1. Are we ready to have a kid? When is the right time?
Advice for people trying to decide if they're ready or not: Are you newlyweds and really young? Give yourself some time. Are you struggling financially? Please check your insurance and do a little research to find out if you can pay your bills after the baby is born. Marital troubles? Having a baby will not solve them.
All that said.... if you're pregnant, that little one is a person, and focusing on caring for that little person is your top priority. It's no longer time to worry if it's the right time - you're a parent - and it's wonderful. We weren't ready yet and I wouldn't trade it for anything. If you do have a choice, be wise with it the same way you should with any decision.
2. How do you pick a doctor?
Lessons learned here. I picked a doctor's office that was well reviewed and accepted our insurance and had weekend and some evening hours so that I could get Judah there after work if needed. We went to appointments regularly for six months. Then the bills for immunizations started coming and I started understanding them. $300 each time. What??? Yes, they accept our insurance, but pretty much the insurance didn't cover the immunizations. So - finding a nice office didn't do me much good. I ended up finding out that county health clinics would provide immunizations for $15 bucks, which is totally worth it for me
We've stopped going to the doctor at all, and if Judah was sick I'd probably take him to a walk-in clinic. If you've got good insurance you'd probably have much better luck.
3. Birthing center or hospital or home birth?
4. Epidural or Natural Labor
Hey, whatever you want to do. Really. I did an epidural. I really think I could do natural labor - it doesn't scare me as much now, especially since I know my chances of having a fairly simple labor are good considering how it went the first time around. If you want to go all natural and end up needing an epidural and even a c-section, don't stress. Thank God for the blessing of medical expertise that means you end up with a live healthy baby that 200 years ago would probably have died in that same situation.
4. Circumcise or leave intact?
Hot button issue. Post forth-coming.
5. Flu shots
Everyone in the medical field told me to get a flu shot when I was pregnant. Everyone. Tons of people who aren't in the medical field told me it wasn't necessary. Sooo.... truth is I can't remember whether I got it or not. Neither Judah or I got them this year, but supposedly it's most important when you're pregnant and have a newborn.
Again, everyone in the medical field told me this was important. As I said last year, having been overseas and seen the power of immunizations and seen friends get the exact diseases that some of those immunizations protect against, I was all for it. However, scroll up and see my lessons learned about how pricey immunizations can be. Check your local county or state health clinic for affordable options.
7. Breast or bottle feed?
The second option should really be formula, because I both nursed Judah and bottle-fed. He was a good eater and I knew it was healthier for him to feed him myself. Pumping after going back to work was a massive headache, but we managed to go with exclusively mother's milk for 6 months and mostly mother's milk for 8 months as I dried up. Judah didn't get sick at all during that time. We then did formula until a year, which is soooo expensive and I'm really glad we can now use whole milk.
8. Respond to cries or institute a sleep/feeding regimen?
Last year I said, "If my baby easily moves into a schedule of eating and sleeping, great. We'll give it a shot. But if it isn't working, I'm not gonna force it." With eating we were pretty flexible. I highly recommend just following your baby's cues for feeding. Their needs change, your schedule should change with their needs.
We argued over the sleeping regimen. Once he was a couple months old I was willing to try to follow Judah's cues and encourage but not force him to go down at certain times and eventually stay down. I really think there's a delicate balance. Babies slowly learn to sleep longer and longer, and by five or six months really don't need to eat at night anymore. Isaac and I might have disagreed on how we felt about cry-it-out, but we agreed that the goal was not crying or silence, but a baby who slept well and had been dealt with lovingly (neither spoiling or neglecting is loving - how to strike a balance?). Some parents may end up training their kids to always cry themselves to sleep by enforcing cry-it-out, and is that really what you want? Other parents may continue to respond to a kid that really no longer needs to wake up and/or eat, never realizing that they're actually harming the kid's sleeping schedule because he or she no longer needs to wake up.
Gently train your kid to sleep. That is a delicate balance and we had a number of nights where we argued about how to respond to Judah. Sometimes we'd let him fuss. Sometimes we'd go get him and maybe feed him. For months now (when he's not teething, at least), we put him down with a paci and blanket and he falls asleep peacefully and silently and sleeps till morning. Yeah baby.
Did you hear about the Milwaukee ad that likened co-sleeping to sleeping with a knife? Geez. I guess you really need to be careful co-sleeping. We did a little of both. At first when Judah woke up to eat every few hours we'd always start him in his crib. When he woke up I'd get him out of his crib and take him back to bed with me to nurse. Inevitably we'd both fall asleep. That meant I got way more sleep than I otherwise would have. It also worked because I'm a very still sleeper. Eventually we focused on putting him back in his own bed and that helped him learn to sleep through the night.
10. Stay at home, go back to work, work part-time, day care, etc?
Heh. Well. After six weeks I went back to work full-time. Ironically it's been the most professionally fulfilling work year of my life, at the same time as being a mother has been so incredibly fulfilling. Balancing those two things has been pretty stressful. However, it's been pretty awesome to be able to come home and work from home with Judah during Isaac's seminary classes, and it's so nice to know Judah is being watched by his daddy when I'm not home.
Still.... I wish I were the one home most of the time. The truth is that my heart aches for that because I know they grow up so fast. This season has been good, though. Good for me to work, good for Isaac to get precious time with Judah, good for Isaac to finish seminary (next week!) without having to take time off.