Last weekend, I went to a baby shower in which all the attendees were asked to write and read something special for the new mother - whether it was encouragement, a Bible verse, or a favorite quote. I didn't find out about this until the night before, so my contribution certainly wasn't the most profound thing I have ever written. And then - ugh - I only uttered about eight words during the shower reading before I started blubbering. So there I was, in a room full of women I barely know, crying like a baby over a few motherhood thoughts that may or may not have been clear to anyone else in the room. It was awesome.
However, this random assignment caused me think more about all the things that I wish I had known when I brought my first baby home from the hospital – and wished that I could have communicated more clearly to my new friend. What advice will I want to give my daughter someday when she has babies of her own? Or in the much nearer future, my younger sister or sister-in-law (right sisters?). “It would be good for me to put these thoughts down on paper,” I thought to myself. “Or at least, you know, put them on the Internet. Then if I’m ever again asked for advice at a baby shower, I can give them a link to the blog and eliminate all the blubbering.” Yes, that’s what I thought. So I did it. Here is my advice for a new mom…and I’d love to know what you would add to the list!
Dear new mom:
You are well aware that your life is about to change forever. After all, the bigger your belly grows, the more random strangers are prone to remind you. You’ll sleep less. You’ll work harder. Your house will never be as clean. Your body will never be the same.
That’s all true (unless you happen to have a maid and a personal trainer).
To get even more specific, you can say goodbye to soaking in a warm bath; fixing your hair (like, really fixing it); going to the bathroom without an audience; and taking a drink without crumbs floating around in it. Say hello to temper tantrums, potty-training accidents, and the question that will linger in your mind for the next two decades: “Am I doing this right?”
You will never again read or watch a tragic story about a child, real or fiction, without wanting to cry and throw up at the same time. Somehow it hits even harder once you have one of your own.
And you will never stop asking God, in His infinite mercy, to spare your child from any type of sickness or harm.
Right now, you are probably knee-deep in picking out nursery décor and designer onesies. And every moment you can visualize for the next year looks like something out of a Pottery Barn catalog. I wholeheartedly concur that you will experience the most beautiful moments of your life in the months to come. But beauty can become blurred when you are bleary-eyed from lack of sleep. And it can be easy to become disillusioned about parenthood when real life doesn’t quite match up to those catalog images.
Try not to let that happen.
The very best advice I can give you, dear mother-to-be, is to treasure your years of child rearing no matter how challenging they might sometimes seem. Don’t let the day-to-day grind overshadow the enjoyment of this fleeting season of your life. Don’t let dirty bathrooms and unfolded laundry prevent you from soaking up the deliciousness of a baby who will be changed in the blink of an eye (and I’m not just talking about diapers). Before you know it, that baby will be going off to first grade. Trust me.
Even now, while my kids are still “only” three and six years old, I feel like time is slipping away from me. I constantly find myself trying to capture freeze frames of their childhood in my mind and my heart. Yes, it’s like grasping at the wind. But it reminds me to live in the moment. Do this with your children – both this baby and those yet to come.
Take time to savor the sound of their giggles. The way they smell after a bath. The way it feels when their tiny hands are wrapped inside yours. The way you breathe in unison when they fall asleep on your chest. The way your heart skips a beat when they say, “I love you, Mommy” for no reason at all. What better things in your life will you have to think back on when you are old? These moments are what life is all about.
There are so many wonderful little things about your babies that you'll forget. Try to write them down as quickly as possible. If I didn't, I would have totally forgotten how Kellen used to think his name was "you" because that's how we referred to him. Or how Anna insisted on taking a Christmas ornament to school with her for about two months when she was a toddler. Or some of the thousands of hilarious quotes they have uttered over the years.
There is no entertainment that will ever be as good as your kids; no TV show, movie, video game, or iPhone app can crack you up like a conversation with your preschooler. Be sure to turn off the noise around you and listen to them. They have such delightful thoughts to share.
Bedtime and bath time are prime opportunities to connect with your kids while they are small. No matter how busy your life may be, baby will always need to have a bath and a bedtime routine. Make the most of these moments. Don’t rush through them; rather, make them the highlight of your day. Sing songs. Practice ABCs and 123s. Read bedtime stories every single night, starting as early as possible. You are about to have the opportunity to instill a love of reading in a child that will last for a lifetime. Don’t pass it up!
And don’t always be wishing for the next phase in your child’s life. “I wish he was just done with bottles…potty-trained…ready for kindergarten…big enough to do such-and-such...” Done, trained, ready, big…don’t ask for that! Just enjoy him the way he is right now…in progress, untrained, not ready, little. Celebrate each milestone, but don’t look too far ahead. Tomorrow’s progress will find you soon enough.
In closing, I’d just like to add that I hope you realize how privileged you are. Some people can’t be trusted with a hamster, yet God has entrusted you with the life of a little human being. Your actions – everything you do and say from here on out – whether you choose to curse or encourage, help or hinder – will all play a huge role in the kind of person this child turns out to be. Do a good job. You really have no other choice.
I hope you love every minute of it. I know I do.
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