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Reality Check: Preparing for Labor Day

Q. I can't figure out what to do when I go into labor with our second child. We have no family nearby, so how can we make plans for leaving our toddler when we rush off to the hospital, possibly at night?

A. Take a few deep breaths, because hyperventilating won't help. The logistical complexities involved in planning for labor day when you have a small child at home hit me, too, as my due date approached. It seemed akin to some other surprises mothers of two had forgotten to mention to me -- like the fact that during my second pregnancy I'd be changing poopy diapers while suffering from morning sickness and that my toddler would be eating all my saltines.

Our family members were all a plane ride away. So the labor-day plan was three-pronged. Plan A: My mother would fly in a week or two before my due date. Plan B: If the baby arrived before that, 3-year-old Madeline would go to the house of friends with two little daughters. This led to Plan C: On the off chance that the friends couldn't be reached for some reason, we lined up a sitter.

Did everything go as planned? No. Were we okay anyway? Yes. As it turned out, I went into labor three weeks early (Plan A out the window). It was the crack of dawn, and Madeline woke up with a raging fever (Plan B no longer an option). So we resorted to Plan C -- we left our feverish child at home with a babysitter she knew only slightly while we rushed off to the hospital to give birth to her sister just an hour and 20 minutes later.

None of the timing was ideal, but the good thing about labor is that it forces all extraneous worries right out of you. You have one concern and one concern alone: to get that baby out.

So make a plan, a backup plan, and a backup to the backup. Trust people when they say they'll be there to help you when you need them, even if it's the middle of the night. And don't worry about how this one day will affect your toddler. You're giving him the gift of a sibling.

Trisha Thompson is a contributing editor to Parenting magazine and a former editor-in-chief of BabyTalk.