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Should I move across the country while I’m pregnant?

I am five-and-a-half months pregnant, and my husband and I are considering moving. We live in New York, where we are happy and settled, but always knew we would not stay forever. The plan is to move to a very beautiful area in Northern California, where my husband’s family lives. I feel like it could be good to move now, because I’ve heard the birthing scene is progressive out there. And I’d be enjoying sunny coastal walks with the baby. But maybe it’s crazy to move so late in the pregnancy. Should we wait? – Large and In Limbo

Dear Large,

Sounds like you have some nice options on either end, which is great news. It doesn’t necessarily make your choice any easier, but at least it takes the pressure off. What you need to think about is what the next year of your life is going to look like, and how you’ll be able to get what you need wherever you are. Of course, there’s a lot you can’t plan for in the unpredictable world of birth and new parenthood. But there are some things most parents would agree are incredibly helpful during this time: you need to feel cared for, plugged into resources, connected to the world, and minimally stressed by anything other than caring for the baby. Here’s a closer look at these needs; ideally, you’ll want:

A Caregiver You Feel Good About.

You are right that the Northwest tends to be on the more progressive side when it comes to birth. If that’s what you’re after, you’ll probably find it. But it’s not always easy to get your choice caregiver at the very end of pregnancy – this totally depends on the caregiver and local resources, but to be on the safe side: Research your West Coast care options now. Call midwives, doulas, birthing facilities or birth educators in the area and ask what your options would be. Also, are you happy with your New York City provider? It’s not necessary to move west for progressive care; there are midwives and doulas in the city. They may not give you that all-encompassing NoCal vibe, but they could meet your needs.

A Strong Support System.

After the birth, it’s important to have people around who can really help. A new mother is doing a ton of work and she needs to be mothered. Serious lack of support has been linked with postpartum depression. You may feel more secure and connected in New York where you have friends, colleagues and neighbors . . . or in California with your husband’s family. How is your relationship with your in-laws? Getting support requires accepting it. And it can be hard to show real vulnerability with people you may otherwise be seeking to impress or keep at a polite distance. When you imagine your in-laws sweeping in with rotisserie chickens and swaddling blankets, do you feel comfortable? Ditto with the NYC posse. Will they take care of you, or will you be taking care not to offend them?

A Reasonably Comfortable Physical Environment.

Those sunny coastal walks you mentioned could do wonders for a cooped up new mom. Which may or may not compensate for returning home to a mountain of unpacked boxes, an unfurnished living space, or a place you moved into under time pressure but never really liked. Do you feel confident that you could find a new place you’ll feel good about by birth time? How do you feel about the space you’re in now? If it’s cramped and you’re already “out of here,” you may feel frustrated or as if you’re living in transit. New mothers tend to spend a lot of time on the couch feeding their babies. Think about what you’ll be looking at. And whether you like that view.

Connection.

Moving to a new place often involves a period of isolation. Sometimes this is really welcomed: the feeling of being fresh and new and out there in a curious place is exciting. But sometimes it can be very lonely. New mothers can feel isolated even in a very familiar place. Isolation is also associated with depression no matter when in your life it happens. Being around other new mothers can be so important to help give you perspective, an outlet for ranting and raving, and a network for sharing advice on baby care. So think about where you have connections to other mothers and friends: this may be the west coast, this may be NYC.

A Manageable Amount of Stress.

You need to think about the reality of the actual move. At five and half months, you basically have three months to pack, move and settle. That’s not a huge amount of time. If you have a house waiting for you, a make-it-happen husband and the resources to pay for movers who will all but pack and unfold your underwear, you’ll be cruising. If you are planning a U-Haul, DIY move, you need to think seriously about the fact that you may need help tying your shoes by the time you get there. We’ve seen women move continents at seven months. But not everyone is up for Extreme Nesting. It may seem better to get the stress over with now. But if you find that you’re desperate to get it done because you fear that once you have a baby you won’t be able to move from one room to the other, let alone coast-to-coast, we want to reassure you. Newborns are quite portable, and often spend a lot of their time asleep. You won’t be messing with a baby’s schedule or attachment to a space; new babies are generally erratic and can hardly see past the tip of their parents’ noses. So try to remain calm about that possibility.

We want to end on a positive note. Moving is challenging, so is becoming a parent. But both are pretty exciting, too. Like so many decisions to come, this one will be best made by sitting down and talking out the pros and cons with your partner. Look at what each scenario involves in a realistic way. Consult your gut. (Women in pregnancy can be very smart about what they need and when they need it.) Then make a decision together and move on.

Have a question? Email beingpregnant@babble.com

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