It can be exciting to be pregnant, and it can be exhausting. The baby is kicking, your mood is swinging, and your belly is expanding impossibly each day. As you reach the last trimester, your last month, your due date, you are full of happy anticipation – when will it be? When will it be?

And then, out of the blue, the answer comes: It will be today—right now. Your baby arrives. Your childbirth experience fills your consciousness. Your body is recovering physically from the effort, the strength and stamina it takes to bring new life into the world. Your hormones are flying, and whichever way you look at it, you're in overdrive – it's a full-body celebration! On top of this, there's a baby. A delicious baby - your baby - someone you sort of recognize, and can learn to love.

A heartbeat later, life continues A heartbeat later, life continues. You need to eat – which requires shopping, shlepping, unpacking, washing, cooking and washing up. Don't even talk about the laundry. You had no idea how much effort this little bundle would take. Or, you had an idea, but your toddler didn't. Perhaps you've done this before a few times – but this one likes to eat. All. The. Time. You don't even have time for the bathroom.

So, how will you get from this moment to sanity and joy?

It all boils down to planning ahead. I'm not talking about receiving blankets and diapers. I'm talking about a support system.

Let me back up: having a doula at your birth can help you recover more quickly, even when your birthing day is days and weeks behind you. Studies show that women receiving continuous support from early labor are more likely to give birth spontaneously, requiring neither caesarean, vacuum extraction nor forceps delivery. They will therefore bypass the additional physical recovery required and the possible postpartum complications from these procedures.

Prior even to childbirth, is education. The more you know, the more you can be involved in the process of birth. Women who understand the stages of labor, and who are included in decision making throughout have a much more positive experience of labor. This helps them with both their emotional and physical recovery.

So, make it your business to know what to expect from labor, and line up a friend, sister or professional doula - or all three - to give you that support when you most need it. (Husbands are great, terrific people, but it's worth having an extra female around in this most female of moments).

Can you arrange for cleaning help? In anticipating your new-baby time, you will want to arrange basic help beforehand. Friends love to bring food – perhaps you want to put one in charge of coordinating meals. Can you arrange now for cleaning help then? Are there teenagers on your block who would love some extra pocket money and can wash your dishes in the evenings? Can you write a shopping list now (right now) (go on, get a pen…) that you can hand on to a kind friend after the baby arrives?

If this is your first child, you can expect to feel thrilled, grateful and overwhelmed. Do you have friends and family around who can hang out with you casually while you find your mothering self? Note: this is not at all the same as a friend who will tell you how you're doing it all wrong. If the friend you were counting on for support is criticizing you rather than strengthening you, ask someone else.

Do you have a friend who is an expert at nursing? Do you have the number of a lactation consultant in case you need one? The whole nursing thing has its own rhythm: what can be a pleasure may start out as a pain. Make sure to have some frozen peas or rice bags you can store in the freezer (the tactical use of cold packs can help prevent engorgement and ease discomfort). You'll want to keep a cache of lanolin cream about you at all times. Also, that friend of yours who's hanging out with you? Make sure to ask her in advance to keep you hydrated by frequently bringing you water or juice. It's thirsty work growing another human.

If this isn't your first child, perhaps your most pressing postpartum help will come in the form of play dates. See if you can make arrangements for these before the baby arrives, or line up a friendly babysitter or mother's helper to come and entertain your older bundle(s) of joy.

Sleep deprivation is a form of torture Sleep deprivation is a form of torture, which bears considering when your baby wakes you up for the third time that night (and it is not 2am yet). Your exhaustion may leave you drowsy and forgetful, most likely when you actually need to have your wits about you. It can seem that your whole existence accordions down to one single subject: how will the baby sleep tonight?

Try to sleep when the baby sleeps. Really. You don't have to be asleep to reap the benefits of resting. If you nod off, think of it as icing on the cake. Make it your priority that when the baby dozes off, you put your feet up too. At night, try sleeping with the baby in your bed: it will save you the energy of getting up for nighttime feeds. It's true, the laundry won't do itself, and you might be itching to run some errands, but try to resist the urge to be active. Let others help you with the housework. You have a baby, and you have a new, vitally important job: to keep yourself healthy.

Here's what it all boils down to in the end: Simplify, simplify, simplify. Figure out what you cannot live without, and what you can, then set expectations accordingly. Keep supplies handy – prepare small containers (better yet, let a friend do it for you), each holding a couple of diapers, a box of wipes, a spare onesie. Keep one near the couch and one near your bed. Convenience is everything.

Honestly, the best thing you can do for yourself the first two weeks after birth is to not move. Take up residence on your couch with a bottle of water, and let others take care of you. Let them run the carpool for your toddler and make supper for your family. You are a partner with G‑d in the story of Creation, helping to build a new generation. Sit a while. You've earned it. You are a mother.