But a friend of a friend is having her first child and asks, "what 'thing' was most essential as a new mother?" She's not talking sleep or a sense of humor, she kinda gets that (or she will soon, except for the sleep thing) but she feels a great sense of pressure to buy her way out of first mother anxiety and would like to avoid that.
My advice is a fold-upable port-a-crib. We used ours more than anything except the car seats.
And then there's Blue Gal's Patented Feed Your Child Flow Chart:
If you have any thoughts about what you really truly need to own when you're a new mother leave it below she knows where to look for it. And thanks.