In the midst of one of the many sleepless stretches I’ve experienced this past year, a dear friend came over to help and said words that have defined this new season of life. She looked at my sleep-deprived and un-showered state and said, “Ain’t no ‘hood’ like the motherhood.”
As her funny play on words rang in my ears, I gave a hearty and bleary-eyed, “Amen, sister!” Nothing in the world prepared me for the sheer wonder, mystery, bliss, exhaustion, heart-wrenching love, and fist-to-fist battle with fear that is momlife.
My initiation into motherhood began just a few days after I married Justin. We returned from our honeymoon, and I was thrust into the full-time duties of a step-mom or what I like to call “bonus- mom” to two young boys. All of sudden I was shuttling boys to dentist and doctor appointments, helping with homework, driving to school and soccer practices, mending scuffled knees, refereeing x-box battles and nerf wars, and learning the fundamental differences between Marvel and DC Comics super heroes.
Since day one, I’ve loved these two young men like they are my own. But I entered Andy and Brenden’s life as they were both in the more independent stages of childhood. Both were sleeping through the night (praise God), out of diapers, feeding themselves, and not dependent upon us for their moment-to moment survival.
All that changed last November when Sydney was born and the doctor placed her on my chest. The weight of responsibility far outweighed her nearly nine-pound frame. The heaviness of the call to nurture, protect, provide, and shelter was immense. The Lord was entrusting the growth and development of this child into my hands. I felt completely incompetent to complete the task and way out of my element.
I’ll never forget the hospital nurses taking her back to the nursery while I slept, only to wake me in what seemed like minutes later to feed her. I was dazed with exhaustion and couldn’t comprehend that I was her food source. Life as I knew it was over. This baby would only eat if I fed her and my life was no longer about my comfort or ease, it was fully about her health and needs. The role of motherhood shifted in a moment from planning meals and fun family activities to sheer physical survival.
Now that Sydney is almost ten months old, I feel like I’ve emerged from the fog of sleepless nights and endless days. I am now at a place of enjoying the wonder that is this season of discovery and new developments. I can look back on her first ten months with some clarity and share a few things I’ve learned along the way about momlife. I pray these tips help all you future mommas out there or bring hope to any woman who’s in the trenches of colic, sleep regressions, or an overflowing diaper genie.
#MomLife Survival Tips
GIVE YOURSELF GRACE
I want to start this list with one of the most important truths I’ve learned along the way: give thyself grace. Sure, you have no idea what you are doing most days. But here’s the thing: babies don’t come with a playbook. We all are 100% dependent upon Jesus to give us strength, wisdom, direction, patience, and our next breath. Guess what? There is no such thing as the “perfect mom” who has it all together. You can take a deep breath and begin each day with a prayer for God to give you exactly what you need for the day ahead of you and let go of the idol of perfection that looms large over all of us. For those of you who are reading this and haven’t showered in three days, I feel you. You will get through this. One day soon you will shave your legs, brush your teeth, and feel like half a human again. I promise.
SLEEP WHEN YOU CAN.
Warning: cliché ahead. People always told me “sleep when the baby sleeps.” I know this is the oldest cliché in the book. And honestly, I didn’t listen. But I should have! When I put Sydney down for a nap (even when said nap only lasted twenty minutes.) I would rush around cleaning the house, loading the dish washer and washing laundry. After a few weeks of this pace, I got so exhausted that I couldn’t function. I didn’t permit myself to rest. Here’s the thing: the dishes can wait. (I say this as someone who hates a dirty kitchen.) What can’t wait is a crying newborn who needs to nurse and you’re the only one who can feed her. If I could go back and take time to rest while she was sleeping, I know, I would have been less delirious.
BABIES DON’T KEEP.
Along the same vein as the previous tip, this old-saying proves painfully true. In the blink of an eye, my newborn infant is now a crawling, babbling, and standing ten-month old. She outgrew her 3, 6 and 9-month clothing so quickly and most of the items were only worn once. I used to hear the saying “babies don’t keep” and think that was just a great book title. Now I know it was spoken by mommas who knew that the infant stage passes by in a flash and wisdom tells us to stop and cherish every snuggle. For the last ten months, I’ve felt great freedom to say “no” to good things so that I could say “yes” to fully experiencing this season of momlife. While these choices will be different for each of us, the heart behind our decision-making is to live with no regrets.
LISTEN TO MOTHER’S INTUITION
Somewhere between the four-month sleep regression (such a real thing, people) and the teething storm at six months, Sydney got extremely fussy and WOULD NOT sleep longer than 47 minutes at a time. Although I was used to her not sleeping at this point, I knew there was something different in her demeanor and behavior. I found myself up in the wee hours of the morning googling her symptoms and searching for answers. My momma-tuition said that something was awry. I just knew I was dealing with something other than a sleep transition or teething.
The next day we were scheduled to fly out of town for a wedding, and I told Justin that we had to go to the pediatrician before we left. Thankfully, I listened to my gut. Even though Sydney showed no outward symptoms, she was sick with “Hand Foot Mouth.” Although she never had a fever and didn’t show the usual tell-tell signs, I knew something was off. Mommas, you know your baby better than anyone. Listen to that God-given intuition.
ENDORPHINS ARE YOUR FRIEND
Here is a truth bomb—endorphins are glorious! One of the very best things I’ve done for myself as a new mom is making exercise a priority. Not only does it help shed that postpartum weight, but I feel so much better afterward. Trust me, at first I didn’t think I had one ounce of energy even to put on anything remotely resembling spandex, but once I got moving a little bit, I found that energy begets energy. It’s okay to start slow. In the first few weeks after delivery, I began by walking 15 minutes a day and building up. Each day I was able to do more.
Now that Sydney is older, I can leave her with childcare and go to an exercise class. This little investment in my health a few times a week has been the biggest game-changer for me as a mom. As Elle Woods of Legally Blonde so famously said, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.” And that, ladies, is reason enough for a momma to go to a barre class.
When I went into labor, my sweet husband was by my side, cheering me on. Justin loves music and the man has a soundtrack for everything. He even has a birth song for each of his kids. This is the song that was playing when the child entered the world. We talk to the older boys about their songs from time to time. So when it came time for Sydney to be born, I requested worship music in the delivery room. My labor progressed very quickly, and we didn’t have a chance to think about planning a particular song for her big debut. As I was in the final pushes and then heard Sydney’s first little cry, my ears tuned into the song that was playing and it was “Lord, I Need You” by Matt Mahr. Irony? Perhaps. Prophecy, for sure!
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
This song was already one of my favorites and had been a constant prayer of mine before I would enter any ministry situation. So naturally, this would be the song playing as I embarked on the biggest ministry of my life—motherhood.
“Lord, I Need You.” These words express utter dependence. These words are the essence of prayer. As a mom, prayer is essential. In the first few weeks, I was so gripped with fear that I needed God to help me overcome the “what ifs” raging in my mind. As the days progressed and exhaustion hit me, I prayed for God to give me supernatural strength to make it. As Sydney is growing, I pray for wisdom to make the best decisions and to know how to nurture and lead her. Prayer is our lifeline to all strength, wisdom, patience, and love. When we are empty, we can turn to the One who is all-sufficient, all-powerful, and all-knowing.
I pray these few tips are an encouragement to you. I’d love to hear from the other mommas out there. What is your best advice for a new mom?