When a Newborn Joins the Family (A Letter To Myself)

Dear Alicia,

You now have three months of experience as a mother of two, and there are a few things I’d like to remind you about this newborn stage in case you happen to get big and pregnant again and don’t remember what it was like to welcome a new member to the family.

Most importantly, please know that it will get better.

She will start to cry less, and you will come to terms with the fact that your schedule and rhythm will never look like it once did.

Here are a few other things I’d like to encourage you with (numbered, since there is a good chance you are hormone-charged or sleep-deprived).

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  1. You can’t help the fact that your baby would rather be back inside the womb.

I’ve heard it referred to as the “fourth trimester,” when the baby just wishes she were back in the darkness, surrounded by warm fluid, and getting to listen to your heart beat. It’s not your fault that even when she is fed, changed, and burped, she is still unhappy.

It’s okay to try things to make her feel better, but then you need to quit feeling guilty if she’s still uncomfortable and just not enjoying having to sleep on her back. She’ll get used to life just like you are getting used to a new stage.

She’s never known what it’s like to be hungry or have air bubbles inside her tummy. The only way she can communicate her feelings–ranging from slight annoyance to pain–is through crying. She’s experiencing the first sensations of what it means to live in a broken world.

Just think what wonderful news you’ll be able to share with her in the coming years as her tears find meaning, purpose, and healing in the forgiveness of Jesus.

  1. Life is going to be different, and you won’t be able to imagine how.

Over the past 2 ½ years, you’ve worked out different schedules with Isaiah–when to shower, read your Bible, and how to get household tasks done. But throwing a newborn into the mix will totally shake up the routine you’ve settled into.

Your previous way of life was not bad or good, it was just a different stage that you’ll never be able to return to. And this new life, with its unpredictability and having to divide your energies between two little people is exactly what God has called you to because He allowed them into your family in the first place.

Don’t worry about preparing yourself or trying to imagine how you’ll fit a newborn’s needs into your schedule. You won’t be able to. You’ll just have to find a new rhythm.

If you expect there to be unexpected circumstances to deal with (ex. Toddler pooping in the tub, clothes to rinse out from diaper blowouts, mysterious fussiness), you can see them not as interruptions, but as part of your schedule. It’s another way God is loosening your desire for control over your life.

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  1. There is no schedule.

You thought a few weeks in that if you got the right advice or kept perfect track of feedings and nap times, you’d be able to predict and conform Hosanna’s needs to your schedule. You saw her as a machine, thinking that if you’d punch in the right numbers, she would respond in a certain way.

You thought that if you only planned ahead well enough, you could avoid embarrassing situations like diaper explosions and finding a place to nurse in public.

Or when she didn’t nurse or sleep before you left to go to a restaurant or someone’s house, you imagined that when you got there, she would cry without taking a breath, and you’d have to endure helpful suggestions like, “Is she hungry?”

Sometimes if she was crying and you tried to nurse her, she screamed louder and pulled off, only to be doused by a spray of milk, (while everyone around was trying to ignore the all-out war going on under the nursing cover).

Unfortunately, worrying about it in advance won’t keep it from happening. On the other hand, she might sleep the entire evening because newborns are just that unpredictable.

Whether you get compliments on what a good baby she is, or whether you hide in a corner to avoid the pitying glances, Jesus is going to be with you, because His grace is always in the present.

You don’t have to imagine what it’s like raising eight kids because He gives grace for what He has entrusted to you.

On a practical note, once you’re three months in, there is still not much of a schedule. It’s more about being aware of the general times she’s eaten and slept and trying one or the other if she’s fussy. She might be awake for only a half hour or maybe two hours before she wants to sleep again.

And you won’t be able to fix everything with nursing. In fact, sometimes your letdown made Hosanna choke and get even more frustrated.

But it’s okay, because newborns are really bad at holding things against you.

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  1. Goals should be held lightly.

Everyone else who seems to be running around and getting a lot accomplished probably aren’t having their sleep interrupted every three hours at night. It makes a huge difference!

Your mentor Natalie had to remind you that during this stage, you should only have goals if you want to have goals, especially with your writing.

And do you really need to vacuum that often?

When Hosanna came along, jobs that had previously taken twice as long because of Isaiah’s toddler “help,” doubled again because her eating and sleeping-on-your-shoulder preference invaded every previously free block of time.

Try to think of getting your tasks done sometime during the week rather than sometime during the day, (or even sometime during the month).

Even your goal of getting in a nap won’t happen many times, (though it certainly doesn’t hurt anything to try), but it will be another reminder of your weakness and that Jesus wants to be strong in you.

In the fog of tiredness, you may be wondering if this is really how God is wanting you to spend your days. As Christopher had to remind you, you will never get it right all day every day, but that is exactly the point. Christ’s finished work on the cross accomplished everything needed to bring you into right standing before the Father.

He is inviting you to receive His love and rest as part of His perfect will for you.

  1. You may not feel a whole lot of affection for your newborn, but it will grow.

Those first few days and weeks were filled with Hosanna’s lung-strengthening demands, without even the courtesy of eye contact.

When you are jolted out of sleep for the third time that night, remember that all that sacrificial giving isn’t a way to show you how strong you are but that Jesus is the only One who can keep loving through you.

It’s okay to cry when she does.

Soon you will begin to see the twitches of a smile when she meets your eyes. And though it won’t make everything better, it will help. She’ll start to enjoy watching the goings on outside the womb, and be entertained by the funny sounds that come out of her siblings.

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  1. Have more dates with your husband in the first three months.

It’s easy to let those first weeks be consumed with trying to keep your little people happy. You were scared to leave Hosanna with anyone because if she was fussy, you felt like it was somehow your fault.

When you went on an anniversary date with Christopher, the frozen breastmilk bags split down the sides as they thawed, and she refused to drink the formula you sent as back up. Your mother-in-law said that she cried, and it was okay.

It was fine.

When you live in community, people aren’t expecting you (or your children) to be perfect. They aren’t sitting around waiting for thank you notes for the meals they brought. They’re letting Jesus love through them and giving you even more reasons to lift up praises to Him.

Just take the risk, and be thankful for the family who are willing to watch your kids.

And when you’re with your husband, don’t worry about trying to make deep conversation happen. Just enjoy each other.

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  1. You probably won’t like the way your body looks.

Just as you need to fight against the thoughts that make you think your worth is determined by what you accomplish, you need to hold up that shield of faith in front of your new post-pregnancy body.

You bear the marks of carrying another of God’s image-bearers into the world.

It’s okay to share with God your disappointment, but ask Him to open your eyes to see more of His greatness, so that you can see yourself and others as He sees you—a redeemed, adopted daughter among many other beloved creations.

  1. It’s okay to mourn the sacrifices.

You knew there would be lost sleep and crying, but when Hosanna actually came, you had to allow yourself to acknowledge the pain, so that you could bring your feelings to Jesus.

Of course someone else has it worse, but that doesn’t make giving up sleep, writing time, relaxation in the evenings, and quiet conversations with your husband unimportant.

When Isaiah was a newborn, you were able to get some good reading in while you nursed, but this time it’s been filled with conversations about the difference between an excavator and backhoe and what dinosaurs eat. (Or someone shouting “Mommy I need help!”  from across the house.)

You also used to have a block of time each day to write, but now even your moments to yourself have had household details pulling at your attention and a tiredness that’s made your  brain feel like part of it was slipping out the back of your head.

Allow yourself to mourn the ability to concentrate and the fact that your eyes get more tired looking at a screen.

Don’t fear that your writing will be permanently hindered because you can’t keep up with the quantity you were used to. God is not limited by your abilities. If He wants to keep using your writing, He will. What success are you really after anyway, if not to be led into the opportunities that God provides?

Your loving Father has so much more to teach you and so much more love for you to experience. Let your hope be in Him, Alicia, because that’s all that really matters.

Love,

Alicia

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2 thoughts on “When a Newborn Joins the Family (A Letter To Myself)

  1. Alicia, This is again a masterful and commendable task in describing the changes that come with parenting. I read your ponderings with gratitude and appreciation.

    At one point, I thought tears might begin, but later chuckled at your insight and conclusions. I confess that I am highly amazed at your thinking and writing ability. You are engaged in a significant ministry.

    I enjoyed the photos.

    May God be your daily portion, providing wisdom strength and confidence in your journey. You will do well.

    Uncle Paul

    Liked by 1 person

  2. oh this was so good, Shisha and I just love seeing the pics! Thanks for including those. Wow, they are both growing so much! And it’s good for those of us who aren’t parents to know the challenges cuz it helps us pray for you more specifically and empathize more when there are screaming babies around us! 🙂 And I got a kick out of the question about the difference between a backhoe and an excavator! It’s amazing how much their brains can absorb at such a young age! And if you know that one, I’m impressed! Hugs, Bon

    Liked by 1 person

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