A baby will drop into your life like a bomb released from a B-52. All you can do is batten down the hatches and prepare for his or her arrival the best you can. Here are a few ways to get ready for the arrival of the stork, and by stork I mean baby grenade launcher.
Gathering Your Supplies
It’s amazing how much stuff a baby “needs.” Yes, needs is placed firmly inside those quotation marks. Primitive baby probably just rolled around in the dirt and played with twigs and hot coals with his tiny calloused baby hands. Primal baby was tough as nails. But here in the modern West, we surround our progeny with a lot of doodads. Like it or not, you’re probably not going to let your baby sleep on a bed of leaves. So you need supplies.
Baby stuff can get expensive, and the baby quickly outgrows it, so it’s not like the stuff will get a ton of use. Even if you plan on having more kids and re-using things, the total number of months of use still doesn’t add up to much. So I recommend getting as many of your baby accouterments–especially the bigger stuff–second-hand. There are a variety of ways to go about this.
Tag/garage sales typically have the lowest prices on things, especially used baby clothes. But of course you’ll have to drive around, and what you find can be hit or miss. There’s also Craigslist, of course.
These days, “Just Between Friends ” has become a popular option. It’s basically like a giant, 100+-family garage sale of only baby stuff. People bring in their unwanted baby items, and if they sell, they get a portion of the profits, while the people who run “Just Between Friends” get a portion of the profits as well. Quite a smart business idea, if I don’t say so myself. The sale is held twice a year and has every baby item you could possibly need–from clothes to books to strollers–all under one roof. Kate and her mom got all of our big items–crib, bassinet, high chair, swing, stroller–at the sale. Some of the items there are overpriced–the selling moms can have an inflated sense of what their things are worth, but you can definitely snag some great deals.
Finally, see if your friends and family are getting rid of their baby stuff. Once you’re done having kids, there’s no need to have all that junk hanging around the house, and people are often very eager to unload it for cheap or even for free.
Oh, and as another bit of advice, when you’re buying stuff, get things that have a gender-neutral color-theme. In other words, don’t get a pink stroller, get a black one. That way your big items can do double duty if the next kid is a Samuel instead of a Samantha.
Your wife will likely take care of a lot of the shopping and purchasing of the baby supplies. She’ll probably be the one who goes to register for what she wants and has a shower. But you’ll likely find yourself on a few trips to Babies R’ Us yourself and will sometimes be asked to lend your input and opinions.
Here are a few things that I personally recommend and have found useful during these 8 months of Gus wrangling, along with some things I don’t think are worth the money.
Babies are so new to the world that even their own flailing appendages scare them. So swaddling helps keep a baby calm and happy. In my experience, dads do a lot of the swaddling; women I know often say, “My husband is an expert swaddler!” Doing it with a blanket is actually really easy. But I have to say I really liked these Swaddleme things. They’re made and cut just for swaddling and have velcro ends which makes turning your kid into a little baby burrito so easy even someone who’s brain dead can do it. Which is essentially how you’re operating at 3 in the morning. Wrapping Gus in these Swaddleme things helped him sleep through the night.
Motorized Swing 
Everybody needs a swing. They’re great for calming a crying kid. Get one where it’s easy to put the baby in and get him out. I also recommend getting a portable one, so you can take it over to Grandma’s house. I wish they would make a giant motorized swing for adults.
Playtex Bottles 
Trying to find a brand of bottle that didn’t give Gus crazy colic was an extraordinarily unfun process. So save yourself some time and sanity and go straight to the Playtex Nursers. You place a disposable plastic liner in the bottle, and it kind of deflates as the baby sucks on the nipple, mimicking the breast. We go one step farther by placing an ice cream scoop into the bottom of the bottle (the bottom is open), and pushing the liner up until all the air is out and the milk squirts out of the nipple.
Baby Bjorn 
Definitely an essential and one of my favorite things, even if it makes me feel like this when I wear it  (Bonus man points to the first person who names what movie that is from). The Baby Bjorn is a papoose that lets you carry the baby around on the front of your chest. So you can tote the baby around while leaving your hands free to do other things. And best of all, it keeps Gus quiet and happy. I don’t think he understands much of anything that we say, but when I ask, “Want to get in the Baby Bjorn?” he smiles and gets excited. And he’s already learning Swedish!
If you have a baby boy, his little sprinkler is eventually going to water pretty much everything–the wall, the changing table, the floor, your shirt, even your mouth (in one very unfortunate incident). Peepee teepees are supposed to be the solution–they’re small cloth “cups” that you place over your little guy’s wiener. But in my experience, they don’t actually work; maybe Gus is especially squirmy, but he moved so much the peepee teepee would fall off his penis, and even when it didn’t, it didn’t trap the pee. I found it more effective to simply place a big burp rag over his nether regions and try to get the new diaper on as quickly as possible. And accept the occasional pee bath.
We didn’t actually try this item ourselves, because I read the reviews on it which said it was basically a glorified trashcan. Which it is. You don’t need a special trashcan for your diapers. When your baby drops a load, put the dirty diaper inside a plastic grocery bag (finally you have a use for that giant stash under the sink!), and put it in the trash. Empty your trash regularly. Done. And when your baby is potty trained, you’ll still have a useable trash can, as opposed to a giant plastic thing that no longer serves any purpose.
So this is what it has come to–we don’t want our kids to endure the agony of a cold wipe on their tushes. Kate got a wipe warmer as a gift, and we figured we’d give it a try. The wipe warmer did warm up the wipes a little, but it also dried them out, and so it was abandoned after just one day. Which is good news since now a Spartan doesn’t have to come and punch me in the throat.
Elaborate, Whiz-Bang Toys
I’m not talking about little rattles and plastic keys and stuff. Those are actually pretty good. Turns out you play with a baby much like your play with a cat–dangling things in their face and letting them bat them. But there are a bunch of expensive, elaborate toys out there, you know, the ones with music and lights and spinning things and laser light shows. They only occupy Gus for like five minutes until he gets bored, and/or one of the lasers burns his retinas. What he really likes is the crap laying around the house that costs next to nothing, like cardboard boxes, plastic grocery bags, newspaper, etc. He just played with an empty bag of chocolate chips for ten minutes. And he’s still a Baby Einstein–I just saw him straining to understand the theory of relativity. Or maybe he was just pooping.
For decades, going to a childbirth class has been a sort of pregnancy rite-of-passage for couples. Your parents will probably insist that you take one. But here’s the thing–our parents often had babies the natural way, and so a childbirth class was really useful. They needed to know what the birthing process was going to be like and how do awesome Lamaze breathing exercises, which was all the rage then. These days, the great majority of women choose to get an epidural, so the lowdown on breathing techniques and whatnot is not so essential anymore. We took a childbirth class, and while it was nice to have someone walk us through things and have an opportunity to ask questions, I didn’t think it was too worthwhile. The information in the class was pretty much the same as in the books I had read, and nowadays, the answer to any question that arises is only a Google search away. So to sum up, I would say go to a class if your wife will be doing a natural birth, otherwise, don’t feel like paying for a class is essential.
Special Preparatory Dad Duties
Before your little bundle of joy arrives home, you’ll need to complete a few tasks that are typically relegated to the dad-to-be.
Setting up the crib. I wish I had the woodworking skills to handcraft Gus a custom crib, but I didn’t (and still don’t), so Gus had to settle for a pre-fabricated crib that simply required the screwing together of pieces of wood. Don’t wait until the last minute to do this or it will never get done. It’s a quick and easy project. Put on some tunes, crack open a cold beverage, and have fun assembling what is essentially a giant puzzle.
Putting in the car seat. You want to get your little guy (or girl) home safely from the hospital, so you’ll need a car seat. Many hospitals actually won’t release the baby and mom unless they see the baby in the car seat and check it out themselves. For newborns and infants, you’ll likely be using a baby carrier/car seat combo. What you’ll need to have installed in your car is the base of the car seat. Follow the seat’s instruction manual and your car’s owner’s manual on proper car seat installation. Take your time with this and make sure you do it right. This is your baby’s safety we’re talking about here.
Image from Modern Mechanix 
If you want to double check your work or if you want someone else to do this job for you, many fire departments in the U.S. have child safety seat programs. Just take your car down to the station along with your car seat, and firemen will check to see if it’s installed correctly or install it for you. Don’t ask to slide down their pole while they do this. Check with your local fire department for more details.
Hanging random stuff. Your wife will likely have a theme picked out for your baby’s room (Gus is a green elephant man). And you might have to hang some pictures or other decorations up to complement this theme. A level, a tape measure, and a hammer are the tools you’ll need to accomplish this job.
Your turn. What are your tips on getting ready for a baby bomb? What products do you recommend? Share your advice with us in the comments.