Since our youngest three children were still preschoolers, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with the thought of having baby number eight. Now, don’t get me wrong. I was enthusiastic about having a new baby. She was a welcome addition to our growing family. And I love the newborn stage. It’s just that the thought of it made me feel uneasy, just not quite prepare. So, I decided to make a plan for this inevitable change, and get our household – and my mind – ready for the upcoming event. Let me share with you some of the things I did to make me feel more prepared and ready for baby number eight.
Before the baby was born we prepared in the following ways:
1. Dinners: We wrote a menu to cover the first two months after baby was born. For our household, it works best to have the main dish ready in the freezer, so we cooked, packaged and froze them for later use. Also, we designated our oldest two children to alternate being supper-maker or chef. It was their responsibility to check the menu, thaw it in time, and put it in the oven or microwave. Also, they would add a few simple things to complete the meal, such as cooked vegetables or a salad, perhaps some bread or rolls, and our beverage.
2. Breakfast: We made a list of breakfast ideas ranging from pancakes, muffins, granola, and eggs. Then we prepared as many of these ahead of time as we could. Pancakes and muffins freeze well, as do French toast and other breakfast foods. We also bought additional items to have a variety of offerings: frozen orange juice, frozen fruit.
3. Lunch: Our third child was put in charge of lunches. Since he was a bit younger, we made things very simple: We planned a two-week menu together to repeat two times per month. This consisted of things he could make: PB&Js, salad, sandwiches, canned soup, hot dogs, corn dogs, little frozen pizzas, and other easy-to-prepare meals.
4. Baby items: We went through the baby clothes we had in the attic up to 12 months size. We tossed some, washed the rest, and put them in drawers according to size.
We also made a basket with diapering needs. This included very small disposable diapers (and I wondered if our infant would really be that small), baby wipes, any medicines or diaper rash ointments, and included items for umbilical care such as Q-tips, and alcohol. We also tucked in some burp towels, baby outfits, baby blankets, changing pads, and socks, for when the baby soiled these items. This basket was placed in the living room, where we spend most of our time, and it sure beat running to the bedroom for everything every time the baby wet.
Also, we went to the attic and pulled out the baby items we had stored: bassinet, infant seat, baby swing, and car seat. We cleaned them up, bought batteries for those that needed them, and repaired whatever was necessary.
5. Mommy items: I went through my nursing gowns, hospital needs, nursing bras, and basic mommy needs. I made a list of things to replenish and bought the necessities: nursing pads, lotion for nursing soreness, slippers, and a few decorating magazines to read. I even made a pretty fabric bag to hold all of those necessary toiletry items I would need after the baby, and hung it in the bathroom. You could easily put these things in a pretty hat box or a basket with a lid. At least it makes it look nice and not so cluttered.
6. Baby-sitter: We scheduled several people to be available to watch the children while we delivered, so the responsibility wasn’t just on one person, and it didn’t tire them out. After my previous baby, the day after I came home from the hospital, a friend took my middle children for an overnight stay at her house. She left the newborn and the oldest child with me. That gave the younger children time to see the new baby, then some excitement of spending the night out. It also gave me time with the new one to set a schedule and rest, while still having someone who could bring me tea and meals. It was almost like a baby honeymoon!
7. Nursing fillers: After several days of nursing and adoring the baby, I am ready for something else to do while sitting and nursing. So I planned a quilting project I could hand-stitch, and bought several books on my list of must-reads, to entice myself to take the time to rest and sit for a while.
8. Sibling Time: I had the oldest two children each plan something to teach and work on with the younger children for after baby came. One chose to teach insects, the other planned weather. I bought them some books on their topic that included many hands-on activities. They prepared games, pre-made masks for the little ones to copy, and gathered all the supplies necessary for the activities. This was one of my best ideas. Everyone enjoyed it, and it kept them busy, while not fighting and bickering, for several hours each day. I also planned some activities for the older children with many hands-on projects, that required minimum last-minute preparation on my part, so they would have some fun activities to accomplish while I was busy with the baby.
Some ideas for keeping the older children busy are sewing kits, stamping supplies, origami paper and books – whatever their interests might be. Just be sure to gather everything they’ll need for the activity: paper, glue, needle and thread, scissors, or anything else.
9. Drinks: Doctors always tell us that with nursing, the fluid consumption must increase. So, this was another area I could prepare for. Since I drink iced herb tea with no sugar, I couldn’t just buy it pre-bottled, and when I ran out of tea, it was such a hassle to make more, then let it cool enough to drink.
So, my brilliant idea was to put one child in charge of making my tea, and making what we call my “concentrate.” This is a smaller pitcher of my herb tea, but without all of the water – just like juice concentrate. When we emptied the pitcher of tea, she would just pour the “concentrate” in that pitcher, add the necessary amount of water, and Voila! I had tea. She would then make more concentrate for next time. Simple and easy enough for a child to do. Stocking up on bottled water is another good idea. And making room for the bottles in the refrigerator will allow you to have cold drinks when you’re thirsty.
We also planned some specific things for after the baby. Since we homeschool, the education and schedule for our children was a big concern for me. I didn’t want them to take too much time off from school, so we’d have to back-track and re-learn some things.
1. School: One week after the baby was born, we started back to school. This gave the children a sense of normalcy, routine, and security. However, I wore my house slippers to remind myself that I was still convalescing. We also worked on the 3-R’s first, so if I needed a rest, or my attention was drawn to the baby, we would have the important subjects covered.
My husband went back to work after one week at home, but with the option of his taking half days off in the afternoon, if I needed. We never took him up on it, but just the thought that I could call in reinforcements made me feel more relaxed and more in control because I always had a “Plan B.”
2. Sleep: I realized that if I went to bed at the regular time and woke up at the regular time, with being up in the night to nurse, I would not get enough sleep. I couldn’t sleep in later – with seven other early-rising children, who could? So I chose to get my sleep on the other side of the night, and went to bed earlier to compensate. Yes, it was a discipline to do this, but I was usually tired anyway. And, by the time morning came, I was rested which made it worth it, and made the recuperation time shorter. Another benefit was that with enough sleep, I was able to think clearer during the day.
3. Nighttime feeding: Having been through the infant stage many times before, I knew the nighttime feeding was the hardest one on me. I’m one of those people who wake up fully when I see light, and don’t get back to sleep easily. So, after discussion, my husband and I decided to have him feed the baby a bottle of my milk at night – or we would opt for formula. Since he stays up later than I do, he would feed the newborn between 10 and 11, which would give me until the next feeding to sleep. It seemed like the ideal solution to help me be a more rested and well mommy. This worked well for us.
Some final hints from years of experience: Have your hair cut or styled right before the baby is born, in an easy-care style. This helps you feel pretty and gives you a semblance of looking together after the baby comes. And have a professional pedicure sometime during the last month of your pregnancy. It will bring you great joy on those rare occasions you do see your toes peeking out from under your belly. And after the baby is born, it will remind you that underneath all this intense time of mothering, there is still a beautiful woman.
Kym Wright has been married to her college sweetheart for 27 years, and they have 8 children and love living in the Metro Atlanta area. Together they publish The Mother’s Heart magazine, a premium online publication for mothers with hearts in their homes. Visit their website at: www.The-Mothers-Heart.com If she has any spare time, Kym gardens with the children, and is an avid bread baker. Quilting is done in her dreams, along with painting, singing, and many more activities she would love to pursue.