1. The birth is the easy bit
I think many people spend pregnancy worrying mainly about getting a huge baby out through a relatively small hole. Of course, they do also worry about how they will cope afterwards, but I think for most, birth is the most scary part. It's not. It's really not.
2. How to have a good birth
Research beforehand, be that reading, antenatal classes, talking to people, watching TV births, etc., so you understand what is going to happen and know what your options and preferences are. Then, stay calm and in control.
3. Be strict with early-day visitors
If someone turns up uninvited, don't let them in. If you've already made certain decisions about how you're going to raise your baby, don't let things slip just cause you've got visitors. Ask for help, get people doing your shopping, cooking for you and cleaning the house. Tell them they can have a short cuddle before handing baby over, otherwise, 2 hours later, you'll be screaming inside to have your baby back in YOUR arms, willing it to be ready for a feed so the visitor says "I think (s)he needs mummy".
4. Don't buy everything you see
We still had things to buy when Felix turned up 6 weeks early. It was a blessing in disguise shopping wise, as we ended up ONLY buying what we needed. We could have wasted a lot of money on things that marketing people tell you a new baby needs.
5. Stick at the breastfeeding - for selfish reasons if nothing else
There is no better way to lose your baby belly and it's so much easier than carrying around bottles and sterilising stuff and boiling water and separate milk powder. But remember, it is tough to begin with. You've never done it before and the baby's never done it before either. Ask for help straight away if you're struggling as the longer you leave it the more difficult it will become. The best nipple cream in the world is breastmilk. After each feed, squeeze a little more out, rub in and leave to air dry. Easier to do this when no-one's around!!
6. Set good habits early
It's easier to take a dummy away from a 6 month old than a 1 year old. It's easier to take away a dummy from a 1 year old than an 18 month old. As hard as it seems to teach them to sleep on their own, it's easier to do it early. But... give yourself a break. You have to take the easy option sometimes. Don't punish yourself when you do, just get the good habits back on track as soon as you feel up to it.
7. Make friends with people with children the same age
One of the girls (who lives locally) is due to give birth about 4 months after me. So we'll both have babies at the same time. But 4 months in baby terms is massive. You need to have other mums to chat to who are going through the SAME things as you at the SAME time. For sympathy, understanding, advice and for comparing (in a positive way!).
8. Let your partner work things out for himself
As a mother, you tend to be the main carer for your newborn. You learn the best way to do things and when there's a small, helpless child screaming its lungs out, it's tooooo tempting to shove the father out of the way and do it yourself. But he has to learn the same way you have learned, by trial and error. Not just by being told by you what works and what doesn't. Sometimes, you have to walk away and leave them to figure it out.
9. Walk away
Talking about walking away, when the crying won't stop and you're losing your patience, put the child down somewhere safe, walk away and don't return until you are calm. Crying isn't going to harm the child. Your anger might.
10. Enjoy every minute of it
At the end of a tough day, try to smile about the positives. As cliche as it is, they do grow up quickly and you'll never get back the days of them being totally helpless and being cuddled as and when YOU choose! One day, they'll be off to school and then, leaving home. Eeek!
I really hope that my friends will come to me for help. I tried to be open with them when I did it all for the first time and not just pretend that everything was rosy all the time. Without having experienced it themselves, I suspect sometimes they just thought I was being a moaner, but it's really important to get it off your chest and not bottle it up. Being a parent is tough. But it's also the best thing in the world.