Pregnancy is a time of anticipation, excitement, preparation and, for many new parents, uncertainty. You dream of a baby who will be strong, healthy and bright, and you make plans to provide her with everything she needs to grow and thrive. You probably also have fears and questions, especially if this is your first child, or if there have been problems with this or a previous pregnancy. What if something goes wrong during the course of your pregnancy, or what if labor and delivery are difficult? What if being a parent isn't everything you've always dreamed it would be? Fortunately, most of these worries are needless. The nine months of pregnancy will give you time to have your questions answered, calm your fears and prepare yourself for the realities of parenthood.
Some of these preparations should begin when you first learn you're pregnant. The best way to help your baby develop is to take good care of yourself, because medical attention and good nutrition will directly benefit your baby's health. Getting plenty of rest and exercising moderately will help you feel better and ease the physical stresses of pregnancy. Talk to your physician about prenatal vitamins and avoiding smoking and alcohol.
As pregnancy progresses you're confronted with a long list of related decisions, from planning for the delivery to decorating the nursery. You probably have made many of these decisions already. Perhaps you've postponed some others because your baby doesn't yet seem "real" to you. However, the more actively you prepare for your baby's arrival, the more real that child will seem, and the faster your pregnancy will appear to pass.
Eventually, it may seem as though your entire life revolves around this baby-to-be. This increasing preoccupation is perfectly normal and healthy and may actually help prepare you emotionally for the challenge of parenthood. After all, you'll be making decisions about your child for the next two decades at least! Now is a perfect time to start.
Before entering your ninth month, make your last-minute preparations for delivery. Your checklist should include the following:
Name, address and phone number of the hospital, the doctor or nurse-midwife who will deliver your baby and of the person who covers the practice when your doctor is not available
The quickest and easiest route to the hospital or birthing center.
The location of the hospital entrance you should use when labor begins.
The phone number of an ambulance service, in case you need such assistance in an emergency.
The phone number of the person who will take you to the hospital (if that individual does not live with you).
A bag packed with essentials for labor and for the rest of your hospital stay, including toiletries, clothing, addresses and phone numbers of friends and relatives, reading material, and a receiving blanket and suit of clothes for the baby to wear home.
A safety seat for the car so you can bring your baby home safely. Make sure the seat meets all federal safety standards (it should state this on the label). Install it in the back seat, facing the rear. (Never place a rear-facing car seat in front of an air bag.) It should stay in this position until your baby reaches 1 year of age and weighs at least 20 pounds. Then position it facing forward.
If you have other children, arrangements for their care during the time you will be at the hospital.
Toward the end of pregnancy, you may start feeling a little frantic. You'll be eager for the baby to arrive, but at the same time worried that your baby will be born before you have everything in perfect order. As your due date approaches (and in some cases, passes), you'll have to fend off countless callers who are almost as excited as you are, and also concerned about your welfare. This social pressure, added to the physical discomfort of late pregnancy, can make the ninth month seem endless. But the story does have a nice ending, so try to enjoy your leisure time as much as you can.
If you use this time wisely, you can get some chores out of the way that would otherwise have to be done after delivery. For example:
Make a list of people who will receive birth announcements, select the announcement style, and address the envelopes in advance.
Cook a number of meals and freeze them. You may not feel up to cooking for a while after the baby arrives.
Look for child-care and/or housekeeping help if you can afford it, and interview candidates in advance. Even if you don't think you'll need extra help, you should have a list of names to call in case the situation changes.
Once your baby finally arrives, all the waiting and discomforts of pregnancy will seem like minor inconveniences. Suddenly you'll get to meet this new person who's been so close and yet so mysterious all these months. Excerpted from Caring for Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5, Bantam 1999
© Copyright 2000 American Academy of Pediatrics