7 Things I Wish We Had Done Before Having a Baby

In Marriage, Parenting by Jenn0 Comments

I think it was around this time last year that it started to sink in that, uh, we were going to have a baby. Maybe because it took me a good six months just to get used to being pregnant, I dunno, but up until that point everything had seemed kinda theoretical even though I had seen Fire Monkey on the ultrasound and felt him kick and eaten an inhuman amount of bread because of him.

I (like to) think we did a reasonably good job of preparing for his arrival, but as other friends have gone through the pregnancy and childbirth journey in the last 10 months, I found myself passing on advice about a few things we didn’t do, or at least didn’t do as well as we could have. Hindsight is 20/20, of course, so hopefully those of you who are still expecting or hoping to get pregnant soon or someday can benefit from what we learned!

7 Things I Wish We Had Done Before Baby Arrived

  1. Declutter, reorganize, and babyproof. We live in a 1,000 square foot apartment which seemed like (and is) plenty of space for 2 adults and a tiny mammal, but we failed to consider that said tiny mammal would come to occupy at least 1/3 of our living space. A lot of that is because we transitioned Monkey to his own room around 5 weeks (even he slept better that way!) so that all of a sudden one of our two bedrooms was off limits for 12 hours a day. Previously that room had been my office/our storage space, and that was fine until he started crawling in earnest at 7 months old and trying to get into EVERYTHING. So we finally bit the bullet and babyproofed that entire room, since he was getting bored in his little play yard set up in the family room. This essentially boiled down to taking a lot of things OUT of his room, many of which are still floating around in search of a permanent home (and should probably just be gotten rid of). The other reason I wish we had decluttered more is for (slightly) easier cleaning. When you only have a few minutes to wipe down the kitchen, knick knacks on the counters suddenly seem like a terrible idea. Souvenirs on the end tables turn into fiendish dustcatchers. And then Mama finally loses it and shuffles all the knick knacks into a box to see if Science Guy misses them…and she’s still waiting… And on a related note…
  2. Reassign housekeeping duties and establish a system. I think we argue at least twice as much as we did before baby’s arrival and I would wager that at least 75% of those arguments relate to housekeeping (which is admittedly a similar ratio to pre-baby life.)  Neither of us is great at cleaning to begin with, and we also have fairly opposing approaches but I’m not going to say who’s right or wrong here. (Science Guy: out of sight, out of mind, quick and less dirty. Me: SPEND TWO HOURS COMPLETELY SORTING THE JUNK DRAWER THAT NO ONE PAYS ATTENTION TO. THEN SPEND TWO HOURS PINNING CLEANING ROUTINES ON PINTEREST.) Anywaaaaaaaay, I sort of assumed that since I wasn’t going back to work for the year, I would finally be able to develop an effective cleaning system in all my ample spare time (LOL). TO EVERYONE’S GREAT SURPRISE, this did not happen. In my defense, I underestimated quite how much time and energy it takes to keep a small human alive, and I also didn’t factor in how much staying home all the time would magnify the effect of our untidy habits on my mental and emotional health. And in a sneaky hate spiral of demotivation, the more time I spent at home looking at our mess, the less motivated I felt to clean. I also confess to feeling resentful when 90% of housekeeping fell to me even though I was caring for the baby full-time and Science Guy wasn’t in lab full-time anymore. I know I care more about being systematic in cleaning than he does, but that’s because I’ve seen that if we don’t plan for it, it doesn’t happen. We’re still working on this. But this is something I wish we had worked out better prior the arrival of the little chaos machine. While you’re at it…
  3. Decide who gets overnight cry duty and when/how you’re going to sleep-train. In the hazy newborn days, it was all hands on deck. Then when Science Guy went back to work, I became the default person to get up at night because I’m the keeper of the milk buffet. Logically, I thought it didn’t make sense for both of us to be sleep-deprived, and for a long time even if Science Guy went to get the baby, I would lay awake waiting to be called in as reinforcement, which defeated the purpose of trading off. Emotionally, I found myself ground down from lack of sleep and resentful that my sleep was somehow less important just because Science Guy had somewhere to go during the day. When we finally sleep-trained (twice), everyone was much happier. Sleep training gets a bad rap because people think cry-it-out is the only way to do it or they have unrealistic expectations for how it’s going to work. But if you wait until your child is developmentally ready, choose a plan and be consistent with its implementation (I was bad at this so Science Guy had to be the enforcer), be prepared for the process to take a week or two, and understand that crying is how babies express their response to change and have a plan to cope with it, teaching your child to fall asleep on their own is the best gift you can give them and yourselves. I know moms who haven’t had a whole night’s sleep in four or five years, and I don’t know how they do it but in my mind there’s no reason to suffer that long. A lot of times we moms think it’s easier to just put up with the way things are, but I’m fortunately terrible at hiding my feelings which forces any issues into the open so we can deal with them. Speaking of sleep…
  4. Reevaluate your bedroom setup. (If you’re going to co-sleep, this may be a moot point since baby will be in the room anyway.) When Monkey got his days and nights organized around 3 months of age, we were surprised by the unexpected luxury of 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Except Science Guy started twitching in his sleep, I’d wake him up tossing the covers aside to get the baby in the morning, we both fought for sheets during the night, I may or may not have hit him for twitching…it was ugly. Plus my five-year-old mattress had been dragged through one too many moves and was bowing so much in the middle that we were rolling toward each other. (Which I’m kind of put out by because it was not an inexpensive mattress.) So one day we left the baby with my parents and went mattress shopping, which is probably the second worst way I can think of to spend my baby-free hours. (Waiting in the office of an incompetent doctor, which I did multiple times last fall, would be the first.) To make a long story short, it took another month of tossing and turning and me sleeping on the couch before we finally brought home a split-king mattress (aka two twin-XL mattresses) that we made with one fitted sheet but two totally separate sets of flat sheets and blankets. Now we often can’t even tell if the other person gets out of bed except from the sound of the sheets moving. For better or for worse, this enables us to have different bedtimes and wake-ups, though we try to go to bed at the same time as often as possible. This is a little easier now that I’m moving out of the stage where I need to be in bed for 9 hours to function as a result of both postpartum depression lifting and Monkey sleeping better.
  5. Set up a will and life insurance. We meant to level up our adulting before the baby was born…and it didn’t happen. We got stuck on the issue of guardianship and never got around to any of the other things. Both Science Guy and I feel that our parents are not the best people to care for Fire Monkey in the event of our untimely demise, which was actually kind of hard for me to admit because Chinese culture places such an emphasis on family. But both sets of grandparents are over 60 and it’s just difficult to imagine them having the energy or health to adequately care for our child for the next 18 years. Science Guy knew people growing up who were raised by their grandparents and many of those kids eventually had to start taking care of their guardians, which isn’t fair to anyone. I’ve seen in my classroom experience that a lot of kids who are living with grandparents struggle with lack of boundaries and support, though to be perfectly fair the majority of the kids I’ve met in those situations have parents who are incarcerated or struggling with addiction, so there’s a LOT of other factors at play there. We started looking at our list of friends and found that the number of married couples with similarly-aged children and relatively compatible beliefs and parenting styles is…surprisingly low. (Being married isn’t magic, of course, but I wouldn’t want to burden any friends who are single parents with another baby to raise.) So we spent the last 10 months playing the game of, “Haha, if we die, let’s give Leo to your single coworker who’s afraid of babies.” Except now we really do need and want to pick someone and have some written documentation of how we’d like our child to be cared for and our assets disbursed. New goal is to have this done before his first birthday…
  6. Learn to meal plan and cook low-maintenance recipes. I made a bunch of freezer meals before Monkey was born, which served us well for about a month. After those ran out, though, I was faced with the conundrum of how to manage an infant around a hot stove. While Monkey learned to entertain himself fairly quickly, he still had a baby’s attention span, so it was hard to find 30 minutes to cook. Science Guy also faced some new dietary restrictions about four months into life as a party of three, so our repertoire got even more limited. Eventually, I passed the food preparation baton to him so he could better determine what was okay for him to eat. We ended up with a lot of baked chicken and potatoes, which has the advantage of being low-maintenance and the disadvantage of being high-planning-ahead, which isn’t my dearest love’s strongest suit. I’ve tried to teach him to meal plan but I pick my battles. So I eat cereal for dinner sometimes, but I honestly don’t mind. I do miss some of our old favorites (namely pizza and things with fat in them) but hopefully things will go back to normal soon.
  7. Watch more movies. This is Science Guy’s contribution to my list. He’s very fond of watching movies in the theater, which is much harder to do with an infant versus a fetus. (Fire Monkey saw Star Wars Episode VII no less than 3 times in utero.) Or do whatever it is that you like to do for dates, because those will probably become fewer and farther between for awhile after the baby is born. Some people seem to be really good at maintaining date nights post-baby. We…are not. Mostly we pack Fire Monkey off to my parents and then come home and flop around on the couch for a few hours, which is generally fine by both of us, but I do miss our dates. Granted, about 4 months into Fire Monkey’s life Science Guy got sick, which has made going out for meals pretty much impossible. And also winter happened. But as the weather gets nicer and Monkey becomes a little more independent, I want to make a greater effort to get out alone with Science Guy.

Come to think of it, a lot of these things would also be relevant on a list of things to do in your first year of marriage…which makes sense because I got pregnant two months after our wedding. (Not by design, I assure you.) I’m really glad we had two and a half years of relationship under our belts before we embarked on parenthood, and I’m grateful to have such a communicative, supportive, and forgiving partner. And despite the title of this post, it’s fine if you don’t get to these things before you have kids. Wherever you are in your marriage and parenting journey, you can make it work with enough patience, humility, and love.

Those of you who are parents, what do you wish you had done before having kids?

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