In those first 8-12 weeks of pregnancy, time moves SO. SLOW. Especially if you are waiting to reach a certain milestone before announcing your big news to family and friends. Then, time gets lost and you are suddenly in the third trimester and wondering how you only have a handful of weeks left.
When did we get in the single digits?!
I try to be overprepared when it comes to important life things – call me Type A if you want. I just can’t stop myself from organizing, making lists, double-checking my lists, and planning for all possible circumstances. Going through my first pregnancy was no different. With so much to do and so little time, it’s important to be prepared. Because of that, I put together a list of my top things to do before delivery.
Don’t forget that a due date is just an estimate! It is more than possible that your baby arrives early, so it’s crucial that you get ready for the big day throughout the third trimester.
Top Things to Do Before Delivery
1. Get Your Car Seat (and Learn How to Strap it In)
Because you can’t leave the hospital without one! Yes, you read that right… you cannot take your baby home if you don’t come prepared with a car seat. So, if you’re planning on going home as a family of three (or more), this should be a pretty important item on your to-do list!
And, because we are currently living through a pandemic, your partner may not be able to leave and get it once he has arrived at the hospital. So it is that much more important that you are diligent about buying, unboxing, and installing one.
Have your car seat in your car at least a week before your due date. When your water breaks and the contractions start, you won’t want to be scrambling around trying to remember anything but the hospital bag. Better safe than sorry.
2. Establish Your Ground Rules with Family
Unfortunately, some tough conversations may need to happen before your little one comes into this world. This may be anything from who gets to visit you at the hospital and scheduling at-home visitation slots, to matters such as not kissing the baby on the mouth or wearing a mask while visiting. Some family members may feel offended by your requests, but it’s your baby, your rules.
It’s best to establish your ground rules long before you are set to give birth to avoid any surprises. If you don’t want your in-laws in the delivery room – your call! If you want family members and friends to visit in pairs in two-hour slots – your call! And if you and your partner want a few days at home alone with the baby before welcoming company, you got it – your call.
It’s never easy laying down the law, but if there was ever a time where you had every right to do so, it’s now. If you aren’t comfortable having a phone call or meeting with those who need to know where you stand, craft a carefully worded letter with the help of your partner. Politely explain that there are certain guidelines you would like everyone to follow after the baby is born that would help make your transition as easy and comfortable as possible.
Ground rules and known boundaries are particularly important as we continue to navigate a pandemic. Because not everyone carries the same feelings around things such as spreading the virus, quarantining, social distancing, and getting vaccinated, you need to decide what is best for you and your family and stand by it.
The truth is that it will be virtually impossible to keep everyone happy. But guess what? It’s not your responsibility! Your responsibility is to you, your partner, and your sweet little newborn.
3. Know Your Hospital Route
Where are you giving birth? How far is the hospital from your home – miles, and driving time? Is traffic a problem in your area? Is it a direct route, or does it take some getting used to? Knowing your hospital route long before your due date will help a great deal when you’re breathing your way through contractions in the passenger seat and your partner is doing his or her best to (maybe) frantically get you to the hospital.
Make a point to drive the route a few times before you’re due to familiarize yourself with how best to get there and the parking situation so you don’t have to fight over navigation or anything! One more thing to ease your mind.
4. Stock Up on Diapers & Wipes
There’s a good chance your family and friends will load you up with all the diapers and wipes you will need to get you through the next six months. But in the chance that they haven’t, or if you are Type A like me, it does not hurt to grab yourself a couple of boxes to have on hand as soon as you get home with your newest family member.
The hospital will likely have plenty of supplies to get you by for a few days, but having some inventory at home will make coming home that much less stressful, saving you and dad a trip to the store! And trust me, you WILL need them.
5. Have Your Hospital Bag Prepared
Your water has broken, the contractions are making their appearance, and you are ready to fly out the door in yesterday’s clothing, but… wait a sec, do we need to bring anything? What kind of stuff will we even need? Where IS all that stuff anyway?
Put together your hospital bag at least a month before you are due. If you love to be organized, maybe even sooner. While you may not end up using everything you have packed, your mind will be at ease knowing that when the buzzer goes off, all you will need to do is collect yourself and your bag and head to the hospital.
The last thing you’ll want to be doing while you are laboring is collecting all of mom and baby’s things, worrying about if you’re forgetting anything important. And you certainly won’t want to be directing your partner around!
If you DO forget essentials, don’t fret too much. The hospital will have all sorts of goodies to help you out.
6. Create Your Birth Plan
If you have decided (with the help of your doctor, doula, or midwife) that you want to have a birth plan in place before delivery, the third trimester is the time to get that straightened out.
Your birth plan is your action plan for delivery day. It’s the guideline that is going to help ensure that your rotating doctors and nurses understand where you and your partner stand in regard to visitors, your ideal labor scenario, pain medications like epidurals, and what happens with the baby as soon as she makes her appearance. It will outline the type of delivery you have planned (vaginal, water, VBAC, or C-section), who you would like to have present during labor, what your laboring environment should be like (everything from music, lighting, and photos, to whether you want to spend some of your time in the bathtub), how you want to push, if you want an episiotomy, what should happen immediately after delivery (partner cuts the cord, followed by you spending Golden Hour with your baby, for example), to name a few.
Birth plans are particularly important for people who have preferences that err on the side of non-negotiable. And because most moms see multiple doctors and nurses due to shift changes, you’ll want any new faces to know what you want.
Midwives and doulas are great resources during labor and delivery in terms of acting as an advocate for you, and ensuring that your birth plan is followed as closely as possible. If you don’t have one, lean on your partner to help ensure that your wishes are granted.
7. Wash Your Baby’s Clothes
There is no telling what will irritate your baby’s skin! Something as simple as an unwashed onesie could break her out into an extremely uncomfortable rash. Not only will she be hurting, but it will hurt mama to see.
Before the baby arrives, wash your newborn’s new wardrobe with some baby-friendly detergent, so that if you do experience any skin irritation, you can rule out unwashed clothes!
8. Take Breastfeeding Classes
Breastfeeding doesn’t come easy to all moms, and that is totally normal and nothing to be ashamed about! However, taking a breastfeeding class ahead of your delivery is a great way to learn the ropes so when it is time for your newborn to latch on for the first of many, many times, you’ve got a good idea of what to expect. Some may say that no one can really teach you how to breastfeed and that you’ve got to just dive in and trust your body and mommy-baby connection, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to get a little education before diving in.
While breastfeeding classes are widely unavailable in person due to the coronavirus, many hospitals, websites, and apps offer a variety of virtual classes that you can take from the comfort of home, and on your own time.
8.5 BONUS Have Some Bottles Ready
Even if you are breastfeeding, have some bottles cleaned and ready to use. As I said, some moms have a hard time with breastfeeding, and if this is the case for you, you will still need to have a way to get your baby the food she needs every day. That’s where some backup formula will come in handy.
If you are successful breastfeeding, you should still have some bottles available so that when you pump, your partner can use a bottle to feed the baby too. Not only will this allow them the bonding time that they need, but it will also give you a break!
9. Have Your Bassinet or Crib Prepared
Whether or not you prepared your nursery and nested your third trimester away, you’ll need to, at the very least, have your baby’s crib or bassinet ready for their arrival. Your baby’s favorite activity in the coming months will be sleep… and a lot of it. In fact, in the first two months, she will be sleeping an average of 15.5 to 17 hours per day.
While baby may sleep in your arms from time to time, and you may also give co-sleeping a try, she does need her own place to sleep for when you need to get your own. Many parents have their newborn sleep in their bedroom in a bassinet beside their bed over the months following birth, gradually shifting to their own room when they are ready.
10. Keep Hand Sanitizer at the Ready
Hand sanitizer is important if you want to be able to kill off germs before touching your baby. However, the concern here is less about you (the one who lives with the baby and is probably already pretty OCD about cleanliness), but those around you. While washing hands and using hand sanitizer may not be first nature to family and friends who want their turn holding the baby, it will be before they know it!
Keep a few bottles scattered around your house in obvious places – on the baby’s changing table, in the living area, on your nightstand, and on the kitchen counter. Don’t be afraid to gently remind people to use some before taking their turn. It is not asking a lot.
This is particularly important during pandemic times because it can virtually impossible to know if anyone visiting has been exposed to the virus.