Use ACH to pay bills during pregnancy

The latter months of pregnancy are often very busy with last minute preparation for the forthcoming little one. That full schedule will not ease up after the birth of a child either, and sleep deprivation makes it more difficult to remember little details that don't involve diapers and formula. It seems as though the world revolves solely around the expectant family or newly arrived treasure, but banks, utility companies and credit card companies don't see it in quite the same way.

One highly effective tool for managing time and personal productivity is to use automatic bill payments (especially while caring for/dealing with a pregnant woman and making sure the baby room is prepared). Often known as ACH, automatic bill payments simply deduct the amount owed from one's checking account on a predetermined date on a recurring basis. This service is quite often free and available for sign up through a vendor's website. It typically requires an electronic 'signature' and your checking account number and bank routing number. Certain places require paper forms to be signed and mailed, but it's worth the effort.

Not only does using automatic payments reduce the overhead involved with managing your finances, it helps make sure that you won't miss a payment date. As such, it prevents potential damage to your credit score because of an honest, fatigue-induced mistake. For variable payments (e.g. credit cards) for which the amount is not the same every month, I prefer to set the automatic payment to the minimum so I don't miss any deadlines and then initiate additional payments manually, after the fact.

This approach to personal finances saves time, effort, the cost of stamps and envelopes and makes sure there's never any question about whether or not a bill was paid on time or a check lost in the mail. Some credit card companies will charge a $35 late fee if your payment is even 1 hour past their cut off time; ACH prevents that from being an issue.

Many vendors allow you to change your payment date if you're worried about scheduling your payments around paychecks. I make entries in my Google Calendar for each automatic payment, and set up text message or email notifications on the payment date so I can balance my checking account.

Bills that often can be paid automatically each month include:
- auto insurance
- cable television
- car payments (set up through bank)
- credit card (if carrying a balance)
- life insurance
- phone
- utilities

Talking to the pregnant belly, revisited

Throughout my wife's pregnancy I spoke to her belly, more specifically the baby within the big pregnant belly, on a fairly regular basis. From the beginning I felt that by talking to him in utero he would develop an affinity for his father's voice once he was born.

After months of chatter I have to say that, in my estimation, it worked and was a worthwhile expenditure of time.

Within moments of my son's delivery he was handed to me, and after speaking only a few words, my baby boy quickly calmed down. A nurse and a doctor commented on his reaction without prompting which was all the validation I needed for my "talking to a pregnant belly" hypothesis. These days, at the ripe old age of 10 days, he quiets quickly with a few words from dad when he's in the middle of a diaper or hunger-fueled crying jag.

I admit it's not scientifically airtight; I had no control group for this experiment. My wife would have been furious if I were simultaneously having a child with a different woman for the sake of a making a point, so I leave it to educated assumption and the opinion of professionals to draw my conclusion.

Among expectant fathers I'm not alone; many men talk to their pregnant partner's belly. Of those dads-to-be who answered the Almost A Dad ongoing survey for expectant fathers, more than 77% of expectant fathers carry on belly talk with relative frequency. More than a quarter of all respondents do so every day.

I never talked about much of anything of much importance; the events of my day, made up songs, anything that came to mind. My suggestion is that all expectant dads, if so inclined, should take a minute or two per day to talk to their partner's pregnant belly.

Prenatal checklist: Chest freezer

A chest freezer may sound like an odd item on Dad's prenatal checklist, but if you have the space for and means to buy a chest freezer, I highly recommend it. A chest freezer allows you to buy in bulk, prepare in advance and stock up on extra until such a point that the bundle of joy is more mobile. If you are short on space to fit a freezer, you can always throw a changing pad on top and use it as a changing table for the baby.

Since coming home from the hospital after the birth of our son, we've gotten large quantities of food from family, friends and neighbors. It's been so much that it far exceeds the capacity of the freezer compartment of our refrigerator. We would never be able to finish it all before it spoils, yet will definitely eat it in the near future, so we stuck it all in our chest freezer. In addition to helping manage the influx of gifted foods, it allowed us to stock up on things before the baby ever arrived.

As part of the nesting instinct, expect that your wife or partner may buy extras of everything in preparation for your new arrival. A chest freezer helps accommodate any extra groceries that make their way into your home. Remember, you may not be able to get to the grocery store with pre-baby ease and frequency. You can leave a pregnant woman alone for short periods of time, but you can't do the same with a newborn.

Getting things done becomes a much more difficult proposition. Every errand you need to accomplish takes on new logistical weight, food shopping included. You're not supposed to take newborn babies out into crowded public places like shopping centers for a least a month, so you can't just bundle him or her up and take them with you. In the case of a c-section birth, the mother's recovery time will be much longer and will need much more help, again making trips out of the house more difficult.

Some foods that freeze well, or can be purchased frozen, include:

- meat
- poultry
- fish
- breads
- soups and stews
- baked goods, cookies, unfrosted cakes
- casseroles
- lasagna
- spaghetti sauce
- juice concentrate
- pre-made dinners
The function of a chest freezer is just as useful as your child ages and the amount of food you consume on a regular basis may exceed the store you have available in a refrigerator or freezer.
Big box stores like Best Buy and Home Depot usually have small chest freezers for anywhere from $150 on up.

My baby boy

8 pounds, 7 ounces after a whopping 33 hours of labor. My wife was amazing and so is our little boy.

Thank you to all of you for your well wishes... I'll be back posting soon!

The Jeffersons Birth Song

On a regular basis I talk to my wife's pregnant belly. And yes, I do realize how ridiculous I look but I don't really care. In fact, I relish the ridiculous and often embellish it with the gift of song. I would now like to share with you one of my recent masterpieces.

Classless, yes. Offensive, slightly. Waiting for his arrival is killing me and this is the level to which I've regressed.

This is a song about birth, sung to the tune of The Jeffersons theme song.

Well he's a movin' on down, (movin' on down),
To the south side
through a deluxe compartment, in her thi-i-ighs.

He's a movin' on down,
To the south side,
He finally gets to see to whats outside.

Gotta get past the cervix,
Down through that birth canal
Takes a whole lot of tryin'
Just to come join this world

Now we're waitin' for our child,
Just can't wait for that.
As long as we live, it's you and me baby,
There ain't nothin' wrong with that.

Well he's a movin' on down, (movin' on down),
To the south side
through a deluxe compartment, in her thi-i-ighs.