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THE CHRISTIAN MAMA'S GUIDE TO BABY'S FIRST YEAREverything You Need to Know to Survive (And Love) Your First Year As A Mom
By ERIN MACPHERSON
THOMAS NELSONCopyright © 2013 Erin MacPherson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneGetting into the New Mama Groove
Surviving and Thriving as a New Mom
Being a new mom isn't as easy as it looks. I remember going to the grocery store when my son was a few months old and standing in line behind a woman who had three kids. She stood there, thumbing through a magazine, with her baby sleeping peacefully in a sling while her two older (and perfectly behaved) children sat quietly in the cart and quizzed each other on phonics. Phonics. No joke! And to top it all off, the woman was wearing real pants (not sweats), and I think I spotted a smidgen of mascara on her eyelashes. My jaw dropped in awe. How did she do that?
Meanwhile I stood there wearing a ratty, spit-upcovered T-shirt, my hair in a greasy ponytail, bouncing up and down in line while singing "Jesus Loves Me," to try to make my son stop screaming so I could at least make it through the checkout line and buy milk. And I wondered how I was ever going to be able to do normal thingslike go to the grocery store or (gasp!) have a social lifewithout enduring a total meltdown (both the baby's and mine).
Being a mom is hard. Way back in the 1960s, two psychologists named Holmes and Rah decided to study the link between major life events and stress. They did a bunch of research and interviewed a ton of people and came to the startling conclusion that major life changesyou know, like having a babyare stressful. Um, well, duh.
Of course having a new baby is stressful! In a matter of minutes, you go from a fashionable, intelligent, and totally (okay, mostly) put-together woman to a blubbering, still-trying-to-lose-the-baby-weight mother who is exhausted, overwhelmed, and trying to figure out how to use the nasal aspirator. It's a huge life changeand most mamas (like me!) need some time to get the hang of it.
But you'll get there. Okay, so chances are you'll probably never stand in line at the grocery store while your kid discusses the intricacies of phonics, but you'll certainly get to the point where you can manage to put on real pants and buy milk without feeling like a bumbling fool. I promise.
How to Get into the New Mom Groove
1. Give yourself a break.
Remember that seemingly perfect mom I told you about earlier in the chapter? The one who managed to wear pants and mascara while wrangling three kids? Well, fabulous as she is, you have to remember that she has three kids ... which means she's had a lot of practice. I'm willing to bet that there was a point in time when she also stood in the grocery store with a screaming baby in her arms while covered in spit-up from head to toe.
You're not going to have the mom thing down pat right awayor ever. Case in point: We flew from Texas to Oregon right around my son's first birthday. With a full year's experience of being a mom under my belt, I had everything under control. Or so I thought. Right after we got on the plane, I realized that my son had a dirty diaperand of course, in the process of trying to change it on the cramped plane, I managed to completely soil his pants, his shirt, and his sweater. I reached for the diaper bagonly to realize that I had checked it. I had nothing. Well, nothing except for a naked baby on an airplane in December.
Every mom has a story like thatwell, maybe not exactly like that, but I'm pretty sure every mom forgets to bring a change of clothes once or twice. And when things happen that make us look inexperienced or clueless or just plain frazzled, we have to take it in stride. Realize we're doing the best we can. And confidently ask everyone around us if we can please borrow a diaper.
2. Give yourself a break from baby.
You heard me. If you're going to stay sane, you need to pry yourself away from your little schnookums every once in a while. I'm not telling you to go away on a four-week African safari, but it certainly wouldn't hurt you to sneak out of the room while your baby is sleeping and take a shower. Or if you're feeling really brave, you could leave your baby with your mom and go out to the Tastee Freez with your husband.
The point is that as wonderful as your baby is, you need some time to be you. And seeing as how you weren't always a brand-new mom with a brand-new baby attached to your hip, it's good for you to pry that baby off your hip every once in a while and go back to being your fabulous selfgive or take ten to fifteen pounds.
When my son was a few weeks old, my husband suggested (okay, demanded) that I leave the baby with him and go to the mall with my sister. I whined and moaned and worried that something would happen. But I eventually left. And we had a great time. We were only gone an hour or two (I was breast-feeding), but I remember feeling so liberated walking around carrying just my purse. I felt like a real person again!
3. Pace yourself.
When you have a new baby in tow, there is no way you can do all the things you used to do back in the day. That's fine. It's okay that the house only gets vacuumed when your mother-in-law comes or that an entire day's worth of activities constitutes a run to Target to buy diapers. Yes, you headed up the world committee on organic gardening while holding down a full-time job and a seventy-hour-per-week volunteer ministry in your pre-baby days, but you just aren't going to be able to do that now that you have kids. And that's okay.
The good news is that you'll get back into your do-everything-and -volunteer-at-the-soup-kitchen-to-boot groove soon enough. I remember feeling so incompetent when my son was a newborn. I felt as if nothing got accomplished at my house. Ever. But you know what? My son didn't stay a newborn and I didn't stay a newborn mom forever. Now I head the snack committee for my son's football league and organize the class picnic and write the newsletter for my MOPS group. And some days, I kind of miss those nostalgic new-mom days when my only daily responsibility was making sure my son got fed.
4. Let your friends help.
It takes a whole villageor at least an entire extended family and a church groupto raise a child. And yet so many young mamas try to do it alone. I remember being nervous when my friends offered to set up a CareCalendar (www.carecalendar.org) to bring me meals after my baby was born. I didn't want them to think I wasn't capableand I certainly didn't want them to feel that they had to wait on me. Of course, they didn't feel that way at all. They wanted to helpjust as I do when my friends have babies.
Here's the way I look at it: when you have a brand-new baby and are recovering from what was possibly a very traumatic labor, you need all the help you can get. So accept whatever your friends and family offer you gratefullyand make a mental note to do the same when they need you. And the truth is, unless you're still asking your friends to make you dinner and clean your house when your baby is ten months old, no one will feel as though they're waiting on you. They love you. They want to bless you. And you'd do the same for them in a heartbeat.
5. Try to maintain a sense of normalcy.
Yes, your house is messy. No, your clothes don't fit. Yes, you feel like a completely different person than you were before your baby was born. But that doesn't mean everything has to change. Try to do one thing every day that the "old" you would've donewhether it's obsessively de-cluttering the kitchen counter or simply putting on a coat of mascara.
When my son was a new baby, I made myself a little "get yourself together" schedule. Okay, I didn't call it that, but every day I "scheduled" one household task or errand or job to do so that I felt as though I had responsibilities outside of slouching on the couch, with my boob in my son's mouth, while watching TLC. Some of my jobs were easylike reading the new issue of Parenting from cover to cover. Others were a bit more difficult, like trying to figure out how to make the wipe-warmer actually keep wipes warm.
Ways You've Changed Since Becoming a Mom
* The old you: Wore cute, belly-hugging tops and styled your hair every single day without fail.
* The new you: Has been wearing the same pajamas now for a week. (In your defense, they're really, really cute pajamas.)
* The old you: Never missed an episode of Downton Abbey.
* The new you: Never misses an episode of the Late, Late Show. Ever. (What else are you supposed to do when lil' Mr. Hungrypants is always wanting to eat at 1 a.m.?)
* The old you: Knew how to make a mean grilled-cheese sandwich.
* The new you: Has grilled-cheese sandwiches for dinner. Three times every week.
* The old you: Skipped out on the super-long and boring HOA meeting because it was super-long and boring.
* The new you: Wishes you could go to the super-long and boring HOA meeting (at least it'd get you out of the house) but can't because it's during your baby's nap time.
* The old you: Never had time to lunch with your girlfriends.
* The new you: Lets your baby nap in the infant seat while you have lunch with your girlfriends, whom you haven't seen for weeks.
* The old you: Felt guilty if you went to bed without doing the dinner dishes.
* The new you: Spends the entire day watching your sweet baby sleepand is completely okay with the fact that the same cereal bowl has been sitting in the sink for a week.
Christian Mama Style
True story: When I told my friend that I was writing a Christian pregnancy guide, she said, "Every pregnant mom experiences the same morning sickness and the same weight gain. So why would I need a special pregnancy guide just for Christian moms? Seems like any old pregnancy guide would say the exact same things."
And she's rightsort of. Yes, every mom, Christian or not, shares similar experiences as she learns to navigate being a parent. Every mom feels that intense I-will-never-be-able-to-get-over-how-amazing-you-are feeling while simultaneously freaking out about the fact that she is entirely and utterly responsible for the tiny life in her arms. We mama bears are fiercely protective of our babiesboth physically and emotionallyand we'll do anything and everything we can to make sure our babies are safe, healthy, and happy. It's human nature.
But what makes Christian moms different is that we also care deeply about our families' relationships with Jesus along the way. We want to grow closer to Jesus in this journey of parenthood, and we want our kids to grow up to love Him with all of their hearts, souls, and minds. And in the meantime we also want to teach our kids character, help them grow rock-solid faiths, sow in them a joyful hope in Jesus, and help them to realize that while they are flawed human beings, they serve a God who is perfect yet forgiving and loving yet powerful. A tall order. But, before you really start to freak out (I know the very thought of that makes my mind start to whir with thoughts of my own unworthiness), I want to remind you that it is God who can and will work in your kids' lives. It is God who knit them together with a perfect plan in mind for their lives. And it is God who will work to help that plan come into fruition. Isn't that a relief?
Of course, we as parents aren't totally off the hook. God calls us to love and nurture our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. And that starts from day one. Yes, that's right. You can start teaching your baby about Jesus from the day he or she is born. Here are a few easy ways to do just that.
1. Pray. It's probably a given that most Christian moms pray for their kids. But I also know what it's like to be in that crazy newborn phase where there's never enough time for basics like sleeping or showering. And when I was in that phase, prayer time often got relegated to the back burner. I want to encourage you to get in the habit of praying for your kidsand praying often. One way I've found to be purposeful about prayer is to use Scripture to pray for your kids. (The book Praying God's Word for Your Life by Kathi Lipp has some great ideas on how to do this.) I've spent the last six months reading the book of Ephesians and then using the words in that portion of scripture to pray for my three kids. It's been a powerful experience where God has revealed a lot to me about His plan for them.
2. Adjust your expectations. One thing I had to learn as a new mom was that my time with Jesus was just different than before I had kids. In my pre-kid days, I would often set aside extended periods of time every morning to pray and read my Bible. If I needed more time with God, I could just set my alarm a little earlier. But I think any mom will tell you that a baby is no match for an alarm clock and that it's almost a guarantee that if you set an alarm for 6:00 a.m., your baby will wake up at ten to six. Because of this, I had to learn to take mini prayer breaks throughout the day as well as find alternative times (like during my baby's nap) to read my Bible.
3. Sing songs. I love the song "Change My Heart, O God," so when my daughter was tiny, I would sit in my rocker, snuggle her against me, and sing that song over and over. For months and months, that's how she fell asleep. And even now, more than four years later, she still sings that song, loudly and clearly, whenever she's down or upset. It has become a comfort to her.
4. Set an example. Get into the habit of spending thirty minutes each morningat a time when your baby can see you and hear youreading your Bible and praying. Sure, a two-month-old isn't going to know what's going on, but as your baby grows and recognizes that Mommy spends time every day in the same spot, praying to God, he or she may be inspired to do the same.
5. Expose them to the Bible. I get that busting out a King James Version with a six-month-old will probably only fly for fourteen seconds, but try giving your kids access to the Bible in age-appropriate chunks. Point out a rainbow in the sky and talk about the story of Noah's ark. Read short Bible stories from a children's Bible. Talk about how God created everything we see in the world. As your baby grows, these simple conversations will be woven in with experiences to become part of his spiritual legacy.
Being a Mom Rocks!
The truth is that being a mom is the best thing everregardless of how many diapers you've changed or how many times your baby woke you up last night. Your baby is pretty much the most amazing thing that has happened to you. And aside from the fact that your life is a teensy bit nuttier than it's ever been before, your life is also so much sweeter. Nothing beats baby smiles, melodic gurgles, and chubby baby knees. Nothing.
Plus, when you have a new baby, you feel as if you're a rock star. Everywhere you go, people will point and ooh and ahh and try to get a glimpse underneath the baby blanket. People will hold doors open for your baby stroller and give you advice on elevators. People will strike up conversations with you, wistfully thinking about the days when their nowthirty-year-olds were that small. And everyoneand I mean everyonewill marvel at how strong/ smart/alert/quiet/sweet your baby is.
Even when things start to feel toughlike when your baby wakes you up seventeen times in the middle of the night and you've gone through an entire package of diapers in twenty-four hoursthere's nothing that will ever damper the feeling you have for that baby in your arms. Nothing. In my new mom days, I was completely in awe of my son and the love I felt for him.
Experiencing that kind of love showed me a lot about the love God has for us. Of course, we could never love like He does, but just the experience of being a mom and loving a child made me overwhelmingly grateful. In 1 John 3:1, the Bible tell us to "see what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" God loves me more than I could ever comprehendyet holding my son for the first time, I got a glimpse of it. What an amazing feeling.
Anyway, now that you have your mama groove, it's time to talk about the nitty-gritty of newborn parenting. How do you change your baby's diaper without getting pee all over yourself? How do you know when his cries are real or when he's just working out a secret plan to keep you awake all night long? And how in the world do you get those crazy (but adorable) button-up jumpsuits buttoned when your baby is squirming and wiggling? Let's find out.
Excerpted from THE CHRISTIAN MAMA'S GUIDE TO BABY'S FIRST YEAR by ERIN MACPHERSON Copyright © 2013 by Erin MacPherson. Excerpted by permission of THOMAS NELSON. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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