Now those who know me, know that I am rarely brief in what we'll call my "times of sharing." Especially when it comes to motherhood and encouraging new moms in this amazing calling that God has given us. Each day I have made it through this gig of mothering I am growing more and more passionate as to how I can bring encouragement to other moms. Partly because other moms have brought such encouragement to me. I believe wholeheartedly that we need community in our life to grow and change us more into the image of Christ. There is no way that this post or whatever I may write in a notebook can ever encompass all the advice and encouragement there is to give. However, I do believe that God gives us the words we need at the right time and for the right person.
Tomorrow I am attending a baby shower for my friend and her little baby, due this summer. I have no idea if they will have a "time to give all your knowledge and encouragement" but I know I always have so much to say and will not have time to say it. Yes, I know that sometimes I end up talking to hear myself talk. And something about not having little babies anymore and getting to relive the memories and excitement of a new baby just brings out all my words. Not to mention all the cool new gadgets and clothes and everything I didn't have when raising my babies. It's like, "What? If I had that when my babies were little, we would have...saved so much time, been super parents, had all the smart babies who can read at age 1." Now really, all the ridiculously cool looking things cannot make or break your parenting - and to me, that is a relief and not a burden. So the following advice will come in two sections: Spiritual encouragement and things/gadgets that you need or don't.
At baby showers, you often hear the question, "Are you ready?" No new mom can ever be "prepared" for what is to come. I am learning new things about myself, my children, husband, and God everyday. I do know that life before kids is not the same as life after. In all the ways, good and challenging. Two things I realized about myself as a mom: I need to be in God's Word. It helps me know who God is and how he uses his strength (not mine) for his glory and my good, because all is grace. Also, I need other writers and friends to speak into my life. I have never been good at "preaching the gospel to myself" as it is sometimes said. I need that reminder from other sources, maybe more than some people. Below are a few books or articles I read recently that have encouraged my soul.
- This link to desiring God is for their book, Mom Enough, and it is a compilation of various articles/blog posts written by women about motherhood and the calling it truly is. There is also a brief video of John Piper speaking on the excitement he has for the book because of the amazing influence that moms have in the lives of those they encounter. You can order a paperback version or get a free download to your computer or mobile device.
- I wrote a post recently about a book I read which I now think every parent should read. I am not sure when or how often they should read it but it is awesome and I loved it! Give Them Grace
- Blog posts by Jen Hatmaker. Recently she wrote a few posts on motherhood and how it brings out "All. The. Feels." which is so true! Motherhood makes us feel everything MORE. More joy, more love, but also more anger, more frustration. It is part of a series on "what I wish I had known about motherhood" which was put together by the Today Show. I Wish Someone Would've Warned Me About These BIG FEELINGS She contributed this post too: What Would My Mom Do... which I find very freeing in this crazy parenting age of "making childhood magical" for our kids.
Oh girl, I could go on and on about how I love the little reminders that we are enough and God is in control so don't stress or fret or guilt yourself. Guilt sneaks up faster than any other "mom issue" and we were not created to live that way. "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1
As for all the "stuff" your baby "needs." I have my favorite things that I loved or hated, and so does every other mom on the planet! So I would say, listen to advice and tips and tricks but always remember: God gave your baby to you and you are the right mom for your baby! You may try a bedtime routine that your friend swears by and your baby (or you) hates it! That's okay, move on and find something that works for your family. There is often a "right" way to do things but the minor stuff is all up to you. Please don't hear this as "You are in charge of everything and if you screw it up then your kid is doomed for life!" You are the mom but no one "has it all together" So, here's my few favs (in no particular order and not an exhaustive list) that helped me in my situation and may or may not prove the same for you.
- Baby Swings! Buy one! Any kind will do but my babies loved the kind that not only moved front to back but had a side to side option. - I'm sure there are so many fancy kinds now. Here's the thing: Every mom may have an "I will never...." moment with their kids and if you want to "wear" your baby every second, that's okay and if you want to "only have your baby nap in their crib" then that's okay too. But you will need to be flexible at some point and a swing may be one way to get that baby to nap and let you do what you need to do.
- Lotions, soaps, what-have-you. My second kid had very sensitive skin and reacted poorly to almost every lotion and soap I was given at my baby showers. I gave it all away and bought various kinds until I found what worked. These three were my favorite: Shea Moisture Unscented Baby Lotion the link goes to target which is the cheapest place I've found this line of products. (I use their curly hair line of products for myself) They also have an unscented shampoo/soap that I love too - though I don't think it's "tear free" so be careful around the their little eyes.
- Diaper Cream is the next one. For my first baby, I could use any product and it worked and she was great. The second kid had a rash non-stop and most creams didn't help but often made it worse. I found a few creams that I love because of their gentle ingredients but they still helped heal the skin. Burt's Bees Multipurpose Ointment is petroleum free but still protects baby's bum like vaseline would.
- When I eventually had to switch to cloth diapers (he was actually allergic to something in the disposable diapers so his rash never really healed without the use of strong steroid ointments) The multipurpose ointment wasn't good for the cloth fibers and I found another product that was cloth diaper approved: Balmers Monkey Balm. It's pricey but lasts a long time. I still use it on my kids, and myself, for dry hands, and relief for sunburns ect...
- Lastly, I haven't read any books on sleep habits or happy moms. I didn't even finish what to expect when expecting or anything like that. But I had a friend who explained the premise of "baby wise" to me and I kept a little of that to help with my kids' sleep habits. Now, I do not agree with the baby wise theory nor do I think you should withhold food from your baby "until the set feeding time." So this is not an endorsement for that book. But I adopted the "EASY" plan as my own: E: Eat. When they wake, they eat. A: Activity. After eating you spend some awake time with baby. Usually tummy time is involved and maybe this portion lasts for 30min. S: Sleep. Baby is getting tired and it's time again for a nap (maybe this lasts 2 hours, maybe 45min. but it's sleep of some kind.) Y: Your time. During baby's nap time, you get your time. This is whatever you need it to be and often people say, "When baby is sleeping, you should be sleeping." I found that tough to do but I agree that at least one of baby's naps should be yours as well. - If a second baby ever joins your family then this luxury is harder to come by. Once baby wakes, it's probably time to feed again. Now obviously this is meant to be a flexible plan and often if my baby "woke before I was ready" I would try a diaper change and then back to bed but if baby wasn't having any of that, it was time to start again with "eat" and move through the steps. This helped me keep a "schedule" even though in reality the schedule can't really begin for about a month or two . I just needed something to guide my days at home with baby and this is what worked for me, especially the first 6 months.
So mom, you are going to have a blast in this new chapter of life! No matter what comes in the life of you or the little one, you can trust God through it all and give up on being "the perfect mom" or having "the perfect child." We don't know how much time we will have with our children. It may be a whole lifetime, it may be one moment. But we can know that God has entrusted us with them to raise for His glory and purposes and not our own.
I love you, and I'm excited to share this amazing life of Motherhood with you.