I’m still a new mom. My son isn’t even half a year old yet so me writing to all the
future new moms out there seems a little ridiculous, I’ll be the first to admit that. But at church on Sunday John and I had a friend ask us what it was like to be new parents – we told him the usual, “It’s hard but worth it etc.” but I really wanted to find his wife who was only a few months pregnant and sit down with her and share a few things. Maybe I feel compelled to share with you now because I’m not so far removed from it so I don’t really have the luxury of sugar-coating my experience thus far.
I want to share with you (new mama and soon-to-be mama) some mistakes I’ve made and lessons I’m currently learning as a mom who is only a few small steps ahead of you. You could even say I’m just a few BABY STEPS ahead of you. Get it?! HA! I need more sleep, I know. I KNOW.
3. Pray all the time – This sort of happens naturally because the moment you hear your child announce himself into the world you think, “Oh God. That’s mine. What am I doing?” If you have a personal relationship with God then it’s like starting the longest and greatest conversation with Him. If you don’t have a personal relationship with Him, let me just encourage you to think about it. The gospel of Jesus sets you free. It doesn’t mean you won’t screw up, just that when you do, you’ll have the Living God to hold onto and move forward with. It’s mind-blowing.
Moral of the story is, you aren’t supermom. You are your child’s mom. Your child needs you desperately – warts and all. You will mess up. You will slip and fall while caring for them both literally and figuratively if you’re lucky like me. You are perfect for this job. If nobody else is telling you – I will! And I hereby grant you the freedom to indulge yourself in truth, good people, prayer and caffeinated beverages. Never ever be afraid to ask for a caffeinated beverage.
This morning at church John and I dedicated Samuel Charles to the Lord. It’s an important step in our parenting journey – the moment where we publicly acknowledge before our church family that our hope for our son is intimacy with Christ and life lived fully on His mission.
And this morning was a hot mess.
It started with Samuel waking up happy and bubbly as can be. I fed him and played with him and all was normal and fine until I realized – nap time is exactly when we needed to be at the church, standing in front of a bunch of people and solemnly praying over our son. Uh-Oh.
If there’s one thing John and I are so grateful for, it’s that Samuel now has a routine. He is so much more predictable than before. Yes it could change. We KNOW. But for now it is such a life-saver. With that in mind – whenever this routine is meddled with be it a doctor’s appointment, errands, or a baby dedication, our little munchkin doesn’t easily “go with the flow.”
And so, as he rubbed his sleepy eyes and yawned his ginormo yawns, I packed him in the car seat while withering under his icy stares and fussy protests. “MOM. THIS IS NOT MY CRIB. WHY DO YOU HATE ME RIGHT NOW?!” It’s OK though because mom and dad had this awesome game plan involving strapping him onto mom during the service in the hopes that he would fall asleep and all would be well. La de dah. Bippidi- Boppidi- NOPE.
Now we’re in the church parking lot. He fell asleep during the 8 minute drive to church BECAUSE OF COURSE. John looked over at me, standing in the parking lot with the carrier strapped on then back at our sleeping son and said, “Ugh. I hate this.” I did too but I knew he wouldn’t last in that carseat more than 10 minutes and the idea of pulling him out of the carseat just to bring him in front of the congregation wailing like a drunken Pentecostal was just not cutting it for me. So we strap him in, he protests only a little but is now extremely awake and had the scowl to prove it.
Then, seconds later, mama slips and falls on a patch of leaves scattered on a slope of the parking lot. I fell backwards (thank GOD), caught myself before my butt could actually slam into the pavement and managed not to tweak or twist any joint or ligament. It was just as much a debacle as a miracle. The greeters at the door gasped as did the people walking into church. “HA!” I said. “Of course.” This isn’t the first time I’ve slipped and fell in public (HELLOOOO High School Senior Awards ceremony) and it probably won’t be the last.
I took T-Swift’s advice, I shook it off. I also gave Satan the middle finger because he always deserves it. Especially on Sunday mornings where I’m convinced he works overtime to rattle God’s people. I have many pastor and pastor wife friends who will back me up on this theory.
We make it into the service and find our seats. The dedication is one of the first things of the service yet Samuel is getting more and more determined to remind us that he is tired and we’re making him miss his nap and he’s not amused. Our pastor finally says, “The Lavoie family” and we hustle to the front while I shove a paci in Samuel’s mouth and pray a silent prayer of, “Get us through this with no wailing and/or pooping, amen.” A part of the dedication was the parents writing a small prayer to pray over their child. I had sent John the prayer in an email yesterday once we had it all put together. 10 seconds before going to the front of the room, I saw it on John’s phone screen — he was ready.
Then we get up to the front and John (who just
loves public speaking, by the way) looks down at his phone and the email is gone. There is no explanation. So I fumble my phone from my butt pocket, locate the prayer, hand my phone to John who then asks the congregation to “Pray FOR me” instead of “pray with me” — and John and I just couldn’t help but laugh at how that Freudian slip was so well-timed and accurate. In fact, everybody laughed — the parents loudest and longest. We’re riding this crazy train together after all- SOLIDARITY.
John did such an awesome job praying over our son. Despite it all, it was a sweet, solemn moment that I will always cherish. Well done, babe. And another middle finger for Satan.
The rest of the service was spent with me walking all around the church both outside and inside to get Samuel to fall asleep. He did. For 30 minutes. Then he woke up right as communion was being served so I snuck into a room to nurse him before bringing him out as the service ended.
At the end of it all, we stood before our church
family with our son and said, “We are in this and we need you.” And we received a collective, “We’ve got your back.” It was good and right and done well. Also – get a load of John and Samuel’s matching outfits. SO MUCH CUTE.
**Many people told John after the service that they loved the prayer for Samuel so I wanted to share it with you here. If you’re a parent, I hope it encourages and inspires you to love your children towards the saving grace of Jesus.**
“Father, we acknowledge that Samuel was yours before we heard his voice or felt his heartbeat or held him in our arms. We ask that you would quickly and completely captivate the heart of our son. Create in him a heart that seeks your face, a mind that delights in the things above and a body that serves and grows in strength and humility. We recognize that the establishment and endurance of a life of discipleship ultimately belongs to to you, the Author of our Salvation. He must choose you for himself and not just piggy back on our faith in you. We ask that you compel him with your irresistable grace and give us wisdom as his parents to nurture his curiosity, encourage him in his gifts and disicpline him in his waywardness. Thank you for the privilege it is to raise this child, give us the patience and perspective to do it all with great joy. Amen.”
6 weeks into being a mom. It’s time to get a few confessions off my chest. Maybe you can relate, maybe you can judge. The only thing I’m certain of is this “confessional” will get longer as Samuel gets older.
Here we go y’all:
Sometimes when I’m “shushing” Samuel I’m really just doing it to occupy my mouth and distract it from screaming in frustration or from saying the not-so-nice words that are bouncing in my brain as he claws and screams and cries a few inches from my face.
Sometimes I’m not smart enough to take deep breaths so I end up sobbing over the crib and begging this tiny human being to “please please please for the love of God fall asleep.”
Sometimes (OK every time) I giggle when I hear John’s commentary on the size of one of Samuel’s poops or when Samuel spits up on him. Nothing like being married to a fastidious person to make parenting that much more entertaining.
Sometimes I choose to listen to my bitter flesh and I seethe and grumble about my husband sleeping at night while I’m awake with Samuel.
Sometimes I sneak a moment of daddy-son time after John comes home from a long 10 hour day at work and I swallow back tears of gratitude because there is no better man for this job. I’m certain of it.
Sometimes my son makes me laugh so much and love so hard I think my heart is going to explode from joy.
Sometimes I have a beer even though I’m nursing.
Sometimes he’ll turn his head when he hears my voice as I enter the room and it makes me feel like the most important person in the world.
Sometimes I’ll scoop him up and chat with him while he’s awake and tell him about my day or about the squirrels scampering outside our window.
Sometimes I leave him propped up in the boppy or swinging in a swing while he’s awake and alert and I keep working even though his sweet little eyes are open.
Sometimes I pray over my son with eloquence and passion and sincerity. Dreaming of who God has made him to be and delighting in the idea that I get to see his life unfold in front of me.
Sometimes I can only pray, “Help.” or “Forgive me.”
Sometimes I leave myself no margins. I am walled in by my own expectations and standards and am left pacing inside of them, constantly disappointed in myself.
Sometimes I wake up determined to show grace and I feel like a super mom the whole day. Just totally nailing it with the diaper changing, feeding, working rhythm.
Sometimes I wake up determined to show grace and then proceed to bungle every opportunity I’m given. Every dirty diaper is taken personally and at the end of the day I’ve convinced myself for the umpteenth time that I can’t do this.
Sometimes I resent my husband for having a life that takes him outside the walls of our home several days a week.
Sometimes I stop in the middle of my day and give thanks for my hard-working, hands-on, hilarious husband who is an incredible source of support and encouragement to me.
Sometimes I wonder if it’s all actually worth it because I miss having stability and structure in my day. And dairy. I miss dairy. (this is only day 3 of dairy-free, by the way. So far I only daydream about cheese every 20 minutes or so.)
Sometimes I stay awake and watch my son sleep in his crib even though I know I should be sleeping because I’m overwhelmed with gratitude that I get to be his mom and I know that one day he’ll want his independence more than he’ll want my presence and I’m gonna have to let him go.
Well, let’s be honest. I’ve never been a consistent blogger since I began this endeavor over 5 years ago. BUT! From now on I will shamelessly abuse the “new mom” card and my son will absorb all the blame for his mother’s lack of discipline. I carried him around for 9 months, birthed him, etc etc.. so this is a small favor on his part.
Life as a new mom is now just life as I know it. On a personal level I feel like my emotions have been tossed in a blender on an almost hourly basis. This has improved (thankfully!) but the first two weeks I was certain I couldn’t look at my child without tearing up and swallowing a lump in my throat to keep from uncontrollable sobbing. Which would still happen anyway. On several occasions John would come home and find me sniveling all over our precious son while he slept next to me. He stopped asking, “What’s wrong?” and just patiently listened to me tell him how much I love our son or how undeserved a gift he is or thinking of all the children in the world who don’t have anyone who feels this way about them or whatever thought left me in such shambles.
I’ve encountered new physical limits in myself during this period too. Before Samuel entered the picture, I was utterly convinced that I would not be able to function like a normal human being on less than 8 hours of sleep. I was dumbfounded when I thought of how other moms had done it — little to no sleep at night? What the? NO. That can’t happen.
And then Samuel arrived and VOILA! Up at all hours of the night, surviving on 4 hours combined of sleep that was acquired between about 2,038 nighttime feedings/fussy periods (also – I’ve earned the right to exaggerate when it comes to what happens in the night. If I say he wailed like the last samurai hollering his final battle cry for FOREVER… it happened. End of story.)
Weirdly enough, the NOT working out has been pretty taxing on me too. Yesterday John and I toured our local YMCA (healthy living with built-in childcare for the WIN!) and when I saw the empty group exercise rooms I felt the niggling desire to just straight up bust a MOVE across the floor. Everyone say a prayer for my Zumba teacher — she has no idea what’s about to walk into her classroom in a few weeks. Anyways — not being able to lift a certain amount or being able to run or dance has been eating away at me and I am looking forward to the day where I can get back out there and reclaim my strength and endurance.
In addition to pushing myself harder than I thought possible in terms of physical strain, I have also learned how desperately I need other people to not lose my mind. Not just for the newborn stage of life either. I’m an extrovert who occasionally enjoys alone time but for the most part I need people. And I’m not just talking about needing people to bring food and change diapers and rock babies (though that has been SUCH a blessing). I need conversation and insight and relationship and laughing til I cry and words prayed over and for and from me. When John went back to work during Samuel’s second week here and my mom hopped on a plane and headed back to the East Coast, I knew I needed reinforcements like WHOA. I sent a SOS email and my people answered. I’m here to tell you, I have the best people. From giving me iced mochas or a chance to leave the house or take a shower or sneak in an afternoon nap or flying from VA just to spend a long weekend with me — they have been my lifeline. You know what they say, “It takes a village to raise a child and keep his mother from pulling all of her hair out while talking to the lamps.” Or something like that.
Now that Samuel is here and I can’t imagine my world without him, all of the craziness of the 24 hour labor experience seems to grow dimmer (a blessed side effect of passing time, thank you Lord) but I know it’s changed me permanently. Not just the scar on my abdomen but the new, deep place I entered with the Lord while I stared at bright lights overhead in a bustling operating room with my best friend sitting next to me, tears in his eyes but a sweet resolve to be strong for me when I needed him. It was there that I realized the shield of faith was made for scary places. It became a refuge and a fortress. I hid beneath the promises of Psalm 23, my exhausted mind only able to hold onto those first familiar five words, “The Lord is my shepherd.” That’s all I could remember and that’s all I needed.
Being a new mom has provided so many opportunities for me to experience the real presence of the Holy Spirit. My time spent in the Word has been woefully nonexistent while my prayer life has taken off like a rocket (usually between the hours of 1a – 5am). A sweet friend told me that my prayer life is “the heartbeat of motherhood” and I’ve seen that so much! I can’t even begin to imagine what it will look like as Samuel grows older (preschool? flu season? potty training? first crushes? prom night? OMG COLLEGE… MARRIAGE…IT’S TOO MUCH).
Overall, we have survived on the generosity and company of other people. I am slowly growing more confident in my role as a mom. I’m taking the time to celebrate little victories — like pumping enough milk for other people to feed Samuel, getting a 2 hour workday in, and any time I get to hang out with John is always a WIN. Thank you to everyone who has shown care or given encouragement to us during this time of life. It’s unlike anything we’ve experienced and we’re happily growing accustomed to this new normal as a family of three.
I’ll be 37 weeks tomorrow – AKA FULL-TERM!! So close and yet so far from holding my dear son in my arms. So before the munchkin arrives I wanted to share a little about my own pregnancy journey in a no-nonsense, no instagram filters, kind-of-way. This is probably the longest post I’ve written. Read at your own leisure/risk etc.
Your intestines – Jumping right in, let’s talk about bowels. During the first trimester I swore my body forgot how to poop. All my intestines basically stopped what they had been doing for the past 26 years to just stare at this new little lima bean growing in my womb while my digested meals were like, “Uhh. Guys? Are we just supposed to wait here?” Two words for you ladies: Stool. Softener. This became my first (of many) unglamorous companions of pregnancy. It was the friend I didn’t want other people to know I was friends with but secretly we had the best of times. Thank you docusate sodium, you were/are a game-changer.
Also? Heartburn. It happens. Especially in the third trimester. TUM TA TUM TUM TUUUMMS! But wait! There’s more! Gas. You thought it was bad when you ate that questionable Tex-Mex? Giiiirl. Just wait til you have a BIG BIG appetite and a SQUISHED SQUISHED intestinal tract. Every meal you ever eat will somehow manage to leave it’s mark on the environment around you. If human beings farted confetti, let’s just say pregnant women would be leading the parade. Just let your man know now — it’s gonna be death con 5 in the third trimester. And from what I’m told, it may never get better. So… who’s ready to snuggle?!
Your brain – Say goodbye to complete sentences and embrace the awkward pauses that will now plague almost every conversation you have (including those you have with yourself). To-do lists are a cute idea but if you’re like me, they just get lost with everything else, and the ones on my phone are no exception. One day I checked my phone and I literally clicked accidentally on a to-do list. And then as I read this list I felt increasingly useless and inadequate and incompetent as a mother-to-be and cried into my chocolate milk. Which leads me to the next thing.
Your hormones – Every woman experiences these suckers in a different way. I’d like to think I was pretty, you know, “low key” when it came to crazy emotional outbursts. But then John snarfed on the water he was drinking when I mentioned that perspective and I now realize I may have been a little more.. ahem.. unpredictable than I had imagined. *Note: The only time it’s OK to talk a pregnant woman out of a hormonal situation is when she’s convincing herself of what a terrible mom she’s gonna be/what a disaster this is etc. That’s no bueno. But if she just wants to rant for 5 minutes about how stupid bees are or needs to show you half a dozen hallmark commercials while sniffling into your shoulder.. just let it be.
Your extremities – This last trimester, I’ve convinced myself that my body is allergic to walking, thinking, breathing, existing anywhere that is not air-conditioned. When I walk for any amount of time in the heat, it’s like my hands and feet are all like, “Oh. So THIS is how you’re gonna be huh? THIS is how it’s goin’ down? Yeah. Ok. You can kiss your size 10 shoes GOODBYE. And I hope you weren’t planning on handling anything like a pen or your car keys because all of your fingers gonna be the size of a roll of quarters mmmk?” So, hello cankles. Apparently you’re a real thing.
Your sinuses – Ugh. This one was a real blow for me, ladies. Before becoming pregnant I had already woken up my husband more times than I could count with my snoring. And he um… he already wore earplugs to bed before we got married. (God is sovereign). Things got bad in the second trimester in terms of just how often I was waking him up in the middle of the night. I joked that I was preparing him for life with a newborn! He wasn’t buying it. And so enters, unglamorous pregnancy companion #2 – Breathe right strips. I had tried these in the past but not with much success. Still, I was desperate and I wanted to make it look like I was at least trying to silence the grizzly bear within. They helped a little bit. I still wear them to bed but I think they may only be operating as a placebo effect. John sees it on the bridge of my nose before falling asleep and thinks, “Well. Something is better than nothing.”
Your wardrobe – Let’s just say the number of maternity undergarments that inspire you to “be the best, sexiest you” based on their flirtatious patterns and designs are just… nowhere. Am I grateful for those who have thought about the comfort of the mama-to-be by creating underwear the size of circus tents? Yes. Very grateful. But I’d have to say that maternity underwear is my unglamorous companion #3. Do the words “granny panties” mean anything to you? They mean EVERYTHING to me right now.
Your body image – Being pregnant has legitimately challenged my self-esteem when I look in the mirror. The truth is, you gain weight when you’re pregnant! It’s healthy and normal and good for the baby. But maybe when people say you look great, you acknowledge it with a smile but then run away from iPhone cameras and selfies and embrace taking pictures of anything else. Ladies — I feel you on this. I weigh the most right now that I have ever weighed in my entire life. And even though it’s “normal” and “good” it’s also been hard and embarrassing. And it’s revealed to me how much it matters to me what I look like. Vanity is sneaky that way.
I’m still a work-in-progress on this one. I have resolved to step in front of the camera, to celebrate this season, and to drown out lies about unrealistic body image with the truth and wonder of being a vessel for new life. It helps when you have a husband who is so excited about your growing belly, too. And it always helps to laugh when you find yourself squatting to reach for something (unsuccessfully) or grunting like an old curmudgeon every time you get into and out of a chair. C’est la pregnancy! I bet my baby won’t give one thought to what I look like. He’s just gonna want to be taken care of and loved on like every child in this world. And I can confidently tell you, as I look into the mirror and smile at my reflection, that I am the BEST woman for that job.
So, as a recap – pregnancy upsets and shakes up and messes with you and your body. And pregnancy is a miracle. A big, granny-panty-wearing, stool-softening, cankle-forming, snoring, farting wonder. I raise my
bottle of water fast-food cup of Coke to you, fellow mamas-to-be out there. In solidarity we shall waddle to the finish line and celebrate the tiny little munchkins that will set us on yet another journey: To motherhood! To stool softener! To YOU.