When I had my first baby, I thought my life was over. Of course I loved my son, but in the sleepless fog and hormone roller coaster I was in, I still thought my life was over. I felt like I'd be on a three hour nursing schedule or at least attached to a breast pump for the rest of my life. Although that's a bit dramatic, my lack of confidence and knowledge about mothering (and exhaustion!) were very real.
In thinking about stages of mothering, the first baby stage has been the hardest for me. That stage presented challenges that I had never faced before and, with the challenges, there are also temptations. Here were my primary temptations as a new mom, most of them thoughts. Perhaps you new moms can relate.
- If my child doesn't do things "by the book," I'm a bad mother. I read What to Expect When You're Expecting and practically memorized Babywise so I was shocked when my baby didn't sleep, play, or poop on schedule (or command). I believed a baby's temperament was evidence of a mother's ability so I grew flustered when I couldn't get him to stop crying, especially around others. Another temptation closely related to this one was to compare myself and my son to other moms/children, especially as the baby milestones approached.
- I idolized sleep. I thought about sleep like I imagine a drug addict thinks about drugs. If I could just get sleep, everything would be right in the world.
- I felt guilty for wanting/needing time away from the baby. On his day off, Kyle sent me away for the short time between feedings to do whatever I wanted. I spent half of the time thinking that I didn't know what to do with myself anymore and then the other half feeling guilty for being away.
- I clamored for things to do. As a stay at home mom, my tendency was to fill up my schedule, running myself and my baby all around town each day, rather than being purposeful and selective with my time and energy.
- I mourned my old life, thinking my baby was a burden rather than a blessing. I cringe to think about how much I complained to Kyle at the end of each day during that season. I also resented that the baby kept me from doing many of the things I did pre-baby.
- I figured a "good mom" sacrificed all else for her child. It's a challenge to prioritize time with the Lord, marriage, church life, and friendships when you have your first baby (ok, all the time, but especially when you have your first baby). It is a temptation to think that "good" moms give up everything for their precious little bundle and to feel guilty when you choose anything other than the baby.
None of these are true or good. My life wasn't over when I had my first baby. It just became infinitely more challenging, especially to my self-centeredness.
If I could go back, this is what I'd do:
Cut myself some slack.
Take breaks when I needed it and not feel guilty for needing it.
Enjoy the blessing it is to have a baby.
And, most importantly, remember that I'm never more like Jesus than when I'm serving.