Everything changes when you have a baby. It's a cliché, to be sure, but only because it's absolutely true. There are some parenting decisions you can (and probably should) wait to make until your baby shows up and you have a chance to figure things out. After all, every single baby is different. There are other decisions, however, that you and your partner need to make before your baby is born.
In fact, you need to make some of these decisions before you even get to the hospital to give birth — like if your partner wants to cut the cord or catch the baby, how you plan to feed your baby (at least if everything goes as planned), what immediate vaccinations you want your baby to receive, who you want your baby's doctor to be, and if you want them to be circumcised after birth. It's stressful to make all of these choices in such a short amount of time, but it's necessary. Trust me when I say you don't want to make these decisions when you're exhausted and your emotions are out of control, or if something happens and you can't weigh in at all.
You also need to figure our what will happen after you take your baby home, and the fun (read: emotionally taxing, physically and mentally exhausting) hard stuff starts. For example, who will do what in terms of child care and how having a baby might change your careers? Will one or both of you take parental leave, and can you afford it? Will you both work or will one of you stay home? There's so much to decide, and most of it is not a "given."
For my partner and I, some of these conversations were no big deal. We are 100 percent pro-vaccination, I wanted to give breastfeeding a try, and we are against circumcision. For other decisions, however, we needed to work things out in terms of physical and emotional labor and work/life balance. Life with a newborn hasn't been easy, to be sure, but it's definitely easier than it likely would have been had we not made some decisions in advance.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I honestly had no idea that we would need to find a doctor for our baby before she was born. Then my partner and I toured the hospital and they described the entire process for her care. I am so glad we were able to talk about what we were looking for in a doctor and interview candidates before our daughter entered the world.
It's expected that partners cut the umbilical cord, or even catch their babies, when they are born. I honestly thought it was a given. As it turned out, my husband was not interested in either of those things, and preferred to hold my hand instead. I am so glad we talked his role in childbirth before the big day arrived.
When it came to my baby, the answer was all of them. Still, I am glad my partner and I decided this before we got to the hospital and had a nurse question whether or not we wanted our daughter to get the Hepatitis B vaccine after birth, or wait until a later date. The last thing I wanted after childbirth was to have to weigh options and thing about, well, anything except snuggling my baby.
I am going to be honest, I was super relieved to not have to have a discussion about circumcision with my first husband when I was pregnant with my daughter. I was totally against the procedure for ethical reasons, and I didn't know what my husband would want. Then I wound up pregnant with our son, and our family doctor asked if we wanted him circumcised, and we answered "no" at the same time. I was so relieved to find out we wouldn't be fighting about it.
When my husband and I first talked about how we'd feed our son, I told him about my struggles with undersupply, which caused me to blame myself for my daughter having to be readmitted to the NICU. I told him about my postpartum depression, and how I didn't really fall in love with her until I switched to formula.
His response? "Let's just do formula," he said, "I want you to be OK." Then I told him about my amazing experience combo-feeding my second child, which was something that I never thought would be possible. He told me that he would support me no matter what I decided or how things worked out, and he totally did. I am so glad we talked about it in advance.
Neither of my partners were able to take parental leave after our babies were born, which is something we found out the hard way. It totally sucked. I, on the other hand, was able to get paid leave the first two times I had a baby. I only took a couple of weeks off this last time, and then returned to work part-time from home because, well, we needed the money.
We have got to do something about paid leave policies in our country, because, seriously, it really sucks to have to make these kinds of decisions. But, for now, it's good to explore these things ahead of time, so that you aren't put in a bad spot.
It's 2017. It's no longer a given that moms will stay home and feed babies and dads will work and remain clueless when it comes to changing diapers. My husband and I have had a lot of discussions about who does what around the house. Gender roles aren't our thing, and I am convinced that our world would be a more equitable place if we raise our sons to see their dads cooking and cleaning and to understand that they, too, need to learn to excel at so-called “women’s work.”
Whether you want to (and are able to) stay home with your kids, pay for daycare and work or go to school, or find a stay-at-home gig, you should definitely make some of these decisions ahead of time and based on your values, budget, careers, and desires. Remember, nothing is set in stone and you can make a plan that works for you and your partner.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I swore I would never bring her to bed with me. I mean, I had always planned on having her sleep in our room for the first few months, but she was never going to sleep in bed with us. Never. That plan totally went out the window on her first night home from the hospital. We weren't prepared, so bed-sharing was the only thing that worked.
My point is, I recommend buying a crib and a co-sleeper and deciding with your partner who will do what in terms of night wake-ups, way before your baby is born. It will save you a lot of tired arguments and having to make decisions when you are exhausted and losing your mind.
Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries: