My top 5 thoughts for new moms, after my first year

If you know me at all, I take any chance I can to be reflective – think about growth, change, and life. Now that Elizabeth is 1, I’ve done a lot of reflecting! From the months that Troy worked out of town (until Elizabeth was six-months-old), to him finding new work, to building deeper relationships as a new mom and figuring out what I need in this new season of life to thrive – it’s been a huge year. I actually had friends tell me, “You need to decide what helps you thrive as a Mom.” It was liberating, the though that I was given the freedom to choose to thrive as a new mom. And a little scary. What? You mean, someone can’t just TELL me what to do? There isn’t a manual for every stage that I can follow?

For me, it goes without saying that as a new mom, I needed a lot of Jesus and a lot of coffee 😉  If you’ve followed along this passed year here, you may have seen the refining and drawing close that God has done in my heart.  The ways, or moments, I have found to still lean in to the Lord and learn more about Him. In my heart, I feel a deeper love for God than I did a year ago, and that makes me happy. Because that is His work in me, not of my own strength (because there has been reduced amounts of that this year!)   I think God holds new moms especially close, and I hope that you, as a future parent, give yourself a lot of grace as you grow in to a very important, amazing, challenging, and beautiful new role in life.

I read this the other day and thought it was so beautiful… Isaiah 40:11 (NLT), “He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.”

This is for those of you moving into parenthood who maybe don’t have a lot of friends or siblings to glean from… Take what works for you, and hopefully it will help you along your journey xo

My Top 5 Thoughts For Future Moms…

  • Hormones are natural, okay, sometimes hard, and are just a part of the process

Sometimes I like a good cry, but if I don’t know WHY I’m crying, then I’d really rather not. Like, can we just get this over with and move on? The first month especially I would have random bouts of tears about who knows what, and I tried my best to embrace them as part of the healing process, but it isn’t easy! I had friends encourage me in those days that it’s okay to have a good cry – life has just drastically changed. But if you can look at hormones as a sign of life – our body regulating itself, changing as it needs – it’s actually a beautiful thing. Some things that are uncomfortable are meant for our healing and we just have to be okay with that. (key the soft music that signals that I am still majorly allowing the Holy Spirit to work on this in me!)

That said, it’s okay to cry. Lean in to your husband, let him hold you. Your body just gave LIFE so it’s going to take time, and changing of hormones, to re-regulate.

I also felt lots of anxiousness at times. I was so nervous about putting her in her car seat (hello new parent!), or driving with her on my own, at first. It seemed like such a daunting task to now have this little human to take everywhere with me! Worry about a new little human that is now in your care is natural, just make sure it doesn’t consume you, or that you have someone to talk to if it does. That said…

  • You NEED other moms

This isn’t even a suggestion, it’s an absolute necessity! They say it takes a village to raise a child, well, I think it takes a village to raise a mom!! Before and since Elizabeth, I have felt so surrounded by friends from advice to texts of “It’s okay, that’s normal” kind of thing. I also have a mom’s group at church, and have been blessed to have friends to do coffee and playdates with throughout this journey. Without a doubt that has eased my worries, questions, doubts and fears as a new mom. You need people who have been there before, even if every child is different.

  • Get used to change. It’s now constant.

Just when I felt like I was starting to get the hang of a schedule, or what Elizabeth was doing, she’d go and do something new! Or have a night, or day, where sleep was out of the question, and I had no idea why. I’d cram my brain, trying to think of what I’d done different or what may have thrown her off. But at the end of the day, I had to realize she’s a baby growing at rapid speeds, and it just is what it is.

I’d like to think that motherhood is teaching me to go with the flow more. A bit 😉 That’s not a natural state for me, so I am sure that part of my personality will continue to be challenged and grow as she continues to change!

  • You really will love every stage

I LOVED four-months-old. She was sleeping steadily, happy happy baby. Gave us her first giggles around that time. And then teething. And then eating. And then dropping a nap. And moving. But you know what? There was still something in each change that knocked our socks off with cuteness that we loved and adored. Even though I loved the first 12 months so so much, I know that as she grows into herself, we will keep loving every stage – challenges and all.

Aside from marrying Troy, becoming a Mom has been the best gift – and also demanded the most from me. Your time is no longer your own, and you learn to become super organized and multitask (not successfully every time! I have burned A LOT of things this year!) But it takes ALL of you. But it’s also thoroughly worth it. I know some day, when our babies are moved out, Troy and I will look back and think “those were the best years”, raising our family. So I intend to soak up every minute the best I can.

  •  Love your home, and get good at being at home.

Before Elizabeth was born, I was doing contract work from home – due to timing of getting married, my work, moving, etc. I wasn’t able to find full-time work, so I actually never had a maternity leave. God has been faithful to provide!

That being said, being home a lot before she was born was an absolute gift. I had a huge transition after we got married and moved and I went from working in an office full of colleagues, to working at home in a 500sq ft suite.  I’m sure glad we had our dog! It was a MAJOR adjustment, filled with a lot of emotion and learning to give myself some grace. If you want to read more about that season of life, you can buy my book here, called After I Do.

Had I not had that time to adjust, I can see how going from working full-time, maybe 2-3 weeks off, and then a baby arriving, can cause some people to spiral. What? I now have to be home alone all day with this baby? I think that if you can get used to being home a lot, and loving your four walls, then that will go a long way to helping your adjustment once baby arrives. Have some flowers, pretty pictures, nice pillows, or whatever… have some sanctuary. Because being a new mom, especially the first year, requires A LOT of home time, and you want to enjoy it as much as you can. Naps and sleep are a priority, so for me, there were a lot of days where either we didn’t go out, or we had quick one-hour errands and then back home again. I learned to shop for groceries online and schedule around her schedule as much as I could.

I think it was God’s gift to me to have some lengthy time at home before she arrived, as it helped me adapt when our little bundle arrived, because I was already quite used to being at home a lot!

***

There you are friends…my top 5 thoughts if you are becoming a Mom (or Dad!) in the next little while. God is holding you close!

xo

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Elizabeth’s first birthday party

I know this blog is generally thoughts on faith and home, but how can I not share some pictures of our daughter’s first birthday?

We had about 40 people in our home (adults and children) including friends and family. I had started in January collecting some decor when I saw something I liked, but honestly didn’t spend a lot. I used a lot of things I had such as the pink shutters, burlap, lace swag for her high chair, clothespins, hats for the photo booth (my great-grandma’s!), vases, etc. My dress was even something I had, from living outside London, England eight years ago! Who would’ve known then I’d wear it for my daughter’s first birthday 😉 I bought her cutie dress here at Children’s Place and her headband here.

I ordered a cute happy birthday sign, some simple photo booth props, and some pink artificial flowers from Michaels. I bought some fresh baby’s breath, and did little gummy candy treat bags for the kids that came. I had decided to do a small cake for Elizabeth (chocolate with whipped cream icing and strawberries on top), and cupcakes for everyone else. I didn’t want to be cutting and distributing cake to that many people! I took my mother-in-law’s advice and kept food simple. Our party was from 3pm-5pm, so it wasn’t around a meal time. Aside from cupcakes, we had pink lemonade and coffee, a veggie tray, bowl of strawberries, and a yummy cheese and chilli dip with an assortment of crackers. It was simple and I’m thankful we did it that way, as next year we may just do hot dogs and balloons 😉

We are so very thankful for everyone who came to celebrate our girl! As the crowded room began to sing happy birthday, I choked up, holding back the tears. Everyone was standing here with us loving on our girl, and my heart was ready to explode. It’s indicative of the year we’ve had.

We weren’t just celebrating her first birthday, in my heart, this weekend’s celebrations were about becoming parents as well; to all the change it meant and how it has grown us. There’s no one else I’d rather by my side than Troy for this journey, and to have family and friends surround us this past year has been invaluable. Thank you all, you know who you are xo

Here are a few pictures of set up, her first taste of cake, and some guests…

Happy birthday sweet pea!!

 

 

 

 

Little things are big things: what helped me in my first year as a mamma

 

I doubt any new mom would say their first year was a breeze. Would they? If they did, they’re probably lying or in denial in some way. It’s been a greater change to adapt to than getting married, FOR SURE. Between the hormones, time not being your own anymore, trying to understand your baby’s needs when they can’t communicate, and the opinions of everyone … including random coughing Walmart shoppers who decide they can touch your baby – it’s a complete life change. One that I wouldn’t change for anything, Elizabeth is such a gift! But it’s tough work and super rewarding all at the same time. Elizabeth is almost 10 months, and as I reflect on her ‘almost one year’ of life, there have been some definite things that have helped me navigate new waters.

1) Find a tribe – When I was single, I felt like the “mom group” was one I so wanted to be a part of, but had nothing in common with. I wanted to get to know those women better, but what does one talk about? Once I got pregnant, I suddenly understood why.

When mammas get together, all they talk about is their family. What stage your kids are at. What they won’t eat, will eat, how they sleep, won’t sleep. What school to choose. How you and your husband are doing, or not. It literally is what you connect on, and I finally feel like I can relate.

People talk about what matters to them, and for mammas, family matters to us the most. Home matters.

Since we moved shortly before we got pregnant, I’ve been adopted into ‘already set-up’ tribes of mammas, and because of a mom’s group at my church, I am learning to make friends with other moms. Not to say if someone is single or not married I won’t be friends with them, but there is something necessary in being a mother, that you need to have other mom friends. You just do. I don’t know how many times I’ve texted a friend asking for advice, or felt hormones off (especially in the beginning!), wondering if it was normal. You can’t mother alone, you just can’t. It’s something I crave and am having to learn to be vulnerable with, and let the Lord guide our relationships – both for Troy and I as a couple, and for me as a new mom.

2) Healthy lifestyle – I love good food. When I got pregnant, eating healthy took on a whole new meaning! That value has continued and has actually changed my taste buds. For real. I don’t eat half a bag of chips every night (not even kidding, I could before!). I prefer a bowl of yogurt with berries over a bowl of ice cream for dessert. When I grocery shop, I try as best I can to have lots of healthy options on hand. I now prefer making soup over the canned stuff. But I do believe that has served me well as a new mom, as I needed the fuel and the habit was there to help. Don’t get me wrong – I still love my black licorice and cookies. It’s about balance 😉

I TRY to exercise about 3x a week. Now that the weather is cold, that looks like a pilates or yoga video, or jumping on the elliptical while Elizabeth bounces in her jolly jumper. Sometimes it’s simple stretches, and other days it’s a bit longer. Once the weather warms up, we will get out for walks, but for now, this works!

3) Getting out to see people – For me, I like to get out for a coffee/play date once a week, and out of the house daily, if weather will allow. In our recent -25 weather, many days have become PJ days, so I really feel the cabin fever! I count down the minutes to when Troy comes home! On the days when we can’t get out, I try to Skype my parents or talk to someone, as mothering can get very lonely. Every week I try to connect with a friend or have some ‘social outing’ for Elizabeth and I. This kind of goes with #1. Some people may need to see and socialize daily, but for me, as long as I get some friendship/connection time in weekly, I am good. Getting out in general is good for me, but I’m not one that needs fun connection time every single day. I am looking forward to spring, when E and I can take the dog out for walks/runs, have picnics with friends, and explore our community (as she’ll be walking sometime this year, yay!).

4) Quiet time/connecting with Jesus – This really should be #1. It’s staggering to me how we as Christians can think that we can live victoriously, joyfully, peacefully – whatever – without pursuing to know the One who made us and saved us.

Becoming a wife was refining, and so has becoming a mother. You realize the sin in your heart more, and your desperate need for a Savior. I’ve always valued my time with the Word and just soaking up my Father, and now it’s even more precious. Once Elizabeth was on a bit more of a routine, and I could somewhat predict her wake-up time, I started to set my alarm about an hour earlier. I know, WHAT?! Wake up BEFORE the baby even wakes up? Yep. I get my coffee and do my devo or reading, meditate on God’s goodness – whatever I am soaking up at that time. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t spend an hour, but sometimes it’s 20 minutes or 45 of resting my heart in God’s hands before the day begins.

I think you can have your devo’s any time of day that works for you, but there is something about the mornings. Proverbs 8:17 says “…those who seek me diligently find me…” (ESV) Some versions use the word “early” (NKJV) instead of diligently. You can also find this in Psalm 63:1 – early/earnestly David seeks the Lord. Sometimes this time doesn’t happen until nap time, and weekends I find harder, but God shows up for us mothers in a sweet way. In our long hours at home, I believe that we can set the tone and welcome His presence in our seemingly menial and routine tasks. Sometimes I’ll start worshiping and Elizabeth will belt out “ahhahahahaha”, and my heart melts. I want to teach her to love God’s Word and worship Him in every season, so my heart is surrendering to God daily for help with that as the Holy Spirit shows me how.

Currently, I am using Timothy Keller’s study of the book of Galatians as a guide for my devo time. I find I need some sort of anchor to steer me in this season when time is unpredictable.

5) Time with hubby – I am ever grateful that my mother-in-law lives close, as she has enabled us go get out on date nights almost every month. Funny thing, when you do finally get away from baby, all you want to talk about is her 😉 Sometimes time with hubby is us playing a game (we recently bought Trivial Pursuit 2000’s!), snuggling up with a movie and snacks, or going to bed early because that’s what we need. Our favourite is getting out on the weekend, us three, and grabbing a Starbucks for our outing. We have the best conversations when driving, so it feels like quality time for me! Troy and I joke that my love language is all five – quality time, words, touch, service, AND gifts. Seriously, love me in any way and I will soak it up!!

6) Soak it up – People tell you it goes by quickly, and it does. So I’ve been capturing pictures, video, sitting on the floor lots with my girl, and writing down memories and cute things she does. I know that being home with my girl is a gift, heck being a mom is a gift in itself, so I don’t take it for granted. Quieting the world of to-do’s definitely helps me still my heart to what matters – loving my family well in this season with the grace God gives me.

7) Grace, lots of grace – As previously mentioned, I think one of the biggest things I’ve needed to receive and learn this year is how to receive grace from God, when I don’t know what I’m doing. Give myself grace, when I feel guilty about something or think I could or should be doing something better. And give grace to Elizabeth, when she naps 25 minutes instead of the coveted 1.5 hours. You just can’t predict every moment, and for someone who is a planner, I’ve had to learn to “let go and let God” so to speak. Well, still learning that one. 😉 Remembering that becoming a mom is likely one of the biggest life changes you’ll ever experience, will hopefully enable you to cut yourself some slack and give grace on the days you need it!

So there’s my top 7 things that have helped me as a new mamma. Hopefully some of that will ring true for you too!

A letter to our baby girl: sweet one, keep looking up

You do this thing where you look up to the ceiling when I burp you. Enraptured by our gallery wall or the lights, you could stare for days. I wonder what goes on inside of your sweet mind, and marvel at your cuteness.

You have completely and totally changed our lives in the nine weeks since you arrived, and the adventure has but begun. As the spring rain finally pours down outside, you sleep softly next to me – wrapped in a pink afghan as The Piano Guys play softly. I count not the days anymore, but the hours to your next feed. Everything is now done quickly – eating, showering, laundry and the few minutes of exercise I try to squeeze in before you call to me again!

I’ll admit, I was afraid of post-partum depression or falling apart in trying to hold you together. Yet God’s peace has sustained in such a perfect way. Oh baby girl, there were days, and still are, where I cry in wonder or tiredness.  There are also amazing sweet moments where Daddy and I laugh and melt at the sight of you, and scary moments like last night where I just did not know what to do; feeling helpless, I called out to Jesus. I find this new parenting thing to be a constant dance of embracing and letting go. The dance of grace; I will teach you the steps one day, darling.

You are growing far too quickly, yet that is a sign of health, so I don’t wish it away. I can see in you a sweet personality developing, and that makes my mamma heart so happy. I could just kiss you all over. And do.

Since time is of the essence these days, I find myself most encountering the Lord as I sing Jesus Loves Me over you at night, more than the daily devotions and habits I had so established before. Part of me struggles with that, and then I remind myself to receive God’s good grace to find a new normal as your mom. And that Father God will meet with me right where I am at.

You know what anchors me when I feel unsure of what to do, my little girl? Knowing that you are a gift, straight from God to us. Your name means “pledged to God” and in the moments when I don’t know what to do or feel overwhelmed, I remind myself that God gave YOU to US and He will enable us to be your Mommy and Daddy!

In fact, I was counting my blessings yesterday, you being one of them, and realized how I am living my dream with your Daddy. I have an amazing husband, you an amazing Daddy, we both enjoy our work, own a home, have you in our lives now, we are healthy and love our families. What more could we ask for? Sometimes in the hustle I forget that you were once what I prayed and asked God for. With you in our lives, we are living our dream, Elizabeth.

So Daddy and I will continue to sing praises over you, continue to lean into grace, and continue to love you with all of our hearts. I look forward to more shopping trips like yesterday (as you smiled at me in the change room, as though approving what I had chosen to model), adventures in the kitchen and beyond, and watching your little personality take flight sweet one.

Elizabeth Grace, we will keep looking up, just as you do so very often. You are a good gift, from our very good good Father. We love you baby girl!