What The Parenting Books Don't Tell You: 3 Things To Do Before The Baby Is Born

Seriously, why does no one tell you this stuff?

It’s true that while you’re pregnant you have lots of time to obsess over all kinds of stuff -- how you’ll give birth, whether you are going to breastfeed or not, cloth vs. disposables, what color to paint the nursery (pro tip: don’t stress if you don’t have a nursery, babies can sleep in a laundry basket until they start moving around -- but that’s a different post for another time).

But there are a few things that I swear no one -- no one -- told me, and I really wish they had. When I was pregnant with Oliver, I didn’t have any friends with kids, and no one who could really give me any sort of practical advice. Not that I didn’t appreciate the advice I did get, but the advice givers were all women who had given birth 20+ years ago, their memories clouded by the intervening years.

To be fair, I gave birth eight years ago, which is hard to believe because it feels like yesterday. So maybe my advice is outdated by now, who knows.

Anyway, if you’re currently expecting your first baby, or if you’re planning to have a baby someday, file these tips away in your brainmeats:

1. Put your fetus on some daycare waiting lists.

I know. It seems silly to put a FETUS who doesn’t even legally have a NAME on a waiting list. But trust me -- if you live in any sort of a large metropolitan area, competition for space with good daycare providers can be tough. And if you have a lengthy commute, you will need to take that into consideration, too -- do you want a daycare near your home or your office? A good place near one of those two can sometimes be hard to find, so start looking while the baby is still cooking (I made that rhyme on purpose, sorry).

Even if you don’t plan to return to work after the baby is born, I would totally find a good daycare and get on the list anyway. Then when they call you in six months and say a space has opened up, you can always ask them to move you down the list. If your circumstances change, and you end up returning to work, you’ll have a daycare option ready to go. There is nothing more stressful than needing to return to work and not having a place where you feel comfortable leaving your baby all day.

Stupidly, I didn’t attempt to find any sort of childcare until I was actually looking for a job, when Oliver was about 10 months old. (And then we ended up having to switch daycare providers twice in the first year, which was so stressful.) And what I found was that many child care providers did not take kids under 18 months, and the ones that did had waiting lists of one year or more. Wha??

Go ahead, learn from my mistakes!

2. Stock up on pads, stool softener and numbing spray.

Before you have the baby, go to the store and buy three things:

  • The biggest, most absorbent pads you can find, for post-birth bleeding
  • Stool softener, because pooping after giving birth suuuuuuucks
  • Dermoplast numbing spray, for your nethers

I bled pretty heavily after giving birth, and I found using incontinence pads -- rather than pads made for girl week -- made me feel more “secure.” They gave me Milk of Magnesia in the hospital, which seemed pretty old school, but it worked well. (By the way, you want a stool softener, not a laxative.) And the numbing spray is pretty much the best thing ever, especially if you end up with stitches.

If, like me, you are unscrupulous and pretty pissed about the way medical services seem to be arbitrarily priced these days, you also might “steal” these items from the hospital (if you are giving birth in a hospital, that is). Or you can just ask and they will probably give you some stuff to take home. But I definitely recommend having these things on hand anyway, just in case you are more honest than I am and/or your nurse is a jerk*.

3. Buy a car with leather seats.

I realize this may not be feasible for everyone, but if you are planning to get a new car before the baby is born, or if you are in a position to trade in your current vehicle, choose leather or leather-like material for the seats.

Why, you ask? Because, fact: children are disgusting. And if something (yogurt, handfuls of dirt, half-masticated crackers, or ugh, vomit) gets on the leather/leather substitute, you can just wipe that shit off. Easy peasy. Cloth seats are for suckers. I wish someone had told me this. I spent Oliver's messiest years cleaning my vehicle's upholstery before I wised up.

What are some of the practical things you wish someone had told you before you had kids? I don’t mean stuff like “I never knew I could love another human being so much.” I mean stuff like, “Buy five packages of cloth diapers to use as burp cloths," or, "Babies like to be naked, so stop spending all that money on cute outfits."

*Your nurse will probably be lovely, and not a jerk.

Somer is on Twitter: @somersherwood.