3 Ways to Prepare for Being a First-Time Parent

It’s happening: Whether you’re over the moon already or walking with great trepidation (or honestly, a mixture of both), you have a baby on the way. Congratulations — you’ve got this!

Here are three things that might help you prepare for your new arrival and growing family:

Take a beat and breathe.

No matter what anyone or any source says, as long as you have going-home clothes and a proper car seat, they will actually let you take your baby home, even if you have nothing else ready.

Don’t let the preparations overwhelm you. Sure, there absolutely are a million decisions to make and a bunch of baby gear to get your hands on, but newborns don’t need or do much right away (Praise. The. Lord.), and the acquiring of some items might actually be better to put off until you actually meet your little one.

Prime example: My son was a side-sleeper and a roller literally from the day he came home, so we’re glad we didn’t invest in one of those rocking sleeper bassinets because he immediately would have been unsafe in it.

Your plans can be efficient and thorough, but no need to have every single thing in place pre-birth. The most important preparation you can do is to educate yourself and remain (or become) peaceful. May I recommend Matthew 6:25-34 to help you? “Look at the birds” — or those baby clothes so cute they make you want to squeal out loud — and remember that God provides for what we need. Even as you work through what needs doing, engage this preparation time prayerfully and you’ll find God meeting you with peace and joy.

Gather your village.

From lactation consultants, to postpartum depression support, to 24-hour pediatric nursing lines, to moms’ or dads’ groups either online or at your church — a whole network of people is available to help if you reach out to find them. There is no need to face parenthood alone, and so much support is actually free of cost or covered by insurance.

Knowing what’s available in your area and who to call in case of (fill in the blank) is going to help you immensely when you need help fairly quickly in the moment. Included in the million decisions you’ll be making, you will need to sort out ahead of time which experts and professionals fit your parenting style. You can’t assume that everyone who calls themselves an expert is going to give advice or support that complements your personal values.

You’ll also need the emotional and physical support of fellow parents for everything from cheering you on to trading babysitting; from bringing meals over to helping you decide whether the medical thing your baby is experiencing is ER-worthy. (But do depend on experts instead of non-medical personnel for an actual diagnosis — and “experts” do not include Google.)

Don’t forget about yourself.

Parents often get erased in the whirl of activity supporting the baby following birth. It suddenly feels selfish to do even the smallest thing for yourself, and there are so many people ready to judge you for doing so.

Be prepared to be your own advocate, if you must, or find someone who will (e.g. spouse, best friend, baby’s grandparents, post-birth doula). If you’re not feeling right, don’t hesitate to get help: It is NOT a waste of time, even if it feels mild, and it IS the most important thing.

Experts estimate that about 70 to 80 percent of women will experience at least a mild form of postpartum depression called the “baby blues,” and a recent study found that one in seven women may experience the more severe condition of postpartum depression in the year after giving birth.

Even still, postpartum depression is severely underreported, and may actually affect the fathers or adoptive parents as well, so it is worth it to know ahead of time the signs and a professional to rely upon.

Even if it’s not so serious — maybe your baby is cluster feeding, and you just need 20 minutes to shower, get dressed, and feel more human — don’t hesitate to ask for help. Self-care — like basic cleanliness or a little more sleep — is NOT selfish.

Give yourself a little forgiveness, too, while you’re at it. Between recovery, hormone crashes, “baby brain,” and suddenly having to protect your baby from the entire outside world, things may very well fall through the cracks here and there, and that’s completely normal.

The airplane safety instruction about putting your own oxygen mask on first so as to stay conscious and able to help others really holds up in early parent life, so make sure that you know going in that it’s going to be difficult, but your child will benefit directly from having the healthiest version of you possible.

Parenthood is an adventure, but you’re not alone. From professionals to your spouse or family, welcoming new life into the world draws people together — in their own way, your parents had the same experience when you were an infant. It’s not all up to you. And remember that the God of creation who brought this life into being won’t fail to support you, either.

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