For most women, their first pregnancy is a time of intense excitement and anticipation as your body changes, your baby grows and you prepare for your new life as a mum.

But no matter how much you read, learn or plan, nothing will quite prepare you for the shock of your first baby. It’s such a profound change to the life you knew that for many women it takes months – or even years – to adjust.

To help you along the way, here are five things to expect that you may not have read about in baby books:

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You won’t have all the answers.

For maybe the first time in your life, you won’t have all the answers. In fact, when it comes to parenting a tiny baby, you may not have any answers at all! But hang in there. Trust your instinct, and ask a few trusted mums for advice. Before you know it, you’ll grow in confidence in your role as a mum. A new baby is also the perfect lesson in giving up control. For example, just as you may think you’ve mastered something (like breastfeeding), something else will come your way (like starting your baby on solid foods) and you’ll be back to square one. This isn’t likely to change, no matter how old your kids are.

Everyone will have a different opinion on parenting.

Your friends. Your mum. Your mom-in-law. The internet. No matter who it is, everyone will have a different idea about what to do and what not to do when it comes to your child. To complicate matters, you’ll realise that no two babies are alike – so what works for one child may not work for another. But realise that people mean well when they give you advice, so if it’s unsolicited and you don’t agree with it, simply smile and move on rather than wasting energy on arguing if you disagree with them.

You’ll have less disposable income than ever.

Most people realise quickly how expensive a baby is, from buying the pram and cot, to stocking up on baby clothes, toys, blankets and more. Then there are the medical expenses for pregnancy check-ups and the birth itself (that’s why it’s essential to be on a medical aid before you plan to have a baby, as most medical aids have a 10-month waiting period from when you join to when you’re covered). Fedhealth offers a plan that’s tailored specifically for young families. With your baby and/or partner covered on one plan, you can make sure that there are no nasty surprises when it comes to paying for family medical bills.

Babies are also expensive in the long term. Your monthly disposable income may drop sharply as you spend your previously spare cash on nappies, paediatrician visits and clothes. If you can plan ahead, put away some money each month while you’re pregnant to at least soften the blow of the first few months’ expenses.

You’ll wonder what you did with all your free time.

Maybe in your pre-baby life you were well groomed, organised and punctual. Nothing shakes this up like a new baby. Caring for her can be all-consuming that in the early days, it can be a miracle if you have a shower and get out of your pyjamas before noon – let alone blow-dry your hair and put on make-up. Realise that this is temporary, and things will gradually get easier over time. With this in mind, give yourself permission to slide on the ungroomed side for at least the first few months of your baby’s life.

You’ll survive on much less sleep than you thought possible.

Before having a baby, it’s normal to have the odd “bad night” of sleep – maybe something kept you awake, or you were sick, or you had to work late. But with a new baby, the lack of sleep is ongoing for months. In the early days, your baby will be feeding every two to four hours around the clock, so it’s unlikely you’ll get more than three hours of unbroken sleep at a time. As the months pass, you’ll be amazed by how you can keep going on so little sleep. You may not be firing on all cylinders, of course, but that’s another story.

Anticipating your first baby is exciting, and though life as you know it will change completely, you’ll also surprise yourself at how much you can love another tiny human being – which will make it all worthwhile.

 

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