The Truth We Need to Tell First Time Moms

My daughter will turn 3 this Friday. Her brown eyes sparkle sweetness and mischief mingled every second of the day. She’s shiny and beautiful and a wild ball of energy and joy mixed with stubbornness and an ever growing vocabulary. These days are wonderful and exhausting.

Truth is I don’t know who I recognize less these days; her or me.

You see we’re taught that our life pre-baby and our life post-baby should look pretty much the same. We’re taught self-sacrifice is only as noble as how much it gives back to us. Isn’t that ironic?

The push and pull of motherhood to do all and be all might be the largest factor in the rise of mothers leaving their families.

Ever since I became a mama I’ve listened to how other moms-to-be talk. In fact I love hearing from first time mama’s as they talk about their birth plans, hopes and dreams for how they are going to transition to new mommyhood. I am a birth doula at heart after all.

One thread I hear woven into the conversation is a desperate grasp for normalcy. We want to believe we can have a baby one day and life can go back to it’s regularly scheduled programming without skipping a beat the next.

It doesn’t work that way.

Something will give way. It might be your job. It might be your marriage. It might be your sanity. Something will give.

We all want to be the mama with the “easy” baby. The one who sleeps through the night from day one, breastfeeds beautifully and is generally pleasant. Congrats to the one in a million mother who gets that baby. For the rest of us? Well, we get the babes who don’t sleep (raises hand), the milk supply that just doesn’t add up, the colicky child who can’t be soothed, the too short maternity leave that leaves us wondering what we should be doing.

You might just find yourself in the aisles of Target perplexed about nipple cream and diaper rash cream- don’t confuse the two. Truth is we’re all just as confused as you are in the beginning.

There is a load we carry that isn’t fully realized until we’ve been living off of cereal, sleeping on the nursery floor with a baby attached to us (literally), and changing diapers in a zombie-like state of consciousness for days on end. The realization is that we’re not super heroes. At least not in the sense we’d like to think- Lisa-Jo has a better idea about motherhood and superhero capes that is worth your attention.

I’ve said it here before, “Motherhood is meant to change us.” God uses it as a means of making us more like Christ if we allow His Spirit to bend and mold us through the tiny people in our life.

The truth no one is telling you about becoming a mom is it is a way for God to stretch us body and soul to become more like Christ.  Motherhood is about way more than raising good kids.

When my wee girl was between 4-7 months old I spent every night half asleep on her bedroom floor because she would.not.sleep. I was a zombie. I’m lucky I didn’t burn the house down. Now she is nearly three and I’ve touched more poop then is polite to talk about. Let’s just say potty training is the WORST.

Daily my will, my selfishness, my love of my daughter is stretched and I have to make the choice to trust God didn’t make a mistake by making me her mama. Because the honest mid-week question in my heart is sometimes just that.

There will be a moment when you want to go back to the time before you had kids.

I know you’re shaking your head “no” mama-to-be, but it’s true. You’ll (day)dream of sleeping in. You’ll wonder what it’s like to have a weekend to wile away the hours. The idea of having an uninterrupted conversation with your husband will seem like the stuff of euphoria. You’ll rack your brain trying to remember the last time you went to the bathroom alone. Seven hours of sleep in a row will become a new measure of success or more coveted than a new pair of shoes- even the Frye boots with the buckle…yes, even those.

Your temper and your patience will be stretched taut all because of a pint sized person dependent on you for their every need.

I’m telling you this because I don’t want you to be surprised when this happens. You’re going to feel guilty. That voice in your head will tell you the nastiest things about your ability to mother. It will feel like looking at yourself from outside and you’ll hate the ugliness you see.

The reason all the ugly will bubble to the surface is because motherhood is meant to show us our need for Christ. You will never be able to fully communicate the Gospel to your children if you haven’t experienced it in a real way in your own life. It won’t happen. We can’t give what we don’t have. We can’t pass along an understanding of great things if we haven’t pondered them quiet in our own hearts.

I’ve had conversations with God about this telling Him that I am relatively certain I don’t need to be stretched more. What has he done? Brought me through a miscarriage. Given me a baby boy due in April. Turns out He still has some work to do on my hard heart and He cares more about that then my comfort.

All the things that felt so comfortable and normal before baby? They will change. Your marriage, your free time, your interests, your grocery shopping routine…It will all change and despite what our society says that is okay.  Dare I say it might turn out to be good? Hard? Yes. Good. Yes. These things can change and you can still remain the same amazing, thoughtful, insightful, witty person you were before.

I’m still a woman who loves a good laugh, tries new recipes only to have them fail, loves long deep conversation, drinks her coffee black, surfs Etsy for fun, watches a wee bit too much television, wants to plant my feet on each continent, stacks books by the dozen by her side of the bed, dreams of writing a book and living in a vintage Airstream.

Changing diapers doesn’t change who you fundamentally are, don’t believe the rhetoric. God uses motherhood to change who you fundamentally want to be. Those are two different things.

Your new normal will be a pulling of yourself in every direction and you will feel the pressure to do and be all to your child and everyone else in your life. Lean into your new normal. Be gentle with yourself. God has no expectation of your ability to “do it all”.

Allow your life to be changed, rearranged, uprooted for the sake of making you more like Christ. Your child will grow and change and three years from now you’ll catch a look at yourself in the mirror 6 months pregnant (again) and hair a mess and you’ll like what you see not because it is perfection but because it is being perfected by Christ.

Happy Birthday to a new you. It’s a little older, a lot more sleep deprived and looks like Jesus.