Preparing for a baby isn't like a lot of the other things people write these sorts of articles about. There's a sure-fire way to put up a shelf, skim a wall for painting or knock up a garden shed; in contrast, having a child is such a personal experience, unique to the individual couple, that realistically any advice for fathers is going to be somewhat arbitrary. In short then, what works for one expanding family unit may not be suited to another, save for a few aspects that need to be taken into account. Amazingly, though, it's these smaller steps that many men fall down on during their partner's first pregnancy which, if nothing else, shows how much of big stuff is going on, making it easy to overlook the less obvious but significant actions that can really help with the bond between mum and dad-to-be, reducing stress and helping prepare you both mentally for the new arrival. First, it's important to share in the experience as much as possible, and by that we don't just mean abstaining from booze at a party in a display of solidarity. Being pregnant takes a lot of energy and takes a lot out of the woman.
As such, consider ways you can show her you're also taking large strides to get ready. The most usual gestures are the practical jobs that will need doing in the run-up to the birth (assuming that you already know to attend without fail the various classes and appointments that will be required in the coming months). Taking a lead on decorating and creating a beautiful nursery space is understandably a common choice - but don't seize control. During pregnancy, words like togetherness and unity should be priorities at every stage; this is a huge step for both partners and, as such, being open, frank and understanding towards one another is essential, but so is respecting each other's feelings and desire to feel involved wherever possible. So consider how your input could alleviate some of the hard work involved in home improvements, rather than going all-out with your own dream nursery as a well-meaning surprise, without taking their taste into consideration. There's never a greater test of someone's mettle than when their partner goes into labour for the first time, and here's where readiness and foresight will really make a difference. A hospital bag being of key importance: fill it with snacks, toothpaste, gum, mouthwash, headache tablets and any medication either of you require, drinks, music, massage oil, a jumper, change of underwear, nighties and (as is an increasing trend) perhaps a gift for the new mum once baby is here. This is, of course, in addition to the obvious: camera and/or mobile phone, and a supportive, empathetic attitude. Remember these easy things and chances are you won't go too far wrong.