Monday, February 25, 2013

Am I Really Content With Weakness?

I've been struggling with this whole blogging thing ever since my sweet angel princess baby was born. There's so much to say but so little that seems acceptable to say. The few times I've opened up about the highs and lows of motherhood it seems I have been chided and misunderstood and I wished I could just hit the reset button on the conversation.

But, I'm done with all that.

You all have probably seen the ever popular:


I keep seeing this/hearing this pop up everywhere--on other blogs, pinterest, and facebook posts. I feel like, especially for those who have been married for a good chunk of time, people are all too willing to sagely nod at this wisdom. So I can't help but wonder....why is it not so readily said of parenthood?

Am I amiss to say that the blessing of children isn't so we can fulfill our own selfish desires? That maybe it's more than the cute little clothes and shoes and pictures we take? Is it okay to say that--parenthood is really stinkin' hard, and maybe that's the point? Ultimately, parenthood is for our own sanctification?

Why is it okay to say that my relationship with my husband is so difficult, and that's why it's so edifying but I'll get less nods and more warnings of being ungrateful if I say, taking care of my baby is so difficult?

I'm pretty sure that when a wife opens up to other women about difficulties in her relationship with her husband, the answer is rarely: Oh but he's so cute, just enjoy him! I'd venture to say that most shared difficulties are met with understanding, advice, grace, and then encouragement. You may be walking through a difficult road in your relationship and that's okay. That's normal. But if you're walking through a difficult day with your child, isn't that normal, as well? Is it supposed to be easier to excuse the difficulty because the face of the difficulty is just so precious? I think there's something wrong with that. Our spouses are just as precious, just as adopted into God's kingdom and considered sons and daughters of a King, as our children are.

I'm convinced that--just like with my marriage--God didn't give me my beautiful little girl just to make me happy. He did it to refine me. To test me. To sanctify me. And nothing refines or tests or sanctifies like being utterly and completely challenged to your core.

This doesn't mean that being a parent doesn't make me happy. Again, just like with my sweet husband, being with my sweet baby brings me inexpressible joy. It doesn't matter if I've been pooped on, spit up on, or kept from sleep for days. I love to hold her. I love to look at her little face. Yes I'd rather be asleep at 2am but I'm not sorry to ever be awake with her. I enjoy my long days and short nights as much as I possibly can. I've been warned: It goes by quickly.

I've noticed that it goes by quickly too. Just today I was folding and putting away clothes she doesn't fit in anymore. It's hard to believe she ever was that small--even though it was just 2 months ago. The days are long but the months are short. The joy is inexpressible but the valleys are intensely deep.

I would venture to say that all wonderful things are riddled with this dichotomy. The ultimate example of this would be Jesus dying on the cross....no greater act of love has ever been shown than in death. There is love in death. There is joy in valleys. And there is strength in weakness. Thank you, Paul, for writing "But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." 

As a parent, a wife, and a Christian, I often fail in each calling. I am often weak. But I depend on a savior who never failed in any way in any capacity and so my weaknesses point to the cross. 

I think part of the reason why it's so hard to talk about how much we struggle as parents--especially mothers--is that all we want for our children is the best. We want to be the best give them only the best. There is this intense pressure to be that mom that can do it all and handle it all and still somehow manage to put on make up. But the Bible points us to our weaknesses and shatters the idea that we should somehow be super-flawless-mom who never has a bad day. It is when we depend on the Lord's strength, and not our own, that we glorify Him. 

I guess my rambling point is that I wish the stigma of mom-having-a-bad-day would go away. Yes, the "bad day" can be an issue of where mama's heart is aligned--is it with fulfilling her calling or with fulfilling her own desires?--but just like within marriage, and within our walks with the Lord, there are peaks and there are pits. There is no strength or wisdom in keeping the difficulties to ourselves, especially not in light of what Paul has told us about what our weaknesses point to. Just like married couples and christians should fellowship, lean on, and share their challenges with other married couples and other christians, parents should, too. 

Loving the Lord, loving our spouses, and loving our children doesn't make the walk easy. I would submit to you that its not supposed to be (Why else would we be told in Titus 2 that women must be "trained" how to love their husbands and children?). But I'm seriously loving it. I love the giggles and the poopy diapers and the adorable yawns. I'm incredibly humbled that God would entrust to me this little person and the privilege of meeting her needs. It is way more joy than it is pain, but you know I won't stop from being honest about that side of it, too. 

Sweet Angel Princess Baby

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What We've Been Up To

Clementine is going to be 8 weeks old tomorrow. She left the hospital at 6 pounds 2 ounces, 19 3/4 inches long and is now over 22 inches and about to tip 12 pounds! Clearly, the girl has no problem eating.

In the past few weeks she has discovered how to



box


chew on her hands




















smirk




















escape a swaddle




















and talk to birds!

I also have learned quite a few things. Here is a highlight of the things that I have learned over the past 8 weeks:

1. I will always bring a new mom food. Or, a seasoned mom with a new baby. Doesn't matter. It is so impossible those first few weeks to eat well, or eat at all. The stress of that is compounded by the sleeplessness and the fact that you're responsible for feeding another person, who wants to eat around the clock...ugh, it's miserable. And anyway, bringing someone food is such an easy way to bless them, I must must must make this a habit in the future.

2. Whoever coined the phrase "There is no use crying over spilt milk" was clearly a male. I'll never forget the night I had just put Clementine down after a solid hour of feeding her and I heard what sounded like rushing water. I thought, that's weird. And it kept going. I looked up and over at my precious little baby to find that she was projectile vomiting more liquid than I knew her tiny body could even hold. I jumped out of bed suuuuuper panicked and picked her up, getting wet in the process. And what did she start to do? Smile. She was smiling at me. Once I realized she was fine, it hit me. All. That. Wasted. Milk. An hour of work...and it didn't even go down the drain.

3. I will always suggest getting a swing. Remember a few blog posts ago when I was complaining about the well-intentioned advice of parents? Well for goodness sakes, I can't believe in all the earfuls I got that no one ever told me I should get a swing! A few weeks ago when she was the peak of her fussiness (to-date) and I was at the peak of my sleep deprivation, all the sudden folks were coming out of the woodwork saying "Well just put her in her swing. What? You don't have a swing? I can't believe you don't have a swing." Umm...THAT is the kind of the advice that is golden. (PS, she has a swing now, and she sleeps now.)

4. Never, ever tell a new mom that she will "just know" what her baby's cries mean. This was easily the most damaging piece of advice I've been given. It resulted in many sleepless nights of holding my baby and looking into her crying face and feeling like a terrible person/mother for not "just knowing" what was wrong. Sure, now that I'm 8 weeks in, there are times when I know what she's crying about. She's crying cause it's almost her naptime, or she's crying cause she wants a different moving object to look at but she grows and changes every week and I know we will continue to encounter things together, she and I, and neither of us will know what she's crying about. Every baby is different, so it's hard to say. My baby doesn't cry when she's hungry and she doesn't cry when her diaper is dirty but she does cry when she's tired....I know this now but she didn't come with an instruction manual. If I ever try to encourage a mother with that kind of advice it's going to be "AFTER AWHILE you'll know what she wants....some of the time." Thankfully a few moms were careful about their wording of this kind of advice but the majority weren't, and I'll be the first to admit being a new mom = being incredibly insecure.

5. On that note, I plan to always be very careful with the advice I give to a new mom. It's so easy to give advice when you're not the one that is sleep deprived. Clearly, one day I will forget what it feels like to have a newborn. It seems that most people around me have. So I just want to write this down now and remind myself as much as I need to to be very careful with what kind of advice I give a mom with a newborn. I don't think it's the goal of the first few weeks of having a new baby to pass with flying colors so much as it is just to survive. I hope that one day, after many hours of uninterupted sleep, eating to my hearts content, and seeing the outside sun, I never look down my well-rested nose at a mom with a newborn and, drawing from my well of knowing-it-all-ness, have something stupid to say like "Oh you should be doing X because then one day Y." No, I hope the only thing I'll have to say is "What can I do to make your day easier right now?"
   I'm writing all of this down more for myself than anyone. The more sleep Clementine gets and the more sleep I get, the more I can see how easy it is to forget how hard being a new mom can be. And all the sudden when she has a bad day and the stress is back in full force, wanting to remember all of these things in the future is even more on my heart.