Lifestyle Makeover: Changing Your Life To Prepare For Baby

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Our Experts In This Episode

Natalie Gahrmann is a Work-Life Coach and the author of Succeeding As a Super Busy Parent.

Jodi Silverman coaches women through the transition of pregnancy into parenting. She also works to raise awareness about a potentially devastating pregnancy complication that she, herself, survived, placenta accreta.

Monica Ricci is a professional organizer based out of Atlanta. She is the author of the book Organize Your Office In No Time.

Pat Shinn is a Certified Financial Planner and the President of Heritage Asset Advisors in Houston.

Leah Bassoff is a mom and the author of the book Hoochy Mama: A Tale of Guilt, Sex, Murder, Mayhem and Maternal Love.


Welcome to your Pea in the Podcast. I'm Bonnie Petrie with everything you need to know about your body, your baby and the big changes ahead in your life as you begin your journey as someone's mom.

This week, you've broken your bad habits, but those aren't the only changes you need to make before the baby comes...

"I can't go, you know, buy ten pairs of shoes a week and I can't just go run around until 2 o'clock in the morning and be a party girl."

Yeah, your life is about to change completely – really! But don't worry, a work-life expert, a maternity coach and a mom join forces to help you meet those challenges.

But, there's more - your house is a mess!

"We feel that if we're disorganized that we're bad people or we're stupid or we're inept or incompetent and that's not really true."

And your savings -- what savings?

"The average cost of raising a child is somewhere between 500 and 600,000 dollars."

Yikes! Okay, breathe.  We'll get you organized, we'll get your finances straight and we'll deal with what impending motherhood can do to your identity. It's a lifestyle makeover in this Pea in the Podcast.

The pregnancy test is positive. Hurray!

But wait a minute.  I'm not ready!  My life is changing so fast!

"Motherhood is life-altering."

Natalie Gahrmann, "Coach" Natalie, is a work-life expert and the author of the book Succeeding As a Super Busy Parent. She says that moment when you realize what you have just gotten yourself into and that you’d better get ready, well, it can be overwhelming.

Leah Bassoff is also a writer. She's a mother of two now, but she says when she found out she was having her first very much wanted baby she fell apart.

"I would be sobbing on the phone with my mom because I had xeroxed my hand at work and convinced myself, you know, I had done something to the baby. I had convinced myself I had lead paint poisoning. And I just was perplexed as to where it was coming from and it was just that overwhelming sense of responsibility, I think."

Bassoff's experience isn't all that uncommon. When you look at where you are now, and where you need to be in just a couple of months, the gap can feel impossible to bridge. So where do you begin? Natalie Gahrmann says it's different for everyone.

"There isn't really a step-by-step plan that is going to work for everybody in terms of this is what I need to do step-by-step. But it’s real important to keep things in perspective, especially if you're three months pregnant, you've got six more months of planning."

That doesn't seem like a long time, but it is enough time. Jodi Silverman is a maternity coach, and she helps pregnant women take on these giant lifestyle changes. She starts by helping a new mom-to-be set a few goals, and the way she does that might help you.

"There's a tool called the pillars of life, and I call them the pregnancy pillars, and we kind of rate different areas of your life and where they are now and where you'd like them to be and where you see them when the baby comes and how we can maintain a level that makes sense to you.  Things like finances, social life, things like that. Some time- management tools, those kinds of things that really get people to start thinking about, you know, how they want to plan things."

Having this kind of focus, Silverman says, can ease your anxiety about what's ahead.

"Because you have concrete things that you need to accomplish and look forward to each week, so instead of each week reading What to Expect When You're Expecting and getting freaked out about what could happen in week 22, you're looking toward accomplishing a certain goal and once you accomplish it you feel really good about it and your focus is just kind of put elsewhere."

Like on organizing your life as you prepare to welcome your baby into it. Professional organizer Monica Ricci says this can be daunting for some people.

"So much of organizing is tied up in the way that we feel about ourselves.  We feel that if we're disorganized that we're bad people or we're stupid or we're inept or incompetent and that's not really true. Organization is just a series of skills and habits that you use in your life to make your life run smoothly. If you haven't adopted those skills and habits, you don't have the results that you want but it doesn't mean that you're stupid and it doesn't mean that you're inept or it’s a character flaw.  It just means that you haven't done those behaviors that someone else has chosen to do."

But with a baby coming, now is the time for you to do it. Ricci says, though, you need to enroll somebody to help you.

"Whether it's your friend, someone who can come in with an outside perspective, it's really important. Sometimes your husband or your partner may be able to help you, too, but you want somebody who is not so attached to the things in your life as you and your husband or your spouse are, so they can bring an objective set of eyes to look in and help you. The next thing that you want to do is to begin just making a list of the projects that you want to take on, because so many times I have clients say 'Oh, my house is so disorganized and I have to organize the entire thing.' Well the truth is, you don't have to organize the entire thing. You do one mini project at a time. One room is a big project.  One closet within that room is a mini project. You want to just break it down into manageable pieces so that you don't get overwhelmed because when we get overwhelmed what do we do? Nothing."

Ricci says you can divide the workload into trimesters, for example.  For the first trimester when you're likely to feel queasy and tired, start with something easy...

"Like, begin to think about what you want to do to baby proof your house.  So that just means crawling around just a little bit, looking from a baby point of view seeing what looks interesting, what would look interesting to little hands and little eyes and begin just kind of making a list for yourself or your husband to go out and either get the things you need or put them on the honey-do list; between now and the time I have this child, this is what we have to get done. That's a very easy way to begin getting your house prepared."

And believe it or not, part of being organized is picking out a daycare, if you'll be needing one. Waiting lists can be long, and if you wait until the baby’s born, you might find yourself bringing a baby in a Moses basket to work. Oh yeah, and during your first trimester, Ricci suggest penciling a daily nap into your day timer. You'll need the rest, and if it's on your to-do list, you're less likely to feel guilty about it.

As your pregnancy progresses, you'll start to "nest".

"Nesting is what women do when they begin to, just like birds do, they begin to go around and collect little bits of fluff and soft leaves for their nest the birds do. Well women do the same thing, they begin to clean and they begin to prepare the home for the eventual arrival for their new little one. And the second trimester is very often when the nesting starts because your energy has come back."

A good place to start is in the room that will be the nursery.

"Cleaning out the closets that you'll need for the baby’s room for example is a great way to nest, because how many of us have a guest room that we think 'oh well, when I have a baby we'll turn that into the nursery' but in the meantime it's loaded in there with all kinds of things. You know, old clothes and it's extra storage for everything else, the holiday decorations. So nesting, the second trimester nesting period, is the time when you'll want to start pulling those things out, reorganizing the space, maybe outfitting the space with the appropriate bars and shelves and such for a baby's closet."

But you've got to do something with all that stuff you've now liberated from the closet. You can have a garage sale or you can get rid of it on websites like Craigslist or Freecycle, you can donate some of it to charity, but you've got to get rid of as much of it as you can, because baby gear takes up a lot of space.

So what to you do with the newly empty closet? Well, fill them with bars and shelves.

"The great thing about kids’ closets is that their clothes are so little that you can fit a ton of them in there. You can, you know, put your first three years of clothes practically into one regular-sized closet. And you want to be sure that you can get shelves that are adjustable, so as the children's clothes get big and longer, you can move the bars and shelves further and further apart."

And don't waste the space on the back of the closet door. Ricci suggests a clear shoe bag -- yes, a shoe bag -- because they have all kinds of neat little pockets in which you can stash things like socks and shoes and brushes for easy access and storage.

Now, look around your nursery. What else needs to be done?

"Do I need to paint? Do I need to, you know, are there holes to be fixed?  Is there wallpaper to be stripped? I have to tell you I hope there’s not wallpaper to be stripped, that is a thankless job and that takes a lot of extra time so just really think about what needs to be done in there before that furniture comes in because that should be really the last thing that you do is bring the furniture in."

And about the furniture, Ricci likes the convertible variety; you know, the crib that becomes a toddler bed. One drawback, though, to that kind of furniture is you have to somehow keep track of the spare parts that convert the crib to a bed through your child's babyhood. No problem! Our organizer has a solution!

"What we say about having pieces and parts is that you want to think about 'where will I look for this later, and how can I keep all of the pieces together so that when I do look for it later, I can find it and I have everything I need?’ which means you take your little pieces and parts, you put them into a zip lock bag, you seal it up, tape it closed, attach that to the board itself with some nice strong tape and then you put it in the baby's closet, maybe in the back corner of the baby's closet. Doesn't that make the most sense, rather than stashing it in the attic or the basement where you just don't even know where to begin looking?"

And the second semester is a good time to organize your registry. Ricci suggests enlisting an experienced mom to help you out so you don't register for a bunch of things you don't need.  We’ll also help you figure that out for yourself in a future Pea in the Podcast, no worries about that.

After you've used your newfound organizational skills to accomplish all of these goals through the first two trimesters, you're in the home stretch. Now that you're more immobile and getting tired again, you need to focus on smaller projects like setting up your changing area and your nursing area.

"Any time you're organizing something you want to just think -- and this goes again for women who are having babies or not -- think about what your future needs will be. What will I need to have in my nursing area? What will I need to have in my changing area? What do I need at my fingertips? Then create the space so that it supports that."

Since these areas are likely to be viewed by guests to your home, you probably won't organize them with same plain plastic containers you use in the closet or under the bed.

"You want to think about what containers do I like to look at? What am I not going to get sick of after looking at it for three or four months? And this is a good opportunity, too, to add a little bit of neutrality to your baby's room, for example, if this happens to be the area that you're organizing.  You can put in things that don't necessarily look like they go into a kids’ room and that way you can use them in another room of the house when you're through using them in there, or you can leave them in your child's room and that way as the child grows up you don't have to change the piece because it doesn't have duckies or flowers on it."

Does this sound like too much change for you to handle? Don't worry. You can do this.

The trick to making such a revolutionary change to your lifestyle is being willing to ask for help.

"This is really important – the people in your life want to contribute. They want to help you.  They want to be part of this new exciting process, so don't be shy about keeping a running list of things to do and when somebody calls you on the phone and says, ‘hey, how are you doing, can I do anything for you?’ instead of saying, ‘oh, well, ah I don't know’ you can say, ‘you know what, you can do something for me’ because you've got your secret list written down."

Now that you’re getting your house in order, you're going to want to start cleaning up your financial house too. Certified Financial Planner Pat Shinn tells you why. Hold on to your hat!

"The US government has a report entitled the "Expenditures on Children" and the average cost of raising a child, that's going to be for food, clothing, and shelter for 18 years, plus another four years of college, somewhere between 500 and 600,000 dollars."

Yeah, that. And you thought you were already stressed out as you could be! But Shinn says this is doable, too.

"Sit down with your paycheck, take a look at what you've got coming in and then also sit down with your checkbook or your bank statement and just look at those recurring bills that tend to come in every month and that's going to give you a good idea of what your current situation is."

Okay, so you've figured out what your family's bottom line is, now what? Well, with a baby coming you need to prepare for a change in the amount of money you'll have coming in.

"Are you going to take time off? Maybe you're going to stay home for awhile or maybe you'll accept a job that has a little less pay for more flexible work time, so I think those are all things that we need to consider on the income side."

We've talked about how much space baby gear takes. Well, it's also expensive. But as you make over your financial life, you have a new rule to follow.

"First and foremost, avoid debt if you can. We all want the very, very best for our kids, but when it comes down to it, if it means putting it on a charge card you may look back and find that you may regret it.  When we put something on our credit card we want to be sure that we can pay for it."

Shinn is a financial planner, but he's also a parent. He knows that’s hard.

"Especially for a new parent.  I remember back when we were starting out as new parents and we wanted the very, very best for our kids and that meant, you know, if we didn't have the money in the checkbook, maybe we'd put it on the credit card, and I can think back so many times on the things we bought where we looked back and said it wasn't worth it."

Coach Natalie has some ideas to help you with this. First, let go of the idea that everything needs to be new.

"Sometimes financially when you're not in the place to go out and buy a lot of the things that you might need, borrowing things, you know, most people who've had children and might be done having children love the opportunity to give them to someone else."

If you've got to buy some new things, you don't have to go brand new on everything.

"You know, garage sales and consignment shops are great places to go for these things.  Even at a Babies'R'Us or Toys'R'Us there's clearance areas of things that are not the latest and greatest or maybe last year's model, but last year's model still works.  It's usually just different colors."

And Pat Shinn has just the place for all that money you're going to save on discount baby gear, your savings account.

"Normally what we would look at in financial planning is you want to have on average about three months of living expenses in what we call a rainy day fund and that's going to hopefully get you through times that you may not be expecting."

Sometimes the most difficult, maybe because it's the most unexpected, struggle pregnant women face as they seek to remake their worlds for the coming baby, well, it comes from within.  It's a fear that you're going to somehow lose yourself.

"Would I still be an interesting, fun person? I remember thinking, you know, where am I going to get my stories from, my anecdotes from when my world shrinks, when I no longer go to work? Will I have to only hang out with other people who have children? And, you know, the first time my husband and I went on a date night after we’d had the baby, it was almost like a first date again, you know, I had to specifically I remember listening to the news that day to think of conversation pieces, you know, because I was so afraid of being interesting, still, and just not being this sort of frumpy insulated person because my world had shrunk."

Coach Natalie says the concerns can sometimes *seem* shallow.

"I can't go, you know, buy 10 pairs of shoes a week and I can't just go run around until 2 o'clock in the morning and be a party girl, you know, can't work all kind of crazy hours because there is someone else that is going to be relying on me at home."

Leah experienced those types of fears, which really are reflections of a deeper anxiety.

"For me there was a lot of just pull and push of wanting to be, and not that I was so wild and crazy before I had children, but just wanting to be this fancy free person and then this overwhelming sense of responsibility."

That struggle can play itself out in funny ways. Almost every mom has a story to share. Here's one of Leah's...

"I must have been eight months pregnant and I went to a Tina Turner concert with my friend, which, you know, it's Tina Turner so it wasn't too crazy. It was kind of a middle-aged crowd, and I'd really wanted to go, and in the middle of the concert all of the sudden I thought, you know, ‘maybe this is hurting the baby's ears, it's so loud', and you know there a part of me was wanting to have fun, wanting to be the person I was before I had children, and then this absolute panic. So my solution was to have all my friends pile their coats on top of my belly so I basically sat, you know, in this hot auditorium and I was trying to enjoy the music, sweating because I had you know five pairs of coats on top of my belly."

Coach Natalie says many moms face this same type of challenge.

"Well I guess the hardest thing for that type of mom is relinquishing the freedom and the control, and I think, you know, for first time moms especially, who have, you know, a lot of control over their lives, and they have a lot of freedom to do whatever they want to do, perhaps whenever they want to do it, you know, to be able to change that hat and to relinquish some of that is very challenging, but not impossible."

She says it’s important to remember that motherhood does not mean you will lose your old and maybe fun identity.

"Well, you take on a new identity. You're still who you are, but you're who you are plus something else. And I think if people keep that humanness and they realize that they’re not somebody different, they're somebody more."

Leah worked her way through it by reaching out, and reaching in.

"My mom was really the one who helped talk me through a lot of my anxiety and it sort of was a silly revelation to make but this idea that ‘oh yeah, my mom raised me, she's had children, she's been through this.’ I think for me writing helped a lot and I think even though I desperately wanted to hang on to my friends who didn't have children, have done so, and you know I think making mommy friends, someone with whom you can compare notes and, you know, talk about concerns is crucial as well."

And, believe it or not, when you're transitioning from a kid-free life to life as a mom, it can really be hard to make mommy friends and you can begin to feel a little isolated. If you find yourself in this situation, go to where the mommies are -- the park or the library, Mommy and Me type classes, yoga classes with babies and even some mommy message boards on the internet.  Leah says ultimately, though, she had come to terms with her new identity by the time her new child arrived.

"I became a lot more relaxed. I would say I'm a pretty laid back parent. It helped being able to actually *see* these little human beings versus having them inside me when I had no idea what was going on. But yeah, I think a lot of the anxiety just had to be worked out through the pregnancy."

She describes this push and pull as almost essential as your perception of yourself shifts.

"In so many ways I think pregnancy prepares you for the fact, for example, that your body is not completely your own and it continues on, you know, I remember just being completely blown away by the idea that I was nursing a child. You know, you go from going to a coffee shop to basically being a coffee shop."

Maternity coach Jodi Silverman says if you're having a prenatal identity crisis, just think it through.

"Figure out what are the things in your life that are very important to you and how you can keep those, and what are the things in your life that can be changed a little bit and how we can change them so that that would be acceptable, and there are ways of doing that. I mean, yes, having children changes your life completely and sometimes in very positive ways and sometimes in very stressful ways, but there are definitely ways so that you don't feel as much of that stress and so that you don't feel that you're making as much of a sacrifice as you might otherwise feel."

I'll stress it again -- the most important thing to keep in mind through all of these changes is you do not have to go it alone.

"People have to be able to say 'I do need help doing this and that’s okay.’ I think a lot of times, when women become pregnant, all of the sudden they take on this kind of 'I can take care of everything' role, and that's not the case, and that's when you end up seeing a lot of issues with postpartum depression. The sleep deprivation comes, family planning, all of those things kind of go out the window because we're not as prepared as we'd like to think we are."

Leah says as you're busy making over your life to get ready for your baby, don't forget to relish this time.

"Enjoy every moment of freedom that you have. Enjoy going to the store by yourself, enjoy going to the bathroom by yourself, enjoy everything that you can do without, you know, a child hanging on to you. But at the same time, you know, my children are four and six and already I feel that, you know, I'm getting so much of my life back and I feel that my children are slipping away a little bit from me. My son will be starting first grade next year so, you know, there's a loss of freedom when you have children, but it comes back as well, and this period of pregnancy and of babyhood are fleeting."

Now you’ll find a link to Leah Bassoff’s columns reflecting on motherhood, as well as links for all of our experts in this podcast at our website

We hope you've enjoyed this Pea in the Podcast: Lifestyle Makeover. Please visit our website,, for more information about our experts, to find links and transcripts, and to register to receive tailored week-by-week shows for each week and stage of your pregnancy.  It’s everything you need to know about your body, your baby and the big changes ahead in your life in your journey to becoming a mommy. For Pea in the Podcast, I'm Bonnie Petrie, thanks for listening.