Just dropping in from our vacation in San Diego to say to everyone and comment on a couple of things:
carriers: I think it'd be great to be able to test them when your baby is actually here. So many babies have very particular tastes + unique bodies + personal tastes = very individual likes/preferences.
With DD we used a moby-style wrap for the newborn stage, which I loved using. And the Ergo from about three weeks, but no insert, can't stand it ... we rolled up a receiving blanket and put it under her wee bum. She was six pounds at birth, so on the small side. We also used a sling with her until about 8 months, but slings make my sciatica act up once by babies are of a certain weight. WIth regards to the Ergo, DD was a perfect fit for it as she is a hands in/leans in kind of worn baby. I wore her in the woven wrap (5m Vatanai) a lot too. She was very content to go up-up and stay up-up.
With DS we had a Buddha wrap for the infant stages (about four weeks). I didn't like it very much, but it did the trick and was comfy. Fiddly to put on though, and rather too elastic-y for my heftier baby (8 lbs at birth). I started to used the Ergo with him, but it wasn't comfortable at all beyond the first few months, whereas I was still wearing DD in it up to age three+. I was confused. Turns out that he's a differenent creature altogether. He likes to keep his arms out and lean back. So I did a bit of research and now have a toddler-size kinderpack, which is working well. I only used the 5m wrap with him as a newborn, when he slept mostly. He loves to be up and down, so I don't wrap him much right now. I imagine I'll wrap him more in the summer, when there are fewer jackets and temp variables. I use the sling occasionally with him, and keep it in the car for when I forget to bring the kinderpack.
My advice is to not buy anything new (unless you're loaded and don't mind experimenting at a cost) because you are not the one who will decide what carrier is best. Your baby will!
I've got carriers off of CL, babywearer, trades with other mamas looking for the perfect carrier match, and from swap meets with a local baby wearing group.
So, while we've had an Ergo, Zolo sling, Maya sling, Moby-style wrap, Buddha Wrap, Kinderpack, african cloth wrap, Vatanai woven wrap and a Beco Butterfly, we only actually use one of them (with a second as backup) at any given stage. I often trade the one I'm no longer using for the one I want to use. Right now we have the kinderpack and a Maya sling in rotation. The Vatanai I've kept throughout, because there's always use for a woven wrap!
I am so saddened to hear my American friends talk about their leave situations. I'm Canadian, so I'm paid a portion of my wage (about 60% or so) from EI benefits that I pay into. That covers 12 months, and then I take another three on top of that, unpaid. It's my part-time job as a paramedic that I pay into the EI with. If I were full time, I'd get topped up to 85% of my wages for 12 months.
If you are self-employed (my writing career, for example) you can pay into the EI program too, and still get the 12 months at a portion of your wage.
We're still trying very hard to adopt our neighbour's foster child, and if we manage to (verrrry long shot, but trying our damnedest!), then I'll get 9 months off at 60% of my wages (the other three are for the birthing parent, as maternity leave, so we won't qualify for those), and will take three at no-pay to have a complete year at home with her.
I wish that the US had similar benefits. I truly value my time at home with my babies, and wish the same for all of you!
Personals later ... for now the beach beckons!