Tuesday, October 25, 2011

on being a new parent...

it's been a long time again, sorry to say our life has been nutty lately and blog posts fall pretty far on the "to do" list around here. i was inspired the other day to write this up or at least get my thoughts out in the world so they are no longer swirling in my head. as joel can tell you, sometimes i can get caught up in a thought (or series of thoughts) and really process them to death. so sometimes it's good for me to write them out and put them into the world, a nice release you know? well on to the meat of it...

recently we've had a baby explosion in our life, which is so wonderful and makes us more excited for the arrival of our little one. this weekend i was able to see one good friend's new baby (3 month old so not that new anymore!) and talk to a friend with a 3 week old over the phone. i was reminded how hard it is to have a new baby for the first time and all the emotions and thoughts that go into that fourth trimester! i also remember feeling so lost and almost paralyzed at times by indecision and not knowing if what i was choosing to do was "right" or the "best" thing to do for eli. such a hard time! so i wanted to write a post about some of my thoughts about what we new parents need in the very beginning and reminders of what we need throughout our whole journey as parents. these are just my thoughts, you may disagree or think otherwise and that's fine. it's just some of what i feel i've learned these past few years and need to remember as this little one comes.

be careful with parenting books

the credit should actually go to my mom for this one! before eli was born she reminded me that babies don't read parenting, sleep, feeding, "approaches" books or any books for that matter. each baby is unique and may take a little from every book, a lot, some or none at all. i think for me this was one of the hardest things to learn and remember. i like to read and "have a plan" and babies don't do that, especially newborns! they don't have schedules, they're not predictable, they don't stay with the same thing or routine. which on one hand is so frustrating! but on the other it's a beautiful thing, a lesson that we need to go with the ebb and flow of life. not just march along on the set path we maybe envisioned for ourselves. life is a winding road with forks and switchbacks, hills and valleys and long stretches in which the road seems to go on for miles. i think that our kids teach us to enjoy the journey if we allow ourselves to let go of our set plans and enjoy our world around us. and if you've read a book that you think is good, go ahead and recommend it. but don't be offended if your friend doesn't agree or doesn't follow the advice. it doesn't matter, this is not about you or your baby. it's about their own unique family and it might just not work for them at this time. when we recommend books we always preface it with "this worked for us but it may or may not work for you. take it with a grain of salt, ultimately do what works best for YOUR family."

everyone has their own path

going from this parenting book idea is a reminder that every family has their own path and it is unique from one family to the next. what works in one family may not work in ours or in our friend's lives. it doesn't mean that it's wrong. it doesn't mean that they are going to screw their child up for the rest of their lives (obviously this excludes neglect and abuse). we need to extend grace to each other and stop making the families in our lives feel guilty for their choices. so a family chooses to nurse their baby to sleep or they have baby sleep in a nursery or they co-sleep. it doesn't matter, let's extend grace to each other and not push our agenda or ideals on another family. you have no idea what is going on behind closed doors or what dynamic is not obvious to you. let's approach each other with the attitude that if it works for you, it works for you. let's try to embrace that diversity and acknowledge the wisdom in each individual approach.

extend grace

first and foremost, let us extend grace to ourselves. having your first baby is HARD! the first 8 weeks (or longer) are really hard, your life has been turned upside down and inside out. it's okay not to be running errands on day 3 or even week 6. or only getting a half a load of laundry folded because you need to nurse and sleep almost all day. you've gone from a life centered around you and your partner (if that's the case) to a life in which a being depends solely on you. that is hard! we need to extend grace to ourselves when we just feel like there's no end or all we want is more than 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep and we resent our baby (again, obviously not if it leads to neglect or thoughts of harm, that's not okay). it's okay to have those emotions, being a parent is hard and we, as a society, don't talk about it! that was one of the things that we found most frustrating after having eli. no one wanted to talk about how hard it is with a newborn. people were taken aback when we said "we've learned we're not newborn/baby people, so this really sucks" which made us feel guilty. or made us feel like we did something wrong. extend grace to new parents, don't try and fit them into the model that you feel is best. give grace.

we're meant to raise our children in community

as a christ-follower, i believe that we have been designed for community. for me, the trinity ultimately exemplifies this concept and since i believe we are created in god's image i believe we NEED community. therefore, we need to raise our children in community. and i believe that community needs to be diverse, not a homogenous one in which we only include people who think and believe like us. it requires you be confident in your choices and your thoughts but willing to listen and be open to other ideas. one thing i love about the mothers, families, singles and couples that make up our community is that no one is the same! we all approach parenting and life a little differently but our main goals are the same. we just travel different paths to get there. we all want our kids to love others, treat people with respect, explore their world, challenge their world, seek out adventures. there have been many times where we've leaned heavily on each other to get through this life. amongst some of my closest mom friends we have a joke that our kids are screwed because instead of just having one mom they have 4 moms to contend with and keep track of them! it's good to share parenting with others and trust others to love your kids and help them develop into the amazing adults they're going to be someday. i strongly believe we're not meant to wander or navigate this life alone, that is an existence that is fruitless.

thank you for letting me put this out there and hopefully get it out of my head. maybe it will make some more space to start preparing for baby #2!

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