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!