In the last month of pregnancy your wife may be nesting, which can manifest itself in a variety of ways. She may be sorting and organizing the nursery, cleaning random things, or tackling any number of projects that may or may not make any sense to you at all. (My nesting including scrubbing the top of the fridge while standing on a barstool at nine months pregnant.)
It's best at this stage of the game to just roll with it, and try to make sure your wife isn't doing anything potentially dangerous (like balancing precariously on a barstool when her equilibrium is off!) Jump in whenever possible and tackle the heavier tasks or anything involving heights - my husband made me promise I would wait until he got home from work so he could dust all of the ceiling fans himself, something I suddenly decided was crucial before I gave birth even though we were having a winter baby and the fans weren't going to be used anytime soon. But still, I needed the fans dusted! (Nesting is not always rational.)
The primary goal is to make sure your wife doesn't overtax herself physically, while also helping her accomplish the tasks that make her feel better prepared for the birth. Here are some tips from Kit and me to assist in these goals:
* Ask your wife to create a priority list so you can see what's truly the most important (and what perhaps is less crucial - moving all the bedroom furniture and painting your room at 39 weeks pregnant? Not so crucial.) Create your own list of things you need to work on before the baby arrives, whether for work or home or personal projects. The more you finish now, the less you have to distract you when you're focusing on that new baby.
* Encourage your wife to wait for any challenging tasks until evening or the weekend when you can work on them together. (Kit was not amused when he came home from work to discover that at 8+ months pregnant I had moved heavy furniture while he was gone, too impatient to wait.)
* Hopefully you've already spoken with your employer about paternity leave and with your insurance company about adding your baby to the policy. If not then DO SO NOW, and find out what steps you need to take postpartum to ensure a smooth transition and coverage.
* With your wife create the following lists and keep them handy:
- All of those on your care team: midwife/OB, birth and postpartum doula, childbirth class educator, pediatrician with numbers.
- Resources you may need to utilize: lactation consultant, La Leche League, lactation hotline, new mothers support group, depression after delivery hotline/website, postpartum doula, chiropractor, massage therapist, take out food numbers, housecleaning service, etc. (Sometimes just seeing the numbers and knowing you have the option is enough to help you keep going.)
- Friends that you can call on for practical, hands on support and by their names include contact numbers and any help they've offered (food, babysitting, errands, company when you need to talk!) People from your church, community groups, moms group, neighbors, other moms in your childbirth class, etc. Whenever anyone offers help, get their name on that list!
- Far away friends you can call on for long distance support: email, Skype, call for listening ear. They may not live close but these are friends that can help you get through the day, offer advice or point you in the right direction when you have questions.
- Star the name of people you can call at any point of the day or night for an emotional boost. (We all need these!) These are your emergency contacts and believe me, I've made that call many times in my postpartum stages!
- Create a list of tasks you know you'll need help with and add to it as you discover more things postpartum. When someone calls (and your partner answers because they are screening calls for you!) and this darling friend offers to help, you've got a quick list right there ready with ideas.
* Remember that you're going to be the one screening phone calls right after birth. It's good to keep a calendar by the phone and this call list so when someone says they'll be bringing a meal on a certain day or stopping by, you can jot it down and avoid overlap. There are some online meal calendars for coordinating, but still it's good to have a printed out calendar by the phone.
* Plan at least one fun and romantic date to have around 39 weeks pregnant. Go out on the town and enjoy a quiet evening together as a couple. Talk about all those things you love in each other and share what you are looking forward to as you become parents!
* Scrub your bathtub. Your wife can't do this anymore (at least not easily) and when she's in early labor a relaxing bath can be wonderful. Plus it's one less chore to worry about after the birth.
* Send her out for a pedicure, or give her one yourself! A foot massage feels delightful when she's feeling sore, and she can't easily reach her own feet anymore. It's fun to have cute painted toenails for your birth, too.
* Make sure she schedules a visit with her chiropractor in the last couple weeks of pregnancy.
* Consider scheduling a prenatal massage for her in that last month, or if that's out of the budget then plan an evening when you can give her a much needed massage.
* Check that your carseat is installed properly, which can be done at most fire stations for free. Also learn how to click the carseat into your stroller base before the baby comes.
* Keep a full tank of gas in the car, as stopping for gas because the tank is empty and you're on the way to the birth center/hospital while your wife is in labor is not going to go over well.
* If you or your wife are concerned about her water breaking in bed (or the car) then purchase a waterproof changing pad (or ask your doula for a chux pad, I have them.) She can sleep on this in case her water breaks during the night and can use one on the carseat when heading to the birth. (Dads often express this concern, the waterproof pad seems to help alleviate some of that worry.)
* Try out different baby carriers and see what you prefer. It may be different from the carrier that fits best for your wife, but investing in a baby carrier that you love benefits all of you! (Babies love being worn, moms love dads who wear their babies.)
* Learn more about postpartum depression and warning signs to watch for. Refer to that care team contact list you created if at any point you are concerned about your wife and she's unable to call her care provider for help.
* Do a stock up shopping trip. Consider everything you may need in the first month postpartum - toiletries, cleaning supplies, toilet paper, non-perishable foods, etc. Buy it NOW and save yourself the extra errands when you're sleep deprived and have a new baby in tow. Don't forget newborn diapers, wipes, breastpads & sanitary pads and Depends. (Yes, Depends. Throw it in the cart, no one will notice.) Also get some healthy snacks for postpartum - yogurt, granola bars, dried fruit, nuts, cheese sticks, etc. Be sure to do a produce trip the week you're due.
* Purchase some simple meals, or make some freezer meals. Or just plan on take out, but know that for the first few weeks postpartum meal prep will not be a high priority for either of you.
* Try to make sure you both get to sleep earlier than usual after 38 weeks gestation. You don't know when labor will begin, and going into labor already tired can be incredibly challenging. Whatever your normal bedtime is try to get to bed an hour earlier. You may have a hard time falling asleep, but use that time in bed to talk. Or otherwise entertain yourselves. But try to make sure you're both getting enough rest before your little one arrive and sleep becomes a dream from the past.
* Check your bag for birth and make sure you're not missing something crucial! Packing lists here along with several other good prep posts.
* Create your labor playlist together - songs to inspire and soothe her through the birth.
* Get some final belly shots, whether professionally or just by you. Even if your wife thinks she doesn't want photo evidence of this last month, someday your children will enjoy seeing photos of their mother expecting them. Having a professional photographer take maternity shots (which can be fun anytime in the third trimester) helps make sure your wife is captured in all of her glowing beauty - let her know YOU would love to have these pictures of her!
(Maternity picture by Rebecca of ThadenPhoto.com, our fifth baby.)