People thought my partner Matt and I were crazy for planning our wedding in “only” seven months. We dodged a fusillade of comments like, “But that won’t be enough time to book a good reception venue!” and “It can take longer than that for the dress to be delivered. And don’t forget about the alterations!”
We tried not to stress about it too much. Seven months was, after all, enough time to plan a mega party and a friends/family reunion. In the final months, when I started adding completely unnecessary projects to my to-do list (hello, fabric pins and a dog bandanna), I occasionally wished we had opted for an even shorter engagement.
That’s why I found it ironic when I also faced criticism–two years later–for spending too much time planning for conception: “Be more spontaneous. Just start trying already!” and “You’ll never feel ready, so stop worrying about it.”
In all honesty, I’m so thankful that I spent eight months preparing my mind, body, and life for pregnancy before we even started trying to conceive. Unlike my mother who accidentally got pregnant when she was 22 and then raised me as a single-parent, I wanted to create a prepared and intentional environment (although I think my mom managed to do a heck of a good job!). I read countless books, talked with a midwife, watched documentaries, attended a birth fair, and started stalking pregnancy and birthing websites.
Of course all families need to figure out for themselves what kind of preparation (if any) works for them. It’s a very personal decision, and we need to honor each other for forging our own paths (duh!).
As for my personal path, here are some of the things we did to start preparing our life for conception:
- Destressing and Making Space for Pregnancy: When I started tracking my cycle, I realized that stress was seriously impacting my physical and emotional well-being. Eight months before trying to conceive, I started eliminating unnecessary commitments from my life (and saying no to new ones), practicing deep-breathing techniques, implementing a daily relaxation ritual, and getting to the psychological roots of why I invite stress into my life. I realized that once I got pregnant, I would need time for frequent naps, and I was preparing myself for a potential decrease in my productivity.
- Getting More Healthy: I analyzed my nutritional intake, my hydration, and my exercise (or lack thereof) and started implementing changes that would better prepare my body for a healthy conception.
- Eliminating Toxins from Our Life: We sorted through all our cleaning products, bathroom stuff, etc., and made our environment less toxic.
- Building the Bank: We started thinking through the costs associated with birth and infancy and came up with a plan for saving enough money (without buying into the hype put out there by the Baby Industrial Complex).
- Figuring Out Insurance and Maternity Leave: Matt and I actually didn’t do this as part of our preconception preparation, but I wish we had! I would have been able to sign up for short-term disability insurance, which would have helped to cover part of my unpaid maternity leave. Now that I’m pregnant, I have a “pre-existing condition,” and it’s too late for me. Argh!
- Deciding on a Care Provider: There are so many options out there (depending on the community you live in) for prenatal care and birthing. Regardless of whether you want to go the hospital, birthing center, or homebirth route, there are tons of questions to ask and information to take in. Once you’re pregnant, your prenatal care starts, and at that point, it can be stressful to sort through all the information and ask all the questions. Matt and I decided to do all of our research before trying to conceive. We even did interviews and settled on our care provider in advance. When we conceived, we simply had to call her to schedule our first appointment.
- Strengthening Our Relationship: We took a hard look at how we distribute responsibilities in our household, how we support each other, what problems we’re having, whether we fight constructively or destructively, etc. We started to think about really concrete ways to strengthen our relationship in preparation for the extreme stress that can come from welcoming a new baby into a family.
- Preparing for the Change: We thought long and hard about the ways in which our lives would change forever, once we added on to our family.
I recommend the following books and movies to support a more independent conception planning process:
- Making Babies: A Proven 3-Month Program for Maximum Fertility: This book lays everything out there for you in such a clear, concise way. It addresses how to get pregnant (through tracking your cycle) and also focuses on ways to prepare your life for conception (through nutrition, exercise, and stress reduction).
- Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health: This book really is the bible when it comes to tracking your cycle in order to get pregnant. I put it second on the list because it is very dense and it can be hard to get through. It is packed with information!
- Body, Soul, and Baby: A Doctor’s Guide to the Complete Pregnancy Experience, from Preconception to Postpartum: This book is one of my favorites. The author is the director of the Duke Center for Integrative Medicine, and her perspective is wonderful. She really gets the importance of approaching conception and pregnancy with intention and mindfulness. Most of the book is about pregnancy, but there is a whole section devoted to preconception.
- What to Expect Before You’re Expecting: I know there’s a lot of criticism of the What to Expect series, but I was thankful for this book because there are so few out there that focus exclusively on preconception as its own stage. I found this book to be chock full of interesting recommendations.
- The Complete Organic Pregnancy: Although this book focuses solely on eliminating toxins from our lives, I loved reading it! It’s a bit overwhelming, but the information is super-interesting and applicable to all stages of our lives, not just pregnancy.
- Misconceptions: Truth, Lies, and the Unexpected on the Journey to Motherhood: This book has little to do with preconception, but I am so glad I read it before I got pregnant. It’s just too depressing and stressful to read when you’re carrying another life around (in my opinion!). Seriously. It was a bit biased and felt like propaganda at times, but I’m so glad I read this indictment of the “hidden costs and vested interests surrounding pregnancy and birth in America.”
- Before Your Pregnancy: A 90-Day Guide for Couples on How to Prepare for a Healthy Conception: I got this book for free at a public library sale, and I have to say it’s another good overview of the preconception as its own phase.
As far as movies go, I haven’t been able to find too much. But here are my recommendations:
- The Business of Being Born: This movie opened my eyes to a whole new world. Even though it feels biased toward a certain perspective, it helped me realize that there’s so much I don’t know about when it comes to giving birth in America. I highly recommend this film.
- Pregnant in America: I didn’t like this movie nearly as much as I liked The Business of Being Born (not even close), but it’s still worth watching, since there’s simply not that much out there on these topics.
Definitely find the amount and type of preparation that makes sense for you and your family, and then go for it!