The Three Most Important Things I Do Before Having a Baby

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(While I’m up to my ears in book edits and formatting, one of my favorite bloggy friends, Kendra of Catholic All Year, is here! I’m a huge fan of Kendra’s blog, and although sometimes we don’t agree *cough* Flannery *cough*, Kendra is fantastic, kind, funny, and occasionally astounds me with her amazing ideas (a devil pinata on Michaelmas?!). Enjoy! – Haley)

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If you’re expecting me to say things like “Taking prenatal vitamins” or “Scheduling regular OB appointments” then you’re probably not familiar with my blog. I’m not against doing those things. I do them. But mostly I don’t pay attention to what “everyone” says you are and aren’t supposed to do when pregnant. I’m expecting baby number seven any time now, so I feel qualified to share with you three things you may not have considered that I have learned are most helpful to the successful addition of a new baby to our family.

1. I make a bunch of meals, but not for us.

As a stay at home mom, keeping my family fed is probably my biggest day to day responsibility. But with a new baby in the house it’s really, really hard. With my first, I figured my husband or our moms would do the cooking, but as it turned out it was all that 4-6 adults could do to look after one newborn and we ended up eating a lot of takeout.

Then with my second and third I planned ahead and had a bunch of casserole and crockpot meals in the freezer. And that was good.

But then we relocated to LA and it got even better.

When we moved from Chicago to Los Angeles, I was worried that we would be surrounded on all sides by celebrities and medical marijuana advocates. But I could not have been more wrong. I’m sure those folks are around here somewhere, but what we have found in Los Angeles is a vibrant Catholic community and dozens of devout Catholic families of all sizes.

And this community has the best unofficial ministry I’ve even been a part of: when you have a baby, people bring you dinners. Lots of people. Lots of dinners. When we were new to the area, people I barely knew (who are my dear friends now!) drove well out of their way to bring us dinner, a few times a week, for weeks.

I am convinced that nothing is more helpful to families with a new baby.

I had never heard of anything like this when I lived in San Diego or Northern California or Chicago. Hopefully it’s a tradition that’s alive and well in those and other communities as well and I just didn’t know the right people. But if you live in a place where meal delivery isn’t the norm, I can’t imagine anything you could do that would be more beneficial to your community than to get this tradition up and going.

Instead of (or in addition to) packing your own freezer with prepared meals while you are pregnant, bring a meal (or some takeout if cooking isn’t your thing) to the family of every new baby who comes along. Even if you don’t know them that well. Then, when you have your baby, you’ll get meals delivered to you!

There are some great websites to help organize your efforts. My friends use TakeThemAMeal.

*note from Haley: my friend Katherine wrote a great post about how to gift meals!*

2. I maintain family traditions, but only ones that I like.

Especially if this is your first baby, think long and hard about the expectations you want to create in yourself and your offspring.

Do you love scrap booking? Is collecting hair samples and ticket stubs and keeping track of dates and milestones totally your thing? Great. Then by all means make your baby a very complicated baby book. Because odds are, you’ll want to do that for all your subsequent children as well.

But if you do not love that sort of thing, don’t do it. Seriously, just don’t. Even if your aunt gave you a baby scrapbook kit.

I did a baby scrapbook for my first, and found it very involved and time consuming. It was totally not going to happen with my second who came along nineteen months later, until my (at the time) single sister took pity on me (or on baby Betty) and made the whole thing.

Since then, I’ve made the other kids baby books, but I’ve done it in a way that works for me: almost all photos, a few milestone notes if I happened to mark down on the calendar when baby rolled over, and I put the whole thing together in an evening on Shutterfly sometime before the next baby comes along.

Same goes for professional photos. Unless you want to drag three and four and seven kids to the mall photo studio once a month, think about whether you really want to get that twelve month photo frame for your first.

I did photos of my oldest every three months of the first year, so I’ve kept it up with the rest of the kids. We display the photos in a little five photo hinged frame for each child. It’s kind of a pain, but do-able for us. The kids really love to see themselves as babies, and it’s interesting to compare who could sit up or stand at a particular age.

I also sew each baby a little quilt and make a baby shirt with his or her name on it. That last one turned out to be a really good idea because my babies all look exactly the same. If they didn’t all have the little shirts with their names on them, I’d never know which baby is which in their newborn photos.

But the point is, if you do something for baby because you think you ought to or because other people do it odds are you won’t keep it up and then you’ll feel guilty. But if you only start traditions that you love and are excited about, you’re much more likely to keep them up. And all of it is extraneous anyway, so feel free to opt out of all of it.

3. We go on a babymoon.

It’s hard to get away, especially with multiple kids in the house. It’s hard to justify spending money on a vacation right before we get the expense of a new addition to the family, but for us, having a babymoon before each baby has been a really great tradition. We are lucky enough to have family pretty close and willing to babysit.

We keep it pretty simple and usually stay locally. We’ll go to a hotel for a night or two and do some touristy things around town and connect and interact in a way that’s hard to do at home.

Especially once there are other kids to worry about, but even with a first baby, at home we’ve got a routine and our chores and hobbies. When we make a point of going away, we have no choice but to talk together and hang out and gaze into each other’s eyes and all that other stuff we used to do when we were dating but somehow isn’t at the top of the priority list now that there are eight people living in our house.

This baby is due in a couple of weeks, so we just went on babymoon number seven, and I managed to learn a few things, even after all these kids! I wrote about it here.

I’m trying to think of other stuff I do to get ready, since I probably should have done it already. But really, those are the things that have been the most helpful for us, and the things I like doing. So those are the things I’ve managed to keep up, year after year, baby after baby.

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The header of Kendra Tierney’s blog, Catholic All Year, says it’s about homemaking, homeschooling, and Catholic life. But sometimes it’s also about things she’s watched on Netflix streaming, her campaign to get all cry rooms filled with cement, and Zombie apocalypse birthday parties. Why the good people at Ignatius Press thought it was a good idea to let her write a book about confession for kids is anyone’s guess. But they did, and it comes out in the new year. If you’d like to join in the Catholic All Year Baby Watch 2013, come like us on Facebook and we’ll keep you posted on number seven’s arrival. Kendra is thrilled to be guest posting for Haley who is busy putting the finishing touches on what promises to be an epic liturgical year cookbook, and is probably right about Flannery O’Connor.

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Comments

  1. says

    Excellent advice all around. I hope we can do a baby moon for the next little one. Haven’t done one yet (with 3 kids), and it is such a good idea! Also, where can we find a close up picture of those heels? Killer dress!

    <3 jeni

  2. says

    Also Haley, you can do it! Get er done. (er… attempting to send encouragement w/ your ebook!)

    And I just noticed the Josie Fundraising button on the side :) Really nice!

  3. luisa says

    Kendra, what part of LA were you? I also spent some time in the Pasadena area with a beautiful community of loving Catholic families who changed my life forever.

    • says

      We live in “the valley” but make the trek out to Pasadena for Rosary group (when I had all littles) and now for homeschool park day. It IS such a beautiful community. I feel so blessed.

  4. says

    Our friends and families made meals for us when both our daughters were born, and I agree, it’s one of the biggest blessings of all the baby gifts. We do it for all our new-baby friends now, too, and I love organizing groups for it. One of my dearest friends and I talk all the time about how much ministering goes into making a meal for someone. We’ve talked often about what a sweet gift it would be to just take your stay-at-home-mom friend a freezer meal just because. Being SAHMs, we know how precious those things are! :)

  5. says

    I laugh at the baby book/scrapbook. A few years ago my mom was going through some old things and found our baby books. My baby book (i’m the first born) was filled out nicely with every picture and inch filled in…my sisters had the first page filled in LOL

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