Chances are if you're reading this, you have a very tiny, very fresh, very pink little baby snuggling in your arms right now.
Congratulations. You made it through pregnancy, and birth, and here is your baby.
Oh god. Now what?!
Making the adjustment from couple to family is not an easy one. Learning to sacrifice your needs every time, and put your baby first is hard! Sometimes you really want to just veg out with a coffee and watch some zombie movies or something.
It's a steep learning curve, and I promise it's probably about as scary and hard as it's going to get right about now. Sure, as they grow, new challenges will replace the sleepless nights and sore nipples. I still have moments where my heart leaps out of my chest when one of the boys narrowly avoids hurting themselves, from doing something crazy.
But nothing compares to the intensity of the fear of new parents. EVERYTHING is new. Everything is hard. You'll wonder if you're actually capable every single day.
Yes, you are capable. You can do it. This is just your first few days on the job. Relax, and cut yourself some slack.
You'll be a great mum.
Since there's no user-manual for new babies, here are some of the realest tips you'll get.
My first born, my rainbow baby
1. Use your number one weapon.
I'm talking about breastfeeding. It starts out so hard sometimes, that your nipples will be red raw and you'll lament the day you ever grew boobs. But it's worth it in the end.
You'll envy those formula feeding mums, comfortably holding a sleek bottle in their hand, not sobbing with their boobs out. But I promise, in time, you'll feel sorry for them. It might start out hard in the beginning, but I wouldn't still be feeding a 19 month old child if it wasn't super easy by now.
Cry as much as you want, slather lansinoh cream all over your chest, and put together a survival kit. Now. Get a basket. Fill it with bottled water, fruit, crackers, a book, tv remotes, etc. Don't forget the spew catcher!
Any time you sit down to feed your baby (which will be a lot at first) make sure you have your basket. It might sound stupid but it will help.
2. Watch your baby, not the clock.
Feed 10 minutes this side, then 10 on the other. Burp in between. Sing twinkle twinkle 7 times, once in reverse, while standing on your head but only for 3 minutes.
What? Oh god. Just watch your baby. If you're not dozing off during yet another 3 hour cluster feed. Watch his or her cues. If she needs to burp, she'll let you know. Usually you can tell by the way they wriggle around and grimace.
3. Save the routines for when bub can talk.
Whilst it's a good idea to have a loose routine in place, a baby under the age of about a month has no idea what's going on. They just want mama, and milk in that order. Don't sweat it if you forgot to do the 20 minute massage in pure coconut oil with Bach playing softly in the background under soft moonlight for tonight's bedtime ritual.
Baby doesn't give a shit. True story.
4. Read your baby, not the books.
I read at least 10 pregnancy and baby books before my first child was born. All I learned was how to stress myself out with a thousand different techniques and rules to follow.
Throw any books you have straight into the deepest darkest dungeon you can find. Read your baby. It's very subtle at first, but every baby has their own unique facial expressions, movements and sounds to let you know what they want. Trust! And listen. To them, and to your instincts.
When all else fails, move through the list. Poo? Hungry? Bored? Scared? Tired? Sick? If none of this works, you can be confident your baby probably doesn't know why he's upset either. Don't sweat it. Hug it out.
5. Surrender to the crapness.
My firstborn was a bed-hog. He slept in my arms every single time he slept, day or night... for the first 7 months of his life. I thought I was going to go insane.
Until I surrendered. I just decided that this was how it was going to be. It was co-sleep (bedsharing, actually) or no-sleep for me. I stopped following the routines and recording every little thing that happened overnight, after I read my notes one morning and realized I'd been up 11 times in 6 hours.
I cried. (again)
But I stopped obsessing over sleep. I felt a thousand times better. It was so depressing, trying to take notes whilst simultaneously struggling with a screaming baby all night long. Babies are supposed to wake up a lot. It's part of their survival instincts. Don't question, just surrender.
6. Ask for help.
Even if you don't need it. Who cares. You just had a freaking baby. A whole entire human being just came out of your body. Put your feet up and do not feel guilty about asking for, or accepting a bit of TLC from loved ones.
Free food is good, too.
7. Smile and nod.
This one has served me very well over the last 4 years. Every time I hear dodgy advice from a random nanna at the shops, or wherever, really- I apply this technique. "I'll remember that!" I say, enthusiastically nodding my head and smiling broadly.
That's usually a good time to exit. Of course, you can employ a more direct approach, but I suspect you won't have the energy for that kind of stuff until your kid is about 2. (seriously).
8. You are the expert on your baby.
Even if your baby is only a minute old, and you guys have just met. You carried that baby inside for 9 months. Or 10 if you're like me and your kids enjoy extended womb-service.
You no doubt sensed the presence and personality of your little one from the inside, all along. I always joked that my first boy was a big rebel. I could tell by the way he moved around in there. I can confirm this by the way he moves around out here, too. My second boy is more placid. I felt that immediately, too.
Never doubt your connection with your baby, now that they're on the outside. She doesn't need to speak. You can read her mind. And you're the only thing on her mind, mama.
9. You won't love every moment. Don't try to.
People love to tell you to enjoy every minute, because they grow up so fast. They really do grow up fast! But no thanks, I don't enjoy scrubbing vomit out of the carpet at 3am. I didn't enjoy a lot of things. It's okay to be okay with that.
Be warned though- Never in your life, will you have experienced the level of judgement you are about to experience. I'm sorry, but you can't avoid it. Everywhere you turn, someone will be there to tell you that you're doing it wrong.
The good news is, you don't have to give a fuck. Remember that little pearl of wisdom, if you remember nothing else I've said.
10. You won't be the Mother you envisioned.
Sorry. You won't. Because she's likely a pristine, perfect example of motherly perfection, and she doesn't exist.
You are human. You're going to do some stupid shit. Becoming a mother doesn't suddenly make you immune to making mistakes. You'll probably swear, and wonder if 10am is too early for wine on occasion. You're still going to be you- and you won't lose your sense of style and taste overnight.
But it's okay. Because although it won't look how you imagined it, it'll still be the best thing you ever do in your entire life.