I watched an “old” movie last night. 27 Dresses. If you don’t know or recall the plot, here’s the quick version. Jane spends her life caring for everyone else. Primarily as a bridesmaid/ wedding planner, she thinks she has no needs of her own. She is holding out for the day when she gets married and every one of those 27 weddings she had been in would be reciprocated by her friends being that caring person for her. She realizes this is a problem through a reporter who is also the love interest. He sees her value in just being herself and she begins to show some assertiveness. However, since she has no experience doing this, self-care and getting her needs met stuff, she swings really far the other way, hurting people she loves.
Why am I telling you about this movie? What could this possibly have to do with a postpartum blog? Much in every way!
It has to do with my absence and it has to do with your showing up for your baby.
Let’s start with my long absence from blogging. I am Jane. Not in the wedding sense but in life. I spent a crap ton of time, at least 25 years, but possibly my whole life, people pleasing. I actually prided myself in the ability to make people like me. I could not fathom a person that I could not turn into a friend. Well, I was very good at it but at a cost to myself. A big cost. I would make sure I went above and beyond in everything I did. (Now I still do that professionally but I have learned my boundaries are important so it is healthy…I think?!?) I was authentic to a point but I could say something in a way that made it seem like I agreed with you but I really did not. Not good, very unhealthy.
So I did this for years in my marriage too. I tried very hard to have no needs. In a narcissistic marriage that is important. I gave all I had to make our life work. I asked for very little for myself. I advocated hard for my children but often lost and got manipulated. If you are in an emotionally abusive relationship, get counseling, seek others who can help you see the truth! Please! I waited too long and it cost me so much. Anyway, all that to say, I spent so much time and energy pulling for something that was not working because I was pulling alone. I am now divorced and recovering, it is a long road back up because it was a long road to the bottom of that relationship. The last year was spent in that process. Being a single mom of 3 young women, I had lots of work to do. Now that I am working from home and promoting my course and online coaching for moms, I have more time to write. I completed my course during our 3 month quarantine. I also had a daughter graduate and several birthdays. It has been a very full time period. Moms work so hard, you guys! I hope I can regain you as readers of my blog, if you are out of this stage in life, pass my site on to a friend. She needs support, just like you did. Maybe even more in this time of isolation.
Now, how does 27 Dresses have any thing to do with showing up for your baby? What did Jane forget? She did not remember how important it is to take care of yourself. I have met many moms who get so caught up in the day to day drudge that they do not even know what makes them feel good and cared for. Self-care and getting needs met is so important. When Jane finally realized her needs, she swung to the opposite end of the spectrum. Instead of caring for everyone else, she became self-righteous. She hurt people she cared about, some of her closest relationships. I have seen this time and again with people that love each other. The baby takes a lot of work and the baby care becomes a chore instead of a joy. Get the baby quiet so you can have time for… usually work, in my experience.
If you can be present with your baby when she needs you and when she doesn’t (nap, enjoying a bouncy seat or tummy time in a baby proof area) get what you need, a special drink, a phone call to an adult you love, a nap yourself. Oh it makes such a difference in how you show up in the relationship with your baby. If you have support people, losen your reigns a bit, ask for help tidying up, or doing laundry (if they wash a little different than you , its ok). Please, take a drive or walk alone for a breather. These times are hard already, in quarantine with your family can be even harder. Especially if you are not taking the time and joyful activities you need to get refreshed. Please make it a priority. You won’t swing so far in the other direction if you balance your needs with the needs of others before it gets bad.
Mommies, you are amazing. Keep doing your important job with joy! The future is counting on you.
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