Families With Grace

Helping Christian moms create homes filled with grace, love & faith

Advice for moms to be

Some words of wisdom for first time mamas

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I originally wrote this post back in April of 2011 when I had only one child who was 1-1/2 at the time. While I did some updating to refresh it, I still feel compelled to give advice for moms to be when I see them out and about. For now, I am still able to resist!

I’ve always been a quiet person. I’ve never had a need to give random advice to others (especially strangers). That is until I became a mother. Now it sort of makes sense to me why mothers dole out advice — both wanted and unwanted — to their kids and random strangers. It is just in you.

When I’m shopping at Target and see a woman with a big belly perusing the baby department with a scan gun for her registry, I want to stop her and chat. Anywhere I go and see a couple who is pregnant with their first child, I feel the urge to tell them things. When I read status updates on Facebook of friends or family who are expecting their first child, I fight the urge to type all sorts of thoughts and advice. And even when childless friends talk to me about wanting to start a family someday, I have to stomp down my urge to overshare.

Advise for moms to be Pinterest image

I do manage to keep my mouth shut with complete strangers. And I try to take it easy on my friends and family. Hopefully, I succeed. But, I want to somehow explain to them that they really don’t know what they’re in for. Having a child is so much harder and so much more wonderful than you can ever expect. Becoming a parent changes your world completely.

Practical advice for moms to be

I definitely have practical advice for moms to be. I would share what to really expect from labor and delivery — the things no one tells you, not even in the birthing class at the hospital. For instance, you will be amazed at how little you care about lack of modesty during the birthing process and even learning to nurse if you go that route.

Moms to be also need to know to buy plenty of feminine hygiene products. Get the largest pads made, and buy twice as many as you think you’ll need. Consider getting at least one package of adult diapers, which are also great for postpartum moms.

I’d share things like which infant tub is best because it will work for newborns to toddlers. We had a few styles and found this one worked best.

Also, I’d tell her which big toys really come in handy and which take up more space than they are worth. A baby play mat is awesome. And my daughter spent a lot of time hanging out in her bouncy seat. It saved my sanity to know she was strapped in somewhere safe.

I’d let her know that big swings aren’t worth it for the cost and space they take up. Not all babies like swings, my daughter didn’t care for the swing so much. If your baby does like to swing, though, having a portable swing takes up less space and lets you move it around the house with you. [I had to add in the portable swing, because my second child loved swinging and the portable swing was a lifesaver!]

I’d tell both parents to be to take time to shower and relax in those first few months whenever they had a chance. I’d tell them to ask for help and let a trusted person (grandparents are ideal) watch the baby for a bit even just so they could nap, run errands or (dare I say it) see a movie.

Emotional advice for moms to be

And there are more abstract tips and ideas I’d share. I’d tell them how the baby will take all of your energy and just when you’ve about had enough he or she will give you a smile for the first time. Suddenly your energy renews and your heart melts, even if it is 3 a.m. and you’re up for the third time since going to bed at 10 p.m.

I’d share that it might take time, but you will eventually adjust to living life completely for someone else. Eventually you will be able to find pieces of your identity again and remember sometimes that you are more than just a mom.

For sure I’d get advice to moms to be to worry less and enjoy more. For the first couple of months, I lived in fear every time I put my daughter down at night to sleep that she wouldn’t wake up in the morning. She’s a happy, healthy almost 19-month-old now. [And now a 13-year-old!]

I worried that if she saw a television show for even one minute she’d have ADD. She couldn’t care less about TV, and she’s as smart as can be. [She’s tested as high ability from kindergarten on.]

So many times I worried that I wouldn’t produce enough milk, and then I ended up with a chest freezer full. All that worrying for nothing. When we’re new moms we can put so much pressure on ourselves and worry about every little thing. Do your best to remind yourself that humans have been surviving for thousands of years. You can do this!

The truth about becoming a mom

You see, all this advice (and more!) bubbles up within me as I encounter new moms. I have lots to say. Instead, I smile. Or I say “Congratulations” if I know them. Internally, I want to warn them. I want to prepare them. But, I also know that no one can prepare you. It just isn’t possible. I thought I was prepared and knew what I was in for. I didn’t and, frankly, I couldn’t have.

Then again, I guess that’s part of the whole parenthood experience. And so you’re left with lots of advice. I’m sure there is untold advice around me from parents of older children about what will be coming my way. On the other hand, I’m not sure I want to know, yet. I’m also pretty sure that I won’t really get it until I experience it for myself. That’s just the way life is.

What I learned from being pregnant at Christmas

Being pregnant at Christmas gives a whole new perspective on the birth of Jesus

I wrote these words about being pregnant at Christmas in 2012 when I was a month and a half away from the birth of my youngest child. I had been on modified bedrest since the beginning of November and had a lot of pain in my final trimester of my pregnancy. Being pregnant at Christmas gave me a perspective on the birth of Jesus I haven’t forgotten.

Christmas is my favorite holiday. I love the lights and the sparkle. I love the food and family time. Most of all, I love the meaning of the season. Once I became a mother, I learned even more about the meaning of Christmas as I cared for a baby, much like Mary cared for baby Jesus all those years ago. 

This year, Mary is on my mind again as my belly is swollen with my one and only son squirming around waiting to make his debut in a month and a half. And, I am most definitely thankful not to have to take any donkey rides to other towns right now. I’ve got some extra misery going on right now, but even just “regular” pregnancy misery would have had to made the donkey ride super miserable for Mary.

Mary’s attitude versus mine

I wonder if Mary complained to Joseph. She surely had a few complaints. I’d like to think, though, that overall she maintained a good attitude. She knew the child she carried was a special gift for the world. She couldn’t have known how precious that gift would be and how He would change the world forever, but she knew He was special. So I’d like to think that in spite of her misery, she was at peace and happy.

And it makes me check my own attitude. The busyness of life, the challenges I’m dealing with that have resulted in modified bedrest and the activity of caring for a 3-year-old keep me occupied. If I’m completely honest with you, I’ll fully admit that our nursery isn’t ready. In fact, we haven’t really even started. I don’t usually operate last-minute. I’d have loved to have it all finished by now, but that’s just not reality.  

In the midst of it all, though, I’m working to make sure my attitude is in check and I just enjoy the privilege of carrying this little guy. Pregnancy is such a short time period overall in life. I don’t want to be so busy or so miserable that I forget that and take it for granted or don’t notice the blessing it is. I want to be like I think Mary was: miserable but so incredibly blessed and thankful.

Getting through misery

There are so many situations where this has applied in my life. Sometimes I can catastrophize and get mopey. A few years ago, I learned to embrace my feelings and understand that it’s OK to be sad or angry or upset — as long as I don’t get stuck there. I’ve gotten stuck in these feelings that lead to misery and bitterness before. I know quite a few folks who exist like this at all times. And they aren’t happy folks. 

So, I sometimes make a rule when something happens that upsets me. I set a time limit (maybe 20 minutes) for being upset, then I make myself move on and figure out a game plan. My goal is to move forward and past the event. I pray about it. And so, I don’t get stuck in bitterness and pessimism.

I’m most definitely not perfect at this and still struggle with my attitude. I am better than I was, though. And that’s progress. I’m embracing the same philosophies in my current situation. Yes, we have things to do before the baby comes that are more challenging right now. But, I have the loving support of my husband, daughter and our extended family. 

And I know it will all come together. Worst case scenario, we at least have the infant car seat down from the attic and the pack-and-play with its bassinet down in the closet so that we can bring the baby home and have somewhere to put him. After all, the biggest things he’ll need is our love and help. And we can do that even if in an undecorated nursery!

Surviving bring pregnant at Christmas

As for me, I will survive. In fact, at least once a day, I sing “I Will Survive” in my head. I know I will survive. I’m not the first woman to be pregnant with challenges. I won’t be the last. I do get frustrated sometimes. Last night, for example, I made frozen waffles for dinner for our family. Frustratingly, I couldn’t make something more substantial because I couldn’t be on my feet that long. However, then I realized that not having to spend much time making dinner meant I got to read extra books and have more play time with my daughter. That’s never a bad thing, especially since she still got fed and was happy with her waffle, grapes and cup of milk.

I hope whatever circumstances you find yourself in this holiday season — whether happy and on top of the world, dealing with challenges and misery or somewhere in between — that you take a moment to be thankful for all the good of life. I pray we can all be like my picture of Mary when challenges come: miserable, but thankful.

A message for my oldest before she becomes a big sister

What I want my daughter to know before her brother is born

I originally wrote these words two weeks before my son was born in January of 2013. I was preparing to become a mother of two. And I also tried to prepare my daughter for becoming a big sister. While we have grown and changed throughout these years, the message here remains the same.

As I get closer and closer to having our baby boy, I’ve been thinking about the things I want my daughter to know. I know that becoming a big sister will forever change her life. Because I am the youngest of two, I will never completely know her station in a family. I’ve never been an oldest sibling. I know my own older brother wasn’t too excited to have to share our parents with me when I was born, but I like to think he came around eventually.

Right now, my daughter is excited. She talks about the things she will teach Baby Brother. When my parents and in-laws were here painting his nursery just over a week ago, she sat at the kitchen table and painted him pictures to hang on his wall. With every stroke of her paintbrush, she talked about how he would love them. And he will one day. We will hang them on the wall in the midst of the superhero art we’ve chosen as the nursery theme.

However, she still doesn’t really know what’s coming. We’ve tried to prepare her as much as possible by explaining that Baby Brother will be small to start with and not able to play with her. We’ve explained that he might cry a lot, because that’s the only way babies can communicate (or “investigate” as she sometimes mistakenly says). I’ve even mentioned to her that he might wake mommy up a lot a night, so I might be more tired after he’s born. I’ve talked with her a little bit about nursing so she’s not utterly shocked or anything. 

But, I can’t explain to her what having a newborn in the house is like. I can’t really explain to her what it’s like to go from an only child to a sibling because I’ve never done it. I was born a sibling. So was my husband.

I am incredibly excited to have this new member of our family. At the same time, I know it will be an adjustment for my daughter (and us!). I’ve been praying about it. And I’ve been thinking about what I want her to know before he’s born and she becomes a big sister. There are things I tell her, but there are other things that she just isn’t old enough to understand, yet. Some things I want her to know I will just have to show her and go without saying because she’s still only a 3-year-old.

I will always love you.

I want my daughter to know that no matter what, I will always love her. My heart is big enough to love two children. I have loved my husband for so long and love him so completely. I can’t imagine life without him. When our daughter was born, my heart grew to include a deep love for her that is complete and so strong it takes my breath away. Already my heart has grown to love this child along with my daughter. A mother’s heart has plenty of room for love.  I never want my daughter to question that. I want her to always feel my love.

Having a sibling is cool.

I want my daughter to know that having a sibling is cool. My brother and I aren’t super close, but he’s my brother. He’s the one other person in this world who grew up with the exact same parents I did. We’ve been through challenges together throughout the years. We’ve learned how to work together to help our family through crisis as adults like we did back in 2005 when my dad had an accident and his life dangled precariously in the balance for weeks. 

I want my daughter to know that her brother will be her brother for life. And she’ll always be his big sister. My prayer is that the two of them are close and have a good friendship and relationship. I want her to know that even when she has times he drives her crazy (and vice versa!) that at the end of the day, they will still have each other and the love of a sibling.

Being a big sister is an important job.

I want my daughter to know that she will be a role model. One thing I know as a younger sibling is how much we look up to our older siblings. I looked up to my brother and my cousin who was like another older brother for years. Her Baby Brother will do the same. It’s a cool responsibility to be a role model. She’ll be a good big sister with her compassionate heart and sensitive spirit. I’m excited to see how she rocks her big sister journey.

You don’t have to be a little mama.

I want my daughter to know that she’s a good helper, but she doesn’t have to be a little mother. She only has to be a big sister. My daughter loves to help around the house. With any task we’re working on, she’ll ask if we need help and try to help however she can. There have been many times I’ve carried the laundry basket lower through the house so she can hang on to one end and help me with it. She loves helping unload the dishwasher. Yesterday she wanted to help wipe down Baby Brother’s crib, so I armed her with a baby wipe and she had a great time. She just loves to help.

I will love for her to help and feel included with the baby, but I never want her to think she is responsible for him. First and foremost she is a little girl and I want her to enjoy being a little girl for as long as she can.

Life can be good, even when it’s difficult.

I want my daughter to know that even when life doesn’t seem fair, it’s still good. I know there will be struggles coming our way with who’s getting the most attention. Newborns are needy. They aren’t one bit understanding. Honestly, 3-year-olds aren’t super different in that department. There will be times she won’t think it’s fair for me to be doing something with the baby when she’d rather I was playing with her. I know that will happen. It can’t be avoided. 

But I want her to know life is still good. I want her to come to understand that if she gives me a few minutes to take care of Baby Brother then I will have more time to peacefully play with her later. And when he gets older and does things like knock over the blocks she’s building or tears a page in her favorite book, I pray she’ll have compassion and understanding with him.

You will always be my baby girl.

I want my daughter to know that she will always be my baby girl. I tell her this often. She agrees that even though she’s a big girl now, she’s OK with still being my baby girl. But, she doesn’t really know what I mean. What I mean is that no matter how big she gets, I’ll never forget the first time I saw her after she was born. I’ll never forget looking deep into her eyes during middle-of-the-night feedings and wondering about the person she’d become. I’ll never forget snuggling close with her at all stages of her life thus far. Of course, I’ll never forget her first steps or her first words. I’ll never forget her own language she created for a while before she could really talk. 

There are so many things that I’ll always remember every time I look at her. She is my precious girl. And just because I will have another baby with whom to experience so many of these things doesn’t make the times I shared with her any less precious.

Change is coming around these parts. It will be good, and it will bring challenges. My daughter continues to have lessons to learn as she navigates life and my son will be coming right behind her. Their dad and I have a big responsibility in raising them together. We’ve all got messages we need to hear from one another loud and clear, even when they come through actions. After all, that’s what being a family is all about.

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Celebrating more than my son’s birthday

My son’s birth story reminds me of God’s goodness and faithfulness

Today my son turns 7. I’m amazed with my children how I feel like they were just born a couple of months ago and yet I also feel like they’ve always been part of my life.

On my son’s birthday each year, my husband and I look at videos and photos of the day he arrived. We get tears in our eyes and talk about how thankful we are. We smile at each other about how adorable and tiny he was — and we remark about how blue he looked even an hour after his birth.

My son was born with his cord wrapped around his neck, blue all over and not breathing. He was whisked from my arms and surrounded by a slew of medical personnel.

I remember lying there as he was worked on across the room. My doctor tended to me and assured me this was normal. I prayed and quietly cried. The last three months of my pregnancy were miserable and incredibly painful, but nothing I went through and felt affected my son. I was so thankful for that. I wished so much in that overwhelming moment that it could be me again and not him. I am not sure I have ever felt so helpless.

Finally, after 20 minutes, he breathed on his own and we heard his first cry. I have never been so happy to hear a cry as I was that day.

Even now, seven years later, I look at the photos my husband took of him in the NICU (where he had to spend a couple of hours with just my husband while I was getting taken care of) and my heart aches a bit. I missed those first few moments with him. His birth wasn’t at all like I planned or expected. BUT, it ended up well. As I prayed with tears rolling down my cheeks that day, God was right there and took care of both my baby boy and me.

Life is so much like that. Things take a detour from what we expected and our hearts can shatter into millions of pieces. Sometimes they can also be filled to bursting within a short time as well, which is what happened on the day my son was born. But whether we’re in the middle of heartbreak or joy or somewhere in between, God is right there, taking care of us. Even when we can’t see Him, He is always working.

I praise and thank Him for my baby boy who is now a happy, thriving 7-year-old. I can’t even begin to put into words how thankful I am that God showed up seven years ago and made sure my little guy was able to breathe on his own. I am thankful that the day ended in joy and not unspeakable heartbreak.

Each milestone my son reaches is just another testimony of God’s goodness and provision. God is good — and that is worth celebrating today as much as my son’s birth!

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