Let me start by saying I’m very hesitant about doling out parenting advice. I received tons of unsolicited advice when I was pregnant, and by the end of it all, I was more confused and frustrated than before. Before all was said and done, I would’ve knocked out the next old lady who tried to touch my belly without asking.

But because you asked, here it is. This is my best un-cut parenting advice. I hope it helps.

1. Have a support network

When people say it takes a community, they are not joking. Not even a little. Babies are an absolute joy, and they are also completely exhausting. You need help to carry the weight. Having a baby is an exercise in learning to rely on others in a way you never have before.

If someone offers to help, take it. Let people arrange to bring you dinner for the first week or two after you have the baby. Let people hold the baby to give yourself a break.

If you want to breastfeed, join a support group, because the shit is hard and for something that is a natural process, it can be horribly difficult for some of us.

If you have ever had depression, start seeing your therapist once you’re pregnant and continue to after you’ve had the baby. If you’ve experienced depression before, you’re 50% more likely to have postpartum depression.

Find mom friends. Join support groups. Do anything you can to get yourself around people who will understand what you’re going through. There is nothing more important than having people who will surround you and your new addition with love.

2. Take off as much time as you can

Your body physically needs time to recover. Your mind is recuperating and readjusting, because holy cats, you’ve got a new role and identity to develop. Oh, and just so you’re aware, mommy brain is a real thing. Don’t expect to be at 100% mentally or physically after 6 weeks or even 16 weeks.

Take every second of maternity leave you can squeeze out, and then use your vacation time to give yourself more room there. Because the first time you try and tear yourself from that baby, no matter how badly you need a break, it is going to hurt down to your toes, and you’ll ache with longing to have your baby nearby again.

3. Pooping after you have a baby is the WORST

No one wants to talk about it, but honey, double up on the stool softeners and prunes as soon as your little bundle of joy has made its way into the world. Also, say no to the Vicodin (constipation) and yes to everything else. You are welcome.

4. However you want to have your baby is FINE

Seriously, drugs or no drugs, waterbath or standing or whatever the current trend is, at home or in a hospital. It’s just like with a wedding – no one cares as much as you do. Do it the way you want, and be open to other options if things go wrong. Don’t put a bunch of unnecessary pressure on yourself to do things the almighty right way. When I was at the hospital, rather than have a “Birth Plan” (in quotes because it is truly a laughable phrase) I had a list of “I really would rather’s” because *things happen.* You can’t predict some of what happens during the birthing process.

5. Feel free to tell me and anyone else giving you advice to fuck off (in the kindest way possible)

Why? Because no one is an expert, no one really knows what they are doing, and we are all just doing the best we can with what we have. For some of us, that means trying to reconcile our fucked up relationship with our mother so we don’t make the same mistakes with our kids. For others, it’s trying to live up to the unattainable standards of their mother. We all come into this arena with our own baggage. It’s up to each of to help each other carry the weight, and that means compassion, kindness, and above all, attempting to understand one another.

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