Wednesday, November 11, 2015

First Time Mom, It's Okay to Think It's Hard

I've never been accused of sugar coating things. Delivering truth I can do, and ironically, it's often the way I feel led to care for people.  Granted, I haven't mastered the art of timing or when to let it go.  But I frequently want to tell new moms the hard stuff we all go through within the first few hours, days, and weeks of our little one's life.  You can guess that's not exactly the stuff they want you to "shower" your sweet mama friend with during the baby celebrations.  But truth leads to freedom and so much of the hard during early postpartum feels smothering and isolating.  So I've decided to lay out my thoughts in hopes that other moms or folks supporting new moms get a better insight into what we go through.

Give yourself grace.  Be so nice to yourself.  Sleep deprivation is a form of torture for a reason. Your hormones are tormentors much worse than anything in a Harry Potter book.  Your body has been through trauma, regardless of how your baby came. This is all new. This little being is not excited about being on the cold, bright outside, and your voice and smell is all that she recognizes. It doesn't matter that you have no idea what you're doing or what they need and want; it still seems like you are the only human on the planet who can address their wails.

Then there's breastfeeding.  Lord help us, breastfeeding. This is one of the earliest opportunities for mom guilt to enter your life in a major way. It's one of the hardest things I've ever accomplished. Finishing college, meh. Doctorate degree, tough but got through it.  Breastfeeding, yowza.  There's nothing like knowing you're the key to your child's nutrition and battling bleeding and pain so bad you cry every time they try to latch.  Was it worth it?  It was to me; each mom has to decide that for herself.  I came to love that time with Hayden, but amidst the rest of what my body and the new baby was going through, it was a hurdle to say the least.

Your poor, sweet spouse will likely not understand.  They can relate to your sleep deprivation, but that is about it.  Be patient with them. Verbalize what you need.  Try to offer gentle tips with the baby or just be quiet and let them figure out their own way.  You'll be glad you let them try. Shutting them out early means much more work for you down the line. Grow together in this; you'll be grateful. Lord knows little people added don't make marriage any easier. The better you get at doling out grace to yourselves and each other will only serve to build a safe, loving home...I'm told.  If I ever get good at this, I'll let you know how it turns out.

Say "yes" to all the help.  I'm not too proud to say I've messaged my mother-in-law (who's a rockstar, by the way, I pray you all have help like this in your corner) on Facebook at 0230 to pray for a screaming baby.  When she texted and offered to come over so I could rest for a few hours, I let her. And I'm not too proud to say this happened more than once. As a mom, you want to prove yourself;  you want to do it all.  Bless your heart, you may be forced to based on your circumstances, but asking for help so that you can rest/heal/get some sanity to be better for your child is the right thing to do. No guilt.

STOP THE COMPARISON NOW.  I know it already started, probably before even pregnancy. It will rob you of happiness and deep, fellow-mom friendships faster than anything. Let's be really honest with ourselves and ask this: What does it accomplish?  Nothing.  Great.  We're agreed.  Let's move on.

I know I'm not alone, or I would not be willing to share, but there will be moments when you lose it.  You feel so flustered or helpless or angry about why your baby won't stop screaming that you have a fleeting thought of losing control.  There's a reason Shaken Baby Syndrome exists.  We've all been there.  Know these moments will come for you. Have a plan beforehand.  Place your baby somewhere safe (crib, rock-n-play, bassinet), and walk into another room.  They can scream for a minute without you.  Jump in the shower and sit under hot water for 5 minutes if you need.  Just get alone, gather your senses, take deep breaths until you're ready to try again, and then go love your little the best you can.

I truly believe parenting will actually grow us into who we are meant to be. I believe there will be specific things Hayden teaches me about life, my sin, and how my Heavenly Father loves me. I believe it will be brutal and beautiful, brutiful, as Glennon Martin would say.  Isn't most of life?  So hang in there, new mom.  It's really okay to just survive the first three months. There will be great moments, but overall I found it very hard.  And honestly, I didn't really feel like I got to know Hayden in that time since not too much of her personality showed.  Everything hurt her stomach, and she often screamed nightly from 5-8 pm.  By month four, she started smiling at me, and I became the coolest person in her world.  That as the best. I was reminded it's worth it. It will look different for every mom.  I could already hear most of you as I was retyping this paragraph in first person instead of generic terms: "My baby slept all night the second week!" or "Our little guy didn't sleep through the night until he was ten!".  You, like me, were or are likely somewhere in between.  For me, it's truly gotten better every month since then.

It's late for a disclaimer, but I still need to say: Obviously, this is my singular experience that I'm speaking from. So much could have been so much worse, and that doesn't discount that it was hard for me.  Many of you will read this having gone through much harder scenarios, and I ask that you offer myself and others grace as we each deal with the path God has given us, the great and the hard.  My hope in sharing this is to provide a safe place and a warm sense of relatability for those who have or will go through similar feelings after childbirth.

What about you?  What would you warn/encourage new moms with?  What do you wish folks would have told you?  What are you thankful that they did share?