Becoming a mom is the most amazing, overwhelming, painful, and joyful experience all at the same time. There’s nothing that can describe it or prepare you for all it entails, but here are a few pieces of advice from this new mom. My hope is that you can find something here that resonates with you.

I spent so much time preparing for the actual birth of my son, that I barely even thought about preparing myself for what happens when we come home from the hospital. While nothing can truly prepare you for the first few weeks with a newborn, I wish I would have given it a little more thought than I did.

There are moments of pure joy followed by tears so heavy you feel like you’re drowning; and that’s completely normal! Hormones are a very crazy, very real thing. You will go from feeling like a rockstar to questioning everything you did for the last day because your baby won’t stop crying. On top of all this, let’s throw in the most extreme sleep deprivation you’ve ever had in your life.

It’s a huge responsibility shift going from taking care of yourself to being 100% responsible for keeping another human being alive. You are no longer on your own schedule; you’re on this squishy little baby’s schedule. This transition wasn’t easy for me, probably because I’m a creature of habit and love my routines, but you’ll adapt to your new normal.

My number one piece advice is to listen to your instinct. It might be hard to find at first, but I promise it’s there. Everyone under the sun will try to give you advice on how to feed, sleep, dress, bathe, (insert any verb here) your infant, but do what works best for you and your family.

I remember being in church on Easter morning with my husband and his entire family. Our son was around two months old at the time. (It was a miracle in itself that we made it to 8:00 am mass!) Anyway, our son started crying during mass, and my husband was trying to calm him down. They were about to go to the cry room and this lady next to us started practically yelling that our baby was gassy and needed to burp and proceeded to try to take him out of my husband’s arms. It was all I could do to keep quiet and nod along like I was listening while my husband took him outside. I was fuming mad and bummed that I was missing the joy of Easter Sunday, but I was also in complete shock at what just happened. All of this from a complete stranger, in the middle of Easter mass. People everywhere will tell you how to take care of your baby, so try not to waste your energy on getting upset. Most people mean well, but in the end, it’s your baby. Do what you think is best.

My second piece of advice is to make sure you and your partner discuss visitors. I recommend having a plan in place for both the hospital and those first weeks you’re home. My husband and I briefly discussed it, but we did not have a very solid plan in place, and it led to lots of tears and hurt feelings. I am much more introverted than my husband. If it were up to him, we would have a house full of visitors at all times. I, on the other hand, value some alone time. I needed time to process everything that just happened, and I was trying to figure out how to take care of our new baby. You can be flexible with your plan, but letting your family members know beforehand that you might need a little time before you want visitors is a lot easier than telling them they have to leave after the fact. My son was born on a Tuesday afternoon, so we came home from the hospital on a Thursday, and then we had visitor after visitor that Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Most of it was great, and I appreciated all of the love, but trying to figure out breastfeeding, letting my body heal, and taking care of the baby with all of these people in my house was stressful. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you need a break from visitors. Your friends and family will understand.

Finally, practice some self-care. This was much, much harder than I anticipated after my son was born. As moms we are constant givers. We want the world for our babies and will do anything we can to take care of them, but we’re also constantly giving to our partners, our families, our friends, our jobs, and our communities. You can’t take good care of others if you’re not taking care of yourself first. Some days that self-care was just getting 15 minutes of quiet time in the shower, but other days it was yoga or a walk or enjoying an entire cup of hot coffee (without microwaving it three times!). It took me a long time to get there, but now I am a lot more conscious about taking care of me. One of the things I did that really made me recognize how little self-love I was allowing myself was a 15 minute yoga challenge with a group of moms on Facebook. Sounds simple enough, right? For 30 days straight, we all tried to do at least 15 minutes of yoga a day. Most of the time my sessions were at home, squeezed in anywhere I could fit 15 minutes with my son playing nearby, but the further I got into the challenge, the more I put in effort to schedule classes at the studio or a longer session at home away from the chaos. I was making a constant effort to incorporate some movement every day. Even on days I could only fit in 15 minutes, I had more patience and felt better about myself. Whether it’s reading or writing or running or practicing yoga or anything that makes you feel good, filling up your cup first will in turn help you to be a better mother.

Guest Blogger: Amanda Bellville