Before I had children, I knew exactly what kind of parent I was going to be. After my first child, I just knew I was mother of the year. After my second child, I questioned whether or not I should give my children up to be raised by wolves – perhaps they would do better than I.
After my second child, I questioned whether or not I should give my children up to be raised by wolves – perhaps they would do better than I.
I went to the hospital yesterday to visit a friend who just had her first baby. It was a beautiful baby girl and I saw the joy and sparkle of new parenthood in her mother’s eyes. But what I didn’t expect was a mirror image of myself three years ago. There she was, my friend, a new mom, laying in the hospital bed asking me the very same questions I asked myself, my mother, my sisters, my parent-friends when my first child was born.
“She’s nursing every hour but the nurse says she’s supposed to nurse every two to three hours. Is everything ok?”
“She cries all the time. I’m afraid something might be wrong.”
“She’s not latching well. I’m afraid we’re going to have to supplement and I don’t want to.”
I heard my mother’s words in my head: “He’s three days old! Give him a chance to figure it out!” I looked at my friend with a smile and said, “Everything is ok. There’s nothing wrong. You’re both just figuring things out.”
That’s it. We’re all just figuring things out.
I have the privilege of leading a life group for moms at my church. There are new mothers of months-old babies, mothers of teenagers, and everything in between in our group. I love hearing from each of them the joys and challenges they face at every phase of parenthood. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from being around them on a weekly basis, it’s that in every phase, whether young or old, we, as parents, are just figuring things out. There is no handbook. There is no club. I never knew how lonely that could feel until I became a mother myself.
Before I was a mother, I had this idea that all parents are in some sort of unspoken club, the kind where once you’re in, you’re told all the secrets, learn the secret handshake, and get winks and nods from other parents wherever you go. Kind of like the Masons.
Much to my chagrin, there is no such club.
No, in fact it’s quite the opposite. That doctor hands you the baby and then expects you to figure it out. Jerk. No handbook. Not even a pamphlet. Just a smile and a weak, “Congratulations!” He should have said, “Congratulations. You’re about to realize everything you thought you knew means nothing at all. Have fun!”
I will never forget that first day my husband went back to work after our son was born. My parents had been staying with us for a few days, cooking meals, cleaning up, helping us get used to the baby. But, like all good things in life, that came to an abrupt end and there I was, sitting on the couch with a brand new baby in my arms, watching my husband walk out the door and thinking to myself, “What now?”
We’re all just blindly walking around a giant room with our hands out, feeling for the next thing to grab on to that we call our “parenting philosophy.”
I had never felt so alone or scared in my life.
But this particular blog is not to discourage you. This is no, “Welcome to Club Hell. There is no escape.” In fact, this is to let you know that despite how it feels, there really is a club of parents. Despite what it seems, we’re all in the same boat, no matter what age our children are. We’re all just blindly walking around a giant room with our hands out, feeling for the next thing to grab on to that we call our “parenting philosophy.” It’s not always easy. It’s often quite frustrating. But I can assure you, you will figure this phase out. And as soon as you do, the next one will start. My sweet sister even had to remind me of this fact at Thanksgiving. My little “Princess and the Pea” wouldn’t sleep to save her life during the entire holiday. By Thanksgiving night I was ready to run away and tell God I died. I know for sure I gained a few more gray hairs that weekend. I saw them this morning. But as I was sitting outside alone in the cold wondering how I had become such a terrible mother, my sister came out to remind me in a way only she could that it’s ok. None of us has it all figured out. And that doesn’t mean we’re inept parents. It means we’re human. And, as my mother would say, “this too, shall pass.”
So sweet friends with brand new babies, I want to send you my love, my warmest wishes, and my sincerest prayers and tell you that it’s going to be okay. I know, even if you’ve only been a parent for a few days, that you’ve probably already felt overwhelmed and wondered what you’ve gotten yourself into. It’s ok. We’ve all been there. And we’ll all be there again from time to time.
But the blessings of being a parent – the sweet first smiles from your three-month old, the laughs at peek-a-boo, the silly games you play in the car, the first time your toddler tells you he loves you – those are the moments that will fill you up to overflowing. Those are the moments that will get you through the days when your infant screams when you hold her, screams when you put her down, screams when you feed her, screams when you don’t feed her. Those are the moments that will keep you from killing your son when he screams, “I CAN’T WANT THAT!!!” at you for the thousandth time that day. Those are the moments that will never, ever leave your heart and will remind you why God graced you with parenthood to begin with.
So hang in there. Take all the advice you get, put it together and form your own conclusions. Do what works best for you and your babies, not what Dr. Phil says. Or Oprah. Or your favorite parenting blog. So what if you have Disney Junior on longer than the recommended 30 minutes per day? (Thirty minutes? Give me a break!!) So what if you co-sleep? So what if your kid drinks cow’s milk at 9 months old? So what if you don’t immunize? So what if you do? It’s your kid and God gave you something precious that ONLY YOU have for your children – intuition. Use it. Trust Him. And have a glass of wine.
Everything is going to be okay!