It's never too early to plan on being a good parent. It's the stuff of many little girls' games, dreams and lifetime goals. Many little boys too, I imagine, but in my house, it's always the girls who play the mommy/baby game. Here's how it goes:
Girl 1: "I'll be the mommy and you be the baby."
Girl 2: "No, I want to be the mommy, this time. You always get to be the mommy."
Girl 1: "Well, you can't be the mommy because, I am. You can be the daddy if you want to. That's pretty good."
Girl 2: Nuh un. I'm not being a daddy cuz I'm pretty. I'm not a boy and I'm not being the baby either. I'm being a mommy."
After serious negotiations (politicians could learn a few things), it's agreed that both girls will be mommies and the big bear will be the daddy (hmm, only one daddy). They'll each have their own baby, pulled lovingly by the leg from the doll-pile. With all the casting complete, they go on to serious parenting duties like naming the babies, dragging them around by their legs, cradling them in their arms, bed making, lots of crying and shushing, some small amount of feeding (always with a spoon or bottle, rarely at the breast) and eventually a diaper change. Diaper changes are fun to eavesdrop on. There's lots of giggling and whispering about poop and baby girl-parts. Almost invariably, the babies are girls too.
Fast forward a couple of decades and let the games begin. Some parents plan it all out in advance. They get their educations, establish their careers, get married, buy their house, travel and then, only when they feel ready to relinquish their lives to parenthood, then they plan a pregnancy, conceive on schedule and start their family. Then there are the rest of us. We just get pregnant. Or not.
Here's my story. Married for 6 years, I was in the midst of nursing school when baby-hunger gripped like starvation. My mother was ill and slipping away and the need to have a baby before she was gone was fierce, primal and desperate. My husband is somewhat more practical than I am and we discussed the good sense of waiting until I finished school but in the end, that discussion held no water and we made a baby. We had our lovely daughter and just as I was heading back to finish school, I got pregnant again. No planning this time, just a broken condom, a little hysteria and another beloved daughter—born a week past her due date and three days after I graduated from nursing school. The next few years were quite a juggling act but many a mother has dealt with far more than I did and I was delighted with my girls. It didn't matter what kind of chaos we endured (and there was plenty), it was absolutely, totally perfect. We had a few more kids along the way (planned,surprises—whatever) and each is as beloved as the others.
Preplanning is a good way to go but is it really the best way? Oh, who knows? It isn't like that for many. Teen pregnancies, unwanted pregnancies, late in life pregnancies and maybe the most desperate, infertility. These couples really experience baby hunger and are willing to go through anything to get that baby. No matter the circumstances, I believe the majority of babies are loved by their parents. As I've written before, not every parent is prepared for the adventure, commitment and endurance of parenting and some don't do a very good job. Regardless, most of us plan on playing the mommy/baby game as best as we can. Because we want to be the mommy.
Emily wrote asking what she and her husband should do to prepare for their yet-to-be-conceived baby. She sounds well-established in life and I bet she'll be a thoughtful parent. My advice: go to your OB/GYN for a preconception checkup. Make sure you're up to date on all vaccinations. Start taking prenatal vitamins or a good multi-vitamin with folic acid. Clean up all bad habits like smoking, excess drinking and of course recreational drugs. Start eating right (if you don't already) and exercising. Then do things now that will be more challenging after baby: R-rated movies, travel, classes and lectures. It's not that you can't do those things later; you'll just have to get a baby sitter. Then, when you know you're ready, open your heart to the great journey. Go ahead and plan the destination and travel companions but you have no idea where the path will take you.
Andrea wrote worried about just how far along her pregnancy is. Married in November, she finds herself pregnant with a honeymoon baby. Her due date suggests that she's actually two weeks further along than that and thus, her concern. Her question is, how can she be five weeks pregnant when she knows she wasn't "getting pregnant" that long ago. That's because we start counting the weeks from the first day of your last period and target your due date at 40 weeks after that. So, even though your doctor is calling you five-weeks pregnant; conception was only three weeks ago and it sounds like all the dates line up to sometime after the wedding. Don't worry honey. It's gonna be OK. Your baby will be born at exactly the right time—right on his/her birthday.
Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org and it may be answered in a future blog post.
This Fit Pregnancy blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician. Before initiating any exercise program, diet or treatment provided by Fit Pregnancy, you should seek medical advice from your primary caregiver.