6. The best baby stage is the one you're in.
"They grow up so fast." The reason you'll hear this from everyone and her grandmother: It's true. Kim Lavergne of Nashville, mom of 2-year-old Justin, remembers feeling like time was crawling after he was born. "In reality, the days go by so fast that the next thing you know, your child is no longer a baby," she says. "I've learned to cherish and enjoy the time I spend with Justin."
Charlene Kochensparger of Centerville, Ohio, who has a daughter and a son, seconds that. "First-time parents tend to wish the time away -- 'I can't wait for her to crawl, walk, talk' -- and not enjoy the moment," she says.
The time slipped away from Loretta Sehlmeyer of Dix Hills, New York, because she was so focused on being a perfect parent to her son, Christian, now 4. "I fretted so much over caring for him that I missed the entire experience. I honestly didn't notice that my baby was growing and changing a little bit each day. I spent a lot of time looking at him, but I was way too distracted to actually see him," she says.
"So take some time each day, real time, to hold your baby and do nothing else but use your senses to connect with him. Smell his sweetness, and look at those tiny fingers and toes and amazing little nose."
7. There's no one else like you.
Only a handful of babycare rules are written in stone (specifically, those having to do with health and safety -- like, you really should always put a baby to sleep on his back). Most everything else is up for interpretation. "It's great to read up, solicit opinions, and listen respectfully to advice you haven't asked for," says Michelle Wilkins. "But you know your baby and yourself best. You'll know when an idea resonates."
Adds Chantel Fry, mom of Dylan, 3, and Madalyn, 7 months, in Pittsburgh: "You're going to be different than the next mom. Not better, not worse -- because you do the best you can, and if at the end of the day your child has laughed, and is clean and fed, you can go to sleep knowing that you did what is expected of you." No matter how you did those things, exactly, you can be proud that you're inventing your own special way of being a mom.
Maura Rhodes, a mom of four, is a contributing editor at Parenting.