How to prepare for those first days of motherhood early on is some of the best advice you'll get when you're expecting. And while you may not think about how pregnancy will affect your life right away, There are things you can start doing in your first trimester to make your maternity leave easier. Trust me — I know from experience.
When I had my daughter, I was already enrolled in graduate school and taking on freelance writing and editing jobs to bring in more cash. My maternity leave was already going to be a complicated time, and I didn't want to stress out any more than I needed to. I knew that I needed a plan and that it needed to include everything from financial arrangements to plans for childcare, health care, and yes, self-care.
You'll need to strategize. In the first trimester, you're probably not sharing the news that you're pregnant quite yet, so some things like talking to your boss won't be a top priority. Instead, this trimester is where you're going to focus on the behind-the-scenes work like looking at your financial situation and evaluating your hospital benefits. It sounds like a lot (because it is), but it's doable. Set yourself up for a smooth several weeks or so of maternity leave with these seven tips.
1. Prepare to Hand Off Your Work
Make a game plan. Start planning for what you can and cannot accomplish before your due date and have a plan in place for when you're on leave. If you're in a field where you have clients, get all their information together in one place and evaluate when and if it's your responsibility to notify them that you're pregnant. You can always tweak this plan as your approach your due date (and even after baby arrives), but it'll be a huge weight off your shoulder to get this done sooner than later.
2. Check the Details of Your Insurance Plan
Ever get a $10,000 medical bill in the mail? I have. While it got resolved eventually, it's a scary sight and not uncommon. Surprise medical bills happen all the time, but you'll want to avoid them, and these bills will start rolling in while you're on maternity leave.
You need to call your insurance company. I know — phone calls are the worst. But, you need all the information. Is the hospital where you plan on giving birth (or will end up if you experience complications from a home birth) covered? If it is, are all of the practicing doctors and conducted procedures covered? How much will you be expected to pay on the back end? What are your deductibles? If you need something more extensive, say if the baby needs to go to the NICU, will that be covered? Ask all the questions.
3. Start Looking For A Pediatrician
There's sometimes a waiting list for new patients to get in with a pediatrician for a first-time appointment. If you want a specific pediatrician or you're working with a short list of options per your insurance requirements, start the process early. Find out what hospital they refer to, how long the typical wait for an appointment is, and if they accommodate same-day appointments. Your hospital may not even discharge you without a pediatrician chosen, so you'll need to clarify that with the hospital too, ideally before you deliver.
4. Take A Long, Hard Look At Your Finances
Depending on your situation, maternity leave for you can mean a lot less money coming in. I tell all my friends who are going to have a baby to download a financial app like Mint or NerdWallet to track their spending. Most American companies do not provide paid leave, per the National Partnership for Women and Familiess. If this applies to you, figure out where you can cut when you won't have that income. Save all you can during your pregnancy.
Are you a member of a gym, a yoga studio, or community pool? You won't be using those for a few months after you deliver, so find out if you can pause those memberships and save a little green.
5. Review Your Company Benefits
Most of your company's benefits policies are available online or in your employee handbook. If you have to talk to HR, you might choose to wait a minute to avoid unfair concerns about your productivity or other personal reasons — but don't wait too long. Find out what they provide, what the leave policy is, and what happens if you need extended leave.
6. Explore Child-Care Options
Look up what child care is like in your area. I found out that in New York City, child care can cost more than my mortgage. Look into nanny shares, daycares, and all your options. Eventually you'll want to tour each facility. For now, get a good feel for the options and when they'll have space available. It'll be easier to tour these places and interview people when you don't have a crying, pooping baby in your arms.
7. Find Mom Groups And Baby Safe Zones
A few weeks after being home with the baby, you might begin to get a little cabin feverish. Look into mom groups. There are usually some online that begin during pregnancy. Find some cool baby-safe hangouts like a mom-friendly art studio or some recurring baby-focused events at the library. Start building your community now so it's there when you need it.