I remember before I was a mom and, like all moms before becoming moms, I had those judgemental thoughts about parents. My inner (and, unfortunately, sometimes outer) dialogue, when I thought about what things would be like when I became a mother, sounded a lot like most non-moms... "my kid isn't going to do that," and "my kid will do this," or "I'm not going to do that," and "I will make sure to do this."
Then I got pregnant and things went the complete opposite of how I thought they would go. Those first seven months were all about day to day survival. "What sounds like the thing I am least likely to throw up as soon as I swallow it?" "Where are the nearest bathrooms in this place because I will surely be throwing up soon..." "Workout and eat well-balanced meals? I can't even use my face lotion without throwing up." I worked out exactly ZERO times during pregnancy and lived off toast, freezer pizza, fruit, fast food, and coke slushies for most of my nine, queasy, vomit-filled months.
As I quickly approach my son's first birthday - my one year anniversary of becoming a mommy (HOW?!) - I can't help but look back at the past year and a half with new perspective and I owe you fellow moms an apology.
While I was pregnant, I fantasized about maternity leave and what it would be like once he was here and I was no longer sick. "I'm going to workout as soon as I am allowed!" "I'm going to eat healthy right away!" "My baby is going to sleep a solid six hours each night by week eight!"
Then I gave birth and I immediately felt my sickness leave (I'm not even kidding! I pushed my son out and at the same time pushed out the sickness). It was the first time in almost a year that food sounded good and I went nuts over it! I weighed less after giving birth than I did before I got pregnant but that was soon about to change. It was like I was making up for nine months of not being able to eat without throwing up or feeling like I was going to throw up. I was eating things I hadn't eaten in years... candy bars, more fast food, still pounding coke slushies like it was my job, and pancakes?! I didn't even like pancakes before I had Judah but they were suddenly all I could think about (thankfully, that phase has passed).
Twelve weeks of maternity leave went by in a flash and, though I tried the best I could to avoid it, I had to go back to a full-time job where I was extremely unhappy. I cried every day, multiple times a day because I suffered from severe separation anxiety and being gone 40 hours a week on top of my husband's completely opposite full-time+ schedule and a sweet baby boy who didn't nap well and did not sleep through the night by week eight (and still doesn't and that's okay), it was a miracle if I found time to shower or keep up on laundry - let alone get in a regular workout or cook a super healthy meal. Heck, I rarely even saw my husband outside of baby transfer when I got home from work and he went off to youth group or meetings. Some days I only saw him when I woke up for work and when he crawled into bed at night after work (on these days, Judah was home with our nanny - the grandmother of one of our youth groupers of whom I was other-worldly jealous because she got to be home with my son every day while I was stuck at work).
The Lion is almost eleven months old now, I finally have a new, part-time schedule that I got to choose at a job I enjoy with a flexible, understanding boss I am entirely grateful for and I am just now starting to feel like I am regaining control of myself, my schedule, and my health. So, as you can imagine, after a year and a half of chaos, discomfort, sickness, sleep-deprivation, and separation anxiety, I have become very particular about certain things, compromised in ways I never thought I would, and there are even some things I was pre-mommy judgemental about that have now become my new normal, and guess what... IT'S ALL OKAY!
Moms (and non-moms), we need to show one another more grace, ourselves included, because we are incredible! I know it's been said time and time again, but it's totally true! We are all just a bunch of Wonder Women roaming about the earth, carrying and birthing babies in and from our lady parts, sustaining their life in any way necessary, taking care of our families with a God-given fire planted inside of us in case anyone dares to mess with our babies, and we do it day in and day out. We have been anointed by God, our Father, to be the parents of our children, however they entered our lives, and He gives us the wisdom and conviction we need to be their moms and dads. It is such a beautiful truth that I try to lean into all the time, but especially when I'm feeling defeated or drained. I pray every single day that the Lord would show Anthony and me how to be Judah's parents - not just how to be "good" parents, but how to be his parents. He is the only one of him there ever was and ever will be. He has a unique set of quirks, gifts, talents, needs, desires, and preferences and I want to know how to be his mom so that he always knows he is loved and cared for and supported. And, when we have more kids (God-willing), I will pray the same prayer over each, unique miracle - however they enter our lives.
You see, what happens as moms and non-moms is that we look around at other parents through the lense of our own childhood, how our parents raised us and, if we have children of our own, how we raised them. But no two children are the same and no two families are the same. What works for one may not work for another. What makes sense to this one might not make any sense to that one. Add in postpartum hormones and there are times where decisions are quite possibly completely irrational, but for the heart and sanity of the mother (and, let's face it, the rest of the household at that point), it just needs to be done a specific way even if doing it another way would probably work just fine.
Listen... whether your baby was planned or a surprise; whether he or she is biological or adopted; whether you struggled with infertility or not; whether your birth was medicated or unmediated; whether you gave birth in a hospital with a doctor or at home with a midwife or anywhere in between; whether you gained too much weight during or after pregnancy or not enough or just enough; whether you struggled with postpartum depression/anxiety or not; whether your baby is breastfed or formula fed; whether your baby eats homemade puréed food, store bought, or you skipped purées altogether and do baby-led-weaning; whether you feed your baby all organic foods, no organic foods, or a little of both; whether you're an omnivore, vegetarian, or vegan; whether your baby wears disposable or cloth diapers; whether your baby sleeps through the night or wakes up throughout; whether you let them cry it out sometimes or not; whether they get screen time or no screen time; whether they hit all of their milestones early, late or "on time"; whether they go to people easily or have stranger danger; whether you enforce a strict bedtime or embrace a more relaxed one; whether they still sleep in the same room with you or they moved on to their own room shortly after being born; whether you're laid back or more cautious; whether you're a stay at home mom, working mom, or work from home mom; regardless of what your hobbies or preferences are and whether or not you do things the same or differently than your mother or mother-in-law or their mothers or their mothers... if you love your children unconditionally and do everything you can within your unique set of circumstances to provide for them, keep them healthy & safe, and show them that love every single day then you are doing a great job and don't allow the judgement of others make you think or feel any differently! And, Dads, this includes you (even when us mamas take our anxieties out on you sometimes... *ahem, sorry Anth*).
Take the good advice that makes sense for your family and leave the rest (whether you asked for the advice in the first place or not because we all know by now that unsolicited parenting advice is ev.er.y.where). Trust God, talk to Him daily, ask Him to show you how to be the parents of your unique little miracle(s), and keep your head up because that little miracle you love so much... God gave him to YOU and that should tell you everything you need to know about how strong and capable you are.
Moms, I'm so sorry & you are totally amazing!