I am by no means an expert mother (does such a thing even exist?), but I have learned so much in this season. The expansion of my body during pregnancy foreshadowed the stretching of my soul as I embrace my new role. When we allow ourselves to be stretched, we grow. Every baby is different and every mother will grow in different ways, but there are certain principles that transcend all seasons and situations.
1. Be flexible
I know it sounds ridiculous: how could I possibly assume anything about the baby growing inside me? Yet we all do.
I assumed he would love to cuddle, be swaddled, and be worn all day long in a wrap carrier; he actually prefers complete freedom of movement.
I assumed he would love the SnuggleMe we got for him; he refused to sleep anywhere except for on my chest.
I assumed he would be social and love to go out; he’s actually super sensitive and needs time to adjust to new situations.
I assumed we would jump right in with cloth diapers; he hated them initially and we had to do disposables for the first 4 weeks.
I could have clung to my ideas of what I thought a baby should be like, but that only would have led to resentment on my part and frustration on his. He is who he is, and the same traits that make him a high-need baby also make him determined, entertaining, surprising, and captivating. Every baby is different, but no baby fits “the mold.”
The first three months of motherhood are all about learning your baby and getting to know yourself as a mother. You will both have strengths and weaknesses, and no book can tell you what they will be. Your baby didn’t read the book and the book can’t read you.
I remember reading The Attachment Parenting Book (highly recommend) and actually skipping the chapter on “High-Need Babies,” because I was somehow convinced that the child trying desperately to break out of my womb would not be a high-need baby.
Motherhood is an intricate dance of meeting baby’s needs and adjusting yours. It’s embracing a rhythm in place of a schedule. It’s changing your shirt 3 times before 9am. It’s leaving a party early when you really want to stay. It’s walking miles at night and napping in the middle of the day. It’s standing and swaying and bouncing when you just want to sit down. It’s doing more in less time. It’s constantly re-evaluating and adjusting.
Motherhood is letting go of every “should.” It’s not reminiscing on the “was” or longing for the “will be.” It’s living in the “is” and begging time to slow down as the days pass slowly but the months fly by.
2. Lose control
No, I don’t mean scream at your baby frantically. Rather, come to a place where you realize that you are not really in control.
What you eat or don’t eat might not fix your baby’s gas. Washing your hands constantly might not keep him from getting sick. Having a natural birth might not prevent allergies and asthma. Playing Mozart might not make your baby a genius. Baby-led weaning might not prevent a picky eater. Elimination Communication might not turn into early potty training. Nursing constantly might not prevent mastitis.
There are statistics on all of these things, but once again, your baby doesn’t know the statistics. I myself am doing all of these things, hoping to attain the desired results. But I had to come to a place where I relinquish control, and cling to my baby rather than an outcome.
The decisions you make for your baby are important, but they can’t determine the result. That’s the beauty: we’re stewarding a new life that is separate from us. We should make good decisions, yes, but we can’t lean on their outcomes like unwavering promises.
Motherhood is humbling. Let yourself be humbled.
3. Pray about everything
This is the key, the secret to successful motherhood. You can be a mother without prayer, but you will be pushing a heavy cart of Unmet Expectations with one hand and lugging a wagon of Mom-Guilt with the other.
Our prayers lift the weight pressing down on our shoulders as they soar to the heavens. Prayers welcome trust and force worry out the back door; there’s no room for both. Prayer softens our hearts to our children. It helps us to see them as He sees them in all that He created them to be. Prayer makes plain the sparkling gifts muddied by the mundane.
God is a Mother (Isaiah 49:15) and He understands your mommy heart. We are not in control; He is. Motherhood can feel isolating; He is the friend that is always there to talk. We are not strong enough to carry all the worries of motherhood; He offers to bear them for us.
Best of all, He answers every prayer (John 14:13) for our good and His glory. Worrisome things will happen in the journey of new motherhood, but with prayer we can walk according to the promises, clinging to faith rather than control.
So pray. When it’s 4am and you haven’t slept all night, pray. When your baby is screaming and you can’t find a reason, pray. When you cut his finger while trimming his nails, pray. Each time you pull out of the driveway with the carseat in the back, pray, and each time you return home safely, pray. When you and your baby are both crying, pray. While he nurses, pray over him. When you want a moment to last forever, pray. When he makes the next milestone, pray. When the doctor says he’s behind, pray. When motherhood looks nothing like you thought it would, but is more than you ever hoped it could be, by all means pray, and let the peace of God wash over you.
And then, Mama, rest.