Newborn life sets different standards for success and teaches first-time moms some surprising lessons.
Life with a newborn sets different standards for success. We’re all alive. My teeth are brushed. Success.
“Hard” is an understatement for the first few weeks postpartum, but the good news is that newborn life gets easier. After two months, we’ve started to find our rhythm, however imperfect. Reflecting on how far we’ve come, I’ve learned to embrace several new realities that I hope will encourage my fellow first-time-moms.
You can’t plan for everything.
I had read all the books, taken classes to prepare for labor, and even prepared a hospital plan. Right, those all went out the window when I was induced three weeks early without any warning. You just can’t plan for everything. It’s a humbling reminder that I’m not in control, but God is. As Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps” (NKJV). Even when my plans go awry, He’s still there with me.
You don’t know what you don’t know.
I didn’t know some of the breastfeeding advice I received wasn’t helpful until I finally met an incredible lactation consultant. I was already a few weeks postpartum, and discouraged that it took me so long to get the information I needed. But as I came to realize, you don’t know what you don’t know.
Accept that some things will be out of your control.
I probably failed hardest with this one. I’d planned to exclusively breastfeed. Due to circumstances outside my control, I wasn’t able to. I tried everything to increase my milk supply, but even my lactation consultant was stumped by why my supply never fully came in. After many bitter tears, I released my plan A and found peace with our combination feeding solution.
Don’t cry over spilt milk.
I totally cried over spilt milk. Once, my husband accidentally dumped out the small amount of breastmilk I had struggled to pump. I sobbed. He felt horrible. Now I understand where this saying came from, and how difficult it can be not to cry over something small that involved effort on your part. As hard as it is, let spilt milk be spilt milk and move on.
Sometimes quitting is the best thing you can do.
I finally gave myself permission to quit pumping, which I loathed. Adjusting to just breastfeeding as much as I could and supplementing the rest released a huge load off my shoulders. I began enjoying feedings instead of dreading them.
Stop apologizing for what isn’t your fault.
There were a few weeks where our son would cry inconsolably for a few hours each evening, and I would blubber I’m sorry a hundred times. My husband said to me, “Babies cry. It’s not your fault if he’s fed, dry, loved, and cared for.”
When my postpartum emotions ran out of control, I had to remind myself to run to Jesus with my feelings. 1 Peter 5:7 reminds us, “… casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (NKJV).
You’ll make mistakes.
When clipping my son’s nails, I accidentally pinched his skin, and he whimpered. I was devastated for missing his nail, and probably cried more than he did. But the truth is, we will make mistakes as moms. We just have to learn from them, kiss the resulting boo-boo, and ask Jesus to help us depend on His grace. 2 Corinthians 12:9 tells us, “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
Celebrate small victories.
The first time our son slept six hours through the night, I wanted to throw a party. Prior to that, we had been getting four-hour stretches. For anyone without a newborn, I realize there’s nothing impressive about six hours, but for new parents, it’s a serious victory. Celebrate it!
Ask for help.
We received a meal train a few nights each week for almost a month. I couldn’t even think about cooking, and these friends literally kept us fed. Also, asking our parents to help or spend a night were lifesaving decisions. These dear folks truly did “bear” our burdens, as Scripture teaches we believers should do for each other (Galatians 6:2). Now as my pregnant friends are having their babies, I’m jumping on board to help with their meal trains.
Prioritize your spouse.
Prioritizing your spouse is hard when every two-and-a-half hours, you’re feeding a new human who is completely dependent on you. To help make time for your spouse a priority, practice #9 and capitalize on nap time. Also, be careful not to let “little foxes” (Song of Solomon 2:15) like resentment (if he gets more sleep than you do) drive a wedge in your relationship. You both are on the same team, even if your responsibilities look different.
Time with Jesus won’t happen unless you are intentional about it.
Prior to having our son, I had an intentional time each morning to read my Bible and journal. But every day with a newborn can begin differently, and I’ve struggled with daily practice. What I’ve learned is that a specific timing isn’t important. Prioritizing our relationship with God is.
I love Jesus’ example. Mark 1:35 says, “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed” (NKJV). We new moms know all about rising early, but this verse isn’t saying we must have our quiet time before the 3:00 am feed. More practically, this verse shows Jesus made time with His Father a priority. Mamas, that might mean opening our Bible when the baby sleeps.
Each stage brings its wonder and its challenges. Focus on the wonder: the baby smiles, the coos, the snuggles, the good naps. The blow-outs, cry sessions, fussy feeds, and late-night wake-ups will be there too.
Our babies are blessings from God, entrusted to us. When you feel like a failure, you’re not. You’re a good mama who loves fiercely, and you’re doing a great job.
Kristen Hogrefe Parnell
Kristen Hogrefe Parnell writes suspenseful fiction from a faith perspective for women and young adults. Her own suspense story involved waiting on God into her thirties to meet her husband, and she desires to keep embracing God’s plan for her life when it’s not what she expects. Kristen’s books have won the Selah Award and the Grace Award, among others. An educator at heart, she also teaches English online and enjoys being a podcast guest. Kristen lives in the Tampa, Florida area with her husband and baby boy. Connect with her at KristenHogrefeParnell.com.