What should new parents discuss before baby arrives?

My husband and I both read some parenting books before our first child was born. He enjoyed Be Prepared: A Practical Handbook for New Dads, and eventually recommended it to expectant dad friends. I will estimate that compared to him, I read five or ten-fold the amount of educational material available to pregnant people, just because I had the fetus with me at all times and found it difficult to think about much else. The products the company for which I worked launched that year were a bouncy seat and a baby gym, so even my full-time job was giving me insight into the mechanics of life with a baby.

I don’t exactly remember having a sit-down conversation about how we would handle our new responsibilities; who would do the research about hiring a nanny; where the baby would sleep; or if we agreed that Jewish sleepaway camp is a rite of passage every child should experience; but it’s not a bad idea to talk about these things in advance.

If others are like we were, and the pregnant person in the relationship is holding a bunch of parenting knowledge, forming opinions about how things ought to be done, it could create some conflicts when upon baby’s arrival, Mom starts bossing everyone around, using terms like “nipple confusion”.

Yesterday Heather told me about hearing a story on NPR that instructed parents to talk about parenting issues before having a child, and we agreed that it’s impossible to anticipate what those issues are. And who cares about sleepaway camp or discipline when their firstborn has not yet discovered his own fingers? There has to be some degree of play-it-by-ear, although it would be ideal to talk about expectations ahead of time.

Perhaps labor and delivery is a good place to start. Who would you like to be present? What role do you expect grandparents and aunts and uncles to play? Perhaps you imagine having privacy during recovery, while your partner would like his parents to be there all day celebrating with him? Do you want your mom around, while your spouse is hoping to be your number one supporter without help from others? Do you both think the time you’re taking off from work will be dedicated to learning how to care for the baby or do you have other projects you’re hoping to squeeze in? Are there religious traditions you are assuming you’ll follow to welcome the baby into your culture? Where will you spend Christmas, Easter, Passover, three-day weekends?

Yes, it does seem like there are some things to clear up.

If you could instruct expectant parents, based on your own experience, on which topics to discuss before baby arrives, what’s on the list?

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