I remember going home from the hospital with both my newborn boys, incredulous that the nursing staff would let me leave with a baby. I had no idea what to do and no idea what lay ahead. Those first few weeks of new parenthood  were a blend of sleepless nights, feelings of inadequacy and an array of other emotions I'd never felt before. However, they also changed my life for the better. In the time since, I've read so many of those parenting advice books designed to escort couples into new parenthood, but unfortunately, they fall short of truly preparing you for the transition. Here is the advice I would give to all first-time parents:

Find Your New Normal

After our first child was born, my husband and I kept waiting for life to return to "normal." Eventually though, we realized that having a baby had not only turned our world upside down, but this new reality was here to stay. When we got married, we had to transition from being single to being newlyweds. While different than the way we'd lived previously, we embraced being married and all the joy it has brought to our lives--the same became true with becoming new parents. Rather than spend time waiting for old lives to return, it became important to embrace the new life we were living.

Once we accepted that this was not a stage, but rather our "new normal," we felt excited at the idea of getting to recreate what a day, week and month would look like. We created new schedules for house care, meals and activities and before long, felt like we were in a new routine with all sorts of new experiences. Sleepless nights were soon offset by first smiles, chubby thighs and big, bright eyes.

And rest assured, the things you loved before you had children will find a spot in your new life again soon. But this time, imagine getting to show a new, little life some of your favorite hobbies, travel destinations and foods! Trust me when I say they all become just a little bit sweeter when you have an additional person to share them with.

Ride the Emotional Roller-Coaster

I remember thinking all throughout my pregnancy that the moment I saw my child for the first time, I'd be overwhelmed with all the love my body could muster. What I didn't realize at the time though, was just how much labor and delivery would take out of my body. While for some, holding that new baby and celebrating their new family may come immediately, for others, it may take a few days or weeks for bodies and minds to recover the physical and emotional stress of bringing a child into the world.

Whatever situation you find yourself, know there are plenty of others experiencing the same thing! You. Are. Okay. You. Are. Normal.

The emotional roller coaster that comes with becoming a new parent can only be exacerbated by expectations you and societal norms try and place on your life. Instead of focusing on how you and others think you should feel and act, choose to ride the emotional roller coaster for what it is: just another experience that comes bundled with your bundle of joy and new stage of life. Choose to go with the emotional flow and recognize that things will settle, bonding will come and life will normalize.

However, if a new mommy is showing any signs of postpartum depression, seek medical help as soon as possible. This is far too frequent and resources are available to help.

Dodge the Nosy Well-Wishers

Remember those people who rubbed your pregnant belly without asking? They multiply once you have the baby. Prepare yourself for unwelcome (and sometimes uncomfortable) questions about feeding choices, sleep schedules and child care plans from others all-too-willing to offer their opinions.

My advice to you is this:

Parenting is a trial-and-error process. As long as your baby is loved, cared for and safe, you're doing a great job. Remember, you're brand-new at this, but also, every baby is different. Feel free to take advice that feels right and simply dodge the rest. You will have people telling you how to parent your child for the rest of your life. Choosing early to smile, nod and move ignore what doesn't feel right is a skill well worth developing. Only you are uniquely qualified to parent your child. So trust your instincts (and, of course, the advice of your pediatrician!)

Lower your Expectations

I am a type-A, overly scheduled neat-freak and I drove myself nuts trying to keep up with everything after having my first baby. I had met so many new parents who had messy houses and looked barely put together themselves and simply thought "that won't be me!" As I talked about in the section about your new normal, nothing will throw off your routine faster than adding newborn care into it. Those precious little people know nothing of clean dishes or bed times. Instead of driving yourself to break the mold and be the exception, embrace the reality of the situation and confidently wear that new stain on your shirt with pride. You are nurturing a new life--something you've never done before. Don't try to run at your pre-baby pace during the first postpartum weeks.

If you're like me and still need to have some semblance of schedule and put-togetherness, then consider making a new schedule and setting expectations after the first few weeks at home, instead of while you're pregnant. Spend time with your new family in your new reality. Get a feel for what is possible and what isn't, then re-establish a routine from there. You'll be glad you did.

Take Care of Yourself and Accept Help

Among the myriad of unsolicited advice, you'll receive sincere offers for help--please don't turn those down.

I know all-too-well the desire to be a strong, independent person and prove to the world I can do anything. However, allowing others to lend a hand has benefits that far outweigh a little misguided self-pride.

If you have family who would like to spend time with the newest member of their extended family, say yes! Find some time to get out of the house or just take a nap. Parenthood asks for the best we can offer and you can offer so much more when you've had time to take care of yourself. Don't feel guilty for accepting help. It takes a village to raise a child properly, so put yours into motion.

As you establish a new normal for your new family, make sure to find time for self-care as well. Whether that is daily meditation or spiritual rituals, napping/sleeping or just sitting in a hot bath, taking time to recharge and refill your energy and patience is a gift you can give to your newborn.

If you're feeling isolated, reach out to friends. Going from a job to maternity or paternity leave is a big transition. Every parent needs adult interaction from time to time.

It's Just a Phase

The last, and most important, thing to remember is that nothing lasts forever. Mixing up days and nights, growth spurts and diaper rashes all go away eventually. As a new parent, it's easy to think that the bad stuff will last forever, but babies change and grow up so fast, you'll one day look back and wish you could be back in those moments again.

So slow down and enjoy every snuggle and every smile. Breathe in that new baby smell and take a one more picture than you think you should. Trust yourself and cut yourself some slack. You will be an amazing parent.

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