What to discuss when you’re expecting

My husband and I went through pre-marital counseling with a couple from our church before we got married. There were lots of books available with questions and topics to discuss before tying the knot, helpful tools to get you talking about important things and expectations so you have less unpleasant surprises after marriage.

I made some weak attempts to see if there were similar books for expectant parents, but an interaction with a client helped me to realize that I could try to tap into my reader base.

So, gentle readers: What are important things that Steve and I should discuss before the baby arrives?

You can answer this whether or not you have personal experience being a parent. After all, I certainly don’t have any parenting experience, but I’ve already put together a short list of topics which is by NO means exhaustive:

  • Estate/will-type topics: When should we go about making wills? Who should be the child’s guardian if we die?
  • Responsibilities: Do I expect Steve to get up in the middle of the night? How often and in what ways will Steve help?
  • Gear: Disposable or cloth diapers; if cloth, wash them ourselves or use a service? What gear do we think is essential? Heck, what gear do parents need?
  • Sleeping philosophies: Swaddle or no? Schedule or no?

I understand that some of these things we can’t answer until we are actually parents and get to know the unique personality of our baby, but we can at least clear the air and get some expectations out there… or at least see the extent of our ignorance and make some moves towards becoming more knowledgeable.

Thanks in advance for your help! Please feel free to include both general topics as well as specific questions.

And if you’ve read a good parenting/newborn-related book and would like to recommend it, please provide a mini-review/summary as well!

17 thoughts on “What to discuss when you’re expecting

  1. Oops. Aaron kindly posted a comment but instead of clicking “approve” I accidentally clicked “delete.” Here is the text of his comment:

    “First on the list is congrats to you and Steve! The baby will begin a new chapter in your life that will never be the same. When looking forward to all the wonderful changes that will take place in the coming months remember to be flexible. My wife and I attended many parenting classes and they were all good but in the end it was most important to be flexible. You and Steve can plan all you want now but when the baby comes the two of you will need to work out your own way of doing things. We had lots of folks tell us what having a baby was going to be like and what to expect, but in the end it was a unique experience that we just needed to adapt to. Be flexible and willing to adjust to your new life as a couple and as a family!”

  2. All of those questions are very good ones to think of, and you’re right to some degree in that you can’t answer them until your baby comes and displays his/her personality and temperment. Having said that though, it might help to talk about what your expectations are about this new baby and how you both will “divy up the responsibilities”. It’s not a strict thing, but better to voice your expectations (or at least think about them some) than not and have conflict when you’re sleep deprived and frustrated.

    Another great resource, of course, is when the issues arise, you can also ask fellow parents (new and old) not for advice, but stories of how they decided to do what they do. Us, for example, have tried several things in each area you mentioned until we figured out what would work. It’s very freeing to know that no one gets it “right” the first time… but the baby is none worse for our inexperienced attempts.🙂

  3. Oh, some other topics to think about (some for later as they’re older, but if you have the time to talk before, why not) are discipline philosophies, family traditions (what kind of traditions do you want to have in your family and pass down to your child(ren)), toy philosophies (this might seem wierd, but for instance people can be either for or against letting their children watch kid videos or maybe you want to be a toy minimalist and rather let them play with old cereal boxes… etc) and investments (are you thinking of investing anything for your child’s future). That’s a short list of things we also thought about before Elizabeth’s debut.

  4. congrats !! Boy, (or Girl…), lots of tough but wonderful decisions to be made regarding being a parent. Some random thoughts:

    – Area of responsibility — who gets up at night, who feed, who bath, housework, etc. Corrie need to have another chart made up to split up/assign the workload before the birth. You both will be too tired to think about this after the child arrives. I hope you two are not falling back to typical old father/mother roles in the family. Taking care of a baby is hard, but most rewarding, for both mom and dad.

    – Start interviewing for a babysitter now. You both will need some me, and us time, to keep you going.

    – Start researching for pediatrician as well.

    – You don’t need a stroller etc for awhile. But you may want to look at the different “systems/brands” out there now, because you want everything to work together. All you need to start is the baby carrier, which is also a good place to put the baby in general in the house.

    – IKEA has lots of great reasonably priced kids stuff.

    – Research 529 and UTMA plans. You can have both.

    – baby sleep training — be tough !! Everyone, including the baby, need the sleep. Let the baby cry it out. It’s hard. It’s heartbreaking, but it’s worth it, for everyone.

    – I hope you have a washer/drying in your condo. You’ll need to have that running constantly. Lots of washclothes and receiving blankets. They are good for almost everything. You can never have too many of them.

    – The classics, baby first year, what-to-expect-when, etc, are pretty good reference books. “The Absorbent Mind” (montessori) is a good one for planing ahead.

    – It’s hard to be green with a baby. Be realistic about this.

    – Get a larger backup drive, for archivng all the baby pictures and videos.

    – start raising your billing rates to save for college !

    P.K.

  5. Disclaimer: I’m not a parent so take anything I say with a huge grain of salt! One thing I’ve observed in new parents is a tendency for (usually) the mother to take over and learn how to do everything competently, then complain later that Hubby doesn’t help. So my suggestion would be to try and make sure that both of you learn to do everything for Baby, so your husband feels every bit as much the responsible parent.

    As I say, my 2c is probably worth half that as it’s observation rather than experience!

  6. ok, these are just super quick thoughts during naptime here…
    *Discipline. Discuss how you think you’re going to look at discipline, how you both feel. Honestly, good to talk about early, but it’s all different from when there’s no baby to baby to small toddler to little boy/girl!
    *Be prepared to do things differently. Talk about how you’re going to feel/communicate when one is doing something differently. This is probably the biggest area of challenge for us. We’ve sure grown in it, though!!

  7. Again Congrats Corrie! With my first, I read so many books and tried to get ready for him but now that I am pregnanct with our fifth all I can say is stay flexible and be kind to yourself. Each of my children were different and I had to alter my parenting style with what worked for them. My first boy slept through the night at 5 months after letting him cry for 2 minutes while my second one would throw up if I did that. He didn’t sleep through the night until he was 3 years old.

    All my advice won’t fit in the comments but feel free to email me with any questions. Oh and def left him help out as much as possible! I bottle fed and my hubby woke up the same amount of times as I did to feed our last one. It was wonderful bonding time for them.

    And don’t buy too much. All the stores like to make it seem like babies need a lot but they really don’t. And people will buy a lot of gifts.

    good luck!

  8. Hi Corrie, I just discovered your blog and love what you write.
    I’d add these questions to your “Expecting” list:

    – what can I put into place now to help me take care of myself right after the baby is born? (book a massage, put healthy meals in the freezer, etc.)

    – how do we feel about alternative health care for our baby? (homeopathy, acupuncture, reiki, etc.)

    -how can we learn about forming a corporation or LLC so that we can actually have our baby be part of a company (with a college fund) right away (Sage International helps with this, so do the Millionaire Maker books by Loral Langemeier.)

    Finally, you might consider starting and keeping a journal for the baby — letters you both write to the baby even now, telling your child what kind of parents you hope to be, values you hope to pass on, your wishes for him or her, even things you are worried about. This will be a priceless gift when your child is older and can appreciate what you put into it. You could call it: What We Already Love About You:)

    Best wishes.

  9. The best advice I ever found out for myself was don’t listen to anyone’s advice. Before you think this is a little extreme the point is that your child is a wonderful, unique gift from God. Every human is a blessed individual and although it may be helpful to listen to what others say, only you truly know your child and only you truly know what is right. Mine are now 17 and 14, and although they aren’t perfect (who is?) they are beautiful individuals and I love them.

    So my advice? Don’t listen to any advice🙂

    May God bless you both!

  10. You could talk over philosophies of how much holding vs. independant play time should be expected. You could come up with ideas for activities to do/ play with baby. You could talk over the top things that you and Steve find most important in your spiritual and social lives so you know where to help eachother after the baby comes and also know what activities might slide for awhile. You might discuss how each of you communicate when overtired, in pain, and stressed out. You might create boundaries for people who want to help you like your friends or family who might be “too helpful” or not helpful in ways you appreciate.

  11. p.s. In seeing some other comments (great comments, btw)… I do want to also say DO NOT OVERBUY. Get a good registry going and anything else you don’t get and need (or even want), ask us (or the other half a dozen new mommies and daddies in Davis) if we have it to borrow. These kiddos grow up fast and use things for a short span of time. Elizabeth is already taking over her own room, her own closet and most of the living room… partially in everyday use but mostly for storage. yikes!

  12. I think it’s not too early to talk about discipline! And education! Ok, education maybe is a little early. But discipline isn’t. Amazing how quickly little junior starts being naughty!

  13. Wow, you have some really great comments already! I think you’ve already gotten a really great summary of all the major areas you should think about now. I would just second the opinion to concentrate on things you will need right away (I tend to get overwhelmed if I try to take on a task that is too big). So the things people mentioned, like pediatrician, sleeping/feeding/discipline philosophy, and did anyone mention car seat?? You need that to just get home from the hospital. As for the philosophical stuff, I read a bunch of books that covered a wide range of views. I’ll give you my advice at Xmastime. So much easier than speed typing now.

    One more thing — you should research a bit about vaccinations so you can decide whether you will vaccinate your baby right away or not.

  14. About the wills — definitely ask someone else who has done that before. It is one of these important but not urgent things that get shoved to the back burner. We just finished doing our will this year, and this was after our 4th child was already one year old!

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