Amanda Brunker: 'I've felt the total terror of not knowing what to do with my new baby'
The waiting game is over; you're finally a parent. Everything you've talked about is now becoming real. And as you pack up the car to bring baby home from the hospital, the panic sets in. What the hell do you do now?
Yes, no matter how many books you've read, nothing quite prepares you for the first 24 hours of having your new baby home. It's just something you have to feel your way through. And chill, you'll all be fine.
Before I discuss my advice, please know that everything doesn't need to be perfect for taking your child home. Yes, it's advised to have as much done as possible. The house/apartment/bedsit warm and clean, stocked with adequate supplies for mum and baby, but after that, don't be stressing. The baby won't know if you've painted their nursery - or even if they have a nursery.
You don't need expensive cots and those fancy feeding chairs, you just need a clean Moses basket, and hand-me-downs are just as good as new ones. And with a couple of Babygro sleeping bags (I found them great myself), you're all set.
What I'm trying to say is new parents tend to over-prepare, or get really stressed if not. And while wanting everything to be just right is a natural thing, a happy parent is much better than a weary one with a perfectly matchy-matchy nursery.
For the record, I never bothered with a special baby room until my first son was about a year-old. He lived between cheapo travel cots in my bedroom and the living room. He wasn't scarred.
Okay, so you walk through your door with your little bundle in a car seat, now what?
Rest assured, we've felt the absolute terror of not knowing what the hell to do with our baby.
Starting right at the beginning, take the coat off your child. Yes, new babies need to be kept warm, but they can overheat too. A great way to test your baby's temperature without having to whip out the thermometer (add that to your list of must-haves) is place your finger at the back of your child's neck. Car seats and buggies can get very sweaty, so a quick neck test will always help gauge matters. Also, a cotton pillowcase folded neatly behind your baby in their car seat can also help them from getting too sticky.
While loads of people will probably want to visit as soon as you arrive home, I preferred to be left alone for a few days to find my feet. So, I put up the bat signal that no visitors were welcome. I just wanted my husband and my baby - and to shut out the world for a bit. And it took away so much stress.
On my second son, we were temporarily homeless, so I went home to my mum's. On that occasion, it suited me perfectly - she did everything and I drank tea.
Please remember whether you're a single parent, a couple temporarily staying with in-laws, gay parents, adoptive parents or what is traditionally deemed as normal parents with their own home, don't sweat the small stuff.
None of us have to be wonder-parents, especially in the early days. Just do your best - there's no such thing as perfect.