I'm a worrier. It's no surprise — it comes along with being a planner. It's what we do. We try to plan the unplannable, to imagine the unimaginable, and to control the uncontrollable.
That control one is a biggie. A wise friend told me while I was pregnant with my first baby that the cutting of the umbilical cord is just the first step in a long series of actions of letting go. To be a parent is to give up more and more control and let things happen, hoping that you've laid the groundwork for something spectacular.
This can be a freeing thing, though, not just a sad or hard act of letting go. And you can start early — as soon as during pregnancy — so let's take some stuff off your to-do list, shall we?
Here are some things you don't need to waste your time on while waiting for your baby to arrive.
1. Buying New Stuff
You won't believe the things you can find second-hand or get for cheap off a listserv. Once your baby is born, people will bring you presents. If they have slightly older children, they'll likely also bring you bags of stuff they can't wait to get out of their homes. You will only use it all for a hot minute anyway, so don't worry about it all being brand new.
As someone whose kids went through a collective total of five different types of baby swings, without either kid ever actually enjoying said baby swings, it's not worth spending a fortune on gadgets. Same with clothing. They grow so fast and spit up so much! It's fun to splurge on a few outfits you love, but in general, any old weather-appropriate thing will do the job, for the 10 minutes your kid will wear it before pooping all over it.
2. Setting Up the "Perfect Nursery"
First of all, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends "infants to share their parents' bedroom for at least the first six months and, optimally, for the first year of life, based on the latest evidence." So that gorgeous color scheme you worked out? It might not see any action for quite some time. (Neither will you, but that's another story! Just kidding! Kind of!)
Even when your child is ready to move into their own room, the dream nursery you envisioned might not fit your particular baby. That antique rocking chair might get kicked out in favor of a couch because you or your partner might need to sleep in the baby's room sometimes. Maybe the baby only nurses lying down and you need an extra bed in there. Maybe they'll hate the crib and want a mattress on the floor. Don't get too attached to your Pinterest board. When you discover that one, magic thing that gets your kid to sleep through the night consistently, you won't care what it makes the nursery look like!
3. Obsessing Over a Birth Plan
It's good to have one. You should definitely think about how you'd like the birth to go in general. Do you want an epidural? How do you feel about episiotomy? Do you want to walk around during labor? Maybe be able to labor in a shower or tub? All good things to think about. But remember, you might have to throw all those plans out the window. I had grand plans of laboring on a yoga ball and smelling lavender essential oils, but my first baby came so fast there was no time for any of that. You just never know, so it's good to keep all your options open, mentally.
4. Worrying Too Much About Gender
After thinking that I'd pretty much mastered mothering a girl the first time around, I was shocked to find my second was going to be a boy. I felt like everything I'd done, learned, and known about raising a girl was going to be thrown out the window, and having a boy was going to be like starting over from scratch.
Um, first of all, that's ridiculous. A baby is a baby is a baby. And yet, they're all different, so even had I had another girl, I would have been starting from scratch in a way regardless. I have now learned that a) I had not mastered mothering a girl. No one has mastered mothering anyone. Plus, kids are always changing, so if I'd mastered anything, it was raising my particular girl at that particular stage of life. And b) I previously put way too much emphasis on gender! It's not even a real thing! It's an "easy" label society gives out. My kids happen to have different genitalia, but that all has very little to do with their different personalities, likes, dislikes, experiences, and dispositions. Yep, we're all snowflakes.
Bottom line: I know plenty of quiet boys and wild girls. "Tomboys" and boys who hate sports. Girls with short hair and boys who wear tutus. So don't spend too much time planning out pink sparkly outfits or football jerseys. Keep an open mind and plan to get to know your new bundle of joy as an individual.
5. Listening to Other People's Advice
Including mine. Trust me, it great to collect anecdotes and it's wise to read books and do research. But at the end of the day, just because the woman down the block swears by her breast pump doesn't mean it'll be the one for you. Just because your mother-in-law loved pushing her kid in a stroller every day for naps doesn't mean you (or your baby) will like that. My second kid didn't ever want to get out of the ergo carrier, so we barely used a stroller the second time even though our first kid had loved it.
Take it all in and then keep an open mind.