35 Talking Topics for Expectant Parents!
As many of you know, I am a research junkie. I read somewhere in the ballpark of 10 books cover to cover about pregnancy and childbirth, and as I near the end of my pregnancy, I have started in on the first few years of parenthood research. Everyone raises their child (I assume) to be a reflection of who they believe is a “good” person. We all bear so much information in mind when deciding what to do, or what not to do in regards to parenting tactics, health and wellness, and basic survival needs for mom and dad. It’s always a balance, and some days you will have more parenting wins than others, which is totally normal. At this point, Nik and I have discussed what I believe to be nearly every anticipated topic that we could have a conflict about, and how we want to deal with certain items. We’ve even discussed the “unknown” and what to do in those situations.
We hope to present our parenting to all of our future children as balanced and fair. We both plan to discipline, we both with do changing and baths, we both will attend doctor’s appointments when our schedules allow, and above all else, we both will maintain our own relationship, because that is the core of our family! Among literally thousands of other topics, Nik and I discussed the following topics at great length, and after talking to some other expectant parents, I found that even those well into their pregnancies hadn’t had these sometimes not-so-pleasant talks with their spouse. You know who you’re living with. You know who you love. You know why and how they do the things they do on a daily basis. If you’re like me, you can basically pinpoint within a 2 foot radius the location of your spouse’s keys, while he scavenges the other parts of the house looking for the pants he wore yesterday. You know each other well, and that’s a wonderful place to start. As I’ve mentioned in many of our previous family articles, know that when you introduce anything ‘new’ to your relationship, it will change your relationship with your spouse. Anticipate it, don’t fight it. It’s perfectly normal and welcome, especially when you’re adding a whole new breathing, laughing, crying, human to your household. Anticipate the good and bad, and then talk about the worst. The best thing you can do for your family is to have these conversations and create understanding before you have to face these situations in real life.
Basically what I’m getting at is that some of these topics will be harder to talk about than others, and it differs from couple to couple. You’ll breeze past one like, “oh, we feel the same way” only to find that your spouse doesn’t want to breastfeed or co-sleep or practice a certain religion. Again, finding this out while your baby is still on the inside has its benefits. You can convey your points as you see them, and you can hear your partner out and try to find a middle ground far before you’re wrestling your tiny, family dictator into their cutest jammies. Just remember that every disagreement you have comes from a place of love, not from a place of blatant disagreement for the sake of arguing. These are serious, emotional topics that one or both of you may be passionate about. Try to convey your points as best you can, using research you both respect (parenting magazines, scientific data, advice from trusted resources, etc).
Okay, I’ll stop rambling. Here are the topics we found were most beneficial to have a conversation about before baby arrives:
How will mom AND dad maintain a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy, and afterwards? (Think healthy food, exercise, lifestyle, etc.) Sometimes mom has a VERY different idea of what eating “healthy” is… or dad would like to encourage you to go for a walk, but doesn’t know how to approach the subject without making you feel nagged.
Will you read books, take a class, watch YouTube videos, etc. to prepare for the birth of your baby? This varies greatly couple to couple depending on budget, birthing views, education, etc. Moms can feel embarrassed, especially if this is not the first baby, or they may feel that childbirth should come to them naturally. Dads may feel like it’s a waste of time and effort, or that the information is not currently helpful. Either way, talk it out.
Should screening show that your child may have a disability or disease, what will you do? Start small here with disabilities that still offer a quality of life, and gradually work up to the more severe ones, or the possibility of a stillborn.
Meds or no meds, that is the question. Natural childbirth? IV meds? Epidural? Something else? Discuss it at length. Even discuss how to truly convey a change of plans (Ex. If mom asks for an epidural, but she did not originally want one, how should dad remind her of that? When to heed the request?)
What medical interventions are you comfortable with? Forceps, vacuums, cesareans, pain meds, etc.
Will you have a home birth, go to a birthing center, or have a hospital birth? Some or all of these may be options for you. Make sure you decide what the game plan is for your birth day.
Will you hire a doula, birthing coach, midwife, or doctor? Maybe a combination of a few of these? Each serve a different purpose, so familiarize with the terms, and start getting pricing.
What if your birth plan changes? You’d originally planned on a home water birth, and now you need an emergency c-section. Discuss everything in between including how to ask your doctor or midwife for more time, time to discuss, etc.
What if mom or baby is in danger? It is rare, but not a bad conversation to have. If mom is unable to choose, it will be much less pressure on the spouse to know that they already discussed their wishes.
Who can visit while mom is in labor? Does the thought of seeing people during labor sound terrible, or does it sound like a welcome distraction? Many people have no boundaries, so it’s important to set your own on who will be allowed in the room, and for how long while labor is happening. Bear in mind that it’s a good idea to rest as much as possible (both mom and dad), and that mom may not be the nicest person on earth during labor, so entertaining the masses is likely not on her list of priorities. Politely voice these wishes to your family before labor happens, and at any time, be aware if you partner wishes for everyone to leave. It’s a very personal time for your new family.
Who will be present for delivery? Some new parents prefer to have a doula, birthing coach, mom’s mom, dad’s mom, or other trusted friend/family in addition to mom and spouse present for delivery. Bear in mind that many hospitals limit the amount of people you can allow in a room for delivery, and that at any time you can ask people to leave if they are not assisting in the process. Again, it’s important to understand why these people are being allowed into this very intimate moment, and it should never be because you feel obligated. Many people choose to deliver with only their spouse, or spouse and one additional person present. It doesn’t have to be a live studio audience, but it does have to be helpful people that will encourage the parents’ wishes.
How long after delivery will you have “new family” time? It’s important to allow yourself some time after delivery to be with your new family, specifically with your new baby, and your spouse alone. You may ask all others to leave the room (except professionals who are still assisting with post delivery items) for a predetermined amount of time. Yes, other family members will want to meet the baby. No, you do not immediately have to let them in the room. Decide on a relative time frame that mom and baby need for recovery and for the entire family bonding. It helps to advise family ahead of time so everyone isn’t just waiting in the hospital lobby. A simple “we will call you when it’s time” can also suffice.
How much help do you want/need after birth? Will you ask a grandparent to live in for a few days? Weeks? Do you want to go home alone? No visitors? Close family? Anyone who wants to come over? Make sure you and your spouse are aware so neither is inviting people over if you are not yet comfortable with this.
Will someone help with household items while you are in the hospital? Planning on having a housekeeper clean before you come home? Do you need the family pets fed? Is someone setting up a Meal Train for after you are discharged?
How will you share new baby’s arrival? In the day and age of social media, it may be beneficial to have a conversation not only with your spouse about sharing your happy news with the world, but also with other family members. A new grandma may forget and simply get excited, but sharing the news of a new baby should ultimately be at the new parents’ discretion. Make sure to voice your wants if you have any.
THE NEW BABY
How will you share new baby duties? Will you split them equally or by chore? Will mom be primary care since dad has to go back to work ASAP? Will dad care for baby in the early morning and mom at night? Is either of you opposed or uncomfortable with any aspect of taking care of the new baby?
How will you handle new duty differences? Mom may have one way of swaddling with muslin cloths, and dad prefers to use a swaddle with velcro. Mom may bathe baby differently than dad. Dad may prefer to change diapers differently than mom. Many couples complain that the critique of the other spouse can make them feel incompetent, and leads to them helping less and less, which leads to the other spouse doing more and feeling resentful about it… you see where I’m going here. This is more of a reminder than a topic to talk about. Be aware of your differences, and note that your kid probably doesn’t even know there is a difference truthfully. Unless you want to be the only parent that can soothe, bath, put to sleep, change, and raise your kid, you’ve got to let your spouse trial and error on their own. Offer help and advice when they ask for it, but they probably have their own way of figuring it out (books and YouTube go a long way!).
Will you use a bassinet in your room, co-sleep in your bed, or put baby straight to crib? Again setting up this expectation is a great talk to have in advance so mom isn’t dragging herself and baby into bed one night and dad is shocked that the baby is even in the same room for bedtime.
On the same topic, how long will baby be in parents’ room (if at all)? When will you start sleep training in their crib? Set a firm date and hold each other accountable. Remember that some parents genuinely have a harder time sleeping if baby is in the same room, so it may have nothing to do with separation, just sanity.
Who will care for baby? Is mom or dad staying home? Will you have family care for baby? A daycare? Nanny? In home or somewhere else? Don’t forget to talk about finances, career goals, etc. Set short and long term goals (for career and family).
How to tell if mom or dad need help? It’s safe to assume you will be tired. You will be exhausted actually. If one parent is showing signs of depression, anxiety, or general distress, it needs to be noticed. Both parents can feel overwhelmed, and it’s important to reach out if you need assistance, but sometimes, you can’t notice it yourself. If your spouse is showing signs, or asking for help, either help them, or find someone who can immediately. Remember grandparents, close friends, and everyone else who offered to help out? Take them up on it, even if it’s just to sleep and shower.
HEALTH AND WELLNESS
Will mom breastfeed, formula feed, or a combination of the two? Some women have their reasons why they would prefer not to breastfeed, and others could not imagine formula feeding. Either way, talk about the possibility of feeding becoming overwhelming, milk supply not being quite enough, tongue ties, etc.
Are you going to circumcise a boy? Whether you have a religious, scientific, or general preference, you need to have the conversation ahead of time, because you usually only have a week postpartum to decide or your insurance won’t cover it.
Will you vaccinate? Be sure your partner is on board with whichever way you both decide is best for your family. Another side conversation here is if you will delay vaccinations, or be comfortable with all recommended shots in the same day.
Who will stay home when baby is sick? The million dollar question. If both mom and dad are going back to work, and baby becomes ill, who can take time off?
How crunchy will you be? Organic, free range, breastfeeding, vegetarian, holistic, essential oils, cloth diapers, family garden, the works. Mom may be thinking that survival and crunchy will trade off, but dad may be daydreaming about the chickens and farm they’re going to have this time next year. Get on the same page, or at least in the same chapter.
How will you introduce food and wean? When? With so many different methods, it’s good to research an idea of when to start introducing solids in your baby’s diet, and when to begin the weaning process. Set your goals and hold as true as possible to them. The good news is, dad can help more when baby starts eating real food! Woooo!
How will you discipline? I’m talking early discipline. Spanking, raising your voice, time outs, etc. It’s helpful to discuss how each of you were raised and what you did, or did not like about the discipline your parents had with you. Also good to note if one parent or both will be disciplinary with the children.
Will you raise your child under a certain religion? How much religion will be present in their life? Will both parents practice that religion with your child? What if your child is curious about other religions? If you are non-religious, what if your child asks to attend a church or service? Will they be baptised? Weekly worship? Nightly prayer?
How will you handle conflicts with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.? Many will tell you the way that they would raise a child, and it’s important to listen to these tips! Many are very useful. But should a conflict arise where a family member is doing something with your child that you are not comfortable with, you’ll want to discuss being united on the frontlines. (Ex. Grandma gives medicine to baby without discussing with mom and dad first. Are other family members allowed to discipline your baby? Spank?)
Should the worst happen, who will be your child’s guardian? Again, it may seem morbid, but it’s a good idea to have these conversations. This one, you’ll want to get put in your will, trust, or other documentation.
What will you be strict about? These should be your agreed upon, non negotiable standards for raising your child such as good grades, chores, respect, honestly, etc.
Will you send your child to private school, or local public schools? If your local public schools are a nightmare, you may want to consider moving within the next few years. If the private school of your dreams has a waitlist or high cost, you may need to plan ahead for enrollment and savings.
When will you allow technology in your baby’s life? Are you okay with TV? YouTube? Electronic toys? At what ages? When will you get them an iPad? Cell phone? How much TV is appropriate, for how long, and how many times a week?
How will you cope with parenting differences? Though this list is helpful in opening your mind to the unknown, there are still a million unknown topics you will have to face together. Remember that you must talk about these differences, preferably privately. If you disagree fundamentally, find a middle ground or seek help from a counselor. It’s okay to not know what to do, but you never want your kids to see you as anything but a unified front.
I hope you found our list as helpful as we did! What did I miss?! What were the tough ones for you guys to discuss?