Preparing to give birth in the City of Big Shoulders? Get ready. In addition to a generally friendly Midwestern vibe from passers-by, there are a handful of little-known watch-outs and hacks that Chicago moms of yore have discovered along the way. For advice, we asked our Member Discussion Forum and social media channels to weigh in: What would you tell a first-time Chicago mom? Here’s what we learned.
Bundle up, but don’t buy a maternity coat
Given our long winter, chances are you’re going to need a coat. But don’t fall prey to buying an expensive maternity coat — especially since you may only wear it for a short time (depending on your due date, Groundhog Day, or both). Many on our Forum advised buying a used maternity coat for the months you need it, then selling it again when you’re done. One mom said she lucked out with purchasing a plus-sized coat during Black Friday sales just after Thanksgiving: “It was great, and hundreds less expensive than a ‘maternity’ winter coat.”
Begin your childcare search early
In a city as big as ours, there are a lot of childcare options...but there are a lot of new babies vying for those spots. Many NPN moms have said that they were forced to join waitlists for childcare, many of which can be more than six months long. One mom advised that especially in the Lakeview and Lincoln Park neighborhoods, registering “by the second trimester” is a good idea. Considering a nanny? Peruse the NPN Childcare Classifieds to see what parents are saying about the nanny they're recommending. Typically, parents start looking for a nanny about 2 months before they go back to work.
Riding the CTA? Wear a button — and speak up.
In fall 2019, the CTA partnered with The Mom Project to produce “Baby On Board” buttons for expectant mothers riding the El. Thing is, they’re only effective if other riders notice them and follow suit. Most moms we heard from complained that they were seldom offered seats on trains or buses, even during late-stage (read: obvious) pregnancy. Sadly, this anecdote is a common one: “One time, during a curve, my stomach smacked a rider’s face as I was trying to hold on for dear life; didn’t even phase him.” Word to the wise: Even if you’re wearing a button, don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself. In Chicago, seats are prioritized for expectant mothers. Claim what’s yours!
[Related: The best-kept secret about breastfeeding]
Plan on traffic
Whether you’re attending those final, frequent check-ups with your doula or planning your route to the hospital, know that Chicago traffic jams can strike at any time — rush hour be damned. We’ve heard of several moms who didn’t quite make it to the hospital and had to give birth on the expressway...but we also know a mom who had the shortest hospital commute ever early on Easter Sunday. No matter your destination, try to have an alternate route that doesn’t include Lake Shore Drive or the expressway.
Get a car seat before discharge...
Unfortunately, some Chicago parents have found out this rule the hard way: Major hospitals, including Prentice Women’s Hospital at Northwestern, require new parents to procure a car seat for use at discharge, whether it will be installed in their own vehicle, or a shared vehicle such as a cab or Uber. Tip: If you need help with the installation, you can have it done for free at any local fire station.
...even if you’re taking the El home.
Some moms said they gave birth back in the days before car seats were required, and were able to walk or take public transit home from the hospital. But just in case, bring your car seat. Compared with births from even a handful of years ago, we heard from other members who said that they were required to bring a car seat to the hospital — even though they’d planned to head home by other means. It’s just policy.