Having a baby and becoming a mum changes your life, and no amount of reading, advice or babysitting can ever prepare you for that reality – no matter what anyone tells you.
It's much the same the second time round – and every time after that – because life and the dynamics of your family change once again.
However, there are some significant differences in the parenting experience when you've already done it once ...
When you're handed your firstborn and waved out of the hospital doors into the outside world, it's akin to walking into a lion's den.
You feel nothing more than a child yourself, and suddenly the weight of this responsibility sits itself firmly on your shoulders. Reality also dawns on you – there's no resigning from this role, and certainly no long service leave.
From the moment you get in the car (and for the foreseeable future) you worry about every little thing. You worry about every little cry, burp, temperature and fart.
You worry about feeding, sleeping, playing schedules. You worry about creating bad habits that will see your teenager still sleeping in bed with you with a dummy. And you worry about them hitting the milestones at all the right time.
Second time round? This is not the case. You leave the hospital with a renewed confidence, borne from the knowledge that your first child is still alive.
You don't worry about spoiling them or stress about getting into a routine. You (gasp!) allow them to cry so you can actually finih a cup of hot tea.
And you know that true nurturing comes from just being there for them through thick and thin – regardless of how you approach that.
Marvelling at their teeny tininess (and your firstborn's now giant size)
There's nothing more amazing than a newborn, and it's possible to spend hours staring at them. Every little part of them is so teeny tiny, and you constantly marvel at the miracle you created.
You coo over their tiny fingers and toes and snuggle them up in the crook of only one arm.
Second time round? This seems to hit harder. You've forgotten just how small babies really are because you're used to your eldest 'baby' – who has morphed seemingly overnight into a giant – so you spend time repeatedly questioning how something so tiny can grow so quick.
You'll also find yourself constantly saying things like "I don't remember my four-year-old EVER being this small!"
Having confidence in your decisions
There's nothing scarier than the unknown and facing a situation that is completely out of your control. So when you arrive home with your firstborn – minus a manual – it's only natural that you turn to books, Dr Google and any other resources for advice.
You don't understand your baby's cries. You've no idea how to settle them. And you feel like everything you're doing must be wrong.
Second time round? Everything is that little bit easier, because you've done it before.
You trust your gut instinct and have confidence that you and your baby will be fine, and you find a routine and approach that works for you. You don't rely on books and Google – in fact you avoid them whenever you can.
No one can deny that true torture lies in days, weeks and even months of sleep deprivation. Struggling from one day to the next can feel nothing short of climbing Everest, and remembering how to boil the kettle and put on clean pants signifies a successful day.
Second time round? Funnily enough, it doesn't seem quite as bad.
You know and accept that you're going to feel and look like a month of hangovers in one day. You understand that your baby is not being 'bad' or 'difficult' when he wakes in the night. And you know that at some stage he will sleep through.
Which brings me to my next point …
Time goes on
In the haze of parenting your first newborn the days can feel never ending, and sum up the very definition of groundhog day.
You wonder when you'll get your life back and actually move further than the sofa. Will you ever sleep again? Will this baby ever get into a routine? And will you ever feel and look like something other than an extra from a Michael Jackson video?
And then you blink and your child is three, four and five, and instead you question: "Where did the time go?"
So with the benefit of hindsight, parenting second time round is easier – because with every bad moment, day or week comes the mental mantra 'This too will pass'.
Because it really does go quick. And while those bad moments will pass soon enough, so will those newborn cuddles.