The last few months of pregnancy can be a time of endless lists: what to bring to the hospital, include in the baby’s layette, and stock in your medicine cabinet and refrigerator. Amid buying witch-hazel pads and frozen lasagna, remember to focus on less immediate organizational needs that are just as important.
A Network of Care
Having a baby makes you grateful for every person who plays a role in his or her life. Here are a few to contact now:
Medical coverage: Early on, find out how your coverage works. Do you need to notify your employer, the healthcare provider, or both? Which pediatricians are accepting new patients? And how many days after birth are you given to register the baby in your health plan?
Pediatrician: Doctors generally want to see the baby during the first week after birth. Bring the pediatrician’s phone number with you to the hospital so that you can arrange this crucial checkup as soon as possible. For a change, you don’t need to worry about scheduling conflicts—you likely won’t be doing anything else those first days!
Babysitters: Even if you don’t end up using them, it’s reassuring to have the numbers of a few sitters on hand, especially after the first month of your baby’s arrival. If you’re lucky enough to be surrounded by eager family members, you’re set. If not, try asking other mothers for babysitters they like or post a listing on a college career services or local parenting website. I found it was most helpful to interview babysitters after my son was born rather than before so that I could see who fit best.
Lactation consultants: If you are planning to nurse, collect the numbers of several lactation consultants long before you need them. Start by contacting your hospital for recommendations. Sometimes the advice that one person gives will be entirely different from that of another, or one consultant will be on vacation when your baby comes three weeks early. If you can visit two or three consultants to get different opinions (sometimes covered by insurance), you will feel you have done everything you can to get breastfeeding on track.
Spreading the News
With relevant addresses and websites at hand, you can share the good news as soon as possible!
Alma mater: Most alumni magazines post directions online about where and how to submit news of a baby’s birth. Collect this information before your baby is born; I saved the Web links in a computer file so that I didn’t have to think about it. Alternately, you can ask a friend to send in the announcement for you so that it appears as soon as possible.
Announcements: It’s easy to finish everything except the details on birth announcements before the baby comes. Decide on a design online or at a local stationery store and then add the information after birth. Some online services will even address and send the envelopes for you. Also make a list of email addresses for a first, informal announcement, often sent out a day or two after the baby is born.
Making It Legal
You may laugh when your 19-inch baby gets a nine-digit Social Security number, but you’ll end up using it frequently.
Social Security: Your hospital will usually give you a form to obtain a Social Security number for your infant, so you don’t need to think about this ahead of time. As soon as you get the number in the mail (and marvel that your child’s name looks so official), memorize it for all the forms you’ll need over the next 18 years.
Birth certificate: Find out how to get a copy of the birth certificate once you arrive home. Often you will have to go to a local office yourself or pay a fee by mail. Afterward, consider this one of your first excursions with your baby and see if you can find a convenient ice cream shop in the neighborhood!
College planning: With the Social Security number, you can set up a college savings account. Read as much as you can about the different 529 college savings plans offered by states and private colleges, as well as other methods of savings that are not limited to educational use. And don’t forget to balance the baby’s college needs with your own projections for retirement.
On the eve of your child’s birth, choosing a guardian for the baby if something happens to you is not an enjoyable prospect; however, you will sleep better knowing that you have thought about the future.
Guardianship: After you have decided on a guardian, create a will by consulting a lawyer or finding a do-it-yourself kit, such as Quicken’s WillMaker Plus. You can also look into a revocable living trust to help protect your assets after you die.
Life insurance: If you do not already have life insurance, plan to get it as soon as you find out you’re expecting. Many young families like term life policies, usually sold in 10-, 20- or 30-year terms. You can often get better deals by going through companies individually rather than through your employer—check the numbers.
Changing beneficiaries: Collect the phone numbers of your life insurance and retirement savings companies. Once the baby arrives, call to add him or her to the policy. Often your spouse will remain the secondary beneficiary and the baby will be the tertiary beneficiary.
Durable power of attorney for healthcare: Many hospitals offer a fill-in-the-blank form when you preregister for delivery that allows you to say who you want to make healthcare decisions for you if you cannot. Take the hour or so to fill it in and get it signed by witnesses. Fortunately, today’s advances in medicine mean very few women experience life-threatening complications during labor and delivery. However, it still is wise to take precautions. In addition, this document will apply for any situation in the future.
If thinking about all these issues seems daunting, it is—but just consider it practice for your new, imminent responsibility. After a few months, such maturity will seem second nature. And don’t forget to stow away the numbers of two other important people for a few months after you give birth: your pedicurist and a masseuse!