What do you remember from your childhood? Tom Petty said, “I’m not really sure but it seems I remember the good times with just a little bit more in focus.” Do you? Or is it the trauma and difficulties that are really clear, remembering them in vivid detail? I am a visual learner but some hard things have made it really difficult to bring childhood images into focus. I remember really good trips to Disney which has made it my Happy Place ever since. My parents seemed to be different there. Away from their difficulties they could spend real time with us, distracted only by the magic. They smiled more, we laughed more. This is in sharp focus for me.
I also now realize, as an adult, how much they tried to keep from me. I know it was not appropriate for me to know most of it, but I felt it all. I am a highly sensitive person. Nature or nurture? Probably both. I felt a lot of things growing up and had very little training in how to deal with them. I think this is why I love Mr. Rogers' mission so much. Fred said, "“Anything that's human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.” I try to share what I can now with my teens. I know they can read me like a book. I wonder what memories will be in sharp focus for them. I think we as moms try very hard to engineer all these memories for our kids. I don’t know that older generations did it as much as we do.
Take for example, free play, I think (and am convinced by much research) that playtime is very formative for young brains and experimenting with your world is a good gift to give children of any age. Give and take in playtime is great for building relationships. We work so hard and often pay for structured playtime but I wonder if it is the best way. It seems this current pandemic and our long quarantine time has shown us what are the more necessary things. One thing I feel it has revealed is the need for the arts in our lives for restoration. I am willing to bet that you listened to music, watched a show or other broadcast of some live entertainment. If not, I am sure you did something creative. Designing your space differently or making something from scratch is creative and restorative. So if you have read this far you are probably waiting for me to get to the part about your newborn. Well, I do ramble but I also have a purpose for this topic. It is this, I want you to build joyful memories starting now. A big smile when you pick them up from a caregiver, no matter how your day was, is a start. Begin a bedtime song tradition with your newborn. Each of my three daughters had a song all through childhood, my 12 year old is the only one who allows me to still sing it. It is not a kids song. I sing a little piece of a Frankie Vallie song to her, “who loves you pretty baby, who’s gonna help you through the night, who loves you pretty (baby), who’s always there to make it right?” It became part of our bedtime routine and it was a comfort and a signal to get ready for sleep and something just between us. You don’t have to be a good singer, it can be a song most wouldn’t sing to a baby, or you can pick something other than a song. I have another thing I do with my middle daughter. It was really cute until Mother Gothel in Tangled did something similar and kinda ruined it for me. We then adapted it as my daughter got older and we still say it sometimes,
Me: “I love you.”
Middle Daughter: “I loved you first.”
Me: “Can’t be, I loved you the minute I knew I was having you.”
MD: “I loved you before that. You loved me first tech-nic-cally, but I loved you first for real-ly.”
And I let her win.
It just kind of grew from a game we played. You will find your own ways. As you change a diaper, maybe you sing, "Head, shoulders, knees and toes." And it makes the change a little easier because it is a distraction. Find the joy in the little moments and one day you will have a memory and so will your child of the fun things you did in the day to day. They will be a little more in focus and maybe the harder ones you could not orchestrate will be in the background. Maybe mask wearing and long days at home without friends will be in the background. But long uninterrupted time with mom or dad was a memory in sharp focus, when you had time to play and smile and laugh with them. Hang in there, I see you and your valiant efforts to take care of your children. It will bear fruit in time.
Gifts, we all have them. Things that we gained, either by nature or nurture, that show our individuality. I believe that God gave us each a purpose and helped us acquire gifts to fill that purpose. You might say, " I have gifts that I bring to work, to church or volunteer work but not too many mothering gifts." I say, "au contraire!" You bring a great many gifts to mothering and you are the perfect fit for your child. There are gifts and ways of being that are unique to you and perfectly built to help you raise your unique child. It may seem to you sometimes, or often, that you had a hospital mix-up, someone took home your baby. If you are supposed to be a perfect fit for this child, whom you cannot seem to understand, that must be the case. But let's take a step back and look at it with a different perspective.
Let's go from the assumption that you are in FACT the right mom for the job. What would that change for you? I am still in the trenches on this question so we can work it through together. If I was the perfect mom for my messy, living-in-the-moment, thrives-in-a-group-child, who's love language is time spent, what of my gifts can I bring to her? My gut response is, I have absolutely no idea. My husband sure can relate, but I thrive in order and thinking ahead and quiet time to do that thinking, alone! What was God thinking giving me this child? I always feel like I am doing her a disservice because I cannot supply her needs for constant attention and creative thinking and spur of the moment projects. However, one day she will need the calming influence that I bring. She will need to learn to order her steps to complete her crazy project. She will also find that, one way or the other, her mom will always find time for her. My gifts are trying to help facilitate her creativity when I can, with planning and getting supplies. My gifts are making sure she has all the hugs she needs. She also brings me rich gifts from her storehouse. She points out things I definitely would have missed, flying off to the plans I made. This is a blessing for both of us.
Last post I asked you to think about things that made you feel strong. Today I would like you to think about things that are your strengths. I want you to see how much you really bring to the table. I also want you to think about your child's needs. Needs for love, acceptance, nurture, creature comforts, even food, water, safety. What things can you supply, in your giftings and efforts, to love your child? Next time we will list a bunch of ways moms are gifted and maybe it will spur you on think of some you have not thought of yet. You will see how they match up with things your specific child needs, even if they do seem opposite on the surface. You have no idea what good you do by giving a smile, some attention to a story or even when you take time for self-care to model that for a growing daughter. I know of a mom with a really sarcastic and witty sense of humor who will someday pass that on to her currently newborn daughter and help her laugh at a world that doesn't always make sense. IT ALL COUNTS! You get some points and you get some points. LOL. Let's think about this together. I know it is hard. I still have so much trouble thinking about what I am good at. But my trusted counsel has told me many times, I have nothing to earn and nothing to prove. So, it follows that the credit goes to the one who gave me the gifts, either by nature or nurture and some times despite (or due to) negative situations. It is all used for God's purposes. So I can brag that I have such gifts from a good God.
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My dear tired and unsure mommies, come sit with me a while. Here's a steaming cup of decaf tea with fall flavors. Take a deep breath in. aaand out. You are alive, so is your baby, you survived. Yes, today was most likely hard, as was yesterday. If you had a blissful day, thank God for your hormones and expect that a hard day is coming but you can face it. I was going to do some teaching today but I feel that the better route today is encouragement. Something that I feel is crucial for all moms to understand is this.... YOU are the best mom for YOUR baby! This baby is not accidental and it isn't someone else's. As a mom, you are perfectly made for child and vice versa. Your quirks and imperfections are exactly what they need to grow. You will always know your child best. So I want you to trust yourself. If you are reading this, you want to be a good mom. Most likely you feel like you are stumbling in the dark. WHy? because you don't have the support you need to grow. You are extremely blessed (and unusual) if you live around a nurturing mother figure who wants to help, has the knowledge to help and has time to help you. Keep coming back because I so want to help you grow into the mom you want to be.
I have struggled for a long time with negative self talk. That voice in your head that constantly tells you that you are not good enough and why would anyone allow you to be responsible for another life. This voice can be oppressive and get in the way of relationships and bonding. Try to remind yourself this: you can make new pathways that say, "this is hard, but I can do it." I have success over negative self talk by reminding myself that I am in Christ and I have all His help and strength. I therefore can do all things. Replace the lies and defeat with truth and practice it daily, moment by moment. And return here so I can teach and encourage you in all things postpartum and baby. You can do this and I can help.
Its September. I have expectations. I want cool weather, cozy sweatshirts, warm pumpkin spice and apple cider. But today, sigh, today is humid and a high of 81 and I am blue. I have expectations that are not met and I want to find a way to fix that. Now here is where my analogy falls short, because I can hide in my house and ignore the weather, crank the AC and get some pumpkin Chai tea brewing. I can make my circumstances similar to my expectations. But let's look a little bit deeper, what expectations did you have? What imaginative pictures flooded into your brain when you learned you were pregnant? You were probably even daydreaming this time in your life from childhood. What did those pictures look like?
And is this your reality right now? I'm just guessing but probably not. I think it probably looks more like a sleep deprived, coffee deprived, moment of feeling more like a dairy cow than a glowing angel mom. Its okay. Take a deep breath, grab some herbal calming tea and let's take a minute to mourn that. You are normal. You heard right. Normal new moms don't wake up smiling when baby cries. Sometimes new moms don't even get to wake up because they never went to sleep. So, take a minute to mourn that. You will not meet even your own expectations of motherhood. Probably not even on your best day. What do you do about this? If you are a follower of Jesus, like me, you remind yourself that His expectations are the only ones that matter here. He has love and patience for you as you learn this new life. The other wonderful thing about motherhood is that BABIES ARE SO VERY RESILIENT. And they are created to help you know when something is wrong. They cannot tell you why they are crying but you will keep trying until you figure it out. You are designed to. Please remember, I know you are a caring, nurturing Mom. How do I know? You have read this far trying to figure out things to help you and your baby bond. One thing I hope desperately that you hear from me clearly and repeatedly, your baby needs YOU, no other mom can nurture your baby the way you can. No one else knows your baby like you do and you have the instinctual knowledge of how to care for your individual baby. Now that word is important too. Individual! You and your baby are both unique and have your own ways of doing things built in. A demanding baby may one day become a strong adult. A gentle, quiet, baby may need extra care with startling now but will be a kind and caring grown-up. SO this is the trouble with expectations, it doesn't leave room for personality, yours or baby's! But soon, you will begin to discover that those personalities are some of the things you enjoy most. You are on an adventure to learn more about each other. You will see traits of your spouse, yourself but miraculously,this baby is more than the sum of two people. I hope you enjoy this adventure as you let go of your expectations and begin to see reality is so much better, relationship so much deeper than all the expectations in the world. If I can help you to get there, I would love to. Message, text, call, comment, find me on Social Media. I'm here to help.
Paula is a single mother of 3. Follow along on her journeys of motherhood and her fulfilling work as a postpartum doula