The Pregnant Gal's Guide to Hosting for the Holidays

by Courtney Sullivan

Here's the turkey!Families look forward all year to sharing a Thanksgiving feast. Often that means a table groaning with a variety of delicacies -- something to tempt everyone's palate. For the hostess, pulling this meal off requires days of menu planning, shopping, preparation, and an exhaustive list of "things to do."

If you're pregnant, hosting a family dinner can present even more challenges. Wafting fragrances might spur waves of nausea. Long periods on your feet can produce swelling, aches, and pains. The heated kitchen proves unbearable at times. The stress of welcoming hoards of visitors (even those you claim to love!) into your home while pregnant, might let loose a stream of hormonal waves that frightens even the dog!

Delve into our tips for combating these and other potential pitfalls and pull off the (nearly) perfect family gathering while expecting!

Start the Lists

making a list

You'll want one for guests. Send out invitations or call family and friends. Confirm who is coming and who is not. When planning your guest list, keep in mind the stage of pregnancy you're at and keep it reasonable. You can always have other friends over for an intimate dinner another time. Include some folks on your list that will be willing to step up and help if you need them to.

Early shopping: Eliminate a last minute (or several last minute) shopping trips with a carefully planned non-perishable grocery list.

Day before shopping list: Swing by the store for fresh fruits and vegetables. Consider adding festive holiday paper plates to simplify cleanup.

Things to do: From household chores to trying on a stunning new outfit, map out just what you need to accomplish and when.

Plan out the big day on a timeline. To pull this off with the least amount of stress, you'll find that having a "game plan" to follow will keep you on track and avoid the pile up of trying to do everything at once at the last minute! Create your goodies ahead of time as much as possible. This leaves you more time to actually enjoy your guests on Thanksgiving Day! We've made an example to match our traditional Thanksgiving menu.

Just for You Momma!

Aromatherapy counters smells and controls nausea. Put a couple of drops of lavender, mint or lemon essential oil on a tissue or handkerchief. Take a whiff when you feel sick.

Keep hydrated and remember to eat. You can get so engrossed in creating the perfect meal that those everyday events, like eating, blur into the background. Keep your water bottle handy and stop occasionally for a healthy snack.

"Snack. While fixing holiday meals when I was pregnant, I always forgot to eat and got sick." ~Shellie, Pregnancy.org member

Plan rest breaks: So much to accomplish...so little time. Stop! Your family and your friends gather to enjoy one another's company...and your presence. Today, take time to take care of yourself.

Simplify: Maybe this year you don't have the energy to do everything. Instead, take a small part of the holiday and make it big. Focus on something that you can do -- like an easy meal or stunning decorations -- and make that your contribution to the holiday season.

Do It Ahead of Time

making a listFigure out what you can do ahead of schedule. Stretching the work over a week or two can make all the difference.

Around the house: Do any heavy cleaning on the weekend prior. Enlist help! Go ahead and move tables and chairs as needed. (This is really smart to do if you are also working outside the home and only have the weekend or after work hours to organize!) The night before Thanksgiving, spot check, put out any flowers or decorations, set the table (unless you have little hands that will "unset" it for you!), put fresh towels in the guest bathroom, etc.

The meal: Much of a Thanksgiving meal seems to require cooking up to time to serve. Take the pressure off by looking at your menu to determine what recipes you can do a day or two before – reheated (if needed) – and served. Are guests bringing a dish or two? Double check with them to avoid duplication and fill in any culinary holes.

Tips and Cheats

making a list
Hire a helper or ask a friend to give you a hand. Schools get out early the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. See if a local teen can clean and tidy for you.

Have older kids? Bribe them! Give a treat or toy for every room they help clean or keep clean. Are these same children underfoot? Instead of a pricey and large centerpiece, let your kids make one!

Eat early. You can have your guests all fed and out the door before your early evening melt-into-the-couch attack.

Food preparation: Not only do you not want to be stuck in the kitchen all day, you might find a mad competition going on for oven space. General rule of thumb to simplify the feast day -- desserts (like cakes and pies) can be cooked a day or two ahead and covered, refrigerated if required. Next, prepare any side dishes that you can early (you can always pop them in for warming later). Other options to consider:

1. Make Thanksgiving a potluck! You can prep the bird or other main dish. Allow your guests to do the rest.

"I've found over the years if you ask your visitors to bring just one of their special side dishes along for Thanksgiving, everyone will be the master of the day, we can bond over sharing recipes and I'm less stressed." ~Sheryl, Pregnancy.org member

2. Combine forces with another friend or family member. Invite them over early to help you prepare.

3. Overnight girls' night: After all, you knew it was going to take an "all-nighter" to get the house in shape...why not enjoy it?

4. You don't have to hand make everything. Take advantage of your grocer's deli sections (some might require pre-orders).

Hopefully these tips -- tried and tested by moms in various stages of pregnancy -- will have you sailing smoothly throughout the day.

Add your helpful hints in the comments!

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