This time last year I was around seven months pregnant, and we were eagerly anticipating the arrival of our baby boy. Fast forward a year, and it’s hard to believe how far we’ve come. How much we’ve changed, and of course, how much we’ve learned. Mainly through trial and error!

Here’s a rundown of how our expectations were challenged by reality…

1) Birth is the smallest part of becoming a parent

How naïve we were! Off we trotted to our NCT lessons, learning all about the ins and mainly outs of childbirth.

Afternoons were spent discussing pain relief options, stages of labour and how to ‘enjoy’ our birth experience.

The couples we met through our lessons have been a completely priceless source of support, and if we had our time again we’d book the classes in a heartbeat, but perhaps we should have taken a little more time to work out how we’d care for our little bundle of joy once we’d left the hospital…

Following a third-degree tear, I was a little more out of action than I’d expected, with bending down and lifting quite painful. It was well over a fortnight before I felt confident enough to carry Harry downstairs, and my husband was the one who changed all his nappies and dressed him.

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We’d spent pregnancy so focused on the birth, that we’d forgotten to think about the logistics of looking after our tiny newborn. Bathing this wriggly slippy creature was a challenge, and when a doctor needed a urine sample (To monitor jaundice levels) our attempts were completely hopeless.

Thankfully my Mum is a midwife and could talk us through the basics, but I do wish we hadn’t felt quite so overwhelmed by it all.

Before your baby arrives, work out the sling, figure out the baby monitor and definitely get your head around the puzzle that is the pram. Severe sleep deprivation doesn’t make these things easier, so make sure you have them mastered.

2) Your newborn isn’t on the same page

What plans we had! Our little one was going to sleep sweetly in our side sleeper, snoozing away happily between feeds and playtime. What a wonderful idea, he could be close to us, but still, enjoy his own space…

Turns out it wasn’t close enough! Our baby boy laughed in the face of safer sleep guidelines and wanted to be sleeping on our chests at all time, embracing co-sleeping whether we liked it or not.

Tummy full and snoozing away, the moment he was popped in the cot his eyes would fly open and sleep was not on the agenda.

Completely unprepared, we fumbled through that first month, hastily reading up on safe co-sleeping guidelines.

We quickly learned that if we had one idea, our baby might have another. Learning to go with the flow, rather than having set ideas definitely made the newborn days that little bit easier.

3) Celebrate the small things

As a couple, your relationship will be tested to breaking point. Looking back, I cringe at some of the things I said and did, and I’m sure my husband can say the same.

While the big milestones are exciting, it’s the little ones that you should celebrate.

A few nights in we were both able to enjoy a takeaway and start working our way through a box set.

Granted we had our little one for company, snoozing away on my chest, but it was a taste of normality we both badly needed. We both breathed a sigh of relief, and realised that while life was completely different, we could still enjoy the same old nights in together.

Living in the moment and appreciating each other will make parenthood easier, making up for the inevitable crosswords and silly arguments. A smile can go a long way, especially when sleep is few and far between.

Regardless of when Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day are, take every opportunity to celebrate how far you’ve come. Both as a couple, and as parents.

Whether you’re a day into being a parent, or for over a decade, take the opportunity to high five each other, and offer one another a pat on the back.

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You’ve been through so much, you both deserve it!

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