One chilly February morning, when I was 37 and a half weeks pregnant, I sneezed.
What accompanied that sneeze was the unpleasant experience of something wet gushing down my inner leg and onto the floor. Surprisingly enough, it was not pee. (Hurray for my pelvic floor!) Instead, my water had broken and my journey into motherhood was about to begin.
That cold February day the first of my three daughters came into the world. And, as she was my first, I was immediately shell-shocked. But I was also surrounded by many well-wishes and congratulatory visits.
When your newborn first arrives, everyone tends to offer up lots of very well-intended advice. Schedules. Sleeping. Feeding. Among this dizzying compilation of tips and information, I was left confused and unsure of what I really needed to know.
If I wasn't sitting topless on the couch at 2am, working on skin-to-skin and trying desperately to get breastfeeding to be successful, I was thinking about how to get my baby to sleep on her own at 7 weeks old. (When I look back at this now, I can see how crazy and misinformed I was).
As a new Mom, it is really hard. And it's even harder to realize that those first 3 to 4 months of your new baby's life are very different from every other stage. What you need to know is really simple and really basic. In fact, you probably already know everything. It's primal. You knew it as soon as that child was born.
If I had known that, or if anyone had said even just one of these things to me after having my first, I probably would have been a lot more relaxed.
Hold your baby
Hold them. And do it as much as you want. You won't start any bad habits. I promise. That little nugget you've got won't always be that tiny and soft and their little bum won't always fit so well into your hands. You will long for that feeling again. So hold them... for naps, at bedtime, when you're watching TV. Let them sleep on you, too. Holding them now gives you a chance to bond and it makes you happy. There will be plenty of time to establish proper sleep habits. Now is the time to get to know each other.
Give yourself a break
You just had a baby. Your body just spat out a human being. You are now responsible for this thing. There is going to be a learning curve. I think we would all be a lot happier and relaxed if we could just give ourselves a break at first. I remember spending my long, long nights awake with my newborn, watching the 2010 Winter Olympics and actually worrying about whether or not she was getting screen time. (Seriously.) She was not watching TV. It was perfectly okay. But for some reason, I wasn't allowing myself to just get through the night. So if you find yourself covered in chip crumbs at 2am, worrying about your diet - or you've gone through yet another day without washing your hair or getting out of your sweats - it's okay! Cut yourself some slack. You will eventually get back to the good habits and proper hygiene. I am living proof.
Let them sleep!
Again, I don't know why I did it, but I kept obsessing over sleep times and nap times and bedtime routines. I just thought you were supposed to. And I think you are - when they're slightly older. Newborns need something like 16-20 hours of sleep a day. If I did anything right with my second and third child, it was just letting them sleep as newborns whenever the heck they wanted. If that meant we went through a few hard weeks of them being awake at night, so be it. I was not about to wake them up in the daytime when they were sound asleep.
Keep them in pajamas
Baby outfits are ridiculously cute. There is no denying that. But, believe me you have loads and loads of time to dress up your kids. The tiny Stuart Weitzman baby shoes can wait. (Unless, of course, you're going somewhere fabulous!) I have three kids - so I understand how fun the baby clothes can be. Teeny tiny anything makes my ovaries instantly ache. However, with my second and third child, I did less dressing up which meant the diaper changes and feedings were faster and easier - and there was WAY less laundry to worry about.
Go with your gut
This last one is tricky. I read a lot on parenting because I believe that knowledge is power. And I love to read. I'm constantly trying to learn more to do better. But I sort of wish I did less reading and more trusting-of-my-gut when my daughter was a newbie. Because the truth is, you are likely very well equipped to deal with the day-to-day of raising a baby. I was. And I'm certainly not a Super Mom. I'm just a woman who fiercely loves her children who also happens to be capable of feeding, changing and raising a wee baby. And so are you. So if you want to read all the parenting books, go for it! But if you don't - your gut can guide you, too.
You got this, Mama.
This post originally appeared on mabelhood.com.