Have you decided to become a parent after facing an unplanned pregnancy? Congratulations — you are entering a new chapter in your life, full of all the rewards and joy of raising a child of your own.

That said, there are some important steps to take in preparing for your baby to come. While no one is truly 100 percent ready to become a parent, when you make this decision, you have to recognize the responsibilities involved in getting ready for a baby before they are even born — not just after you bring them home from the hospital. By taking preemptive steps to prepare for a baby, you will set yourself up to be the best parent you can possibly be.

You may be wondering what to do to prepare for a baby. What does preparing for a new baby involve, and how can you get ready for a baby when you’re facing the stress of a pregnancy you may not have planned for?

Below, find a few important ways to prepare for a baby and best embrace this new journey in your life.

Create a Budget

One of the most crucial steps of preparing for parenthood is evaluating your financial situation. Can you afford the costs of pregnancy, childbirth and childrearing? If not, how can you take the steps to ensure you can?

First, take an honest look at your financial situation. To care for yourself and your baby, you must plan ahead and be ready for all the expenses awaiting you. Understand what you need to get ready for a baby, and recognize how those needs will fit into your overall annual budget.

Begin by making a list of one-time expenses when preparing for a baby’s arrival. These will include a stroller, a crib, bottles, a car seat, baby clothes, and more. Make sure to also consider the costs of prenatal care and your hospital stay. On average, new parents can expect to spend about $12,000 on these expenses in their baby’s first year of life.

These one-time costs aren’t the only consideration. You’ll also need to add all the monthly recurring costs for your baby — such as diapers, formula, baby food, clothes, and daycare — to your current budget for essentials like rent, transportation, utilities, cell phones and more. Anything that you regularly spend money on should be listed in your budget.

As you budget, also allow for unplanned expenses such as doctor visits and other emergencies. Newborns require doctor visits an average of six times in the first year. Therefore, getting ready for a baby should also include discussions of your current health insurance and any new policies you may need to purchase.

After totaling your monthly income, determine whether you will have enough to pay for all of your monthly expenses. Don’t forget to take into account any unpaid maternity leave you will take after delivery. If your income cannot cover those expenses, you may need to change jobs, look for other financial aid or family assistance or reconsider your available options and solutions.

Understanding and adjusting your personal budget is one of the most important steps of preparing for a newborn baby. This way, you can ensure you can afford this new addition to your household. Find tips for creating a budget as a new parent here.

Start Getting Prenatal Care

Getting proper prenatal care for both you and your baby is essential, especially if your pregnancy is unplanned. This care will affect not only the quality of your life but also the health of your baby. Receiving quality prenatal care allows you to enjoy a safer pregnancy while also ensuring that you deliver a healthy baby. If you’re wondering what to do to prepare for baby, this is a step you cannot skip.

You can begin receiving prenatal care from your own physician, or your unplanned pregnancy counselor can help you find a clinic for prenatal care. If finances are an issue, call a pregnancy counseling center or family planning center. Counselors can help you find a health care provider that you can afford. If your hospital costs for labor and delivery are not covered by insurance, you may qualify for financial aid (Medicaid) to help cover these costs.

Identify Your Support System

Ever heard the saying, “It takes a village?” As you consider what to prepare for a baby, also consider what to prepare as far as your support system.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Has someone offered to care for your baby while you go to school or work?
  • If not, what are your childcare plans?
  • Can anyone help out with the bills if money gets tight?
  • Who can you learn from when it comes to the complexities of parenting?
  • Are there parenting support groups near you?

Both financial and emotional support will be important to you, particularly after the baby arrives. Many parents involve their family in not only preparing for the newborn baby but also in letting them help with the baby after he or she is born. If your pregnancy is unplanned, news of a baby may be unexpected but, in time, your family will come around to love their new family member.

Always be considerate of the stress that a new baby may create for a family, whether it’s you and your spouse or any family members who are helping you get ready for a baby. If anyone assists you with babysitting or caring for your child, thank them often with kind words and deeds. Do not take them for granted or abuse their generosity.

Take Birth and Parenting Classes

If you’re asking, “What should I prepare for a newborn baby?” you may benefit from attending a parenting class. While all parents learn the most about parenting after they bring their baby home, having a solid base before birth is critical.

Birth and parenting classes can help you prepare for the challenges of delivery, as well as provide much-needed preparation for parenthood. These classes are incredibly useful for first-time parents, but they’re also a good idea for any parent. If you have a spouse, attending these classes together can help you bond and create a solid partnership before introducing a bundle of joy into your lives.

Don’t be afraid to join support groups and speak with knowledgeable parents in your life about any concerns you have as you prepare for a baby. Always keep in mind: Parenting styles vary greatly, and there is no single “right” way to raise a child.

Make a Plan for Your Delivery

When you receive prenatal care, your obstetrician will work with you to create a delivery plan. This will involve choosing a hospital, deciding what your preferences are for your baby’s birth (otherwise known as a birth plan), who will be present during the delivery, and other important decisions regarding this process.

If you haven’t already, you will need to purchase a car seat at the same time that you are preparing for your baby’s arrival. By law, you will be required to have a car seat to take your baby home from the hospital. Being familiar with how it works prior to your baby’s birth will save you and your spouse (if applicable) a lot of headache.

If you aren’t sure how to create a delivery plan, talk to your obstetrician. Because they know your personal background, they can recommend the best options for your baby’s birth. Make sure to do research on your own as part of your preparation for baby’s arrival.

Take a Deep Breath

Finally, be as resilient as possible. You may “burn out” if you try to make all of the decisions and take on every responsibility of getting ready for a baby at once. Instead, handle each problem as it arises, and try to enjoy your remaining months as an expectant parent before bringing home your new family member.

If you feel overwhelmed at any point, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Lean on your spouse (if you have one), go to your parents, talk with a counselor, call a support hotline or visit a pregnancy counseling center, family planning center or clergyperson. These people can provide guidance and may be able to answer your questions about what to get ready for a newborn baby, especially if this addition is unplanned.

You have a lot to do as a parent preparing for a new baby, and the sooner you start to prepare, the more organized and confident you will feel. For a month-by-month breakdown of your journey preparing for parenthood, click here.