I am a serial non-planner and good or bad, tend to deal with life, its problems and its surprises as they are presented to me. However, there are a few things every new parent should, at the very least, be aware of. Here are a couple sentences on each, but for more information, please speak to your doctor, your lawyer, your accountant or your therapist.
1. Cord Blood Storage — Blood is harvested from the umbilical cord after birth and stored, for a fee. Cord blood contains hematopoietic stem cells, those with the potential to become any of the three types of blood cells. The hope is science will find more and better ways to use these cells to treat or cure disease. It is less of an insurance policy and more of a gamble. That being said, I stored cord blood for my four youngest children.
2. 529 — Even though I am personally banking on all my kids getting full academic and athletic scholarships, I know I need to plan for the unlikely event I will actually have to pay for five college tuitions. (Insert winking smiley face.) 529s are a great, low maintenance tool to save for college. Contributions are taken after taxes but the investment grows tax-deferred. 529s are flexible in many ways, notably that you can move the funds from one family member to another to meet individual financial needs. If your child opts out of college (gasp!), monies can be used for any type of education.
3. Guardianship — Depressing I know, but amidst all your peri-partum glow, you still have to be realistic. It may be hard to have the conversation now about who you and your partner would entrust with the most valuable thing in your life — your child. Do it anyway, ask the chosen people first, and then talk to a lawyer to seal the deal.
4. Life Insurance — Again, not something you want to think about, but consider the cost of raising a child and aim toward covering that expense with life insurance should the worst happen. Don’t underestimate the benefits needed for a parent who stays home with children. While he or she may not actually earn an income, full time child care is a huge expense.
5. Your Relationship — Discuss early and often how you expect your relationship to change when you have children. I promise it will not look like a Hallmark commercial with the two of you cooing over a cradle for hours on end. Often, it looks more like a scene from Fatal Attraction, minus the attraction. Lack of sleep, lack of intimacy and lack of adult fun can come together in dangerous ways. I hated my husband intently after the birth of our second child, because I stayed home and he “got” to go to work. The best thing I ever did was tell him so. Harboring bad feelings is detrimental to your long term goal of a happy, healthy family. Acknowledge the bumps in the road early and often. Remember to laugh, keep your perspective and try to remember to put your relationship first. Yes, even before your little bundle of joy.