“What I’ve learned about new motherhood? Trust Yourself.”

Today’s post is brought to you by a guest contributor with one of the cleverest online handles I’ve come across: Tragic Sandwich. I asked “Ms. Sandwich” to share some of the most important lessons she’s learned as a new mom, and I know you’ll identify with the realizations she’s made on her journey. Enjoy! -M

To paraphrase Olympia Dukakis’s Rose Castorini from Moonstruck, “What I don’t know about parenting is a lot.”

Baguette was born in April 2010. Mr. Sandwich and I brought her home two days later, and as we opened the front door, I thought, “Why did they let me bring her home? I have no idea what to do.”

Turns out, I did. In fact, she needed exactly the same things at home that she needed in the hospital: clean, dry diapers; food; the occasional sponge bath (although, wow, did she hate them); and loving parents. So we gave her those. And when she had needs beyond that, we figured out how to meet those as well.

I often felt–and still feel–like I have no idea what I’m doing.

I learned how to play with my baby by watching other mothers play with theirs. I still remember visiting a day care when she was a few months old. The other mom who was introducing her baby to the center was playing with a receiving blanket, holding it up and dropping it down so that it drifted through the air and over the baby. Then she’d pull it up and do the same thing over and over, while her baby giggled. I thought, “Baguette would probably like that,” and then felt horrible that I couldn’t even come up with a game that simple.

But I also realized that we’re all learning, all the time. And so when a number of friends had babies in close succession after Baguette was born, I shared what I’d learned, telling them what products–or sources–had worked best for us.

That phrase “best for us” is key, by the way. It’s at the heart of what anyone really can share with you about raising children. Beyond “this brand of baby nail clippers cut better than that one,” my parenting advice is really quite limited, for a very simple reason.

I’m not you, and Baguette is not your child. Our parenting equations are very different.

So with that in mind, there are two things I tell new parents:

1) There is a very wide range of normal, and no matter how weird that thing your baby just did seems, it is probably normal. Every single time we asked our pediatrician about something that seemed bizarre and potentially unhealthy (Pooped six times in a row? Didn’t poop for days?), he’d respond, “Well, that’s normal.” So go ahead and ask your pediatrician about it, but don’t worry too much. It’s normal.

2) There are a lot of ways to do this right. Find the ones that work for you and your family. This means asking others (and sometimes accepting their unsolicited advice) and trial-and-error. Don’t worry about the process. Everyone is making this up as they go along.

So when people say they have the One Answer? That’s just what worked for them. If it also works for you, great. If it doesn’t, no big deal. If you don’t want to try it? Fine. There is nothing that says you have to.

You know your family and your child better than anyone. When you make choices, you’re doing it with their specific well-being in mind. And you’re the person best equipped to do that. It’s fine to learn from others. But trust yourself. There’s no reason not to.

Tragic Sandwich is a 40-something mom to Baguette, a rambunctious toddler who loves adventures. Together, she and Mr. Sandwich are making their way through the world of first-time parenthood.

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