I’ve written this post about 3 different times now. It’s been hard to really capture how much life has changed, to sum up what I’ve learned in just a few points, and to come across grace-filled and not like I’m trying to scare anyone or throw out a bunch of “should’s” and “should not’s”. So here is my real, candid take on motherhood and what I, myself, have learned over this last year.
1. I’ve learned that it’s more amazing than anyone ever told me. I’ll be honest. Those last few weeks of my pregnancy? I FREAKED out. I had heard so many people say how life was about to change forever, that I should enjoy sleep now because I will never get it again, and that my marriage was going to struggle. All of those things have SOME truth to it, but not enough people told me just how much my heart would expand. That this child would bring more joy to my life than I ever imagined possible. And that being a mom would be more fulfilling then any other job or title ever could be. Seriously, people. Having a kid rocks. I don’t even have enough words in my vocabulary to describe it.
2. I’ve learned that sleep is relative, and time with my kiddo is irreplaceable. Isaac didn’t sleep through the night until he was 9 months old. That’s right. NINE MONTHS OLD! Let me tell you, I had plenty of nights where I was crying my eyes out because I was just. SO. tired! But, most nights I loved it. I knew and learned even more as we went, that this time of him being so tiny would not last forever. That one day he would not need me in the middle of the night, and that soon he would be too big for me to rock anymore. So I learned to embrace. Yea, at 9 months I was completely ready for that child to start sleeping, but I reminded myself time and time again how precious that time was. It seemed like the nights were never ending some days, but looking back, that time period was but a blink of an eye. It went so fast! And on the rare nights when he needs me now, I cherish that time.
But don’t get me wrong, I’m still really freaking tired come morning.
3. I’ve learned that breastfeeding is not as easy as it seems, but it’s worth it. I went into motherhood very set on breastfeeding and doing so for at least 1 year. Before he was born I thought people were crazy for giving up after a few weeks! I mean, this milk is gold for a baby! And the benefits are huge for mama as well! Oh, and did you not know that it is FREE?
Then I tried it. Oh my GOSH it can be HARD! The pain I felt those first 3 weeks of his life, the constant wondering if I was producing enough, learning how to feed him in public, wondering if I was eating/drinking the right things, all the tricks to produce more, and don’t even get me started on pumping!! *shudder* Some people have a much easier experience, and some have it a lot worse. You honestly don’t know what you are getting into when you start out, and it can be rough, but it has been SO worth it. Like I mentioned above, the benefits of breastfeeding are astronomical. I believe that we can credit breastfeeding for why we have such a healthy child, for saving us thousands of dollars on formula, and for helping me lose all my pregnancy weight and then some. But what I loved most about breastfeeding my little boy was the unique bonding time I had with him. It was and is like nothing else and is very difficult to explain.
There is no failure in breastfeeding. I always think it is worth trying, but know that if you could not, if you stopped earlier than you planned, or if anything came in the way of you breastfeeding that is OKAY. No one should feel judged or like less of a mom because they do not. This is just what I have personally learned, not what I put onto others.
4. I’ve learned that the mom community needs to support one another. On the topic of breastfeeding, other moms can be mean. I suggest finding specific websites, books, and resources that go along with your views of motherhood, because the mom community can be ugly. Which breaks my heart. You will find articles of all kinds telling you that you are the worst mom in the world no matter what choice you make. You vaccinate your child? You are a monster! You are researching vaccines and considering not doing them? You obviously want your child to die! You choose not to let your child cry-it-out? You know that your 3 month old is manipulating you now, right? And if you DO choose cry-it-out? You are obviously the cruelest human to ever walk this planet.
To my current and future mom friends: if you love your kiddos, you are a good mom. Period. Do not let anyone tell you differently. Especially some random woman hiding behind a computer screen so she can refute anyone who disagrees with her. Do your research, learn your child, and do what is best for them and your family in every area.
5. I’ve learned that encouraging mom friends are pivotal. Building on the previous point, finding groups of moms that will encourage me has been huge. Our community group at church had a bit of a baby boom within the year we had Isaac and immediately gave me an instant group of other mommy friends who were walking through the same things I was. I can’t tell you how thankful I am for this. We’ve each told each other that they are doing a good job at one point or another and we have been along for the ride to help advise and to help raise our kiddos all together. In addition, I joined MOPS at our church. This has been a place where I can come find even more mommy friends, learn how to become a better mom, and leave feeling refreshed and ready to go home and do life as a mom once again. Becoming a mom is amazing, but can be lonely sometimes too. You don’t have the time as you once did to hang out with people and your schedule is now dictated by nap times, snack times, meal times, and bed times. So finding other’s who understand this and understand the everyday ups and downs that motherhood brings but still choose to encourage you is beyond important.
6. I’ve learned to go with my gut. As I mentioned before, there are many opinions out there on motherhood and what is best for your child. But you know your child better than anyone else. Obviously, do your homework and pray through every major decision (and small ones too!) but know that God gave you a mother’s intuition and that your little one is completely unique to other children. Your baby might need to cry a little to go to sleep while mine will never go to sleep if I try that. Her baby might do really well on a strict schedule while mine can be more flexible and be just fine. You know your baby. You know if they are sick or just cranky, if they are hungry or completely fine, if they need to go down to fewer naps or stay where they are. And if you don’t? You will learn, and there are plenty of resources available to help. But never succumb to pressure just because others think they know better than you do.
7. I’ve learned to be okay with my post-baby body. Things have changed and some of it isn’t so pretty. If you’re a mom, you know what I’m talking about. Stretch marks, a pooch in my stomach, saggy boobs, you name it… things have changed. But my husband still loves my body and I am learning to as well. It will never be the same, but it’s the only body I’ve ever had and dang it, it not only holds my life but carried another life as well for 9 months! My body rocks. And while I’m not ready to rock it in a swimsuit just yet, I’m proud of the body I have and what it has and will accomplish.
8. I’ve learned to pray boldly. God has done a work on me ever since we started trying to get pregnant. He has taught me just how much he wants me to come to Him and just how much He can’t wait to answer my prayers. Sometimes He answers them differently than I expect Him to. But He answers. And He wants me to pray specifically and boldly for the things on my heart. I do not need to come before him fearfully hoping He will hear me and asking in timid ways for answers to my requests. No, I can approach Him with the Power that Jesus Christ bought at a price for me, and through the Spirit, ask Him for the desires of my heart. This lesson has been pivotal in my life and it’s something I’m still continuing to grow in. I’ve seen God answer some big prayers that I have had and I praise Him because of it. Having a child brings you to a place of surrender that you never knew existed. It is a far deeper relationship of trust that I now have with my King than I ever had before and I have to continually press into Him each new day to continue that growth of trust. I have been growing in my boldness as I pray for my child and learn to surrender him to Jesus each and every day. It’s not easy, but it has been incredibly precious as well.
9. I’ve learned to never say never. “I will never be a stay at home mom!” Doing it now. “I will never homeschool!” Definitely praying about it now. “I will would never think of not breastfeeding!” Yup, I was close. “I would never breastfeed past a year!” We are going on 14 months.
NEVER SAY NEVER, PEOPLE! You don’t realize how judgmental and critical you could be of something you had no clue about until you are in a mom’s shoes. You never know, so never say never. Your child will be unique, your child will change you, and your child is worth changing for. So be prepared and learn from my mistake. Never say never.
10. I’ve learned that marriage gets harder with a baby, but better too. I always knew that that first child would bring strain on our marriage in the first year. I had read the statistics, I knew the research, I had heard the stories, and I went in feeling prepared. But I found that you really can’t be. Life changes in your home more than anything else when a baby comes. You don’t have the same quality time as you did before. Less sleep and more stress can be hard on your day-to-day relationship. I sat down with Matt on our Christmas date a few months ago and told him this has been the roughest year of our marriage so far. But now I feel like we are closer than ever. We powered through, we talked through, and we walked through the hardships together. There were times I was less than happy with him and he with me, but we are coming up the other side feeling victorious. More strains will come. Parenting issues, continuing to find time for one another as more children come, and fighting to not drift apart in the chaos will always be a part of our marriage now. But it’s worth it. Matt is worth it to me. And I will always fight for our marriage in good times and bad.
11. You are not ready, God is. I talked about this a little in my post about being ready for children. You are never ready to have children. You will never have the perfect amount of money, the perfect home, the perfect marriage, or perfect anything for that matter. You are not perfect, but thankfully you have a perfect God to make up for it. As I said before, if you love your children, YOU ARE A GOOD MOM. You will make mistakes, you will have to learn some things (please note all 10 points above for me… and those are just the one’s I’m writing on, there is plenty more. Trust me), and in those times where life is not perfect and you are not perfect (Hear: ALWAYS) you have a God who is. If you are believer in Jesus Christ, He is indwelling you and working through you. He is bigger and has a plan. He loves your children unfathomably more than you ever could and has great things ahead in both the good times and the bad. I can honestly say that I don’t know how I would have gotten through this first year of motherhood without my faith. Jesus has held my hand and rocked me more times than I can count, just the same as I allowed Isaac to hold my finger as I rocked him, sang to him, and told him that everything was going to be ok. Motherhood will break you apart, but God will put you back together more whole, more complete, and more fulfilled than you ever have been before. Trust Him.
Being a mom is amazing. If you are like me and in those last few months or weeks of your first pregnancy, stressing about how you will do this, how life will change, and the uncertainty of it all, don’t worry. You will never be more blessed than when you hold that baby, YOUR baby, for the first time. It is one of God’s sweetest gifts. You will suddenly know what to do (and find other’s to help when you don’t) and you will receive joy in a completely new and amazing way like you never thought possible.