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10 Things I Would Tell Myself Before Having a Baby

I have seen a common trend online of “things I would tell myself before having a baby” and I decided to write out mine. I hope they mean something to someone – the new mom, an expecting mom, a hesitant woman deciding when she is ready to be a mom - as they were laid on my heart to share.

1. Don’t underestimate it. When people say it is hard – it is truly hard. When people say you change, you become someone new – you really do. When they say it is worth it – it TOTALLY is. Though as I write this, I know there are others who (like me) will read it and not deeply take in the weight of wisdom from others. That’s okay. Sometimes we must learn through our own journey; but I pray you have others to support you through it, as I have.

2. You don’t have to follow all the rules. If anyone knows me, I have a very hard time not listening to voices that I perceive as having authority. When it comes to children, many “voices of authority” will try to tell you how to parent your children (pediatricians, sleep trainers, lactation consultants, etc.) . I have had to learn to pray it out and do what is right for my family, in order to protect my mental health and my relationship with my baby.

3. Another trend making its way around right now says something along the lines of “bring baby into your life, don’t build your life around baby”. While I understand where this comes from, I disagree with both sentiments.

· Bring Baby into Your Life: At first, I attempted to live by this rule. Trying to fit my baby into my way of life – noise levels, lack of routine, sleep times, etc. It made me miserable. He simply would NOT comply and I would be discouraged time and time again when my plans were ruined. He wanted to eat too often, sleep less often or inconveniently sleep on me all the time. I could not get anything done and he was not fitting in the way I wanted him to.

· Build Your Life Around Baby: Life cannot be 100% centered around your baby; you deserve to still be yourself in some capacity. You need “me time”. You have to take care of yourself, your marriage, your career, etc. Parents solely focused on their children are not doing themselves nor their children any favors.

· The new message in my heart: Build a new life WITH your baby. Love on your little one. Reassure them when they need it. Enjoy the contact naps. Recognize that this time is limited and love the heck out of them. Learn your little one and then from there, use the free time they allow you to take care of yourself. It may be brief, but if you can set them down for 10 minutes, wash your face and make a cup of coffee – do it. These times will expand. You will find how to keep living your life, just adapted to your new child. Try more family-oriented activities in their best hours. Let them contact nap while you get a cup of coffee with a friend. The more you learn and know your baby, the more you can weave them into the things that make you feel like you (and the more rewarding these things become also).

4. Your baby is a REAL person. I know this sounds silly, but when they first come home with you, they feel like a “very difficult toy” as my husband put it. They eat, sleep, poop, repeat. At least that is what it initially feels like. As time continues though, I find parts of their personality growing - not just suddenly appearing. My son made it abundantly clear he hated burping from his first week home and this has not changed. He also never had an issue with tummy time and really seems to enjoy it. The more I see him as his own person, the more I have learned to respect and honor his likes and dislikes (YES, babies have those!). Recognizing this simple fact helped me care more deeply for him. I had to learn how he likes to fall asleep and now the process is mostly painless. I learned to watch his sleepy cues and desired wake windows rather than following some expert schedule and this has healed a lot in our relationship.

5. When they say you are changed forever, it does not mean that you become someone new. I was so afraid of this one that it delayed my readiness to have a baby. I was afraid I would “lose myself”, that I “would never be the same again”. While this has some merit, I saw it in a negative light, like my individuality would be lost. While on the other side of motherhood, I would state it as you grow. You become more of yourself in so many ways and add to your character in ways you never knew were possible. You do not lose yourself, but you find out things about yourself you would have never known before. Your character, strengths, and weaknesses are all amplified.

6. You will LOVE it, if you allow yourself to love it. I was so focused on looking back to how life was and trying to recreate it with a baby in the mix when I first brought him home. I also looked forward to the parts I had dreamed about when we decided to have kids. What I did not do, was slow down to love the little moments now. After some time in prayer, I have learned to embrace each day we are given together with gratitude and love my little dude like crazy. When he is dramatically crying, instead of the rage I felt from him not complying to my plan, I now feel compassion as I know his little belly is in need at this moment. He is not manipulating me to his way of life, nor trying to be difficult – he is a baby attempting to communicate his needs. I used to feel like I was “giving in” out of weakness, rather than caring diligently for my child. Now with each cry, I do my best to serve my child and I love *most* moments of it. (We all have bad times when we have not had enough sleep).

7. “You just wait”. Many people would say this when I had predetermined plans of how I would parent. I would feel a bit offended when they said it, thinking they were implying I was too weak to follow through on what I had set in my heart as a way of parenting…. Let me tell you, YOU JUST WAIT. I am doing things I said I would never do – co-sleeping, giving in to his every cry, rocking him to sleep, etc. What I have learned is that the “just wait” is not that you will give in in weakness, but you will give in in love. And that, my friend, has been so rewarding. So if someone tells you, “you just wait”, don’t be insulted. Our plans often change with good reason. For example, something I have said is “all toys will stay in the kids room”. After having my baby, I don’t want him to just stay in his room – this is his home and family too. I want bits and pieces of him all throughout my home. I want him to have his own apron in the kitchen and a toy set in the dining room. I want him to be able to play directly next to my favorite place (the kitchen) and know he is welcome wherever he may want to be within our home.

8. Let go of control. The biggest heartache of my postpartum journey was upset plans. I could no longer do the things I wanted to do. After much prayer, surrender made itself obvious as my only option. As soon as I accepted that, I began to love my new life. (I write this from a contact nap instead of the Target run I was about to walk out the door for). But you know what? Target can wait - it will be there in two hours, but I will never be able to get back the moments I didn’t spend with my kids. By being okay with my plans changing, I am able to enjoy the tenderness of the moments when my baby needs me. We lack so much control over our lives anyways, so by choosing surrender, I am able to enjoy change instead of finding bitterness in it.

9. Your mother's instincts will come through trial and error. Ooooo this one was hard for me to accept. Trial and error with something so precious and that I love so deeply? How could I ever forgive myself if I hurt him? How can I be okay with a wrong decision? Well, when they say you have to give yourself grace, you really do. You have no way of knowing your new baby, or your new self, without trying things out. When things work, stick with them. When they don’t, dust yourself off and try something else. Eventually you will find that you know what your baby needs, often before they need it. These instincts will come with time, patience, grace, and kindness to yourself. Babies are resilient. You will not ruin them by underfeeding them one day and overfeeding them the next. A few missed wake windows may result in a late night, but you will remember them the next day. There is so much to learn in motherhood and most of it comes with mistakes that make you stronger.

10. For mothers who choose to go with breastmilk, it is a beautiful gift, no matter how you give it. Whether breastfeeding or pumping, it must be considered a blessing to provide to your children. This one is important to me because my breastfeeding journey has been so difficult and defeating and I still have to remind myself of this every day. To those who have never tried, this may not make sense. To those who are in the thick of it - worrying about their supply, whether their baby is getting enough, navigating food allergies, etc. - you are incredible and your value is not measured in ounces. Keep pressing on to another day and seek help if you need it. There are many mothers who know the struggle and will do what they can to be there for you.

11. (Bonus): Moms support moms. The love and support I have received from RANDOM people has blown my mind. Once a woman enters motherhood for the first time and has her world shaken, I believe it changes her mindset toward other mothers. It creates a new depth for relationships and care for one another. If you do not feel that way about your friends who are mothers, seek out other opportunities with new moms. Many are vulnerable and looking for the same types of connection you are.

If you took the time to read through all of this - thank you. If you are considering becoming a new mom, I hope the lessons I have learned speak to you. If they do not now, save them and come back after the baby is born. There might be something here you need to read when that time comes.

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