You can do this.
(picture by our doula, Kim Wheaton)
Having a baby turns out to be the most difficult thing you will ever do, but I promise you that you will make it through this first year relatively unscathed -- though of course changed forever in uncountable ways. Some days, it will feel like you can't do it and won't make it through the next hour, let alone the whole day or week or month. And then it will suddenly be May 22nd, 2012 and you won't be able to believe that a whole year has passed by since you were last blissfully ignorant of the journey ahead of you (by the way, your water is going to break tomorrow -- just warning you!).
One year in, I still don't know what I'm doing. But I've learned a few things that I wish I had known a year ago today, so I'm telling you now:
There's no shame in making mistakes. In fact, don't even consider them to be mistakes -- you're learning how to be a mom, and it's really hard! There's no perfect way to parent, and soon enough you'll get into a rhythm. But until then, stop feeling guilty. Stop worrying that people are judging your every move. Mostly, stop judging yourself against a pre-baby vision of yourself as a mother. It's not what you pictured. And that's okay.
Take a shower. Wear something cute. Demand that you have time every day to do your hair and put on makeup. Get outside. Make time to read (don't wait two months to discover you can use your Nook or listen to audiobooks while nursing). If you do not do these things, you will suffocate. Remember your high school English teacher's policy of "dress right, test right"? It totally applies here -- you will be a better "you" if you feel good about yourself.
Feeling overwhelmed is normal. Crying in the shower is normal. Thinking you are a horrible mother is normal. It is also normal and good to see a counselor. Don't wait until month four -- go now.
Make connections to other moms. They are just as frazzled and nervous and overwhelmed as you about disrupting their babies' nap schedules to meet up -- so bring a pack-and-play and your Boppy with you or invite them to come over even though your house is a mess. You cannot do this alone.
Get a better camera than that point-and-shoot you're using. Believe me, you'll be thankful when you realize you took at least 5000 pictures during the first year.
Breastfeeding is difficult. And no matter what they tell you, it's definitely possible to be allergic to lanolin. Get help. Get a prescription for APNO. Don't be afraid to pump -- it's going to make life a lot easier, even though it seems weird and scary at first. And later, when you think it's under control, she'll start teething or get really squirmy or go on strike. There will always be challenges to nursing. Just like with everything else, let go of "perfect" and be okay with "this is what works for us."
(picture by my friend Beth)
This is the longest shortest time. It will feel interminable. It is. It's okay to be angry with people who say "Enjoy these moments while you can." Motherhood will not feel natural at first. You are just not one of those women. You will feel as if you've been thrown off a cliff. I promise you won't hit bottom -- just reach out for a handhold, because there are more hands to hold than you might think. You will survive, and your daughter will do just fine. Better than fine. She will become a beautiful, happy, sweet, funny, curious, affectionate little girl who is a pure delight to be around and you won't be able to imagine your life without her. And you will love being her mom.
p.s. Lorelei is a terrible sleeper. Just warning you.