25 Fun and Festive Ways to Countdown to Baby

From celebrating with others to personal treats, here are easy ways to make your pregnancy memorable.

pregnant woman white dress
Celebrating as you hit all your marks, from an IVF win to a bump that just popped, feels all the more meaningful. Photo: Tara Donne

Expecting a baby? From sharing the initial news to throwing a full-blown party, there are many ways to countdown to a new arrival and note milestones along the way. Time to pump up the joy!

From the Start

Get your thoughts down

Journaling turns out to be a proven way to stay centered and present. "Research shows that journaling can improve well-being and ease stress," says psychologist Clay Routledge, Ph.D., a professor at North Dakota State University, in Fargo. "Jot down one sentence of gratitude, even if it's about nice weather or a good meal. It helps promote positive feelings, like optimism, during pregnancy." The Pregnancy Passport by Letterfolk has a weekly fill-in-the-blanks setup from week 4 to week 40.

Track that baby

A favorite is the Babylist Baby Registry, which, aside from being a shopping app, has an excellent tracker and amusing weekly updates, like "Baby is the size of a Tickle Me Elmo." For daily tips, try the GLOW Pregnancy & Baby Tracker + Baby Registry App, which has a medical log for jotting down info from your doctor, or Hello Belly, which has 3-D graphics and cheeky illustrations.

Sign up for goodies

Click "send" on a pick-me-up of pregnancy-specific beauty products and baby things via The Stork Bag or Bump Boxes.

couple kissing in doorway
Here’s your chance to pick and choose your own traditions. Thayer Allyson Gowdy

Get the Word Out

Watch their eyes pop

Why tell people when you can surprise them—and capture their reaction on camera? One TikTok favorite: Pretend you're photographing your family and have them say "[your name] is pregnant!" instead of cheese. (OMG, their faces.) Or casually suggest that your parents test their vision on a printable eye chart that reveals the news in secret-message form ("Only the best parents get promoted to grandparents"). If you want to tap their sweet spot, ask a local baker to make cookies featuring your due date; find ample inspiration by searching #announcementcookies.

No pressure to execute anything elaborate. Go easy with an editable Instagram announcement template that provides you with artsy eucalyptus-sprig photo styling. You could also employ this TikTok tactic for building suspense: Cover an ultrasound photo with your partner's and your (or your family's) hands and lift them one by one to reveal the news. A simple portrait of hands on your belly is lovely, too, or just grab a "baby" balloon, pose, and post.

thank you letters
Stock up on notes to thank everyone for their well-wishes. Courtesy of Cheree Berry Paper & Design

Doing a Reveal?

You can skip it

Plenty of parents now view the "boy or girl" obsession as archaic. That said, "What are you having?" will be right up there with "When are you due?" so it might feel right to just get the news out.

Keep it between yourselves

After years of pyrotechnics and other really bad ideas, what feels fresh is keeping the reveal intimate. "Make it low-key by going outdoors, opening a letter from your doctor, and having a photographer or a friend capture your reactions," says Boston lifestyle blogger and decorator Jordan Lund.

Invite some light suspense

If you love the drama of glimpsing pink or blue but want to think outside cupcakes, consider a breakable chocolate heart filled with colored candies (order from a local sweets shop or at etsy.com) or a box of pink or blue baby clothes via the Monica + Andy Gender Reveal Box (your doctor can email them the deets).

pink table champagne
Modern showers are more about the feels (and food!) and less about the gifts. Jen Causey

Celebrate All Roads to Parenthood

Share the news

When you begin the process of adoption or turn to IVF, telling others that you're starting a family can help rally your support network and keep you upbeat. As they began trying to adopt a second child, Cara and Christian Peper, of Denver, stood in front of a colorful mural and held a large pen-on-craft-paper sign that simply said, "Hoping." Other possible phrases: "We are paper pregnant" or "Waiting for you."

Consider saluting your surrogate

You can show gratitude for a surrogate, if that's your path to parenthood and you feel comfortable doing so. "Asking friends to share special messages in a card or a book or sending a gift card to your gestational carrier can be a great way to acknowledge her journey and show her you care," says Gail Sexton Anderson, a counselor and the founder of Donor Concierge.

Honor IVF success

To help make pregnancy feel real after a long and complicated path, Heather, of Camarillo, California, had the photo of her baby's embryo turned into a beautiful watercolor painting via a midwife-painter who's made this her niche at Embaby Art. "You get that embryo photo only if you do IVF, so take advantage of that. Our painting hangs on my son's nursery wall and reminds us of how far we've come," says Camarillo, who recently welcomed son Bowie via an embryo adoption with her wife, Jess.

baby shower cupcakes
Enlist your circle of support. Jacob Lund/Getty

Plan Your Shower (or a Friend's)

Have it your way

Don't hold yourself to the old norms of needing someone else to do all the planning. You can have a say in this (it's good practice for parenting). Be specific about what you want, or even plan your own party, which is accepted now, though most folks still have a friend or a family member officially host. If you're throwing a friend's shower, let them collaborate.

Add meaning

"There's been a shift toward showers being more about lifting up the parents and less about filling the nursery," says Jessi Means, cofounder, along with Lindsey Kauffman, of Celebrated, a brand that offers parties in a box. Toast to why the parents-to-be will be amazing, with everyone sharing thoughts out loud. Or have guests take turns naming the qualities they most hope the baby inherits.

Revamp advice cards

Any tribe has wisdom to share, but it can be hard for guests to write super-helpful advice cards (the pressure!). Instead, put out stationery and prompt people to jot down childhood traditions, blessings for the baby, or first-year bucket-list ideas. Or have them write down what's cool in 2021, to laugh at years later.

Get bookish

"Since I was far away from my sis and couldn't throw a party, I organized a 'Build a Library' drive," says Vanessa Fernandez Greene, of Winona, Minnesota. "I invited people to gift a book with a note inside saying why they picked it. They filled out a Google Doc with their choices to avoid duplicates."

Dance it out

Gena Kaufman, of New York City, threw herself a virtual dance party to celebrate—and thinks the idea holds up even out of quarantine. "We called it Baby Zoom-ba. My dance teacher led loosely guided moves to a playlist of songs with baby in the lyrics or funny related tunes, like the song 'Push It.'"

Theme it

How about a "BabyQ"? MyLin Stokes Kennedy, of Fountain Valley, California, put up a tent in her mom's backyard and the family grilled burgers, hot dogs, and salmon. "We did blue-gingham and burlap DIY decor, with sunflowers everywhere," she says. Warm weather lends itself to other outdoor venues too: Book time in a peach orchard or a pumpkin patch, or grab a picnic table at a beach and a theme naturally follows.

pregnant sisters
Sisters Chealsey Williams and Cherish Kollie, of Clarksville, Tennessee, pregnant at the same time. Courtesy of Cherish Kollie

Document Your Belly

Rock the wordplay

Use a letter board as your stream-of-consciousness pregnancy journal. Kaili Reveles, of Amarillo, Texas, captured each week's feels in funny snippets: "29 weeks: partial eclipse of my toes"; "35 weeks: I remember sleeping thru the night without having to pee; good times"; "38 weeks: running out of womb." Says Reveles, "Most were just little puns based on how I was feeling."

Employ props

Blossom and Pear's pregnancy-milestone cards include moments like "Today I heard your heartbeat." You can then save all your weekly photos to an album and have a Mixbook scrapbook of them printed.

Do a non-cringey maternity shoot

Wear anything you feel great in, and keep it relaxed. If in doubt: Curve-hugging clothes help you flaunt your bump. "Shooting against a contrasting background shows your shape even more," says Nicole Trunfio, a model and the founder of the Bumpsuit maternity brand. Try hand on belly with one knee bent. "The hand helps show your belly's shape, and your bent knee keeps you from looking stiff," Trunfio says.

baby toys Harper
Tara Donne

Scout the Perfect Name

Swipe till you match

Have you heard of the Kinder app—like Tinder for baby names? You and your partner swipe right on names you like and get alerted when you have a match. "We didn't ultimately pick a name through this, but it was great for ideas," says Jermain Wrightman, Gena Kaufman's husband. "We had our daughter's name, Nora, in mind early on, but Sana is one we also considered after we both swiped right on it."

Look in new places

Let the credits roll next time you watch a movie. So many names to discuss! Or "I don't know if this is too dark, but one of my favorite places to take a long walk is at our local cemetery, and cemeteries are genius for finding great old names," Kaufman says.

Shake the tree

"We went through our family tree and chose the middle name of my wife's grandfather, Lennox, for our son's first name, and a shortened version of both our grandmothers' name, Elizabeth, for the middle name, Eli," Stokes Kennedy says.

Relish Those Final Days

Take a babymoon

"Call a hotel in a nearby town and ask if they have a local-resident rate. Many do," says Carla Tracy, a travel and restaurant public relations pro in Portland, Maine. You might be able to find a bargain on a weekday with business travel still slow. Or treat yourself to an Airbnb. "We rented a house on the beach and took great outdoor pregnancy photos," Camarillo says.

Record a "baby mama" dance

This TikTok tradition might even help you go into labor. (It's happened!) If you don't have TikTok, look it up on YouTube.

Perfect your push-time playlist

Music can establish a chill-yet-motivating vibe in the delivery room. Take your time curating your sound track now (and get the bickering over song choices out of the way) so it'll be ready when your baby is. Cue Tiësto: "Let's get down, let's get down to business."

This article originally appeared in Parents magazine's August 2021 issue as "Oh Baby, Let's Party." Want more from the magazine? Sign up for a monthly print subscription here

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