Stay Under the Covers
Start with a yummy breakfast in bed before moving on to a Netflix marathon, celeb mags, and a game of Scrabble with your guy. Then, lunch! More TV! A nap! Snacks! Dinner! More snacks! Relish the fact that nobody needs you now (except that super-cute Mr. on the pillow next to you), because very soon that will change.
Do Something Class-y With Friends
Think gourmet cooking, pottery, knitting, or even just a one-day seminar at a nearby museum or art gallery, whatever seems like it would be a good time. "A group of us took a belly dance class when I was eight months pregnant," recalls Rachel Galoob-Ortega, of Arlington, Virginia. "I had gained 60 pounds by then, but the moves made me feel really sexy -- and they also felt amazing on my lower back."
Make a Preggo Flip-book
Print out photos on card stock that your husband and family have taken of you (and your belly) throughout the pregnancy. Assemble them in chronological order, then staple together in one corner. (Or simply order a mini photo book on Lulu.com.) When you flip through the pages with your thumb, it will look as if your belly is magically growing. Take that, Pixar!
You've got a good long stretch of the Wiggles and "Itsy-Bitsy Spider" coming up -- get in your music while you can. "We went to a U2 concert when I was in my ninth month," says Rachele Mock-McGinty, of Atlanta. "It was so much fun, and I loved seeing the look on people's faces, like they were worried I'd drop the baby in the middle of the concert. We played the songs on my iPod when I was in labor, and I don't think it's a coincidence that my daughter loves listening to U2!" Tip: Steer clear of the mosh pits.
Write a Funny Letter to Your Baby
Keep a record of all the crazy stories from your pregnancy, like that recurring dream you have of giving birth to a hamster. Your child will find it hilarious when he's 10. Write the memories down, tuck the notes into an envelope, and file under "Open in 2022." Lyla Gleason, of Waltham, Massachusetts, kept a preggo journal: "It had all my funny observations, like the day my bump was finally bigger than my husband's potbelly! He didn't think that was funny, though."
Cultivate a Mommy Role Model Now
You'll need one during those inevitable 2 a.m. wakings later. "I downloaded Bossypants by Tina Fey onto my iPhone when I was pregnant and listened to it during my morning walk," says Melissa Walker, of Brooklyn, New York. "I loved her advice about sleeping when the baby sleeps...and screaming when the baby screams!"
Throw a Mani-pedi House Party
Tap a manicurist or pedicurist from a salon; many will make house calls if you can guarantee a certain number of clients. Pick a day, invite friends, set out treats, and get ready to see your toes again.
Have a Romantic Meal of "Baby" Food
Plan a menu around teeny, tiny items: baby back ribs or baby lamb chops, roasted baby carrots and peas, those petits fours you're always drooling over at the French bakery.
Slip Into Something More Comfortable
Just in case you haven't yet discovered it, sexy maternity lingerie does exist. Pick up an animal-print teddy or a lacy bottom or two (find flattering choices at BabiesNBellies.com and MommyliciousMaternity.com). Then let the night unfold as it may. And in case you're wondering: The "spooning" position works well even when you're a week away from delivery.
Get Your Belly on Tape
"Everyone told me that I was going to miss having my baby in my belly," recalls Brigitte Polanco, of Philadelphia, "so at around seven months, I started videotaping what my belly looked like when my son was hiccupping or the way he would start moving around whenever I played a certain song on my cell phone." Keep your phone handy to catch those karate kicks.
Make a Date With Mom
Once your baby's born, you might want to scoot out of the house when your mother comes to visit: free sitting! For now, treat her to lunch, pick her brain for parenting wisdom, and be ready to hear "It's the best, toughest job in the world" about, oh, 50 times.
Now's no time to jet off to Bali, but you can make a quick escape. "We drove a couple of hours to a B&B on Lake Michigan, where we dipped our toes in the water, ate old-fashioned ice cream daily, went antiquing, and just enjoyed each other's company," says Kelly Speer Hoffman, of McHenry, Illinois. "We also took whimsical photos with a pair of baby shoes placed in the frame to preserve our fun times!"
Treat Yourself to Something Special
Why should you hold out for a push present when your fave shoe department (not to mention the jewelry counter) awaits? "I was tired of wearing flats all the time, and my foot size thankfully never changed during my pregnancy, so I went out and bought a totally awesome pair of heels during my eighth month," says Meredith Dedolph, of Silver Spring, Maryland. "I slipped them on for my first date night with my husband after Charlotte was born." Ready? Set? Charge!
Organize a Sleepover
"When I was pregnant, I invited my three best friends to spend the night at my house," says Randi Pellet, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. "We ate enormous bowls of popcorn and M&M's and watched Sixteen Candles in our pj's. I knew it might be our last chance to spend that much time together until our kids were in college, and we had a blast."
Ask Your Hubby to Read to Your Bump
"My husband loved it, anything from Dr. Seuss to John Grisham," says mom Cari Dineen, of Westfield, New Jersey. "He would lean in really close, and he always started out by saying, 'Hello, Jellybean, this is your father speaking.' Sometimes she'd give a good kick!"
"What's Going to Be Our Birth Plan?"
There's no way to predict how labor and delivery will unfold (if only!), but it's important to discuss how you'd both like it to happen. "I assumed that my husband would be happier watching sports on TV than doing breathing and meditation exercises with me, but it turned out I was totally wrong," says Sarah Espanol, of Long Island City, New York. Put your wishes on paper so you'll have a document to share with your ob-gyn or midwife. Include whom you'd like to be present for the birth, what you'd like him (or them) to do, and which pain-management options and medical interventions you'd ideally opt for. Some couples also include atmospheric touches (classical music, soft lighting) and how to handle what-if scenarios (say, in the case of a C-section). Then be flexible, says Kim Alumbaugh, M.D., an ob-gyn in Louisville, Kentucky: "Otherwise, you run the risk of feeling disappointed if it doesn't go exactly the way you hoped it would."
"Are we doing circumcision?"
The health benefits of circumcising a newborn are greater than the risks, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). For help making your decision, go to AAP.org and the website for the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP.org).
"Should I Breastfeed?"
This is one decision that may seem like yours alone. But having an informed and supportive husband increases your odds of breastfeeding longer, a study in Pediatrics found. If you decide to nurse, discuss your goals: What steps can you take if difficulties arise? How long do you plan to keep it up? Also, share what role you'd like your partner to play. Do you want him to give Baby a bottle of pumped breast milk at night so you can sleep? Or are you okay with your guy sitting out the predawn feedings?
"Are We Financially Prepared to Face the Costs of Parenthood?"
Not the cheeriest to-do, we know, but before your due date, have a will drawn up. Hire a lawyer, or go DIY using software (Quicken WillMaker Plus) or fill-in-the-blank forms available from your state bar association and at USLegalForms.com. You'll also want to choose a legal guardian, along with a backup option, and include both names in the will. Last, get life insurance, in addition to a policy you may already have from work. Most financial planners recommend a term policy, which offers low premiums. To compare policy prices, check out QuickQuote.com or AccuQuote.com.
"What Kind of Help Do We Need at Home?"
Baby makes three. And your sister, mother, and mother-in-law make four, five, and six. If you're both fine with having family descend, plan ahead and delegate tasks. If you'd rather not have houseguests right away, don't be shy about turning down offers of assistance. Your family and friends will have lots of other opportunities to help out.
Know Your Rights
Of course you deserve a break from your job to have a baby! It's just that laws dictate how much time you can take. Read the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) at DOL.gov/whd/fmla. It protects parents' jobs -- without pay -- for up to 12 weeks after the birth or adoption of a child. To be eligible, you must be employed by a company that has at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius, and you must have worked there roughly 25 hours a week for at least a year. Also connect with a regional office of the Women's Bureau to find out whether your state has parental-leave laws that go beyond the FMLA; visit DOL.gov/wb.
Find Out Your Company Policy
Visit your corporate website or read the employee handbook to see what your employer officially offers; a small portion give paid leave, typically 40 to 60 percent of your salary for a set amount of time, notes Marjorie Greenfield, M.D., author of The Working Woman's Pregnancy Book. Calculate how many sick days, personal days, comp days, and vacation days you have coming to you. Your employer could require you to use them to cover a portion of your leave if you're entitled to it under the FMLA.
Decide How Much Time You Really Want
Maybe you'd prefer to go back to work after 8 weeks instead of 12, but on a part-time basis. Or you'd like to work from home for a while. Talk to other moms in the office to learn how much time off they snagged postbaby and how they worked it out, then think about ways to "sell" your plan -- you want to make it clear that your company will benefit as well.
Prepare To Talk With Your Boss
Be ready to discuss how long you expect to be away from your job and whom you could train to replace you temporarily. After you've agreed to the terms, follow up with a summary of the details. The document's not legally binding but if there's confusion down the road, it can help to have written proof.
"Many women make themselves too available to their employers during maternity leave," Dr. Greenfield notes. The office will survive without you! So don't answer messages or offer to log onto email until you have a sense of how parenting feels for you. Nothing is more important than bonding with your new boss (a.k.a. the baby).
Originally published in the October 2011 issue of American Baby magazine. Updated December 2012.
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