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By Sarah Parker Ward

It’s arguably one of the most exciting and terrifying times of your life – you’re expecting! Before you know it, you’ll be one of the roughly 4 million parents completely responsible for another brand new, living, breathing, beautiful tiny human this year.

And while you’re likely doing everything you can to prepare, including accepting advice – solicited or otherwise - from the butcher, the baker, and everyone else under the candle maker’s sun, the truth is that there really is no full preparation for the three-ring circus known as parenthood. Nevertheless, there are some steps you can take to move things in the right direction and relieve some of the anxiety you may be feeling about the awesome life changes heading your way.

First and foremost, find your people. For first timers, it’s hard – if not impossible – to imagine that your circle of friends is going to change. But, it’s true. Non-parent friends won’t be able to relate to what you’re going through, nor will they be able to provide a playmate counterpart for your impending bundle. So take the time to actively seek out other expecting parents with similar values at your birthing classes, prenatal exercise groups, or just while out and about.

Next: Make. A. Birth plan. There are a lot of uncertainties around birthing, but by going through the process of identifying where, when, and with whom you want to birth, you can reduce both uncertainty and fear. “It allows women to really sit and think about what’s important to them in the birth experience, and it affirms their right and responsibility to participate fully in the birth process,” says Certified Nurse Midwife, and mom, Kelly McDermott.

If this isn’t your first rodeo, set expectations for soon-to-be siblings. “A lot of older siblings think this baby is going to come out and play [with] them immediately,” McDermott jokes, “So talking about what to truly expect – that the baby is going to sleep a lot and need a lot of mommy’s attention -  is helpful.”

Make their independence a big deal, too. “Separate out what’s really special about their level of development -  like that they can eat ice cream but baby won’t be able to – as well as how they’ll be able to contribute to baby’s care to feel the fullness of their older sibling status,” McDermott adds.

One way to get your partner and/or child involved is through the all-important nesting process. Have them help in logistics, like painting or moving furniture, so that you’re not straining yourself. Likewise, this will free you up to stock up on important personal and baby care items.

Last but not least, after baby arrives, take the time and space you need to fully embrace the new version of yourself. Delegate out typical chores to family and friends, and ask those who aren’t helping to limit their stays to under 30 minutes.

Be sure to eat healthy – if you’re breastfeeding you need at least an extra 500 calories a day -  and return to exercise slowly. Remember that if you’re feeling woeful, you’re not alone! Approximately eight out of every 10 women experience “baby blues.” So reach out to a fellow mom or your healthcare provider to talk about what you’re going through.

All told, while there’s no real preparation for the incredible journey you’re about to embark on, there are two universal truths that you do have in your corner: there’s no one right way to go about it, and you were made to succeed. We’re cheering for you!

© Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. 2015

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