Jenna Kowaleski column: The stuff you'll actually use after having a baby

Here is a list of necessary items, complied from my experience, for all those almost-parents out there.

Jenna Kowaleski
Jenna Kowaleski
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As my sweet little baby morphs into a toddler, he is swiftly leaving plenty of stuff in his wake. As I sort through the baby swings and burp cloths to make room for toy trains and 2T pajamas, generously showered upon us by friend, family and community to prepare for this oh-so-loved baby, I can’t help but reflect upon all the things we thought we needed for those first few months of parenthood versus the things we actually used. Below is a list of necessary items, complied from my experience, for all those almost-parents out there.

The ones with a zipper and flaps and Velcro. Swaddle blankets are hard. Give yourself some grace. Buy the cheater swaddles.

Two dozen bottles and a large “grass” drying rack
Babies eat all the time. The dishes are endless. Give yourself a little wiggle room with enough bottles for a few days, plus one of those big fake grass pads to dry them on. Is it ugly and will it eat up all your counter space? Yes. Will you care? No.

A car seat
Preferably one that makes your life a little easier, not harder. A little online research will save you lots of swearing and back pain.

Two bassinets
One for the bedroom and one for the living room to save yourself the trip. Because, at least after my surgery, walking down the short hallway of our small house was excruciating.


Big bottles of acetaminophen and ibuprofen
To take on a rotating schedule to keep the pain of a cesarean section incision, if applicable, at a constant mild roar as you get up and down and up and down and up and down. Because, unlike other people who’ve just had major abdominal surgery, you also have a baby.

Big bags of ice and zipped plastic bags
For the roughly one third of births in the U.S. that end in C-section, the dull roar of incision pain will flare up out of nowhere and make it feel like you’ve been stabbed, right there in the kitchen while you’re making your morning coffee. And you’ll scream and keel over, baby in your arms, and wonder if you’re bleeding out. You probably aren’t, but ice can help.

Hold on to those maternity clothes
Elastic bands on a healing C-section scar are for the birds. Think high-waist loose pants and shift dresses to give some room to heal.

A nursing pillow
Even if you aren’t nursing. Put some distance and polyester stuffing between 7 pounds of wiggling weight and an incision that is trying desperately to turn into a scar.

A streaming subscription
Find a long-running lighthearted comedy series and consider them your new family. You’ll be spending a lot of time together as you sit on the couch, unable to move from the pain, and not wanting to because your newborn is snuggled into the crook of your neck and you love them so much your heart will absolutely explode.

Someone to talk to
Birth is hard. Birth is complicated. I never found it to be as simple as, “But it was all worth it.” Because I love my son more than the oxygen in my lungs, AND the process of getting him out of my body and the healing after was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. It took my entire community of health care providers, family, friends and fellow Northland mamas for me to find true healing.

When preparing for the birth of a baby, it’s important for the community around expecting parents to prepare for them for the actual birth. And then the baby.

Peoples’ experiences of birth and healing afterwards are invaluable, and should be shared, showered upon (both) parents in groups for everyone to hear. If we all shared our stories, sprinkling them in with the boxes of diapers and baby blankets, we can help those about to welcome a newborn into their lives to be truly prepared.

Related Topics: DULUTH
Jenna Kowaleski, of Duluth, is a freelance Lifestyle columnist for the Duluth News Tribune.
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