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!

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The best gifts for a new mommy

Now being a mom for six months, I’ve started to have some ‘ah ha’ moments. I understand why as a single gal when I went for coffee with friends, it was often quick or distracting. Hello, children. And when you do get together, all you talk about is your kids anyway. I understand why those first few months you feel like hiding out at home. You have a new normal to adjust to and your family of three (or however many) is of upmost importance to you. And when you do have a break, you just want to sleep anyway.

I’ve also learned of some easy ways ANYONE can bless a new mamma. Or a mamma with multiple kids. I think we are one of the easiest ‘tribes’ to please and make feel wonderful. So if you know of a couple who just had a baby, or is about to, here are some ideas of how you can make them feel amazing!

Before baby arrives…

  1. Freezer meals – breakfast and dinner! In fact, having meals and healthy options in the fridge is almost better than a ‘regular’ gift. Before Elizabeth arrived, my mother-in-law stocked us with several meals. I had also put together some slow-cooker freezer bags, breakfast sandwiches, Troy made waffles we could quickly toast, and we had also stocked up with some healthy quick Costco meals we could toss in the oven. Having both breakfast AND dinner options was wonderful, because, well, you NEED TO EAT! Moms need the calories but don’t always have the mental energy to put something healthy together. I don’t think I brought out the pots and pans for two weeks after she was born and oh how I loved that! Even if you go over to your friends house with cut up veggies and fruit, ready to eat, it’s an amazing blessings having healthy things to grab and fuel up on.
  2. Gift certificate for a pedicure and a massage. I did this about 10 days before Elizabeth was born and it was the most relaxing pedicure I’d ever had. Usually I hate pedicures (rub my callouses? No thank you!), but this one was amazing. Especially when your body is the largest its ever been, it’s nice to have polished toes and a relaxed back.
  3. Give Daddy and Mommy a gift certificate for a date night. It goes without saying that you treasure those moments as a couple before your family life changes forever. Troy and I took a four-day getaway to the coast and had some nice dinners out before our girl arrived and we’re so thankful we did! Not that we can’t now. But now it involves thinking about naptime, feedings, scheduling, and you think about her or talk about her the majority of the time you’re away from her! At least I do 😉 It changes your relationship and you want to treasure those times together.
  4. Clean their house! After Elizabeth was born, my Mom cleaned all my blinds and oh how I loved that! We had lived in a construction zone, so they needed it more often! This is something you could do before baby arrives to help the new mom feel like her home is clean and ready for a new baby. Wash her floors, clean the sheets, help with any storage needs she has … it’s SUCH A GIFT!

After baby arrives…

  1. Encourage them. Some of the biggest things I needed to hear were, “It’s normal to feel that way” or “you’re doing an amazing job!” Being called “Little Mamma” or having people tell me I was doing great would completely turn my day around. As new parents, you’re guessing. You don’t REALLY know what you’re doing and to have someone who has been there before tell you that you’re doing great goes a LONG way!
  2. Share your own mommy challenges. Somehow having another mom tell you how they struggled at first helps you feel like it’s normal to have an off day or struggle with self-doubt.
  3. Laugh about the hormones with them. Seriously. Make them laugh! I had an ‘ah ha’ moment at some point in the first few months that having a sense of humour about things would go a long way in sustaining me – both physically and mentally. Do I do this well? I try. And that’s all that matters. Actually, Troy told me one day that my sense of humour had increased or changed since becoming a mom. Happy sigh. I’m gonna need that humour. Hormones can be so wacky that if you as a friend, mentor or family member can find a way to put them at ease or make them laugh it will be a great gift to them!
  4. Pray for them, and tell them you are doing so. I was so blessed when friends would text that they were praying for me; about anything from nursing to sleep to hormones. But don’t just tell them you are praying for them, actually DO SO! Us mammas feel the prayers at 3am when we’re feeding, so keep praying for us! I so believe that God gifts us these children, and we are specifically graced for the kids we have. Psalm 127:3 actually says, “Children are a gift from the Lord.” When I remembered that, it made the hard days better, because I believe that whatever God gifts to me, He also gives me the grace for.
  5. Gift certificates! Whether it is for a Starbucks date for the parents, Superstore for groceries, or Costco for diapers and wipes, gift cards go a long way to help alleviate the sudden surge in the budget. It’s also fun for the parents to pick out what they like for their babe and having something to look forward to like a free latte is more wonderful than you know!
  6. Hug them. Seriously, just hug us.
  7. If you are going to go visit them and the new baby, ask them if they need anything from the grocery store. Not having to run out for milk and produce is a big gift!
  8. When you do visit, don’t stay long. The first few weeks especially, I found it hard to maintain conversation. I ran on adrenaline the first week or so, and then by week three, I was so tired. I should’ve rested more when she slept, but the fact was I liked the alone time or had things I wanted to do. But it’s true: rest when baby rests! So if you are going to visit a new baby, stay no longer than an hour. Drop a gift or do our dishes. Hold the baby, hug the parents, and be out the door! We can’t really maintain conversation beyond that point and even though we will insist you stay and cuddle our baby, what we really need is rest.

Having a baby has completely changed our lives. Not every day or moment is beautiful, but becoming parents has brought us more joy and love than we can describe. Having people rally around you goes such a long way as you navigate new waters! So if you’re wanting to be a blessing to someone, find some new parents – they will receive whatever you want to give!

Baby bump at home

As the weeks disappear quickly, we are getting closer and closer to meeting our baby girl! Last week Troy captured a few pictures of me and baby belly, just around our home. I think he did pretty great! We have booked a photographer for her newborn photos, but since I’m not a fan of cheesy maternity pics, I just wanted some simple ones to remember this season by. Now we just need to sneak Troy into some! 😉 Here’s me at 32 weeks pregnant with our little girl…

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Distracted by you

 

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Little one, I hope you know, that you are a treasure.

You came into our life, with hope beyond measure.

And the Lord blessed our prayer,

For we all wanted you to be here.

 

Now here you are, growing inside of me.

Every time I sit and ponder, it’s more of you I see.

Rolling like a waterbed across my growing tummy.

You dance inside, reminding me, I am soon to be a mommy.

 

Though I toss and turn at night,

It will only get worse, they say, as I hold my stomach tight.

I know that God has gifted you to us,

To help you become all you were meant to be. A trust.

 

Though it’ll be a transition for all, of that I am sure.

I choose to believe for joy and peace amongst the newborn blur.

Because this newbie mamma is letting go as we speak.

To someday show you that strength unbridled is not for the weak.

 

So this, my girl, I promise you, just two months before we are to meet.

That I will aim for grace, not perfection, and stand upon His feet.

To search for Jesus in every midnight feed and smile we share.

So that you, my girl, will always know how much we care.

 

Soon we will see you, as they lay you on my chest.

The long awaited glimpse, of who you resemble best.

With love we will welcome you, into your new home.

And cherish every moment as we watch you become.

 

For every dance, every song, and every sunrise yet to see together.

Will be a reminder that life with Him is always so much better.

Be brave little one, dream big and sparkle with all you’ve got.

Distracted we may be by you, we sure love you a whole lot!