Congratulations you’re going to be a new parent! Now, what? It is time for you to enroll into “How to Raise Another Human 101.” Then, pray you don’t flunk this course! Or perhaps, that’s what all the expert parenting books want you to believe. The bookstores have enough “How-to-parenting books” to confirm and contradict every belief you may have about parenting.

When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I was ecstatic. But, soon my “new parent panic” quickly replaced my elation.

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So, I immediately went out and spent a small fortune on everything from “Parenting for Dummies” to “Scholarly Works of the Distinguished Parent” books. Do you know what I found out? That the “Parenting for Dummies” book makes an excellent coffee cup coaster, and the “Scholarly Works of the Distinguished Parent” book is perfect for squishing random creepy-crawlers. The truth of the matter is: I spent hours reading and obsessively highlighting every parenting book I owned, yet I never referred to one book after my son was born.

Why is that you ask? Because, after the birth of my son, nearly a year passed before I had enough free time, energy, or desire even to think about picking up a book again. My night time readings turned into night time feedings. When your baby is crying at 3:00 am and then he projectile vomits all over the shirt you’ve been wearing for three days, the last thing you will reach for is a parenting book. One piece of information I never read in any of my parenting books was preparing to become a human napkin.

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In fact, every book page that I carefully dog-eared became a distant blur, along with my vision, sense of time, and memory. I developed what people referred to as the “mommy brain.” I couldn’t even remember where I put my car keys, let alone, remember what I read three months ago regarding the joys of parenting. To put it in a nutshell: bringing your infant home for the first time is the most exhilarating, terrifying, exhausting, learn-as-you-go experience you will endure. Which leads me to my next point:

IT’S OK TO LEARN-AS-YOU-GO

No one can thoroughly prepare you for this new journey called “Parenthood.” The reason for this is because it’s your journey to embark on and create as you go. Although people can point you in the right direction, there isn’t an accurate and exact road map to navigate you through parenthood. You will still be inclined to ask for directions along the way, which is understandable and entirely acceptable. However, just remember, no one will ever understand your child’s needs better than you. It’s a guessing game at first, but you will quickly begin to decipher the “I’m hungry” cry from the “I have an explosion in my diaper” cry. Begin to trust your motherly instincts. They are there, I promise. It may take some fine tuning, but your instincts will get stronger as you and your baby grow together.

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Word to the Wise: Don’t get offended if everyone around you wants to share their tried and true parenting tips. They are only attempting to help. Think of it like this: you have now become a lifetime member of the Parent Club and getting unsolicited advice from your friends, family, and random strangers are part of your inauguration. However, rest assured, your baby will let you know what works best for them. So follow your instincts and pick up on your child’s signals. For example, it doesn’t matter if your mother-in-law swaddled your husband and his four brothers. Your baby might just want to kick it freestyle and toss the swaddle blanket aside. You will learn if your child wants to be burped over your shoulder or belly down on your knee or the count of 1, 2, 3, burp! Who knows? The point is, there is never going to be a “one size fits all” solution.
Being a good parent is having unconditional love for yourself and your child. Start with love and the rest will work itself out.

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Spoiler Alert: There are no such things as unicorns, mermaids or perfect parents. So, don’t waste your time trying to be one or find one. It’s perfectly normal to feel ecstatic and liberated when you take a solo trip to Target. Consider your time alone as needed rest stops along the way.
Parenthood is an unpredictable journey filled with wonder and blunder, but it’s a journey worth taking. The only thing you can know for sure is that you’re going to: make mistakes, throw one of those parenting books across the room, cry with your baby, laugh with your baby, and ultimately, you’re going to figure it all out.
Becoming a new parent is a beautiful chapter in your life. There are blank pages before you just waiting to be written, and the best parenting author is you.