Since entering motherhood last year, I’ve already gained a wealth of experience that no books or advice could have prepared me for. And I’ve witnessed how eager the vast majority of people are to quickly share with a new parent their tricks, tips, and woes. Add those words to things discussed in classes and mounds of books on the subjects of pregnancy, birth, and parenthood and one can find herself quite overwhelmed. All the advice, even from the experts, conflicts. I think it’s a bit of what added to those very hard initial weeks for me with my little one.
So, I’ve compiled a list of what I’ve found to actually matter. And it’s what I will stick to next time around. I’m not trying to add to the advice jumble, but more so trying to just encourage you in your own parenthood journey.
10- If you are nursing, just stick with it and know it will get easier. This is probably the only one on this list that won’t apply to adoptive moms, but I thought it was important to add. I went to a breastfeeding class that the hospital offered, read a few books, and listened to the lactation consultant that visited our room after Katherine was born. None of them told me that everything could be going just fine and it would still be painful. They said if it was painful, something is wrong. But that wasn’t the case. My body just had to get used to it. And those first two weeks were awful. I admit it. So many women talk about how beautiful it is, but I struggled. I cried lots. And if you say the words “milk coming in” I will probably burst out in tears just thinking about that pain. But I knew the nutrients my little one was getting made it worth it. So I continued with it. And it did in fact get easier and better. The pain eventually stopped. So if you are struggling, keep with it. (And side note: Be sure to drink lots of water. And eat lots throughout the day. I didn’t do that at first and that also added to my crazy emotions.)
9- Allow people to make meals for your family. Between people from church, friends, and family we had dinners covered for the first two months. And that was by far the most helpful thing in the beginning. Whether it’s freezer meals, warm home cooked meals, take out, or gift cards, humbly ask and gladly accept. People want to help. And already having an answer to the, “What can we do for you?” question can definitely be a good thing. (Another side note: If you could care less about people providing meals for you, just find whatever would help you most and ask for help in that area.)
8-Start a schedule/routine early on. I didn’t start a schedule with my little one at the very beginning because I heard and read several things that said they were too young to be on a schedule at first. I don’t buy it now. She and I would have greatly benefited from a schedule from day one. Once we got into the first month I definitely stuck with a three hour feeding schedule. And since then we’ve been on a eat, wake, sleep schedule. But I’ve also been flexible with it. Plenty of people will say to demand feed your baby and others will say to stick with a strict schedule and not part from it. I say a schedule, with flexibility, is very good. Your baby needs it. You need it. If you’re nursing, your body needs it. You will quickly learn what your baby needs when you are used to a routine. Also, have some sort of bedtime routine. Our bedtime routine with Katherine includes bath time, reading from the Jesus Storybook Bible, and singing worship songs. Then we lay her down in her crib. It is a sweet time we all have gotten used to and look forward to.
7- It is so okay to admit that it is hard. In fact, please do so. Be real. Be honest. Be vulnerable. Find someone to connect to and be honest about the struggles with. The more I talk to women about how hard those first two months were for me, the more I hear from them that welcoming in the first child is always hard, a very tough transition, and more people need to be honest about it. It is hard. And that’s quite alright. It is actually good that it is difficult. Beautiful growth comes from the harsh struggles we walk through. Joy blossoms from the struggle. And just know it gets better. It does get sweeter. So much sweeter.
6- Don’t fall into the retailers’ traps. Don’t be fooled into thinking you need all the latest and greatest things to be a successful parent. The majority of things you find on the registry lists you don’t need. You absolutely don’t have to spend a lot of money. It would be easy to think you need the newest baby inventions, a closet full, a matching set of furniture, and everything monogrammed. But the truth is your baby needs very little when it comes to things. You’ll find yourself having a few go to outfits, something to help you be hands free for awhile (swing, bouncy seat, sling…something like that), being grateful for a carseat that goes from the car to the house to the stroller, and going through lots of diapers and wipes. Obviously there are a couple of other things you need like a bath and crib and bottles and baby toiletries. But otherwise, retailers will make you think you need to spend a lot more money than you actually need to. Don’t fall for it. Your baby needs you. Not all the stuff. It’ll all be outgrown before you know it anyway.
5- Put down the phone. Just do it. No matter what stage of life you are in, it’s time to learn to put the phone down. We are all so glued to the most recent tweets, posts on Instagram, stories shared on Facebook, newest addicting games that we aren’t fully living the life that is right in front of us. Your baby knows if you are distracted or if you are fully engaged with her. And the quicker we learn to put down the phone, the more we will be used to not being so attached to it as our little ones get older. And the quicker we learn to put down the phone, the less we will feel the need to be on social media and make comparisons. There won’t ever be a time when you wished you had been staring at a screen more. So let’s all start the habit now. And maybe it will help our children learn to grow up to read books, respect authority, be engaged in conversation, and play outside.
4- Trust yourself. Turn off the computer. Put down the pregnancy and parenting books. Tune out the crazy advice you hear from strangers in the grocery store. And just trust your instincts. Know one else knows your baby like you do. You will know when she’s hungry or tired. (And you will learn that so quickly if you are on a schedule.) You will get to know her quicker than you can imagine. And you will know what’s best for her. If you need help, seek it out from someone you trust. But know that every baby is different. And you know your baby and her needs like no one else can. If you don’t do what someone else did or you do what some author said not to do, it’s okay. It’s more than okay. It’s what’s supposed to happen because you and your baby are unique. Do what works for you and your little one. And know that you are doing a great job.
3- Be thankful. Always. Yes this journey is hard. And the beginning of it might be insanely rough. But that isn’t liberty to complain. We are called to be thankful in all circumstances. And when you take the time, even in the midst of exhaustion and tears and questions, to find things to be grateful for, you will begin to taste joy. And the more you are thankful throughout each day, the happier you will be. I’m not saying don’t be real about the struggles and hardships. But there is a way to be honest about struggles without complaining. And just know that there is someone out there who wishes she could deal with all those things that are driving you crazy. There is someone who aches to have long nights and exhausting days. There is someone out there who longs to hear a baby’s cry in her home. So learn to be thankful, because there is always something to be thankful for. If we learn to be thankful in the hard times, how much more will we radiate joy in the good times? God is good and faithful. Always. Let’s lean into that with everything our weary souls and bodies have.
2- Have grace with yourself. We will make mistakes. We will question things we did or didn’t do. It is so easy to drive yourself crazy thinking you could have done something better or should have done something differently. Learn to have grace with yourself. Ask forgiveness when you need to. Learn from what happened. Stop comparing. Move on. Your baby loves you and needs you. And you are enough. Rest assured that His mercies are new every morning. His faithfulness is beyond measure.
1- Make time to be in the Word. And make time to be with your husband. Motherhood is impossible to try to tackle alone. Life as a parent is crazy. You must find time to sit with the Lord for a few moments and be in the Word. It’s necessary. It was necessary before kids and it is necessary after kids. Your soul needs to be refreshed, renewed, recharged. The energy and strength you need to get through the day is not going to come from that cup of coffee or few extra minutes of sleep. Make the Word a priority in your chaotic daily life. And be sure to make time with your husband. Don’t let your husband fall to the back of the line. Parenthood doesn’t replace marriage. Motherhood doesn’t replace being a wife. Marriage should come first. Then together you can love, nurture, care, discipline your children. With the Lord and with your husband, you can do this.
*And if you are pregnant, then you are a mom. Motherhood doesn’t begin after labor. It begins at conception. Pregnancy ushers in parenthood. You begin to learn a whole new level of selflessness and love before you even meet your child. Whatever happens during your pregnancy reflects the gospel and can make an impact on His Kingdom. Much of these can be applied to motherhood during pregnancy. It is where many of these points began to be formed in my head.