I found myself a new mom in a big city, 3,000 miles from my own mom. Mastitis, hormonal roller coasters and crib building instruction manuals were mine to navigate alone. And while I had parenting books and Reddit feeds to peruse for answers, there’s no replacement for the sort of hearty wisdom that comes from speaking to a woman who has thrust five of her own through her vaginal canal.
Annoyingly posh Instagram photos and mom blogs would offer charming witticisms lauding messy bun hair, but they wouldn’t tell me what to do when a momentary rage coursed through my body in the deep hours of the night when I’d wonder, “Why the hell does my husband even have nipples?”
A 24-year-old male resident may explain from his clipboard why I’d feel pain as my uterine contracts, but he couldn’t understand what it’s like to cry in IKEA while holding a half-naked screaming infant who just pooped through her onesie. No, those moments are reserved for the empathetic prowess of the women who have been there, done that.
So I went to the real experts. I didn’t need dolled-up Carol Brady-esque mothering advice, I needed the gritty, raw truth from the sages who understand just how miraculous an uninterrupted visit to the restroom is. I needed someone to tell me, with authority, that everything was going to be OK.
On prepping for baby
Less is more. You won’t need 80 percent of the stuff you think you need. And your baby won’t want to take or like half the stuff you have. Katie Muhtaris, Chicago mom of two
If you’re not vibing with your OB, trust your instincts and find a new one. It’s never too late. You have choices. Marcy Moreno Sherwin, Chicago mom of one
Whatever your birth plan is, be fully OK with it not going that way. Be OK with a c-section, unmedicated birth, medicated birth, not breastfeeding right away, skin to skin an hour later or any of the other million things that can happen. Jaime Michelini, Niles mom of three
If you plan to breastfeed, find a good certified lactation consultant BEFORE you have the baby and don’t hesitate to call them if anything isn’t going well. The first 10 days of my daughter’s life could have been easier for everyone if someone had told me this. Sarah Concannon, Chicago mom of one
If you don’t feel an outpouring of love and you also don’t feel despair or other PPD symptoms, nothing’s wrong with you, you’re not a monster. Just give it time. I didn’t feel bonded with my first until about 2 months when he could make eye contact. Madeline Stahl, Oak Park mom of two
On letting go
It’s OK to put the baby down while you take a shower. Audra Regina, Chicago mom of two
Give your body some rest after giving birth. Take this time to just hold your baby and let someone else help you. The dishes, the vacuuming, it all can wait, your body is still healing. Katia Coszach, Chicago mom of one
There is no one best/right way to do anything. Trust your instincts; they are there for a reason. Colleen Kehoe, Chicago mom of one
Don’t micromanage your partner. Let them find their path and give them alone time with the baby to find the path. I learned to use the phrase “something that works for me is…” instead of “you’re doing it wrong.” Katie Muhtaris
On taking care of mom
Find good mom friends ASAP. Cynthia Frankos, Chicago mom of two
I wish someone would’ve told me it is OK to mourn my old life. Everything is on how awesome parenting is. I felt like there was no room to say “yes it is OK to miss going out with friends or sleeping in until noon or doing whatever you want.” Anne Taylor, Chicago mom of two
M&M’s in the bathroom is great for potty training. Also great when you just need a snack while hiding in there. Sarah Jacobsen Weipert, Chicago mom of two
On doing things “right”
Don’t rush the milestones because before you know it they are all grown up. Donna Bohne, Chicago mom of one
Fresh air and Dum Dums make everything better. Corey Schultz Wicklein, Elmhurst mom of two
This article originally appeared in the May 2019 issue of Chicago Parent. Read the rest of the issue.