I still remember that positive pregnancy test…tiptoeing back to the bedroom and trying to quiet my excited, pounding heart while I waited for my sweet husband to wake up. From the moment I shared our life-changing news with him, pure joy and anticipation filled our home. Every day was spent counting down the days–first, the big ultrasound when we could find out the gender…and then, the due date.
I’ll admit, my first trepidations began when I found out we were having a boy. I simply could not imagine having a boy. I had been convinced our baby was a girl. I (thought) I knew how to handle a girl…but a boy?
To complicate matters, we moved across the country when I was 7 months along. I was faced with a new state, a new doctor, new living arrangements, and all the while we were searching for a new church home and a new job for my husband. Chaos was our “new” norm.
Still, our new baby was on the way, and I just truly believed in my heart that none of those other things would matter half as much once he was (finally) born.
There are SO many things I wish I had known before he was born, but I’ve narrowed it down to these three:
1. Nothing and no one can prepare you for first-time motherhood. I had a college degree, a varied resume, veteran-mom friends, a bookshelf full of baby books, and an amazing husband and family–but I was still completely taken off guard. I thought I “knew” everything–or at least had every resource available to me–but I was totally lost on how to handle this screaming, crying, sleepless, poopy newborn. As it turns out, none of those baby book authors had ever met a baby like mine. I needed Jesus more than ever before, but to be honest, I don’t think it ever crossed my mind that He cared about me and my desperate situation as a brand-new mother. (In case you suspect that I’m exaggerating….my parents lived with us at the time. My mom was a veteran mom. Even SHE cried over my crying baby boy!)
2. You should take all the time you need to do whatever you need to do. My first days of motherhood I found myself imprisoned by the expectations of everyone else around me. So in addition to not having a clue what on earth I was doing, I was also concerned about how he should be nursing well, how soon we were expected to go to church, and how often visitors could come to see our new bundle (of insanity.) Sleep was a long-forgotten luxury, as was eating, showering, and cooking. Everything, EVERYTHING, was about getting this baby to stop crying. I nearly crumbled under the pressures. It should not have been that way. If I could do it over, I would insist on taking more time to just be still in all of the newness until we could breathe a little better as a family. I wouldn’t rush myself or my baby; I’d try to understand that motherhood is an epic learning curve and that there’s grace in the midst of all of it. I would let my Savior wrap His arms around me as I rocked my little boy through all of those sleepless nights.
3. Comparison is worthless, even harmful, for new mommas. I was well-versed in the experiences of my closest mom friends. I just KNEW that if I followed all of their advice to the letter, my own experience would be as smooth as theirs. Here’s the thing: that’s a lie. You and your best friend can do exactly the same things at exactly the same hours and have exact opposite results. She may have her baby “sleep trained” in a week and yours may not sleep for 3 years in spite of your best (and same!) efforts. She may nurse her baby at perfectly-timed intervals, eat well-balanced meals, and lose all of her pregnancy weight in the first month after her baby is born. You may do the same thing and gain 5 lbs in that same month. You CANNOT compare your experience or your baby’s to anyone else’s. We ALL need grace; we ALL need Jesus; we ALL need love and understanding and, perhaps most of all: time to adapt to everything new.
I don’t think I felt like I had anything “down pat” until long after my son’s first birthday. When I felt I could finally take a step back and gain some perspective, I realized that in all of the chaos, he was OUR baby–not my friends’, not the expert pediatrician author’s, not my mom’s, not the church nursery mom’s, but ours–he belonged to my husband and me and he was OUR baby. We had spent many hours learning about his needs, his ways, his unique little baby-ness. And we ADORED him. He had turned our world upside down, and we loved him all the more for it. There are many things I would tell that brand-new momma I used to be, but they boil down to 2 things: You need Jesus more than ever. Don’t be afraid to speak up and say you need time and grace.
Do you know a new momma or an expecting momma? What can you do to come alongside her and relieve some of her burdens? Don’t ask if she needs a meal. Show up and leave it at the door with no expectations of her whatsoever. Text her and tell her you’re coming to do her laundry or hold the baby so she can shower–when is a good time? Don’t take no for an answer. Let her cry or sleep or eat or just vent if she needs to. Let her be. Give her grace and point her to the Great Physician Who created her AND her precious little gift. Gently remind her that the greatest parenting book ever written starts with Genesis. And then, just give her the gift of your unconditional love. No advice, no expectations, just GRACE.