, I tried to focus on the baby, myself, my husband and my kids. Story time each afternoon was a plus – it relaxed everyone and the house was quiet for an hour or two. Sure, the laundry still needed to be done, and floors needed to be swept. By spreading out the work and focusing on what was most important for now, I found it possible to relax. As much as I could, I let everything else go.
When my family continued to feel important, the adjustment came easier and their help was more readily given. My baby didn’t care if the house was untidy or the floor needed to be mopped. My baby and my other kids need a relaxed, peaceful mommy and not an immaculate house. I tried to just give them me.
We all have our own routines and things that we know are special to our spouse and our kids. Take these ideas with two shakes of a grain of salt, and tweak them for your family and your situation. Remember that there’s really no right way for a family to adjust to the arrival of a newborn. Do what works best for you, for your spouse and for your other children.
Be sure to take care of yourself. Everyone will benefit, especially you!