After riding a birth high for a few days it's not uncommon to feel a little overwhelmed and intimidated once it really sinks in that you're now in charge of meeting the every need of another (tiny) human.
Parenthood is rewarding and challenging and amazing and demanding, all at the same time. It can be particularly arduous navigating those first few weeks.
Here is my advice, as a birth professional and mother of two, for new parents:
Sleep When Baby Sleeps
Yeah, yeah, I know. This is the not the first time you've heard this advice and it's so much easier said than done, right?!
It's well known advice for a reason! Let's just get this out there now: your normal sleep pattern is going to be interrupted with a newborn and you're going to be spending a whole lot of time and energy meeting their needs. Make getting the rest you need a priority!
Try to sleep when baby sleeps. Stay in bed in the morning (or even into the afternoon), leave your PJs on and go back to sleep after feeding and changing baby rather than getting up to start your day. Take a nap rather than do the dishes, or worrying about laundry.
If you really can't sleep, at least do something relaxing while you have some free time. Sit in a comfy chair and read a book. Lay in bed and watch a rerun of your favorite TV show. Take a bath! Whatever you can do to recharge and unwind a bit.
Let Baby Sleep Where They Want
While we're on the subject of sleep, let baby sleep where they want. I know you lovingly planned and decorated the perfect nursery and you daydream of bringing your new bundle of joy home to sleep in the crib that you've painstakingly set up, but they very well may not want to sleep there early on.
Babies are biologically programmed to want to be near you all the time, including while they sleep. Some babies have a higher need for close proximity than others so if you and your baby are happy with them sleeping in their crib, great! If they're not happy there, let them sleep where they are comfortable and happy so that you can sleep too! Just make sure they're sleeping safely wherever they are doing it.
Just because baby will only sleep in a bassinet in your room, or in a swing, or in your bed right now, doesn't mean that's the only way they will sleep forever. Just like everything else during the first year, sleep needs evolve quickly!
Accept Help From Loved Ones
See my statement above about ignoring household chores like dishes and laundry and instead focusing on recharging your batteries? But I need clean coffee mugs and some fresh socks wouldn't hurt, you say. Accept help from loved ones!
When your mother-in-law comes over to visit and asks if there's anything she can do to help, take her up on the offer! Ask her to empty and reload your dishwasher. When your friend calls to tell you she's stopping by after work for a quick baby snuggle ask her to pick up the milk and bread that you need from the store on her way. When your brother comes to see you and baby use the time to take a shower and dry your hair rather than playing hostess, he will be more than happy to hold your baby for you while you do. Spread the word that "cost of admission" to see the new baby is food. Not having to worry about getting food in your belly is priceless when you have a newborn!
Loved ones really do like to help you during this time of transition. It allows them to feel like they're a part of things. Let them know what you really need and don't be shy about asking for, and accepting, help.
Know That It Won't Always Be This Way
After a few weeks, being trapped under a baby all the time might lose its luster. Nursing around the clock, changing yet another dirty diaper, operating on less sleep than you ever have, all challenging. It can be hard to be needed so much.
Adjusting to being a parent and trying to figure out your new normal isn't easy... and it won't be like this forever. Yes, having a newborn can be very demanding as well as filled with awesome, and they won't always need so much of you.
In fact, they probably won't need you like this in just a few weeks. Babies bellies quickly expand to hold more milk, they become more efficient nursers, your body heals and figures out the milk production thing, baby gets days and nights figured out and starts sleeping for longer, more predictable stretches, and you have a minute to catch your breath. Things won't always be so intense!
Trust Your Instincts
Think you don't know what to do with a baby? Think again. Clear out all the social commentary (no, you can't spoil a baby!) and expectations about what you "should or shouldn't be" doing and really listen to your gut.
You're biologically programmed to respond to your baby's needs. If something feels right, like holding your baby close, it probably is. If something feels wrong, like not responding to your baby's cries, it probably is. While caring for a newborn can be demanding on your time, it is relatively easy to meet their needs - keep them fed, warm, dry, and close and you've done your job.
Give Yourself Some Grace
You're new at this, you're figuring things out. If this is your first baby your life is probably going to change dramatically. You know that your focus is going to shift once baby arrives, but nothing can truly prepare you for your world to start spinning on the axis of another person like it does once you're a parent. Give yourself some grace as you're figuring out this whole parenthood thing. This is still true for subsequent children, even if you're already a parent you're new to being a parent of two (three, four...) kids.
There's going to be a transition that follows the birth of a baby and you need patience with yourself during this time. A postpartum doula is an excellent resource to help you during your transition.