Because babies don’t come with a manual, parenting podcaster & dad-of-two Stuart Heritage shares his hard-won wisdom on how to prepare for a baby
You won't be the star in the delivery room
Childbirth is an amazing, primal event that you can never fully prepare yourself for. But remember that you can only be a bystander. You can help out (sometimes) – you’re the go-to guy for moral support, or voicing your partner’s wishes if she’s in too much pain to express them herself – but you may also be the first to be shoved out of the room if anything goes wrong.
Babies don't run to a schedule
And that includes their ETA. Even if you’ve booked an elective caesarian, your baby can still ambush you. Our second came two weeks early – my wife went in for a check-up, only to be told she was already 7cm dilated. Top tip: make sure your bag is packed way before the due date.
It's normal to be freaked out by parenthood
People say you’ll be swept up on a wave of love when you first see your child. But be prepared to also be swept up on a wave of worry. How will you feed this fragile little thing? How are you going to pay for its upbringing? Will you ever go out again? Will you ever sleep? Just ride it out. You’ll find a way. Everyone does.
Say so long to sleep…
You’ll soon be more tired than you could ever imagine. You’ll fall asleep on trains and buses, and stagger through each day like a zombie. But think of all the sunrises you’ll get to see now. That makes up for it, right?
…but watching them sleep will blow your mind
It’s incredible. You will never see anything as peaceful looking as a sleeping newborn. They snuffle, murmur and wrap their tiny fingers around your thumb. They are utterly, utterly content. And quiet, too, which helps.
Life will get messy
Embrace the chaos! If you’ve always been a clean freak, you’ll need to learn to let it go. You will soon be covered in more types of bodily fluid than you ever knew existed. But that’s fine. You get used to it surprisingly quickly. Plus, you’re a new parent: this is the only time in your life that people will be actively expecting you to look a mess.
There's no 'I' in team
This is the most important point. Babies are hard work, and you need to pitch in wherever you can. Start cooking dinners and doing housework. Take the baby so your partner can nap. If you’re eligible for shared parental leave – and if you can afford it – investigate it. You’re part of a team now. Start acting like it.
Babies absorb all your time, effort & love
This is often to the detriment of your relationship, which runs the risk of simply becoming a baby-serving tag-team. It’s hard but remember to make time for each other too. It doesn’t have to be a date night – we haven’t managed one of those for literally months – because little gestures (small presents, back rubs, that sort of thing) will go a long way.
Book a babymoon today
This is the last chance you’ll get to travel without pushchairs and nappy bags. It’s the last chance you’ll get to sleep on a plane. It’s the last chance to go anywhere that doesn’t have a playground nearby. Holidays with kids are great, but so are holidays without kids. Make the most of it while you can.
This is the easy bit
Remember, early parenthood is scary and new, but in retrospect it’s a piece of cake. Give it a year. Soon your baby will start walking, climbing stairs and pulling things off tables all day long. That’s when parenting really starts!