31-32 WEEKS PREGNANT
Planning for Co-Parenting
This week, you can
• Consider the practical implications of certain child-rearing decisions
• Come up with a plan for sharing parenting with your partner in those early weeks
HERE ARE A LOT of parenting books on the market. And most of them have
definite opinions about things like where your baby should sleep, what
he should eat, and whether he should have a pacifier or not. I will try
not to add to the burden of “shoulds” or “should nots.” Instead, I’d
like you to consider the practical implications of different choices
and make sure you and your co-parent are on the same page for rolling
out a parenting plan after the baby’s born.
matter how you’ll divide up the parenting burden later, keep in mind
that the early weeks of caring for your baby will be exhausting and
confusing. You’ll be recovering from labor and delivery. You’ll be
short on sleep. You’ll need to take it easy! Even if you’re going to be
a stay-at-home mom and therefore caring for the baby during the day is
“your job,” your partner will need to share the load . . . especially
in those first few weeks. Plan for it now so nobody gets an unpleasant
Who will make medical decisions for the baby in the hospital?
If there are any emergencies or if your baby needs special care, will
you make decisions together? What if Mom is getting stitches in the
recovery room or Dad is down at the snack machine when a decision needs
to be made? Talk about the possibility that you will be faced with
unexpected surprises and decisions during your hospital stay, and come
up with a plan for communicating and handling decision-making together.
all decisions will be high-stakes emergencies, but they still warrant
discussion beforehand. For example, babies routinely receive Hepatitis
B vaccinations while in the hospital. Some parents prefer to wait until
the baby is a little older or in a risk group for this disease before
giving the shot. Circumcision is another issue that often throws
parents off guard when it comes up. Their precious baby boy is only a
few hours old and they haven’t really discussed the topic—and suddenly
there’s the nurse, ready to take him away for the procedure if only the
parents will sign on the dotted line. Talk about this ahead of time!
Circumcision is surgery and cannot be taken back. It’s not an emergency
and your baby does not have to have it done before he leaves the
hospital. If one of you has questions or doubts, you can always have it
done later on an outpatient basis.
What will be each parent’s role during the postpartum hospital stay?
Ideally, Dad will be doing most of the baby care that requires
fetching, carrying, and walking, while Mom stays put and recovers.
Fortunately most newborns sleep through most of the first couple of
days of life (and sometimes beyond). Pacing the floor with a fussy baby
is likely days or weeks away. Still, there are considerations to be
made. Will Dad accompany the baby for any medical procedures or tests?
What if Dad needs to go home to check in on pets or care for other
children? There will be nurses on duty to care for Mom and help with
the baby, but they will likely be busy and might not be able to
immediately respond if Mom needs help getting to the bathroom or would
like somebody to hand her the baby for a feeding. If your partner or
spouse can’t be with you during your postpartum hospital stay (or if
you aren’t in a relationship), is there another person who can step in?
IF YOU ARE A SINGLE MOM
Whether your baby’s father is
completely out of the picture or plans to be very involved in his
child’s life, the issues I’m posing this week will look very different
for you than they will for a married or partnered mom. Remember that
your first obligation is to take care of yourself and your new baby.
Any legal arguments regarding your baby’s care or custody can wait
until you’ve been home for a while and have had a chance to re-cover.
Despite what the hospital staff may tell you, even birth certificates
and paternity paperwork can be put off for days or weeks. If your
baby’s father is AWOL, or if you have made a conscious decision to be a
single parent, ask a close friend to be your stand-in “dad” for the
first few weeks so that you can navigate this new world of parenting
without being alone in it. If your baby’s father wants to be very
involved with her care and the two of you have a cordial and friendly
relationship, by all means, discuss all these issues ahead of time to
come up with a plan the two of you can agree on. On the other hand, if
your relationship is contentious or if you feel anxious or stressed out
around him, you are within your rights to hold him at bay until you’re
feeling more settled in with your baby. If need be, get a friend or
family member to act as go-between, giving him vital information and
facilitating visits. If you are uncomfortable with any decisions he’s
asking you to commit to at this point, stand your ground. That is what
the court system is for.