Sunday, December 31, 2006

Finding Out You're Pregnant

If you find out that you are pregnant and you did not intend to be, that news can be joyous or devastating. Much of that decision rests on your shoulders. Should you be in a less than desirable situation and pregnant, you still have the opportunity to make the best life you can for you and your new baby.

Planning is the most important step you can take right now. Your first decisions will be medical. Do you have insurance? If not, find out if you can qualify for public assistance. Though you may not be able to get Medicaid per se, there are other programs available for people who do not have health insurance. Many states have programs specifically for pregnant women, so start making those phone calls today. Getting in to see a doctor or midwife immediately is important to be sure the pregnancy progresses as smoothly as possible.

Next, you should look at your finances. Babies are expensive as any parents will tell you. With a little ingenuity, though, you can begin to work your budget around the cost of having a baby. First make sure that you know how much you make every month. If you have unstable employment, such as serving, then use the figure you know that you make each week or month. Then determine how much your bills are. Include everything with high estimates for utility bills.

Once you know how much you make and owe right now, you can begin planning for the added cost of having a baby. Begin calling daycares to see how much you can expect to need for childcare. Begin pricing the necessities for the baby. Remember that most of the information out there is intended to get you to purchase the best and most expensive of everything, but it is not necessary! Your baby will need a bassinet or crib unless you will be co-sleeping 100 percent of the time, and you can find good quality secondhand cribs at baby consignment shops.

Also start to look around for places you can go to get help from friends and family. If you know of someone who just had a baby, you may be able to get some of the baby items from her. You should not feel badly about asking; most moms are happy to share what they have because babies are so expensive.

You also should begin preparing for the baby a little each week. Although you may not be that excited right now, and you probably do not feel a bond with the baby yet (despite what books and movies will say), you should begin to do some things for the baby. If you will have a room for a nursery, begin picking out what you will need, even if you cannot buy it yet.

Also begin working on smaller things, such as washing and hanging the baby clothes when you get them. It is tempting to toss everything into the room and move about your day, but you will need to begin preparing now for the changes that the baby will bring to your life. You should think about when you will get the crib and how you will manage to paint when you are not supposed to inhale the fumes. Even if you only spend an hour every Saturday on decorating or getting something ready, it is important that you do not wait until the last minute.

Read up on everything you can right now. You may be overwhelmed with the information, but get a couple of good books on prenatal care and baby development. What to Expect When You’re Expecting is considered the bible of baby books, and it will answer most of your questions. You can find it at most used book sales or new for only about $12. Also get a journal so that you can record how you feel. Although you may be sad now, you will be excited to meet your new little guy or girl in the future. These moments are fleeting so you should capture them.

Try to find a support system as soon as possible so that you can begin to share the good news of your baby with others.

Changing Baby's Last Name

When you have your baby, you will have to fill out a great deal of paperwork. It seems odd that everything has to be completed for a baby just born, but you will have plenty to complete to make your baby officially yours. One of the big questions will be what you are naming the baby. You will be told to make sure that you get everything correct and that you definitely want to choose this name. (Just as an aside, you can change it legally later, but it is easier to pick what you want now.)

For most people, the first name is the biggest question, but for a growing number of people, the last name is just as questionable. That may be because the mother is unmarried, and the father is only vaguely in the picture. It may be because of immigrant customs of naming that differ from local customs, or it may be because of the political decisions of the parents. For whatever reason, you may find yourself with a decision to make regarding the last name of your baby.

The first key, particularly if you are making the decision for political reasons, is to know what your rights are. Sometimes in hospitals, doctors and nurses, as well as members of the administrative staff, will try to tell you that you do not have a choice on the last name. We were told that when our son was born. Because my husband and I are married, the child must get the father's name automatically. While that is true in some states, it is not the case everywhere. It was not the case in the state where our son was born, but it makes people more comfortable to do things the traditional way.

So, know the law before you get there and do not allow yourself to be convinced that you are wrong. Take printouts or the names of officials who gave you the information. You should call the vital statistics department for your state to get the word. If someone in the hospital tries to tell you that you are wrong, ask for proof. Refuse to sign any birth certificate that does not have the name as you want it.

Should you have to sign the birth certificate to be able to take the baby home, such as may happen for a Friday birth, then you will need to be sure that you ask who to call locally to change it when the business week is back. Ask for the name of the person in the hospital who is responsible for making this decision on the name of the child. You will want to contact that person if you are in fact correct to let him or her know that you are unhappy with the staff members pushing you to change the name.

Should you need to change the last name because of the above situation or because you were a single mom who later got married or had paternity proven, then you will need to contact the Social Security Administration. They are in charge of all names in the United States. They have forms that you can complete to have the name changed legally. Most of the time it will be a simple process. You will complete the form, take it to the local office, and have everything processed there. Your child will then get new social security cards.

Sometimes the process can be more complex, particularly if you are making structural changes to the name. For example, a Robert Andrew Smith who you want to change to Robert Andrew Jones-Smith. You may have to go before a juvenile judge in that matter. Never fear. The process is not as scary as it sounds. Basically you will explain the reasons (succinctly and objectively), and the judge will make the final decision. Since juvenile court judges tend to be overworked, they are not likely to hold up the court over a request they will consider small potatoes for their courtroom. It is just a matter of going through the motions of the hearing.

Remember that it is best to take care of this issue before it becomes a problem, so the best step you can take it to find out now what you can do.

A Low-Key New Year's Even With Baby

Preparing for the New Year with a baby can seem like it will be no fun. The truth is, though, that most of us outgrow our penchant for crazy celebrating in our early 20s. If this is your first new year with your baby, do not think that you will not be able to have any fun. Just plan a different type of celebration that you have had in the past.

First try to keep your baby on a schedule. I say this with all seriousness although I am guilty of it. I always want to keep my son up to have fun with him and celebrate holidays. The reality, though, is that babies do not care about the new year. Everyone will be happier in the long run if you just let your baby go to sleep like normal. Then you can plan your own celebration. The only change you may want to make is to move baby to a different room in a portable crib if you will be up and loud near where the baby normally sleeps. Also consider adding some white noise, such as a fan or sound machine, so that the baby can sleep with the celebrating.

After you have put the baby to bed, you and your partner can break out the fun stuff. Try to be good spirits about the evening. Get a nice bottle of wine and some good cheese and bread if that is your thing. Otherwise order some pizza or make something special. Once the baby is down, you can eat together and enjoy your evening.

I always like to plan my resolutions at some point on the last day of the year, and this night is a good a time as any. Having a baby is a big change in your life, and you likely have seen the need for some changes. Maybe you want to lose weight and get back to your pre-baby body. Perhaps you realize your family needs some major organizational tools. Or you may want to increase your income for this year. Write down your goals for the new year, keeping in mind that you have a baby who will be competing for your attention.

You and your partner could rent a good movie that you have been wanting to see. Try to get something fun and light-hearted so that you do not mind if baby interrupts you with crying or feeding and so that you can feel good about the new year. Depressing movies will only put you in a depressing mood, so sticking to something fun is best. You also could watch the various specials on television during this evening or just sit and talk to each other. Try to avoid serious talk, such as about the baby or about finances or any of the topics you probably cover fairly frequently. Instead you should spend some time just talking to each other about whatever is on your mind.

Try to pamper yourself a little during your mini-celebration. Give your partner a back massage (in hopes of getting one in return, of course!) or give yourself a manicure. Do something to make yourself feel good, and you will get as much out of the celebration as if you had gone out.

Having a drink or two is okay as well as long as one of you moderates the drinking enough to take care of anything the baby needs. If you are breastfeeding, express some milk in the hours leading up to the celebrating so that you can have a drink without worrying about any effect on the baby.

Do not use the evening to think about what you could have done. Sure, considering that awesome New Year’s Eve you once spent in Los Angeles with your friends from college may be fun, but do not dwell on what you have done in years past that you cannot do now. Even if you wanted a baby desperately, you can begin to long for the good old days when you had less responsibility. Do not do that tonight. Instead focus on having a low-key good time and enjoy your little night so that you can ring in the new year with a positive attitude.

What You Will Need In The Hospital

Before my son was born, I packed a bag for the hospital that was stuffed to the brim with everything I had read or heard that I would need. When I came home and got around to unpacking, I realized that I had not used many of the items I brought. So this time around, I am determined to pack less but have it be more useful.

For starters when you are packing your bag (which you should do about three weeks before your due date), you should pack one or two gowns or large t-shirts. While you may be content to lie around in the hospital gown, it can get weird when you have company in your room. Plus you will be much warmer even with a thin gown than the hospital gowns. Second, you should take some slippers or thick socks. My grandmother bought a wonderful pair of fuzzy slippers for me before I had my son, and they were a great gift while I was in the hospital because I could be more comfortable walking around my room and the floor of the family unit.

Also take some things for you to do but be realistic. I thought I would be able to work on projects while I was in the hospital, but a combination of minor problems with my son, lack of good rest, and medication to calm my blood pressure made me unable to concentrate. Instead this time around I will be taking only a few items that can keep my attention briefly. Crossword puzzles, sudoku, and word searches all are great ideas for keeping your mind going while you are in the hospital. Puzzles allow you to focus for just a few minutes at a time, and they are fun to do. You also may want to buy a book to bring or stock up on magazines. (Ask around. Your friends probably have copies of a few magazines you can borrow.)

When it comes to underwear and bras, you can make your own decision here based on your personal comfort level. If you have a c-section, you probably will have a hard time wearing regular underwear. In fact, your doctor may suggest you try to keep the incision site far away from the elastic bands from your underwear. An alternative is to get a size larger than you normally wear. While you may not want to do that to pack, keep it in mind for the future. With all of the tubes and the moving around in the hospital bed, you probably will not be wearing a bra during your stay but bring one if you are more modest and think you will want to wear one on your ride home.

Bringing one change of clothes to wear home from the hospital also is a great idea but one that takes careful consideration. Basically you will want to wear something comfortable home, but you probably want to look decent, too. For most women, their uterus does not shrink back to its normal size (or some approximation thereof) until about three days after birth. That means that you may still look and feel very pregnant when you leave the hospital, which is why picking out clothes can be tricky. Your best bet is to get pants or a skirt with loose elastic in the waist or one of your smaller pair of maternity clothes. That way you can look nice either way. For a shirt, pick something that will hang pretty loosely on you because you probably will not want to have anything tight.

When it comes to toiletries, I believe in bringing smaller versions of the items you use at home. Stock up on a cute bag and put travel-size versions of hair spray, toothpaste, and even deodorant. That way you can get to the items easily and can use them more easily while you are stuck in the hospital. If you will worry about your hair, bring a large-toothed comb (it is likely to get knots during labor), a spray bottle for water, and clips if your hair is long enough. These items should be enough to make your hospital stay pleasant and manageable.

Tips for Helping A New Dad

If you are expecting a new baby and you are the mom, chances are good that most of the attention is focused on you. Everyone asks how you are feeling. People want to know if you are ready for the baby to come. If those people, well-intentioned as they may be, even acknowledge your partner, they probably are only concerned with him out of politeness. The truth is that we still expect Mom to handle most of the childcare and to know the most about the arrangements for the kids. Even if that mom is working, going to school full-time, and trying to take care of a household, many people still have the expectation that she will be on top of the baby situation that Dad is not.

If you are the mom in this situation, you should think about your partner and how he feels. Is he involved? Chances are that he is, especially if you are a contemporary couple. More men than ever want to take an active role in the lives of their children. Many of them, like my own husband, grew up with fathers who worked and provided well for the family, but memories of Dad are precious few.

Still, there is nothing out there to prepare anyone for this shift in relationship standards. There are some things you can do to ease Dad into the role, however. First be sure that you discuss everything with him. Like with weddings, baby planning can become a family affair with your mother, your mother-in-law, aunts, cousins, sisters, and friends all adding their two cents. Make sure Dad does not get left out of that loop, though. Make him a core part of the planning. If he hates Winnie-the-Pooh, do not pick that for your nursery theme! Dad counts equally here, so keep that in mind.

Once the baby arrives, know that Dad will be tired, too. If you have set up a schedule that requires you to get up all night, which is probably the case if you are a first-time mom, then you should get your rest. Do not go without sleep but allow Dad to get some rest, too. Perhaps he needs a couple of hours one night a week to hang out with friends or to read a good book. Give him that time. Remember that your free time will become precious when the baby is born, so try to give him the opportunity to enjoy some as well.

Avoid whatever urge you may have to correct his childcare techniques. Sure, if you think he is doing something dangerous, go ahead and say something. If he is bottled feeding and the baby will just spit up because she is not being burped, let him know gently. Otherwise, back off. He does not need your help. It will make him self-conscious. Think of it this way. Why are you spending your life with this man? If he is competent to be your life partner, then he probably can handle a baby as well. There may be a sharp learning curve (after all, how many men were regular babysitters in high school?), but he will get the hang of it.

Praise Dad when necessary. Do not take him for granted. While you may not feel like thanking him for getting up one time last night when you had to get up 12 times with the baby, he will feel much better about himself if he hears the occasional comment of gratitude.

Also do not allow others to mistreat Dad. If you see that others are correcting him in public, gently take over the care of the baby to diffuse the situation or comment on how wonderful your husband is at child-rearing. Try to turn the episode into something positive and give the others a subtle hint to stay away in the process.

Be sure that you take the new dad into account when you are making plans. You likely will need someone to drive you to the doctor, for example, and you need to allow your husband to make the final decision on the day and time if he will be getting off work to take you. Remember that he is an equal partner, so treat him that way.

The Nesting Instinct

Nesting is not a term that is used very often anymore to describe women who are pregnant. We most often hear it today referring to animals, but the instinct still applies. Most pregnant women will tell you that they experienced some type of nesting during their pregnancy, most likely in the third trimester. Nesting is an instinct that kicks in that almost seems to require an expectant mother to work on her organizational skills and put her house in order.

Many women find that in the last weeks of pregnancy, they are unable to focus because of what they consider chaos around them. This chaos may exists, or it may be something that the mother imagines she is feeling. Many women will spend their time, even into the wee hours of the morning, putting together outfits for the baby, making the house look perfect, and cleaning out closets. This desire is something that many women feel is a compulsion. I remember being up several nights in a row until 5 or 6 in the morning when I was pregnant with my son. I could not explain the desire (or where I got the energy), but I felt it. I could not stop myself, and I was hurt if my husband even dared to suggest that I not stay up to work on perfecting the nursery.

If you find yourself in the nesting mood, there are ways you can work with it to combat the mood and to allow it to help you. First, if you begin to feel the need to clean out everything in your house, ask yourself whether it needs to be done. Be serious here. In some homes, it does need to be done. Some parents truly are not prepared for the arrival of their child, so if you have a nursery that is not complete or you do not have everything you need for the baby, allow the nesting instinct to guide you toward putting the nursery together.

Once you feel the nursery is in order, look at the other rooms in the house. Some women say that they feel drawn to certain areas. They may want to work on the bedroom closet, for instance, or the basement may be what drives them bonkers. If you have strong feelings about one area of your home, look at it seriously. Ask yourself whether or not it needs to be cleaned out. You may discover that your closet is in disarray, but you most likely will find that you can deal with the way it is right now. After all, you are currently dealing with it, so it must not bother you enough to want to change it.

Still, the nesting instinct can drive us all to feel the urge strongly. Look at the projects that you feel are calling out to you. Estimate how long the project will take to complete. Be generous in your estimate, remembering that you are in the last weeks of pregnancy when you most likely tire out more easily than usual. The estimate may be enough to make you rethink your plan. If you think it will take 20 hours to clean the closet, doing so may not be so appealing anymore. If you believe it will take 2 hours, however, you may want to give it a go.

One way to curb the instinct but still improve your home is to see if there are smaller tasks you can complete. For example, you may find that if you simply purchase shoe racks and use them, the closet situation will be livable. Use those feelings to help create better living spaces so that you can add a level of organization to your home without going overboard.

Whatever you decide to do, know that you can use the nesting instinct to work with you. The only time it becomes a problem is if you allow it to overtake the rest of your life. Do not deprive others because you want to keep your home spotless. Be reasonable with other people and try to keep in mind that they are not going through the bodily changes that you are. Cut them some slack while still working on getting things done.

The Emerging Truth on Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is one of the most controversial topics surrounding babyhood today. There was a time when women had to breastfeed without any choice. Wealthy women or those who could not breastfeed for whatever reason chose a wet nurse, another woman who had recently had a baby, to feed their children for them. When commercial formula came around in the second half of this decade, women relished in the fact that they could decide whether or not to breastfeed.

In the aftermath of the modern feminist movement, many women opted not to breastfeed because it granted them more freedom and flexibility. Then came the research. Early studies showed that breastfed babies held all types of advantages from closer bonding to their mothers to higher IQs. How, in the face of such research, could women opt not to breastfeed?

Doctors began pushing breastfeeding as the only real option, and women began to make each other feel guilty about the decision. Now, however, the research is beginning to settle down. The first study to suggest that perhaps earlier praise of breastfeeding was overblown came from the University of Kentucky. Researchers there looked at infants who had breastfed and compared them to infant who were bottle-fed but held in the same way. In other words, was the benefit in the milk or in the experience of feeding?

Those researchers found that breastfed babies held a slight IQ advantage, only a couple of points, but that in large part controlling for the way a baby is fed negated the effects of breastfeeding. That study was the first to suggest that perhaps breastfeeding advocates, while still making an excellent point about the nutrition a baby needs, do not have the moral high ground they had claimed. Studies over the last few years have shown the same effects for other documented benefits of breastfeeding, such as the immune system benefit.

Early in 2006, a new study came out that suggested that perhaps the crazed breastfeeding wave was coming to an end. Scientists took a group of babies and divided them by breast and formula feedings. Then these scientists controlled for other factors that go into how well a child performs in school, such as the socioeconomic status of the family, the IQ of the parents, and the educational level of the parents. These researchers found that when one controls for other life issues, breastfeeding held no advantage for the mental capacity of the children involved. That is, life experience is more important (or at least equally so) for children.

Now, what does an expectant mom make of these studies? Basically it means that choosing not to breastfeed or being physically unable to do so will not hinder your child for the rest of his or her life as many advocates of breastfeeding claim. In fact, your child will be just fine.

Although you may be planning to breastfeed, it is important to note that not being able to do so will be okay for your child. Many moms who find themselves unable either because of the milk supply or because of an immature suck reflex in the baby, which happens more often than most of us think, should not allow themselves to feel guilty about the decision. Nor should these mothers permit other women from making them feel guilty. Even if you chose to formula feed because it worked better for your life or because you thought it would be best in your situation, you should take pride in that decision.

This choice, like many thousands you will make over the course of parenting, has to be one with which you are comfortable. You have to feel confident that you are making the right decision for your child.

Breastfeeding can be a rewarding experience for both mom and baby and can be a great way to bond. Formula feeding, though, also can be a great way to bond. Plus using a bottle opens up the bonding experience to more players than just mom. Dad, or even Grandma, can be in on the bottle-feeding experience, which will give your baby a wealth of people who are spending time with him or her and creating strong emotional ties for life.

The Downside of Playgroups

Playgroups are all the rage. Every parent wants his or her child to have the social development nurtured when playing with other children. I am the same way, but I have been able to admit that perhaps the hype about playgroups is a little more positive than it has to be. They are not, in other words, what they are cracked up to be and do not work in every situation. The cons of playgroups are something that all new moms should consider.

First, playgroups are tougher to find that many magazine articles will lead you to believe. Playgroups are viewed as get together spots for new moms, and in these articles, mom is able to just hop into a group. The reality is that most of the time, these moms knew each other in some capacity before the playgroups began. They may go to church together, work together, or live in the same neighborhood.

Many of them are cliquish and do not take well to newcomers to the group. New moms also may find that the other mothers in the group do not share their political or social beliefs, which is something that is never discussed. When I took my infant son to a few meetings, I found that the other women thought that moms who work outside the home are immoral and are doing a disservice to their children. Most of my friends work (hence my need to find other moms for a playgroup) and will continue to do so. I am at home only because I have the luxury of being in a flexible field.

Playgroups also will be the first place where your child will deal with peer pressure. Okay, it is mom who will deal with the peer pressure, but it is there nonetheless. Moms will compare which babies roll over, gurgle, and crawl, and if your baby does not stack up, everyone will know. If someone else has an infant who has not mastered a developmental task, then watch out. That mom will tell you ad nauseum about why Baby Bob just does not make an attempt to stand yet. You probably do not care, but Mom will let you know anyway lest you think that Bob is just slower than the other infants.

Moms in playgroups also will try to show off what their babies can do. I will admit that this phenomenon is not limited to playgroups. We have been in many situations when other parents and grandparents want us to coo at their babies. The reality, though, is that other people are not as impressed with your progeny as you are. I try to keep that in mind when it comes to my own son, who I think is wonderful. I know that other people do not see him in the same way, however, and I try to keep that in mind.

Playgroup moms still will try to show you what their babies can do, however, although you have a baby the same age. They will want you to clap over their babies and their accomplishments. While you certainly want to cheer on other babies because they are learning so much so quickly, you also will want to show that enthusiasm on your own without Mom holding you hostage. I have no idea why playgroups evoke this kind of one-upmanship, but my theory is that many of these moms need something to prove their worth.

These women were likely in career fields for years before having children, and they probably were successful. Now that they are stay-at-home moms, they are trying desperately to show the world that they are doing something with their lives. Unfortunately for their children (and the moms around them) that something comes in the form of showing baby off to anyone and everyone.

If you do want to find a playgroup, by all means go ahead. Just beware that there is a darker side than the rosy pictures you will see. There are moms who fight with each other, babies who do not get along, and gossiping in many of these groups. Try to find a group of women who share something with you, such as a hobby, so that you can have something in common besides your babies.

Tasks In the Last Month of Pregnancy

When most women get to the 36-week mark in pregnancy, they find that they are ready to have the baby. Summer babies cause Mom to be hot and tired. Winter babies make Mom feel bulky because of the added bundle under already heavy clothing. Whenever your baby is born, you will find that you get to a point when you cannot wait to have your own body back and for your baby to arrive. Still, you may look around and find that there is much to do. What should be done now so that you will be prepared for the arrival of your little one?

The first thing you should make sure that you have done is select a pediatrician. Most pediatricians set up times to talk to new parents. You can get a feel for how the doctor treats patients and also if your philosophies will mesh, particularly if you have any non-mainstream beliefs. Ask the pediatrician what you should do when the baby is born. In most cases, the staff at the hospital will send notification of the birth to the pediatrician, but you probably still will need to call to make an appointment.

Second, you should make arrangements for any children or pets you currently have at home. You should have at least two people who have agreed to watch your children, making sure that one person understands he or she is a back-up. You do not want to get into a situation where the person who is supposed to take your child is for some reason unavailable. Also check with a trusted friend or neighbor about your pets. Be sure that you pack a bag for your child and keep an extra stash of food for your pets beginning now so that you do not have any problems with having enough while you are in the hospital.

Next you should be sure that you have all important phone numbers handy. Your spouse or birthing partner should have clear instructions on who should be called and when. This person should know whether you want your mom to be called before the baby is born or whether you would prefer no one know. Include the friends and family members who should be notified and indicate who you know the person will need to call. Grandma Ethel may be on the list, but you know that your mom will call her first. That may not go for Aunt Sue, who you love but everyone else hates. Let the birthing coach know that the call needs to be made.

You also will need to get your bag packed at this point. Go through your non-maternity clothes. Pick out one outfit. You will want something to wear home from the hospital but likely will not have any need for any other clothing while you are in the hospital. Select something loose fitting (being prepared in case of a c-section) that will go over your tummy. Your belly may still be pretty big, so try to find the largest clothes you can.

Also include one or two nice gowns or long shirts so that you are not having visitors with just your hospital gown on. Invest in a good pair of slippers; you will want them on the cold hospital floor. Depending on your personal style, you may want to include travel-size toiletry items and a mirror so that you can feel good about yourself.

Next be sure that you have the nursery stocked with the basics. You will need at least four pair of socks, two onesies (layettes), wipes, and diapers. You do not want to run to the store immediately. Instead get the basic supplies now so that you can come home and rest.

The final task is the crib. While the entire nursery may not be done, you should be sure that the crib has a mattress and a sheet. The baby will not be able to use a pillow and blanket at first. Put the crib bumper set on now if you will be using one. These basics will help you to make sure you are prepared for the baby, and you should be able to complete most of them in one day if you are behind.

Seriously Consider What Staying At Home Is Like

When I started staying home with my son, I believed that each day would be exciting. I did not know exactly what we would be doing, but I could not imagine that it would get boring. Of course, I also believed that I would do far more writing and take on more exciting projects. After two years at home, however, I have discovered that I am not as cut out for the life of a stay at home mom as I had thought. In fact, I am not cut out for it at all.

That has led my family to re-evaluate our set up to make some changes. The experience has taught me that many women do not feel as happy with the choice either to work full-time or to stay home as they seem to be. In fact, in researching this issue, I have discovered that study after study suggests that few women are truly happy with their choice. That is because we make the choice while considering societal pressures, which is not very healthy.

When you read typical articles about deciding whether or not to stay home, they address some important issues. Can your family afford to have one parent stay home? What adjustments would you need to make? Will the baby benefit from being at home with one parent? How will he or she get social interaction? These questions all are ones to consider, but many of these articles neglect the second person in the picture.

In the majority of families, Mom is the one who will be staying home with the baby, but we rarely take her needs into account. If you are thinking of staying at home, there are issues that you need to consider devoid of any outside pressures or influences.

First, are you emotionally prepared to stay home? While you may think you will enjoy the quiet of your home everyday, think about the reality of what that means. There will be no office gossip (which you may find you miss), no meetings, no lunches out with your co-workers. Many stay-at-home moms face a massive emotional change when they start to stay at home. They find themselves more isolated than they had imagined.

How will you find social meaning? Perhaps your two of your college girlfriends live nearby and are staying home. The three of you could spend time together. What do you do, however, if none of the women you know are at home? Will you meet new people? How? Where? Think about the practicality of your decision before you jump into it.

Where will you go to recapture your sanity? While the thought of being home with a baby may seem pleasant, it can be harsh. The baby will need you frequently, and he or she will not be able to offer much in the way in the reciprocation. While you no doubt will get great pleasure from spending time with your child, some people need more in return than others. While I have spoken to some moms who talk about how they get ultimate fulfillment from seeing their babies smile and coo, I need more than that in my life. Some of this difference, I believe, comes from the type of person you were before your baby was born. I worked in a field with a good deal of recognition and interaction with public officials. Going from that to a baby trying to hold his head up as the highlight of my day was a tough move.

Make sure that you can deal with the emotional side of staying at home. For some women, it brings elation, but others find that they are not happy with the decision to stay at home. Should you find yourself in that position, be prepared to accept it and move on. It does not mean that you have to put your child in full-time daycare. You may look for other options, such as part-time work that you can work around your current schedule or even a part-time daycare provider. Be sure that you pay attention to what your head and heart are telling you and make the right decision for everyone in your family.

Scaling Back Postpartum Cleaning Expectations

Planning now for when your baby is born can help you to be prepared when he or she arrives. One of the first lessons you will learn as a new parent, unless you have the benefit of full-time help, is that you cannot do everything that you did before the baby was born. In the first weeks postpartum, you will find that you are tired and that you may have some trouble adjusting to your new schedule. Having someone else keep you awake is far more demanding of your energy, you likely will discover, than you staying up on your own.

That means that one of the most important steps you can take in preparation for the baby being born is to decide what must be done, what can be done, and what probably will not get done. Start with the basics. The dishes have to be washed, but you can cut down on the number you use. Forget those frugality arguments about paper plates. (My apologies to the environmentalists out there but forget them for a minute, too.) Using paper plates and cups and plastic utensils will save you tons of time and effort that you will need. Even if you have a dishwasher, you will discover that you may not have time to empty and reload it often. Use paper and plastic; it will save you time.

Laundry is something else that must be done, and if you are like me, it is one of your most dreaded household tasks anyway. Try to limit everyone. If your spouse changes clothes after work everyday, try to talk him out of it. At the very least, he can change into one outfit for a couple of days. After all, he is just wearing it around the house. Plan to limit laundry to one day a week and consolidate loads. Growing up, we had 10 or so loads of laundry that we sorted. In my family, we have seven. In the weeks after my son was born, we had maybe three. Most things can be washed together for a short while without any problems. Plan to work on laundry once a week and do as few loads as possible. If you never get caught up, do not worry about it.

Plan to spend some time that one day a week doing other must-do chores as well. The toilet should be scrubbed. The bathroom needs to be wiped down, and the carpets probably can use a quick vacuum. Do not spend a lot of time on these tasks. You can even hire someone to help with them if you can afford it. A teen will help you out for a few bucks an hour, and you really should not plan to do more than a couple of hours of work anyway. Put diapers in only one trash can or diaper pail in your home so that you will have only that one that absolutely must get changed often.

Beyond the dishes, laundry, and bathrooms, you will have to think about food. Having discretionary income is a benefit here. While I would not recommend going out to eat every night as it is a waste of money and unhealthy to boot, you can plan to have some convenience foods. If you have the freezer space, try making a few casseroles ahead of time. Otherwise plan to purchase healthy alternative frozen meals, frozen pancakes or waffles, and other quick meals. Cooking in a slow cooker is a great idea, too, because you can put the food in during the morning hours whenever you have a few minutes to spare. Be sure that you stock up on non-perishables before the baby arrives so that you will not need to make quick trips to the store.

Remember that you should scale back your expectations. You will need your rest. Some new moms choose to sleep when their babies sleep while others try to use that time to get work done. Either way you will want a break some days, and you deserve one. Do not overdo it, or you will begin to feel exhausted. And do not refuse all help. Being a martyr is no fun; let others give their assistance when they ask.

Personality Types and Mothering Styles

A recent issue of a parenting magazine had a question about moms and parenting styles. The article used a basic personality profile to create articles on how different types of women mother their children. The basic concept is to use the popular psychological divisions to determine personality. There are four groupings in these personality quizzes.

The first looks at whether one is an extrovert, which is someone who is usually bubbly and derives joy from other people or an introvert, one who spends time alone and enjoys it. The second personality factor considers whether one is sensing or intuitive. In other words, do you focus on the way things are today or look to the future often? Third, are you a thinker or feeler. I have trouble with this one as I think I am a bit of both. Thinkers consider truth and justice to be paramount. They are across the board with no exceptions while feelers consider the specific situation and take circumstance into account. Finally, people who have judgment personalities like order and schedule while perception people fly by the seat of their pants.

The point of the Myers-Briggs test is that it can tell us much about ourselves and about why we have certain preferences and weaknesses. In the case of mothering, personality profiles can give us an idea of how will parent our children. For example, people who fit my profile are people who work very hard to be the perfect mother. The good thing about our mothering style is that we are forever available to our children. The bad part is that we can focus too much on trying to be and have the perfect experiences that we do not enjoy them.

The point of the article, of course, was that all mothers are different. Some mothers will be the first to volunteer for PTO, soccer organizer, and carpool driver because they believe that being available is of utmost importance while other mothers will want to give their children more space to develop on their own.

Even when you have a baby you will be able to see these distinctions in mothering. My husband and I read about infant brain development since we want our children to expand their minds continually, and we decided that allowing them free play time in their cribs from a very early age would be beneficial. I know other mothers of babies who believe that we should run to the crib as soon as we hear the first gurgle. Those types of early parenting decisions are what makes us different and what will teach our children to grow differently. It does not, however, mean that one of us is more right than another. It depends in large part on our priorities and what we want our children to learn from us.

At a time when women are returning from the workforce to have children in larger numbers than a decade ago, we find that competition between women about their children is heating up. Women are more likely to argue with each other over parenting now that there are no partnerships and large annual bonuses on the line. Instead the mother of an infant who cries often is viewed as less competent than the mother whose two-month-old is a little angel, never mind that the babies were born with personalities all their own.

If you are having a baby, you soon will find that this mommy competition will start likely before your baby is born. Women discuss the diets and habits of other expectant moms, and many moms will make you feel as if you are inadequate if you make different decisions. Breastfeeding has become an important issue. While the early research indicated a difference between breastfed and bottle-fed babies, that research is beginning to even out and show that some of those benefits were exaggerating by poor scientific decision-making. Still, many a breastfeeding mom thinks it is her right and duty to make other moms feel guilty about the decision to formula feed. Before your baby is born, work on developing a thick skin where your baby is concerned so that you can begin to accept your mothering style and be confident that you are doing right by your baby.

Pamper Yourself After Baby Is Born

New moms need pampering, too. Many women who report mild bouts with the baby blues, as opposed to the full-blown postpartum depression, share that part of their frustration is that they feel they have become unimportant because everyone is focused on the baby. Before I had my son, I thought those moms were selfish, too. After I had him, however, I understood exactly how they felt. It was not that people cooed over my baby. I did not mind that. It was as if I had become invisible and was no longer important to anyone. People expected that I did not sleep, eat normally, or need anything, and I despised it.

I will admit that I did not take care of myself after my son was born because I was so busy trying to be and do everything I had done before he was born and be the perfect mother to him that I got lost in the process. With the new baby set to arrive in about six weeks, I have decided that this time around, I will not succumb. I have been thinking of ways to pamper myself, and I would like to share them with you in the hope that you will take advantage of them as well.

First I will be purchasing a couple of books and puzzle books to read while I am in the hospital. While I am sure that I will want to bond with my daughter, I want to give myself a chance to keep my brain sharp and focused while I am by myself there.

Second I have decided that though I am not usually girlie, I am buying myself a manicure and pedicure set. I saw some that were pretty inexpensive the other day, and I have decided to pick one up. It is not that I care about my nails being polished or anything like that. Instead it is that I want to make sure that I force myself to spend some relaxing time treating myself. I am on my feet all day chasing a toddler and taking care of the million tasks that need to be done to run a household and a business. That means that my feet suffer, and by getting the pedicure set, I can give my feet the attention they need.

I also have purchased scented candles and some nice bags of tea. After the first few weeks, I plan to treat myself to a long, hot bath at least once a week. I figure I deserve it. Plus I can think better when I am in the tub, so it will give me a chance to rejuvenate. If you cannot bring yourself to take baths or do not have the time for a long, steamy night in the tub, at least consider getting nice lotions for yourself and sitting in the candlelight in your bedroom for a few minutes alone.

Set up extra help where you can. Even if you have a husband who is wonderful about helping with the housework, you should try to get any extra help possible. Take others up on their offers to bring over a meal or to do a load of laundry for you. When my mother came down when my son was born, the best thing she did for us was to do all of our laundry, including the ironing. Hire someone to come over once a week if you can. In many areas, these services are only $25 or so, and you can get a little relief.

Take some time at least once every two weeks for yourself, whether it is spending 15 minutes alone with a nice cup of coffee on your balcony or going to the store by yourself. Heck, you may just want to walk the block without anyone tagging along. Be sure that you set aside these times to spend with yourself doing whatever you want to do. You will need the break from your baby, your partner, and probably your home, too. It is okay to need a break. Being a Super Mom is not what it is cracked up to be. Those women usually crumble at some point; make sure you are not one of them.

Your Birthing Plan Options

Having a birth plan is a great idea, but you should know that it is not set in stone. There are a number of reasons you could opt to change your birth plan during the course of labor and delivery, and the doctor or midwife has some discretion as well. One of the most crucial issues you will need to decide for your birth plan is whether or not you want medication. Unfortunately for a lot of women this issue has become politicized so that many women feel pressured into making a choice that may not be right for them.

Many women feel, for example, that using medication is tantamount to drugging the baby despite significant evidence to the contrary when it comes to modern medications. The reason for this belief stems from older versions of labor medication in which some babies were born groggy. Though those medicines have been out of use for decades, some people still persist in their belief that using any drugs will harm the baby. If you feel that medication is not right for you, then do not use it. For most women, though, some relief from the pain of childbirth is welcome.

Narcotics are a common option for mothers who are in labor. Let me share some information with you from my personal experience, however. I took a shot of a narcotic during labor with my son because I mistakenly believed (learned in childbirth class) that I would be able to continue to walk around or sleep after taking the drug. That is not the case. As soon as I got the drug, I was kept in bed, which I hated, and I discovered that narcotics actually are intended as more of a grogginess mechanism than a pain reliever in labor.

Epidurals also are a common option for women who want to diminish the pains of labor. Epidurals are another option rife with misperceptions. When this type of anesthetic agent became available, it was called a spinal. The doctor put a needle into the top two layers of the spinal cord. That made some women get terrible headaches, sometimes for months afterward, because their balance had been altered. Today, doctors use a different technique that does not require this invasion of the spinal column.

If you want to get an epidural, you should check with your hospital about their policies. Some women are not eligible because of various medical conditions. In most hospitals, there are requirements. You will need to be dilated to a certain point but not too far along, and you may have time limits as well. Find out beforehand so that you can make preparations.

Many women find that though they have researched their medication options before going into labor, they want to change them once they are in the throes of labor. Some women report feeling more powerful in labor, and they decide that they do not want or need pain medication. Other women were not prepared for how their bodies would react to the pain of childbirth, and they may need to re-evaluate their options. Do not feel bad about changing your decisions; do what you think is best for you and your baby.

Beyond the medication route, there are other ways to deal with pain during childbirth. Many hospitals now offer exercise balls, which work well for many women, and rocking chairs, massagers, and other accessories to help ease the labor pains. If your hospital has these items or permits you to bring your own, then you definitely should consider it. They can make the process go much more smoothly for you if you have something to help you feel better. Other options, such as music, work for some women and not others. I personally wanted to blare my favorite songs so that I could shift focus instead of playing classical music, which is what some women prefer.

Just be sure that you research what you think may be helpful to you before you go into labor. Pack everything up before you get there so that you will be ready when the time comes. Know that you may get out some items while you leave others in your suitcase. Just pick whatever works best for you.

Keeping The Baby Organized

Babies come with lots of stuff. Even if you have requested that people not fill your nursery with stuff, they will do it anyway. Your grandmother will see a perfect little gown and matching blanket (there has to be a matching blanket!). Your mother-in-law will find a cute toy that reminds her of something she once bought your husband. Your friend will swear by a certain diaper pail and get you one, even if you already have another variety. Before you know it, the baby will have more stuff than anyone else in the family, and that does not even count the toys that will start piling in.

Keeping everything organized can be a chore for even the most well put together of parents. Just when you think you have a grip on everything, you will find out that you were wrong. In fact, you probably will find that keeping up with the organizational needs of a baby is a never-ending task. Of course, it does not help that they go through so many outfits and bibs in a day or that they grow so quickly.

Begin now to prepare for keeping your baby organized so that you will be ready to face the challenge when it comes. Start by getting several bins. You can try 15 to 20 gallon plastic tubs. Do not go high-end but get something sturdy. You will use these bins later, but having them handy will be very useful now. As your child grows, you will need to put away the clothes that he can no longer wear. You will use these bins. When he outgrows 0-3 month clothes, put the bin next to your dryer. As you pull out those sizes, fold the clothes and put them away. When you are confident you have gone through all of the 0-3 month items, close the bin, mark the size on the outside, and put it in a storage area.

The next thing you will need to do is to cut down on the number of some items that the baby has. I know. Those bibs are all so cute. How could you ever get rid of them? Trust me. After you have washed them for the umpteenth time, you will know. And here is the reality. You probably will not use bibs all that much. Some people are compulsive about putting bibs on their little ones all the time, but most parents are not.

In the first few months, you will need the little towel-like cloths instead of the bibs anyway. Keep out a few bibs. Try to select a number that makes sense to you. Perhaps you anticipate using two bibs and two cloths per day. Then keep out 14 since you will need to wash them often to keep them from staining. Keep the others in storage (in properly marked bins, of course), or donate them to a local charity if you have the guts.

Limit the number of duplicate items you have. If you are frugal, you probably will not throw that baby lotion away even if it is the seventh bottle you have received. Instead you should return to your bins or assign a place in the pantry for them. Put all of the extras of shampoo, lotion, powder, and other essentials in one spot so that they are not cluttering the nursery but you will be able to get them when you need them. If you are not so frugal, then get rid of them. Make up baskets and take them to a local shelter or donate them to your church. Give them to a friend who runs a daycare. Do anything you want with them but get them out of your house so that they do not take up too much room.

Finally you will need to be sure that everything your baby owns has a place. If it does not, then get rid of it or find a spot before you take it into the nursery. Do not let baby items pile up or you will find that baby never gets to use them, and they frustrate you because they are always in the way when you are in the nursery.

Helping An Unexpected Mom

If you know someone who got pregnant unexpectedly, she may need you to be there for her more than other women you know who will be having babies. While you cannot change the situation, you can provide moral support and advice when needed. The first decision that the mom to be needs to make is whether or not she will keep the baby. For many women, this decision is simple. Some may have moral problems with abortion that make that decision one they will not consider. Other moms may know that adoption is not right for them. Still other moms will want more information about these decisions. If you cannot give information without being too biased, then you should direct her to someone who can be more objective.

If the mom decides to keep the baby and to raise it alone, then she will need someone to help her with the many decisions coming. For her sake, you need to show her some excitement about the baby. Remember that she probably is terrified and worried about money, childcare, and a million other issues, so it is your job to help her through those feelings.

Start by taking her shopping just to get a couple of things for the baby. You should try to get her to get a couple of pieces of maternity clothes. Trying on clothes, especially if you can find a shop with trendy clothes, will make her have fun associated with the experience of having the baby. You also should try to pick up a toy or two and maybe an outfit.

After you have done some shopping, you should sit down with mom and talk candidly about how she will afford everything the baby needs. Point her to books or websites about raising a baby with little money. While she may be panicking about the cost of a crib, changing table, and everything else, you know that there are places to cut corners. She can get a good used cribs or even a less expensive new model.

Also look at the on-going costs of the baby, such as wipes, diapers, and toiletry items. Be sure that you give her an accurate portrayal of how much it will cost because she will need to work out a budget or to see how much money she will need to make to cover the extra costs. Start pricing daycare now as well. Look at possible alternatives to full-time daycare and talk about the differences and the cost.

Help her to make a list of everything she will need when the baby arrives. Then if someone will be throwing her a baby shower, you can have a list ready. You can even go with her to set up a baby registry so that she will get the fun of picking out things that she would like for the baby. These types of outings are exciting because they let the fun side of having a baby come into play.

Once she gets into the pregnancy, you can be there to help with advice on major issues, such as telling her boss that she will be having a baby and planning for maternity leave. Also help her to deal with the hospital issues, even going with her to birthing classes if she would like. Education is very important during the prenatal months, so help her out by giving her books or telling her about things she should know without intruding.

You also can do some good neighbor-type stuff for her. Take her dinner once in a while or buy a pork loin for her when they are on sale. Offer to paint the nursery for her and to help get everything together. Pick up things along and along when you find them. Give her a good book or a certificate for a pedicure so that she can spend some time focusing on herself. Try to keep her calm. Most first-time mothers are nervous anyway. When you add to it that she may be doing everything alone, then you are looking at a recipe for sky-high anxiety. Instead try to be there to calm her fears and provide all of the support you can to make this time memorable for her.

Giving New Dads Credit

I read an article a few months ago that really made me wonder. A man wrote the article for a parenting magazine, and in it he explained how he felt that his decisions were questioned more than others questioned his wife. I asked my own husband, who is a very involved father to our son and soon-to-be daughter, how he felt, and he said he understood. My husband said that when he is out with our son, he gets far more warnings, admonitions, and advice from older ladies and other moms who are trying to explain to him how to parent.

It is not something my husband had ever mentioned before, and when I asked him why, he said that he did not see the purpose in mentioning it. Still it bothers me. Of course, I cannot go screaming and yelling at the women who say things to my husband, but it did make me aware of how we treat new fathers.

We live in a time when men are encouraged to take part in the lives of their children, but many women apparently have not learned that these men need our support and encouragement and not our disdain. After hearing about how other men feel, I am more aware of seeing men out and about alone with their babies.

Women who see these men should not make a big deal out of their presence. My husband and the gentleman who wrote the original article both said that they feel women are a bit patronizing with the “aren’t you the good dad?” bit. Just let Dad and baby be; chances are they will be fine. Acknowledge them only in the way you would a new mother. If Dad looks like he could use someone to hold the door, offer to do it. Coo over the baby. Treat the new dad like any other parent.

Avoid any chance to tell him the baby should be wearing a hat, is desperately in need of socks, or offering any advice on holding, feeding, burping, or otherwise taking care of the baby. If this Dad is out with his baby alone, chances are good that he has taken care of him before by himself. Even if he has not, now is the time to learn without someone hovering over him. Besides, even as a new mom, I learned that older generations have very different ideas on what is right for my child. They do not always think I should be holding, feeding, or burping the way I am either, and frankly I do not want to hear about it. So avoid the urge to correct Dad and move on.

Another gripe the man in the article had was that when he is shopping for his baby, women look, and sometimes even touch things, in his cart. They will make comments about how he should have purchased the Johnson and Johnson lotion or that the store down the street has diapers on sale this week. This man, and no other I am certain, does not want women criticizing his shopping choices. Perhaps his family does not bargain shop. Perhaps he is learning. Either way, he does not need a busybody to come along and try to tell him how he could do it better.

The general rule is that if you would not do something to a new mom, then you should not do it to a new dad, either. Even the most progressive of men are a little nervous about their first babies. Heck, even new moms are nervous about their first babies, though we act as if they should not be. This new generation of men is more involved than ever with their children, and we should give them the respect they deserve, instead of being so critical of them.

The next time you see a dad with a baby in a sling, you should think about how that mom must be at home getting much-needed rest. Instead of questioning Dad and making him uncomfortable, silently applaud him and his efforts to be an active part of his family from the beginning. And take comfort in knowing that whether he buys the right lotion or not, his baby will grow into a child who has an active father, and that gift needs no comment from anyone else.

Four Times When Convenience Wins

When my son was born, I thought that I would choose saving money over convenience on all of the major baby decisions I had coming my way. I had purchased cloth diapers, read up on making my own baby food, and determined to learn how to sew. I soon found, however, that it was not such an easy choice. Like many new parents, I was overwhelmed by what it meant to care for a new baby. Over time, I have learned that there are several areas where choosing convenience over the price is beneficial for most parents.

The number one item on my list is diapers. I know that many advocates of using cloth diapers talk about the benefit to the environment, the wallet, and the bonding process. While some of these claims certainly hold merit, others are not as legitimate as they claim. Laundering cloth diapers costs in both money and pollution, and they are much more of a hassle than disposable diapers. When I looked at the differences in the diapers, I realized that I did not want to wash diapers everyday. It did not work with my lifestyle, and I believe that is true for most parents.

A close second would be baby wipes. My mother-in-law made her own everything and was appalled that I would spend money on baby wipes. We found a great, unscented store brand that worked well for our son. They cost us $1 for 80 wipes, which lasts at least a week. I would be willing to give up anything else if needed for the $4 a month for store-bought wipes. The process of buying large rolls of paper towels, cutting them, and putting them in a bucket to soak with all of my own ingredients does not sound appealing. Honestly after reading how to make wipes, I am not certain that there is any cost benefit from doing so, and certainly for all but the least busy of parents, the time involved outweighs the pennies saved.

Next comes baby food. I really thought that I would make my own baby food and had I been more organized when my son was a wee little guy I would have. Instead I found that purchasing the Gerber version of baby food was far more convenient. This area is one in which the frugal parenting advocates have a point. Making baby food is a good deal cheaper than purchasing it at $.40 a jar. Babies will begin to go through only a jar or two a day but most of them have reached several jars a day by the time they are a year old.

One of the ways that new parents can take advantage of this convenience without complete overspending is to move the baby to table food before the first birthday. Though many pediatricians who go strictly by the book hate this approach, others are less worried. We listened to our pediatrician but in the end did what worked best for us. What worked was feeding our son a baby version of what we were eating. Babies can eat mashed potatoes, soups, and even soft breads in very small pieces early. With other foods, you can cut them really small or grind them to feed to baby. That way your baby is getting used to eating able food, which helps with his eating habits later on, and you are not spending as much on baby food. Plus feeding the little ones table food is even more convenient than buying baby food.

A diaper pail is another area where you can choose basic convenience for your baby. Diaper pails are a great idea. In the past, they were really just a way to have a trashcan in the nursery. Now, though, diaper pails have become super-duper sanitizing machines. Some of them have dispensers for sanitizers while others will wrap the dirty diapers for you. Almost all of them require some type of special bag that you have to purchase.

Getting a diaper pail is the opposite of doing everything the homemade way. This store-bought way actually is far more expensive and less convenient that just putting a small trashcan in the nursery and changing the bag everyday.

Finding Part-Time Childcare

Finding part-time childcare is next to impossible! We are in the process of selecting someone to keep our son a few hours a week, and the process is difficult. Adding a new baby to the mix in a couple of months is proving even more challenging. First, few people are interested in any type of part-time childcare work. In part that is because childcare typically does not pay a very high wage, but another reason is that our childcare standards in the United States just have not become flexible enough to deal with flexible schedules.

Before my precious son was born, I thought I would be able to write full-time from home with him by my side. Oh, how I was wrong! Writing with a toddler is next to impossible. In many ways, both my writing and my son get short-changed. We have decided to remedy the solution by hiring someone part-time, but it is a learning process.

Our first choice, and you may find that this is what works best for you, was to put our son into a preschool setting two days a week. Now, with a baby or toddler, you will not be sending him to preschool per se, but we are using a service at a nearby worship center for our care. For a fairly small amount of money, our son will be taken care of for eight hours a week. We know he is safe, and he enjoys the idea that he is going to school.

Because the school is only two days a week and the baby will not be able to go, we have had to consider other childcare options as well. Like many parents who are looking for flexible daycare arrangements, we have found few good choices. Our first plan was to look at state-certified daycare. Certainly, we figured, someone has seen the need for drop-in care and swing shifts. After calling a couple of places, I realized how wrong I was. The daycare directors who answered their phones or returned my calls all told me in no uncertain terms that I was never going to find anyone. I did finally locate one daycare that would accept drop-ins, but the price was very high for care there.

The reason that daycares are not able to take drop-ins makes perfect sense to me. Each state mandates workers in licensed daycare facilities. These providers must have an adult for a certain number of children. The number varies by state and age of the child, which is why some facilities refuse to accept babies at all. Be sure you ask for minimum age requirements, especially if you will be returning to work six weeks after your baby is born.

Still the requirements mean that few daycare centers have the elasticity in staffing to allow children to come in only on certain days of the week. One option for parents who need daycare most days of the week is to find a place that will permit the parents to pay for the full week although they are not using it everyday.

After the failure of finding a regular daycare, we decided to get creative with our plan. I talked to several people who advertised home daycare in our newspaper. Now using these people can be tricky because you may find that you are not getting someone qualified. Often they are not licensed. In our state, for example, in-home providers can have up to four non-related children without needing licensing. You just need to be careful of these providers because while some provide wonderful care, others do not.

Our final solution was to look for a teenager to come over to sit with our son for a few hours twice a week. This option may be the best for you if you are working from home. We will have designated areas for playing and will be stocking up on games and craft items before our teen starts coming by to stay. My children will be able to be at home in a comfortable environment, but they will not be able to get into my office though I will be close by should they need anything. This daycare choice, while it will not work for everyone, is a solution that seems to be the best for moms who want a little of both worlds.

Examining In-Home Daycare Providers

All states (and the federal government) in the United States have regulations for childcare providers. As with other parts of the government, these requirements are more or less stringent depending on the desires of the people within the state. Each state does have laws regulating the number of children under the watch of a single caregiver, however. Most of these regulations depend on the age of a child. For example, a state may require one caregiver per three infants but allow six toddlers before a second worker is needed.

These requirements may or may not apply equally to daycare facilities and in-home daycare. In-home daycare providers may have a little more slack when it comes to kitchen cleanliness, bathroom size, and even number of children for whom they can care. A fairly sizable number of in-home providers also do not have licensing. They simply keep children in their homes without worrying about the state issues. In many states, an in-home provider needs a certain number of children before the state considers them a full-fledged daycare provider and puts the restrictions on their activities.

That is not to say that in-home daycare is never a viable option. Many a grandmother keeps one or two children in her home for some extra cash, and these ladies are great caregivers for your children. It does mean, however, that as the parent you should be more diligent about your inspection of the facility and what you ask prospective caregivers.

For starters, ask if you can come by when there are children there. You want to see this person in action to know if you can trust him or her with your children. You also want to see how the other children seem to be enjoying themselves. Are they clean? Do they look like they are having fun? Do there seem to be enough toys and attention to go around?

Also find out about meals. Most in-home providers will offer snacks and lunch to your children. You should ask what these meals will be. One provider we talked to would give macaroni and cheese for lunch. As fairly health conscious people, we were unsure how that would work for our son. He has never had macaroni and cheese, and it certainly would not constitute an entire meal for him. You will need to make decisions about these kinds of issues before you decide to leave your child. Also ask about breakfast and supper as some providers include these meals at certain times as well.

Do not be afraid to ask for references. Remember that you are leaving your child with this person. Choosing the wrong person could have serious consequences, so you should be sure that you find out as much about the person as possible. You may even want to call neighbors to ask for opinions if you feel the diligence is necessary.

Find out how long the caregiver has been taking care of children. There is no single answer that works for this type of question. You may be happy with the grandma who raised five of her own children and now loves doting on her grandchildren. Or you may prefer someone who worked in a daycare setting. Still other parents want someone who has medical experience. That may be the case if your child has specific medical conditions and you need someone who will understand them.

Discipline is one of the most important topics you can cover with a potential daycare provider. While few childcare providers will say that they think spanking is okay, many do not count little pops on the hands or legs as spanking. If you are opposed to this type of punishment, then you should be upfront about that now. Watch for the provider reaction to get a sense of whether or not she agrees with you.

While you cannot avoid any problems with childcare providers, you can ask enough about in-home providers to feel reasonably confident that you are getting someone who will take good care of your child. Just be sure that you remain vigilant after you have selected someone. There is nothing to say that you cannot change after the first decision has been made. Keep an eye on what is going on, and you should be in good hands.

Emergencies With Baby

As parents, when our babies get sick, we often find that we are panicked. Of course, you know in the back of your head that you should be the calm one. Act as if nothing is wrong. Be concerned but not overly so, even if you are worried in your own mind. Our sense of calm will help even the smallest of babies feel better. Still it is tough to do when you are faced with a medical emergency with your child. There are some ways you can make the situation a little better, however.

First you should be sure that you get the baby to the hospital in the fastest manner possible. For some people, that means driving while others may want to call an ambulance. If you have to call an ambulance, be sure that you are doing so for an actual emergency. Not only could you cause someone else not to get needed emergency transport, you could find yourself paying for the expense of the ambulance if your insurance company deems your call a non-emergency.

Also be sure that you are putting together all of the symptoms your child is having. If you are a passenger in a car, you can write this information down to keep yourself occupied. If you are driving, then think through it. Go through the basic questions you know you will be asked. Does your child have a fever? If so, what has it been? Is your child vomiting? Does she have diarrhea? Is he eating? Try to remember how long your child has been having each symptom as that can have a significant bearing on the diagnosis you receive.

Before heading out, be sure to grab your family medical insurance card and social security numbers for the patient and the responsible paying adult. You will need this information to be seen, and you may be expected to pay your entire emergency co-pay upfront. If you cannot pay the entire bill, be prepared with how much you can pay and when.

Try to have a support system in place. Although you cannot use your cell phone in the rooms in the hospital, take it with you. Call friends and family who can provide moral support for you during this time. One of the most frustrating things about having a baby who is sick is that he or she cannot communicate with you about pain or other symptoms. The baby also cannot talk to you during the ordeal, and you can feel very isolated. It helps if you can talk to other adults who will make you feel better about the whole situation, even if they are just someone listening to your concerns. Pick one or two people to call periodically throughout the ordeal.

Be sure that you ask any questions you can. Again remember that your baby cannot communicate every need with you. Sometimes doctors will say to look for symptoms such as a scratchy throat. If you are wondering how you will know that about an infant, ask. The doctor should be able to give you signs to watch for or other signs that something is wrong. It is your job to be the voice for your baby, so ask any questions and voice any concerns that you have.

Remember to watch out for yourself. Having been in the hospital with my baby, I know how horrific it can feel. Our urge as parents is to hold and rock and cajole until everyone is exhausted. Be sure that you take time out to eat and drink regularly. Also take a few minutes here and there to get fresh air or stretch your legs. You will feel better and ultimately will be calmer and more soothing for your child if you can remain focused.

The most important tip is to reassure your child. Even if you panic, you should still return to your baby and explain that everything will be okay. Try to make your child feel better. Just because you lost it at the moment your baby toppled the Christmas tree and had to rush to the hospital does not mean you cannot make amends later for losing your cool. Your baby still needs your comfort.

Family Doctor or Pediatrician?

One of the most crucial decisions you will need to make before your baby is born is whether you will use a pediatrician or a family doctor. The decision is based on your location, needs, and preferences, but there are pros and cons to each decision.

First, let us consider pediatricians. They are doctors who spent more time in medical school and residency working on children. They have studied children and their development more intensely than family doctors. Pediatricians are in tune with what babies and children should be doing and when. Family doctors, on the other hand, are more familiar with a wider range of illnesses, and your child can see the family doctor forever whereas some pediatricians have age limits on their patients.

If you opt to go to a pediatrician, he or she will want to see you more often than a family doctor. In our case, our son went in at one week, two weeks, one month, two months, and so on. We had tons of office visits during the first year of his life, and he got vaccines at many of them based on our pediatrician and his preferences for vaccine schedules. A family doctor, on the other hand, may cut out some of the visits and give the vaccines on a different schedule to reduce the visits. You also may find that you are less likely to get a full workup but may just come in for the shots and then be gone. A pediatrician will do a full checkup every time you visit.

Pediatricians often have longer waiting periods, especially for new patients, than family doctors do. The nature of the family doctor is to keep everyone generally healthy. They work best with basic situations, such as strep throat, and they often refer patients who need more individualized care to specialists. That means that they will see your baby in the same way, and you will be in and out. Pediatricians tend to take longer at visits and ask tons more questions, which may be a pro or con for you depending on your preferences.

Pediatricians also are fewer and far between than general practitioners. Pediatricians are actually pretty scarce in some areas, and you may be looking at driving half an hour or more to get to a good pediatrician while family doctors are on almost every corner. Family doctors often are the only doctors around in small towns, so they may be the best place to go for your baby to avoid long drives and waits.

One place where I think pediatricians definitely win this contest is in the way that the doctors treat their patients. Family doctors do not spend their days working with children and may be less patient with them, especially when they are in foul moods or are not cooperative with exam techniques. Pediatricians, on the other hand, chose their profession because they love to be around children and often are more patient with babies and toddlers.

Some parents choose one or the other while other parents do a combination. Because of our location, we have resorted to the combination approach, though it is not my first choice. We have a family doctor who sees our son when he has basic illnesses that need to be treated, but our pediatrician gets the final say in major cases and does all of our well baby visits.

That system works for many parents and can allow you to know that someone who is specially trained to work with your children and watch their growth and development is on the job. That can make you feel better while still giving you flexibility in who sees your child when he or she is sick, depending on what works with him.

Regardless of what you want to do, you need to make a decision now so that you can get your baby to a doctor after birth. Many hospitals require you to have selected a doctor by the time you are discharged from the hospital, so you want to make sure that you have made a clear decision before then. You can change later if the decision does not work, but be sure that you try to get everything in order now.

Dealing With Freelance Work Around Delivery Time

While article after article exists about people who work in offices telling their bosses and co-workers that they are pregnant, little is out there to explain what to do for a freelancer or independent contractor. That is unfortunate because there are literally thousands of independent contractors today, and the home-based employment movement is gaining momentum. If you are one of these independent workers, then you should think now about how you will handle your clients in the later months of your pregnancy and during any maternity leave you may have.

If you are a long-term contractor onsite with a company, then you will deal with them in the same way as a regular employee. You will need to let your employer know as quickly as possible (preferably before you are showing) that you are expecting a baby. You should wait until you have a due date and go in with a basic plan for how you will complete your projects. Yes, the employer can get rid of you (despite the legalities involved) more easily because you are a contractor than if you were a regular employer.

Freelancers and off-site contractors have it a little more difficult when it comes to letting clients know. Some freelancers have continuous gigs, and those involve telling the employer that you will not be able to work at some point. While some writers and other freelance types will say that you should not share why you will not be able to work, I believe that is the wrong plan. Most people can understand when you have life circumstances and will need to take off from work. You would let your clients know if you will be taking vacation, and you should do the same for them now. Be prepared with the due date and the anticipated time that you will be out.

One of the benefits of freelancing is that you have the ability to work in spurts, which means that you will be able to work on projects as needed. For example, my son was born on a Monday, and I was working again Thursday evening. I only completed about an hour of work, but I was able to keep a client happy and still get some work done. Then I could work an hour or two here and there to keep long-term projects going.

The vital point here is to let others know your expectations. Freelancers who work on assignment have the toughest role here. You should give your editors a worst-case scenario, though you do not need to lay it out in those terms. The six-week maternity leave is the standard in the United States. If you want to take that time, then explain that you will be unavailable for all of February and two weeks into March if your baby is due the end of January. Be specific about the times and that you cannot take assignments that will go into that time period. If you find that you are willing and able to take on work before the time is up, then you should contact your editor and let her know. Also be sure that you notify your editors (or have someone do it for you) as soon as the baby is born. That way your lack of response to any emails that get sent will not be surprising.

Short-term freelancers will need to be sure that they clear their schedules. While that may be difficult as last-minute jobs often come up, it is important not to schedule any deadlines within the two weeks before and after the due date. You may plan to do the work early now, but you do not know how you will be feeling. Instead if you need the steady flow of cash, then you should work on selling reprints during this time. That way you can send them via email (or even coax a devoted husband to do it for you) and invoice as soon as you are better.

Keep in mind that you may lose a job or two along the way. I lost one job when my son was born although I had warned the editor ahead of time, and my husband sent out emails within 24 hours of my son being born. While I was upset at the time, an editor who cannot wait for you to have a baby probably is not a gem of a client anyway.

Creating A Notebook for the Sitter

When you have a babysitter coming over, it is important to walk a fine line on instructions. When you have a baby, though, you will be tempted to cross the side of the line that overloads the sitter with too much information. You probably took great pains to find a good sitter for your baby, and you should feel confident in that decision. If you do not, then either you should trust your instinct and not get this sitter, or you should give yourself a very small experience with the sitter. Go out for coffee for an hour before you jump into dinner and a movie.

At any rate, you will need to give your sitter information about the baby and where you will be. The problem with many parents is that they give the sitter too much information, so he or she cannot remember or find everything when needed. You can avoid this dilemma by setting up a babysitter notebook days before the sitter will arrive. This notebook will save you oodles of time later on, so it is worth the hour or so that it will take now to set it up.

You should get a small folder or binder. Then you will need to put information on the first sheet about your baby. Include her full name (for correct spelling purposes), her date of birth, and any allergies she may have. You also may want to put down anything special about the baby, such as that he cannot sleep without the increasingly ragged yellow bear in his crib. Just avoid putting a laundry list of things your baby does or does not like. The sitter will figure most of them out on her own. You also should include bedtime for the baby as well as a rough feeding schedule even if it is only to say that she eats every three hours. Then you can tell the sitter the exact time when he arrives.

The next sheet should be for medical emergencies. Make a copy of the front and back of your insurance card and write the name and phone number of your pediatrician at the bottom. On the next page, you should include the hospital where you want your baby to go should anything happen. Also write directions to your home from the closest hospitals in case your sitter needs to call 911. Put your full street address at the top of the page so that it is easily accessible.

The next page should have phone numbers for three to five friends and relatives to be reached in any urgent situation. You should include people you know are likely to be home and who have some experience with babies. These people should be able to give your sitter an idea what to do in any type of basic situation, such as a cut that is bleeding badly or vomiting. The sitter may feel more comfortable calling someone else and asking, or you may be unavailable. Let these people know that you have give out their number in case they get a call.

Finally you should create a template that you can complete each time you have a sitter. In actuality, you probably should put this sheet first as it will be the one the sitter will most likely use. You would have your name and cell phone number on the sheet. Then have fill in the blank sentences that tell where you will be going, at roughly what times, and the telephone numbers at the places you will visit. Also include a section for notes, which is where you could put that the baby is teething and the location of the Orajel and other similar information. Just be sure that you put only important notes, or they could get lost among all of the other information.

This five-page notebook is all you need for your sitter. He does not need to know every quirk that your baby has or have access to your entire family history to be able to keep your baby for a few hours. If you are really worried, you can include a signed certificate to permit the sitter to seek medical treatment, but in an emergency, you should be fine.

Coping With A Special Needs Baby

Most of us anticipate that our babies will be born perfectly normal and healthy. We have no reason to suspect otherwise, and while all expectant moms and dads have thoughts of a baby with problems, we know deep in our hearts that it is not the case. What happens, then, when you find out that something is wrong with your baby? Beyond getting medical treatment, most of which is fairly clearly set out for you, how do you cope with the emotional stress of having a baby born with something wrong?

The first step is to allow yourself to feel whatever emotion you feel. There will be people who will tell you that you should not let it get you down, that you will prevail, that everything happens for a reason, and all of the other trite sayings we have to deal with pain. Either listen politely or tell them you would rather not hear it if that is how you feel because the reality is that when you have just found out something is wrong with your child, you probably do not want trite comfort. Be angry, sad, or scared if you want. Just do not allow yourself to wallow in it. Get through the first day or so and then start moving forward.

Education is beneficial for most of us. Now, it can become an obsession to learn everything about a condition or disease, and you may deal with that later. For now, though, you should allow yourself to learn about the condition. Your doctors probably will give you some pamphlets. They are a starting point. When someone asks if you need anything, ask them to head to the library or bookstore for you to pick up books about the condition. Or ask someone you trust to look for reputable information online. Educate yourself about how the condition works and what you look to face for the rest of your life.

Find a trusted friend. While you and your partner will discuss the condition, you need someone else in whom to confide. Choose someone you know will allow you a shoulder to cry on but tell you to face up to the reality of the situation when needed. This person may or may not know anything about medical conditions, but he or she should be someone you know will not share with others how you are feeling.

Be honest and open with your spouse. Once you get through any medical emergencies with the child, you should begin to look realistically at how your lives will be different. Try to focus on the sameness as much as possible. A child with a condition that does not restrict the diet, for example, is something for which to be grateful, even if that child will be in a wheelchair for life. You should look at how your lives will be altered and remain the same because of this condition.

Then you should begin to look at what you will do to make the changes. Sometimes children have needs that will require a great deal of care. That may mean that you have to look seriously at cutting back your hours at work or at finding a place in the budget for nursing care or domestic help. Begin to plot out these changes now. While others may be telling you that money is not an issue, you probably are considering how much this will cost you, not because you are crass but because you want to be able to determine how you will pay for everything.

Finally allow yourself to be happy about your baby no matter what. Pick up a stuffed animal. Get little outfits to dress your baby in. Do all of the things that every other parent of a newborn would do so that you will feel happy about your baby. You may find that you are angry at the baby even, and that really is okay as long as you can get beyond it. You will help yourself feel better about the baby and the whole situation if you allow yourself to bond with the child. Despite the movies, bonding with a newborn is not always automatic, so give yourself the time you need.

Claims About Cloth Diapers

Cloth diapers are beginning to make a comeback in many areas. The people who use them promote them as the environmentally-friendly, wonderful option for parents who really care about their babies. The reality, though, is that for most new moms and dads, disposables are the choice. What makes this difference and who is right?

First, let us consider why people would use cloth diapers. First they seem to be a better choice environmentally in terms of them not ending up in the landfill. Even after baby uses them, many moms and dads are willing to use them for cleaning cloths or other uses around the house. Eventually, though, even the clothies will end up in the landfill, too, though they will biodegrade faster than their disposable counterparts. Some people also point out the water waste let off by using cloth diapers. To use them and be sanitary, they need to be washed within a day of being used, and they should be washed in a form of baby bleach and hot water. That means that the water coming from the washer is no longer usable, so it creates pollution in that way.

Another reason that many parents use cloth diapers is that they believe them to be more comfortable on the bottoms of little guys and girls. Now, of course, no one knows whether they really are or not because these little ones cannot tell us either way. Most newborns are so busy trying to figure out what the heck just happened to them that they are unlikely to participate in any experiment to find out which they prefer.

In any case, some babies may express a preference. Disposable diapers are becoming more cloth-like, but the elastic bands on them and the gel on the inside still may bother some babies. Other babies may not like the wet feeling of the cloth diaper. Studies show that cloth diapered babies are potty-trained about six months before their disposable counterparts, and that fact is probably because babies can feel when they are wet or dirty easier in the cloth diapers. For babies with very sensitive skin, that may not be so comfortable.

Cloth diapers also have the reputation for being less expensive. The truth in that statement is debatable depending on the parents. Some parents purchase top-of-the-line cloth diapers. Taking care of these diapers in the proper way means washing them frequently, which means they likely will need to be replaced. Cloth diapers require detergent as well pins and elastic pants that will need to be replaced throughout the time the baby is using the cloth diapers. The electric bill will be more in addition because the diapers will need to be washed so often. On the other hand, disposable diapers must be purchased regularly. In the early months, babies will go through up to 10 diapers a day, which can become an expensive prospect.

Finally some parents believe that cloth diapers simply are better because they are more natural. On this point, there is no evidence to prove or dispute the point. Instead it depends on the person feelings of the parents. Some parents want to do everything as close to nature with their children and believe that doing so will improve the bonding process. Other parents want their lives to move as smoothly as possible, however, and find that cutting time in areas such as diaper changing allows the parents more time to complete other tasks.

Probably the biggest advantage that disposable diapers have other their cloth counterparts is that they are easier for traveling purposes. Cloth diapers will need pins, elastic, and baggies to put the used products in until the traveler arrives home. With disposable, it is just toss and go. Some parents choose to use cloth most of the time but are willing to use disposable when needed and more convenient on the road, airplanes, amusement parks, and similar places. Whatever you choose probably will not have a huge effect on your child and his or her development. Instead you may be making one in a pattern of decisions about childcare and life that your child will see. In the end, though, you should feel good about whatever choice you make.