Countdown to Your New Baby

The outlets have been covered, baby clothes bought, car seat installed -- what’s left to do? In the final weeks before delivery, you may find yourself becoming restless. Instead of counting down the minutes, why not make the most of your time with these suggestions.

Rest up. Ask some new moms what they wish they had done more of before their baby arrived, and without a doubt, sleeping would be at the top of their list. Though ultimately rewarding, labor and delivery are exhausting, and you’ll need energy ad stamina to get through the process. Sneak in as many naps and morning sleep-ins as you can during the last few weeks of your pregnancy, or make an effort to head to bed at an earlier time.

Bond with your partner. Before your new baby makes his debut, and your time is consumed by feedings, naps, and diaper changes, take time to relish your last few weeks alone with your partner. Try taking a long weekend away together or find a nearby bed and breakfast or local hotel so you can play tourist in your own hometown. Make sure to check with your doctor before making any late pregnancy travel arrangements, in case your practitioner isn’t comfortable with you being far from home.

Finish baby prep. You might think you only have a few things left to finish up before your little one arrives, but now is the time to do it. While a new baby really doesn’t need much in her first few weeks, check to make sure everything is set up and ready to go. Don’t forget to sterilize bottles, put sheets on the crib, assemble the stroller, wash the baby clothes, and complete other tasks that you won’t want to deal with while juggling a brand-new baby. Once she arrives you’ll want to give her as much undivided attention as you can!

There’s a lot to do before your new baby arrives, but there’s no need to worry if you don't get to it all. The most important task in your last few weeks is take care of yourself so you can be a healthy new mom when your little one does arrive.

Embarrassing Symptoms of Having a Baby

Morning sickness, weight gain, and exhaustion…expectant moms discuss these symptoms openly. What they don’t always talk about are the more awkward changes to your body: Belching, constipation, smelly discharge, and hair growing in unexpected places are just a few of the joys that come with motherhood . The good news is you are not alone -- even better, there are some simple pregnancy tips that will help lessen even the worst symptoms. Here, top embarrassing pregnancy issues along with their fixes.

Gassy issues

Even the most put-together women typically get gassy during pregnancy. That’s because hormonal surges can slow down your gastrointestinal tract and your changing body means your muscles may not be able to hold it in as they once did, leading to some embarrassing (and smelly) situations.

Your fix: A bit of after-dinner exercise, such as a brisk walk, allows food to digest faster and should prevent excessive flatulence.

Itchy Breasts

Having an uncontrollable urge to scratch at your cleavage? As your breasts and nipples grow in preparation for the new baby, the skin around the area also stretches and becomes more sensitive -- and much more prone to irritation.

Fix: New moms- to-be can sooth their tender skin by moisturizing with cocoa butter after showers.

Luscious (facial) locks

The same hormones growing that full mane of hair can also cause sprout-ups in less desirable locales: Many expectant moms report an increase in hair growth on their faces, breasts, and tummies.  

Fix:  Tweezing and waxing are the safest options for the time being -- leave the more permanent cosmetic procedures until after your new baby has arrived, as laser treatments on the face can cause scarring in pregnant women.

Low libido

With all the embarrassing things happening to your body, it’s little wonder that many pregnant women suffer from a dampened sex drive. And as your tummy swells with the new baby, it’s likely that intimacy will become progressively more uncomfortable.

Fix: Invite your partner to a doctor’s appointment so he can better understand how you’re feeling -- and that this is perfectly normal. You might even get some pregnancy tips for getting in the mood.

Raging Libido

On the flip side, some women report a heightened sex drive. With a 40 to 50 percent increase in blood flow to your nether regions, you may find yourself getting more aroused or experiencing more intense orgasms than you thought possible! 

Fix: Enjoy it! According to experts, if the sex isn’t hurting you, it’s not hurting your new baby.

These body changes are completely normal and nothing to be ashamed of, but the quick fixes will have you feeling more like your old self in no time. And if they don’t do the job completely, find relief in the fact that your body will start returning to normal post-pregnancy.

Expectant Moms’ Pregnancy To-Do List

Not only is it exciting to count down to the birth of your new baby, it can also be comforting. Planning a little each month to welcome your baby home keeps you organized and eases your mind. Follow our month-by-month guide and you’ll be more than ready when your bundle of joy arrives.

Month 1

  • Find a prenatal health care provider by asking for referrals from friends or your general practitioner.

  • Schedule your first prenatal appointment.

  • Take prenatal vitamins or supplements, if recommended by your provider.

Month 2

  • Become familiar with your (or your partner’s) insurance policy so you know what’s covered.

  • Make an appointment with the dentist, as gum disease can increase your risk of premature birth.

Month 3

  • Make a plan for how you’ll share your big news with family and friends; if you work, you’ll also need to prepare to tell your boss.

  • Shop for some new clothes. Your pants will be hard to zip up soon, and you may want to look for a few starter items to tide you over until you’re bigger.

  • Make a budget and start saving for gear for your new baby.

Month 4

  • Start to think about day care. Will it be full time, in-home, or might you decide to hire a nanny? Weigh the pros and cons of each.

Month 5

  • Start planning your maternity leave from work.

  • Think about ordering baby furniture. It can take many weeks or even a few months for certain items to arrive.

  • Treat yourself to a prenatal massage! You deserve the rest and relaxation.

Month 6

  • Decide (roughly) when your last day of work will be and what kind of coverage you’ll need when you’re gone.

  • Consider whether you’ll need a breast pump and then ask around for recommendations.

  • Pre-register at the hospital where you’re planning to give birth to your new baby.

  • Make a delivery plan and decide who you want in the room with you (and who can wait outside).

  • Sign up for childbirth, infant care, and breastfeeding classes

Month 7

  • If you have someone who wants to throw you a baby shower or other new baby celebration, pick a date and share names and addresses with her.

  • Update your 401K plan and your will.

  • Schedule a tour of the hospital or birth center.

Month 8

  • Write up a birth plan and buy birth announcements (or design your announcements online).

  • Pack your hospital bag and have it ready to go by the front door.

  • Install your new baby’s car seat.

Month 9

  • Pick up a few newborn diapers (but not too many -- new babies grow quickly!) and any layette or baby care items you're missing.

  • Figure out how you’ll get to the hospital. Will your partner drive you or will you take a cab?

  • Get a pedicure or do something else to help you relax during the last weeks!

  • Checked everything off? Then congratulations! Now you can rest easy knowing that you did everything you could to prepare for your new baby.

How I Bonded with My Preemie

I don’t think it’s possible to be fully prepared for becoming a mom. When I delivered my son, Jacob, 10 weeks early, I felt 10 times as unprepared for the transition into motherhood. I quickly realized I could not hold him after he was born, for he was too underdeveloped and sick. I could not look down and stare into his beautiful eyes, since they were covered. But I also realized I wouldn’t let that stop me from being his mom and loving him as much as I could. Since I couldn’t bring my premature baby boy home and rock him in my arms all day, here’s how I bonded with the new love of my life.

Embrace your new full-time job. Much of my maternity leave was spent at the hospital, which was obviously less than ideal. But I made caring for my son as best I could in the NICU my new full-time job. It quickly became the hardest, but most rewarding job I ever had -- even without the pay. I just wanted Jacob to know I was there, and was certain that he did. Just because we weren’t together in our home didn’t mean I should act differently as his mom than I planned to.

Participate in newborn duties (and doodies!) While Jacob was in the NICU, I did whatever I could to care for him, just as I would if we were home. When I could nurse, I nursed. If he had a dirty diaper, I helped changed it. I wanted to care for my son as much as I could, and not feeling completely helpless helped me. It’s important for moms of preemies to get comfortable with their baby immediately, and try not to depend on the nurses for the things you will need to do once the baby comes home.

Hold your baby when possible. Any chance I could hold and touch Jacob, I did. The first time I held him was difficult, because he was hooked up to so many wires. After a while, I barely noticed. I remembered learning during my pregnancy that skin to skin contact is one of the first and best things to do with your newborn to not only bond, but to boost their health and growth. It was those moments that nobody could take away.

Project your beautiful voice. While pregnant, my husband and I did what most parents-to-be do, and talked and sang to our growing baby. At the hospital, we continued to talk and sing to our tiny love, and knew he recognized the voices he had heard for months. We brought books to read to Jacob, awaiting the day we could snuggle at home with books in hand together.

My emotions were very raw after the birth of my son. I was very scared and upset -- often with myself. I felt inferior, as if my role as a mom wasn’t up to par with other moms. I felt responsible, but also determined to do everything I could to help my premature baby strive. I felt as though we can work together as a team to go home. Letting myself feel and talk to others about those feelings -- including other moms of preemies in the NICU -- allowed me to be the best mother I could be for my son. Now, years later, my son is thriving and I look back on those early days as a challenge well worthwhile. 

Lessen Your Labor Pain

Unfortunately, no one, not even someone who's given birth before, can tell you exactly what to expect on the big day. That's because every expectant mom’s labor and delivery experience is different. Fortunately, there are basic things you can do beforehand to strengthen both your body and your resolve, and during labor to help keep you as comfortable as possible while waiting for your new baby’s big entrance. Try these nine strategies.

For Pregnancy

New mom tip #1: Learn about labor. Find out everything you can about labor from books, magazines, Web sites, videos, classes, and hospital tours. Familiarizing yourself with the procedures and customs at your hospital or birth center will mean fewer surprises.

New mom tip #2: Take childbirth classes. In these classes, you will learn different ways to deal with pain during labor such as walking, changing positions, taking showers or warm baths, and using breathing exercises, hypnosis, relaxation, and massage.

New mom tip #3: Express your fears. Are you worried about labor, needles, or medication? Speak with a knowledgeable childbirth educator or your doctor. Voicing your worries can bring relief as well as practical solutions to your concerns.

New mom tip #4: Keep up with your normal exercise routine. The more you move during pregnancy, the better prepared your body will be for labor, delivery, and recovery. Exercise helps reduce backaches, constipation, swelling, and other unpleasant side effects.

For Labor

New mom tip #5: Create a sense of calm. Make your environment in the hospital or birth center as soothing and familiar as possible. Play some soft music and put some framed pictures of your partner next to your bed. You may also want to bring a pillow from home (if the facility allows it).

New mom tip #6: Get a massage. Having someone rub your back will warm your skin and stimulate the body to release its own natural painkiller.

New mom tip #7: Use a warm compress. Applying warmth is a tried-and-tested way of relaxing aching, tense muscles. Have someone in the hospital room keep a compress handy to warm your back, tummy, or groin.

New mom tip #8: Practice deep breathing. Focusing on your breathing is a very helpful way to get through each contraction. Taking a deep breath at the beginning of each contraction and then slowly releasing it will conserve your energy and help ease the pain.

New mom tip #9: Change position. Try not to lie on your back once you’re in active labor unless you’re exhausted. Instead, walk around or stay in an upright position. As labor progresses, lying on your side can provide rest and may help slow a delivery that is happening too quickly.

These tips will certainly prepare you for your baby’s big debut, but if you feel you need more help managing the pain, speak up or have your partner convey your needs. And remember, this pain will be a distant memory once you have your beautiful new baby in your arms.