I was going to write this in the tongue-in-cheek bulleted fashion of “Mrs. Gore’s Tips for Fashionably Surviving a Hospital Stay,” but I changed my mind…
I just wanna ramble instead.
I have several friends who are pregnant with their first babies, and two in particular who are home right now with their newly hatched chicks, and my heart is just so full of happiness and hope for them, for nothing can change a gal like motherhood can.
God has used my children to sanctify me, to grow me up, to deeply challenge me…and it has all happened so quickly. I identify less and less with the woman-child of 5 years ago – I’ll admit, she was cute (what?! she was!), but she was pretty selfish and immature and self-absorbed – now, however, my feet have been set firmly on a journey that daily takes me further away from “ME” and draws me nearer and closer to the heart of God.
Its a Christmas miracle, everybody.
But…back to you. (See? I’m not self-absorbed anymore! I’m thinking of others).
There is really nothing like that first drive home from the hospital with a newborn infant in your backseat. You will probably feel very tentative and unsure, like “Uhhh…is it really okay that we are in charge of this human? Are the hospital police going to pull us over soon and make us go back?” I don’t care if you are the eldest Duggar child and have been around babies your entire life, this drive from hospital to home is B.I.G., monumental in its implications, a rite of passage like no other.
And truly, the world just looks completely different on the way home, as if you’ve landed on a different planet. While we were at the hospital with Gideon, spring had sprung and I just could not stop staring out my window on our drive home, trying to find some level of familiarity with what I was seeing (when I wasn’t bent over the backseat to make sure he was still breathing, that is).
Sometimes the trip home from the hospital can be rather entertaining. As we squired our latest squirt home in May, I was surprised and alarmed to have my hormones crash right before our eyes, resulting in a very curious dosey-doe of laughing and crying. I would get tickled at something and laugh hysterically and then I would just burst into tears, all as Mr. Gore held up his fingers to keep count of how many times I cried on the way home. Seven times.
But…back to you.
As much as I love babies and being a mother, I must admit, that first night home is always a bit difficult, even the third time around. Sleep is one of my BFF’s – I cling to it rather selfishly, and so its loss is keenly and tragically felt. I become grouchy and whiny and I always cry when I have to wake up and feed the baby. In fact, as much as I love fame, if we were ever offered a reality show, I would probably decline just so no one (aside from Mr. Gore) would ever see what a brat I become when I am tired – those are always the times when Chris looks at me and says “are you real?”
Oh my gosh, am I talking about myself again? Whoopsie. Back to YOU, young mother…
I do have one very strong word of advice for new parents: Give yourself some time – at least a month – to adjust to your “new normal”. The old normal…the one where you sleep when you want to sleep, the one where you are on top of things and know where everything in your house is, the one where you can have an intelligent conversation with your peers…is gone.
So for at least one month, I forbid you to feel any guilt over your falling-apart house. I forbid you to feel ugly or fat. I forbid you to think that what you are experiencing now will continue for the rest of your life. Look at me, dear one…it won’t. One month.
It simply isn’t fair to have any expectations until that first month is past. (And some of you may need two or three. No one is judging you here, Pokey Little Puppy). Just hunker down with your new little love, learn to feed it, memorize its face, and linger over every moment you have together. These days will be gracious for you and will stand still. Far too soon, the days of the calendar will fall with more and more rapidity, and that child in your arms that seems to develop like the slow little tortoise will become like that swift hare, racing through life while you try to catch its slippery foot lest your heart break from the loss…I’m sorry, was that depressing? I digress.
Likewise, do not despair over your lack of sleep in the first weeks (and/or months). This is a short season of life, I promise, and as I have told many a young mother (okay, maybe 3 or 4), you will feel like you are going to go off-the-charts insane from your sleepless night-after-night-after-night, and then, one night you’ll go to sleep, exhausted as is the norm, and wake up…in the morning. With no sleep interruptions. No middle-of-the-night feedings. And guess what? This trend will continue, night after night after night. Until your kid gets sick for the first time and throws up on you seven times before daybreak – but that’s another post altogether, I think.
It is just far too easy to be hard on yourself, especially the first time around. So take Mrs. Gore at her word and for this first couple of months, putter about the house in your wrinkled, spat-up-upon nightdress, feed your husband cereal, sleep whenever your baby sleeps, flush your self-imposed deadlines down the toilet, and sing peace, and love and contentment upon your baby. This is your hour. You and baby. Baby and you. An irreplaceable, sweeter-than-sweet, quiet and still communion. Relish it, please.
Unless your baby has colic. In which case, I can’t help you and you should probably start looking for a blog for mothers of colicky babies.
Which leads me to encourage you in this – don’t be a bit afraid to accept some help and support. I sincerely don’t know how anyone survives parenting small children without a little bit of help now and then – when my husband fills up the dishwasher without being asked or when my Mom drops in and takes a bag of laundry home or when my friend stops by with some warm peach crisp, I just want to weep with gratitude – those seemingly small gestures do wonders to reset my attitude and allow me the opportunity to get back on top of things again. Thus, if someone says to you “What can I do to help you?” don’t you dare say “Oh, we’re fine!” Instead, try saying “We’re STARVING – could you bring us some supper?” or “Would you mind picking me up some powdered donuts when you do your shopping?” or “Could you sit with the baby while I take a shower this morning?” They wouldn’t ask if they didn’t really want to help; if not, you’ll teach them not to ask unless they plan on following through. Either way, you win.
And then there is one more “new normal” to grow adjusted to. You might have been a stalwart believer in the sovereignty of God before you had your baby…and in your heart, you still are…but mortality might be weighing quite heavily upon your mind in the months to come. I don’t know what it is – the hormones? The first-hand experience of the miracle of birth? The responsibility of bringing up a human being all by yourself? Whatever it is, your heart will very likely go through the ringer of anxiety and fear over the idea of something happening to your little one or even yourself…life and its frailty is so obvious in an infant and I just encourage you to use your fresh eyes to see anew the true purpose of your stay on earth – to glorify God and enjoy Him forever – and to learn all over again what it means to trust Him and His good plan for your life. Guess what? He loves your baby even more than you do.
And that’s a promise.
I’m sure there are many other things I could tell you – I honestly don’t know if this was very helpful at all, or if it was just a good night to ramble – but I hope it encourages those of you who are in the fog of infancy, and prepares those who are still incubating for what lies ahead.
Regardless, I wish you and baby the very best. God bless you in your new life together!