I have never once heard any expecting parent say "I got this." They know full well they don't. The wise ones begin making plans and stocking supplies like they're going to war well before the due date. Being as prepared as possible is a must; expecting the worst is a given.
The tragedy of this situation, as new parents are soon to understand, is that preparing for a newborn is like preparing for a nuclear warhead: nothing seems to be enough. Advice may not be terribly useful when it comes to a nuclear blast, but hey, standing behind something is better than taking a mushroom cloud to the face.
Beef up these parts of your baby strategy, the sooner the better.
1. Triple your time estimates
Going somewhere, anywhere, used to mean you and your spouse getting dressed, getting in the car, and leaving. Going somewhere with a baby means summoning the strength to dress yourself, dress the baby, feed the baby, change the diaper, put the baby in the car seat, wipe up the throw up, take the baby out of the car seat again, change the diaper again, feed the baby again, change your clothes once or twice because of the throw up, reload the diaper bag, strap the car seat in the car, and then leave; many stops along the way for more feeding and diaper changing.
There is no way around this. Your child will laugh at your best attempts to have enough time. My best rule of thumb is to triple time estimates and work fast.
2. Master multitasking
Just when it seems the baby is relatively stable and will be fine, awake or asleep, for a few minutes, alone, so you can leave to clean the house or fold laundry or start the dishes, the shriek of betrayal will begin. If my son wants his mom, he'll get upset if she so much as looks away.
Taking up juggling is good practice, but the end goal is to be able to hold the baby with one arm, load the dishwasher with the other, vacuum with one foot while sitting on the kitchen table to free up your other foot for wiping down the counters. Doing this while eating dinner is also advisable. I can hold my son in my lap while I type with one hand, eat with the other, hold a conversation, pay the bills and even get a little of what's playing on the TV. Also, investing in a baby sling is an excellent idea.
3. Be a diaper change pit crew
This might already be a top priority for soon-to-be parents. If not, buckle up.
A half-second of quick thinking can mean the difference between poop on the changing mat and poop on YOU. Never fall into a false sense of security when all is calm on the changing table; a baby without a diaper is like a bomb with no clock. That being said, accuracy sacrificed for speed will come back to bite you, or leak all over you, whichever comes first. Seal those diapers tight!
4. Get a little schizophrenic
Newborns are not logical; they swing from screaming to smiling to crying and back to screaming before getting drowsy at the drop of a hat. Don't panic. You understand what is going on as much as the baby does. Taking the tiniest dose of crazy yourself every day will somewhat soften the bipolar moments, fighting fire with fire if you will.
I have witnessed a baby crying its eyes out in a car seat, stopping dead quiet when the car pulled into a gas station, and smiling a huge smile once out of the car. I was creeped out and a little concerned. Since then I learned that anything goes, and a little crazy goes a long way to preserving sanity.
5. Brace yourself for love
Naturally parents should love their children, and expecting parents expect no less. What I did not see coming was its intensity. I didn't know I could feel this strongly about anything or anyone. From the first child onward, the core focus of your life is not on you anymore; it is forever on someone else, and it's wonderfully jarring.
Shoring up your battle plan with these will ensure survival through the first blast, and they will see you safely through the first few months. Be ready to change tactics as needed.