I’m so much like her.

I’m sitting here rocking my almost nine month old daughter.

We are both crying.

She’s fighting sleep, as usual. And I’m fighting constant exhaustion.

I just came back in to hold her after leaving her in her crib for a few minutes. She cried and I cried. I knew it would happen as soon as I laid her down.

But I had to step away. Just for a moment. Just long enough to step in the other room and fall to my knees and cry out to my Jesus. Tears flowed and I prayed. She cried and I cried.

And as I came back in to hold her, all I could think was how alike we are. This little one needs me every moment and depends on me for everything. She’s helpless on her own. She can’t fall asleep without help. So when she is tired, I can comfort her to rest.

There are times I have to let her cry, but that doesn’t mean I’m not crying with her.

There are times I walk into the other room, but that doesn’t mean I have left her.

There are times I don’t let her do things, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love her.

She doesn’t always see me and definitely doesn’t always understand what’s going on, but she is never alone and my intentions are always for her good. She needs me, and it is a need that echoes the deep human need for a Savior.

There are times I cry, but I know my God sees every tear that falls.

There are times I feel alone, but I know my God never leaves me nor forsakes me.

There are times I just don’t understand what or why or when or how, but I know my God works everything out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

I am nothing without my Savior. And I am so thankful for the picture this morning that just as I hold my little one in my arms, my Savior holds me. Knows me. Loves me. When I am worn out and exhausted in so many ways, my Savior whispers for me to come to Him and find rest in Him.

To My Fellow New Moms*

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.

Confessions of a New Mom

Two nights before Katherine was born I wept.  I sat in bed and just cried.

I will always remember the conversation that Spencer and I had.  It was the last night just the two of us would spend in our home.  The next day family would arrive and the following day we would have a child.

Life would never be the same.

I knew it was coming.  I had almost ten months to prepare.  But no preparation takes away that top of roller coaster feeling.  Preparing doesn’t make that final moment before the leap any easier to handle.

I mourned for the things Spencer and I dreamed of doing and would no longer be able to actualize.  I mourned for the quiet Saturday mornings we spent together and the sweet Sunday afternoons.  I mourned for the adventures we couldn’t embark upon and the risks we couldn’t take.  I mourned for the life we pictured we’d have before having kids.

I simply wept and mourned in the arms of my husband.  We shared such intimate conversation and prayed such raw prayers.

When constant excitement from others bombards you, how can you share your sadness and questioning of God’s timing with them?What do you do when your authenticity would disappoint or hurt or confuse others?

I learned I don’t have to be vulnerable with everyone.  But when I chose to be vulnerable with the Lord and with my husband, fears are eliminated, worries are destroyed, questions are answered, joys are delivered.

I walked into labor on October 16th already exhausted from a hard pregnancy and already emotional from crazy hormones and dwelling on a changing life.  (Read more about that here:  https://spencerandsarahc.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/katherines-birth-story/)  When 11:19 pm came and Katherine finally arrived, I expected some sort of physical relief.  But the pain continued and I was completely wiped out from everything.  I’m sure being induced and giving birth naturally had something to do with it, but I’m not always easy on myself.

I jumped from a hard pregnancy to an exhausting labor to the crazy life with a newborn.  And those first six weeks of life with Katherine here was hard.  Very hard.  For both of us.  I was an emotional wreck.  Thankfully, physically I felt good and healed by two weeks.  (If the crazy healing process from my pilonidal cyst and cystectomies a few years ago were good for anything, they were to help me have a high pain tolerance and prepare me to heal from a episiotomy.  Because healing from the episiotomy was nothing compared to the cysts.)

People offered to help us out whenever we needed it, but I didn’t even know what to ask for.  People asked if I was loving motherhood, but all I could do was smile and nod.  People wanted to know if she was a good baby and how she was sleeping, but I had no idea how to answer that without having to fight back tears.  Some people tell you to get out of the house while others tell you to stay home.  Some people tell you to feed your baby on demand while other tell you to stick to a schedule.  Everyone has differing, strong opinions on how to get babies to sleep.  And everyone provides plenty of comments, stories, and advice.

People asked why we didn’t take weekly update pregnancy pictures or maternity pictures or lots of hospital pictures or newborn pictures.  (And social media has a way of making you feel bad about that even if you aren’t asked.)  Through pregnancy it was enough to just do laundry and dishes, keep a clean house, and make dinner.  Once Katherine came it was an accomplishment to just get through the day and stay sane and emotionally stable.  Nursing was anything but easy the first two weeks.  (I kept telling myself what the pediatrician at the hospital said, “Just get through those first two weeks and you’ll be fine,” which turned out to be true.)  I know I didn’t eat nearly enough.  It might sound silly, but I had gotten so used to not being able to eat much during pregnancy, it took awhile for me to adjust to eating and drinking a whole lot more in order to provide food for my baby.  I’m sure not eating enough those first two weeks definitely added to my crazy emotions.

I’ve slowly learned to take everything people say with a grain of salt.  What works for your baby might not work for mine.  What helped you might not help me.  I almost wish I hadn’t read all the books I had.  My head was filled with opposing ideas and differing views.  I’ve learned that you need to have grace with yourself on the journey of parenthood.  And I’ve learned it’s okay to do things differently than others; you just do what’s right for you and your baby.

It’s hard for me to admit to others that the journey has been hard.  I’m a strong person, know perseverance, and live with joy, but those first weeks were exceptionally hard.  I even wondered if I had postpartum depression.  I just wasn’t myself and didn’t know how to get back to it.

Life wasn’t the same.

But once we hit that six week mark, the sun began to shine brightly again.  And with the rising of the sun, all was made well again.  I was no longer an emotional wreck, but a happy, new momma.  As I went in to my doctor’s appointment, I was reminded of the verse he shared with us, Psalm 127:3 which declares that children are a gift from the Lord.  My mind and heart were renewed that day.  I no longer questioned the Lord’s timing.  God entrusted Katherine to us.  He trusted us enough to give us a child when we were just six months into our marriage.  That thought overwhelmed me and allowed my mindset to completely shift.

I’ve learned that what might be a challenge for me, might not be a challenge for others, and that doesn’t mean I’m weak.  Every circumstance and every person is unique and different, especially when it comes to pregnancy and babies.  I’ve learned that the Lord reminds us of such simple truths when we need it most.  He restores and refreshes, redeems and renews.  His grace is truly enough each day.  I’ve never been more certain of that.  I haven’t slept through the night in over eight months.  In my exhaustion, He constantly sustains me.

Life will never be the same.

And I’m so very glad.  My mourning has turned into rejoicing as we build our family.

I rejoice that God has trusted us with Katherine so early on in our marriage.  I rejoice that we have the opportunity to love, nurture, and raise this little girl.  I rejoice that she is so healthy.  I rejoice that I have an incredibly amazing husband to go through this life with.  I rejoice for this life God has granted us and all that awaits us.  I rejoice in the mundane; I rejoice in the chaos; I rejoice in all I’m learning.  I rejoice with every smile, every little giggle, every new discovery my little girl makes.  I rejoice in each new day with my family and cannot wait to see how the Lord grows us.

Those first six weeks were rough.  But we got through them.  I’m so very thankful for the hard times.  They make the good times so much sweeter.

And life is all the more sweet with our little Katherine Elizabeth by our side.

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