The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Caring for a new baby
"I had major worries about not knowing what to do with a baby. I also worried that I wouldn't be a good mom."
— Maureen Simmons, El Dorado Hills, Calif., mother of Meghan, 12, and Cameron, 7
Though the thought of caring for a newborn 24/7 may be daunting, soon enough, it will become second nature. "So much of parenting is trial and error, but you'll figure it all out," pediatrician Jennifer Shu says. "Strive to be the best parent you can be, but give up on the notion of perfection."
Shu also says a little preparation is not out of order. "The third trimester is the perfect time to choose a pediatrician and start brushing up on baby care," she explains. "Moms who wait until after their baby is born to start learning about baby care may find that they're too tired or busy actually taking care of the baby to do so properly." Shu recommends that all parents be well versed in three particular areas before bringing the baby home: feeding (for example, recognizing signs that your baby is not getting enough milk), infant health issues (such as knowing what temperature warrants an immediate call to the pediatrician) and car seat safety (the majority are installed and/or used incorrectly).
Reality check: "Parenting, although not easy, is not rocket science," Shu says. "Moms have been doing it for millennia."
"I worried about how I would get everything done at work and negotiate and plan my maternity leave."
— Dana Rousmaniere, Gloucester, Mass., mother of Julia, 3 ,
and Charlie, 13 months
"As you near the end of your pregnancy, you've got three jobs," says Old Greenwich, Conn.-based career counselor Nancy Collamer, founder of jobsandmoms.com. "First and most important is to take care of yourself because jobs come and go, but there are no do-overs with pregnancy. The other two are to ensure a smooth transition for your maternity leave and lay the groundwork for a successful return."
Before you go on leave, be sure to finish any projects you may be working on. Also organize and prioritize the work you'll be delegating in your absence, and give your co-workers and/or superiors the tools and information they'll need while you're gone. "If you take these steps, that will get you 90 percent of the way to the last step: laying the groundwork for your return," Collamer says.
Another vital part of the equation is negotiating your maternity leave. Some companies offer this benefit; others don't. "Find out what your company's policy is about this and what the precedents are," Collamer advises. Also ask about coverage under the federal Family Medical Leave Act and your company's medical insurance program. "And don't forget to look at what benefits your spouse is entitled to at his job," she says. "More progressive companies offer paternity leave." Communicate clearly with your boss: It's vitally important that you have a shared understanding of how long you'll be gone and what your availability (if any) will be.
Reality check: "You're bringing a new human being into the world, and you shouldn't feel guilty about doing that," Collamer says. "Go home and enjoy your time with your baby because you're never going to be able to repeat it."