1. It does not go by so fast. People who tell you “it goes by so fast” do not have babies at home. It goes by so slow. And it only goes “by so fast” in retrospect. But you know what? That’s good! There’s more room for error!
2. Hold your baby as much as you want. You can’t spoil babies. You can, however, spoil teenagers. “My Super Sweet 16” is proof of that.
3. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Fretting over nursery paint colors and stroller brands is a waste of time. You know why? Because babies have low expectations.
4. Breast is best but… We get it. We’ve heard. Breast milk rocks. There is no chemical composition that can ever replicate what we lucky women can make ourselves for free. But even though it looks ridiculously easy, breastfeeding is not ridiculously easy. So, please be prepared and be patient. Breastfeeding can be difficult at first. And at second. And at third. And sometimes it doesn’t work out. Or it doesn’t work out for long. And that’s—newsflash—okay. Even if you don’t breastfeed, your baby might still get into Harvard anyway.
5. The phrase “maternal instinct” stinks. Here’s a quote from a popular website: “Once you give birth…feelings you never expected to have will surface.” Feelings you never had before will magically surface? Is a switch flipped during delivery? And what if you’re a new parent who didn’t give birth? Does this mean you’re screwed? Sorry. That’s stupid. And it’s a disservice to a lot of parents. If you bond right away, terrific. If it takes much longer, so be it. Either way, one day, your kid will still be embarrassed by you at the mall.
6. Newborns—they’re just like stars! They’re photographed a lot. They get sent free clothes. And, dammit, they set their own hours. As long as they’re eating at least every four hours, you need to follow your newborn’s lead—and not vice versa—when it comes to a schedule in the first couple of weeks.
7. Take care of yourself. You just had a baby. Put your feet up whenever possible. Drink a lot of water. Don’t forget to eat. And sleep whenever you can. Remember, when people come to visit in the first weeks after you come home from the hospital, they are there to see you and the baby. Remember, they don’t expect you or your house to look perfect. And remember, if you are talking anywhere near the baby monitor, there’s a good chance they can hear you.
8. Sleep deprivation is the worst. It’s awful. It’s revolting. And it physically hurts. It’s like a really bad subway smell on a hot day — but in your brain. That said, blame everything and anything on sleep deprivation for as long as you possibly want.
9. It’s called childREARing for a reason. It’s unbelievable how often babies can poop, especially since they don’t even drink coffee. The frequency or color of baby crap doesn’t really matter. As long as the stool’s soft, not black or white, and blood as well as mucus-free, there’s nothing to freak out about. Well, there are things to freak out about—global warming, for example—but not your baby’s poop.
10. Get out. Babies are small. This works to your advantage in so many ways! First, it would be hard to give birth to one if they were big. Second, it makes diaper changes easier. Third, it means that babies are portable so you can take them almost anywhere once you feel ready. Yes, even to a bar.
11. Get support. This is important for your boobs and this is important for you. Seriously, you’re going to need some good bras whether you’re nursing or not; and, you’re going to need some good people with whom to talk, lean on and commiserate. Join a new parents’ group or class as soon as you can because—don’t forget!—your baby is portable.
12. Get help. Ten to twenty percent of new mothers suffer from postpartum depression. Ten to twenty percent. It’s so common. Why don’t we talk about this more? We should talk about this more. If you’re reading this and feel you might have symptoms of depression or anxiety, please don’t feel alone, because you’re not. If you feel depressed, overanxious, overwhelmed or are worried that you may have trouble taking care of yourself and your baby, call your doctor or reach out to a loved one right away.
13. You’re still you. One day you’ll sleep again. One day you’ll sit down to eat dinner and not worry about the baby crying. And one day you’ll shower and, maybe, you’ll even wash your hair. You really will feel like yourself again. Except, maybe even better. Maybe a little more patient. And maybe a little more appreciative of the little things. Probably a lot more appreciative of the little things. Like sleep. Oh God! Sleep!
14. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Do you love your baby? Are you doing the best you can? Has anyone contacted the authorities? If you can answer “yes,” “yes” and “no” then pat yourself on the back because you’re doing great!