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on being a parent (finally)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

i don’t usually post without photos. i haven’t been posting my thoughts much lately, period. you’ve seen a lot of pictures of the new life in our family—little elisha, aka wiggles, monkey, smiles—but you haven’t seen too many of my words about how this life has changed ours.

before elisha was born, i don’t think i could ever have clearly articulated my thoughts on parenthood; specifically, i don’t think i had definite ideas on what kind of parent i would be. growing up, i experienced both good and bad examples, but i’ve never been one to proclaim that i never wanted to be anything like my mother. in addition to my biological mother, i’ve been blessed with so many other mothers in my life, from my best friend’s mom (my “udder mudder” as she likes to be affectionately called), older ladies at church both in the states and in japan, and other women in my life who have entered into parenting before me. oh, and the internet. no, really.

even with all of these examples, even while pregnant, i don’t think i ever sat around and contemplated what kind of mother i would be. sure, i had some ideas. sure, i talked it over with the husband. we knew we wanted to cloth diaper. we knew we wanted to breastfeed. we knew we wanted to raise our family in a way that glorified God.

but, none of those words or thoughts or decisions could ever have prepared me for the reality of parenthood once elisha was out of the womb and in our arms.

for me, one of the big surprises has actually been sleep. namely, how we sleep.

it was reading this blog tonight that made me think about some of our choices as a parent once our baby arrived. specifically our choice about sleep. i could’ve written the first paragraph of this post:

When I was an expectant mama, I had so many ideas of what kind of parent I wanted to be. I read books, many many books, hoping to find the “best parenting” practices that resonated deep in my soul. One of the very first books I read was Babywise and the premise of a parent-led household versus a child-led household spoke to my desires of becoming a firm and authoritative parent. It was recommended to me by people I respected, and so I made mental notes of what I was going to do when our baby arrives. I read many other books too, and each one I filed into my mental inbox for whatever it is that provided tips on how to become the parent I want to be.

and then the second paragraph brought me here to my own blog because it really hit home with where we are as a family:

And then our beautiful daughter was born. Quickly thereafter, I discovered that I had better declutter my mental inbox of all those tips and images of the perfect parent I had put together in my mind. Especially in the area of sleep. Because it was not going to happen. Babywise may “work” for others, but it was not going to fly in this household. And although at that time, it felt like I was choosing the family bed because I couldn’t stomach the idea of letting my baby cry, now I know that it somewhat had chosen me way long before I decided. Because ultimately, the choices we make simply reflect who we already are as a people, and not necessarily who we want to be, although they may not turn out exclusive of each other. My approach to life determined (and is continuing to determine) my choices then as a new mom, and now as I continue to learn this motherhood gig. And the knowledge is somewhat freeing. We can relax a little bit when it comes to parenting, because the answers that are true for us will come to us one way or another. The key is to know who we are, how uniquely we are designed to live out a distinct aspect of Life that bears a glimpse of our Maker.

her three-part series on bed sharing and breastfeeding and all of that really resonated with me, though i want to put it out there that i’m not entirely on board with everything that attachment parenting espouses. that said, i’m not entirely against some of its teachings, either. i really appreciate the perspective that some of what Western culture insists upon is not necessarily what God intended in all aspects of our lives, but i can’t say that i believe birth to be terribly traumatic. babies were meant to be born.

anyway, elisha has become a comfortable extra body (extra tiny squeaking body) in our bed. he started out next to me in a pack-n-play … and he slept well enough in it. sometimes. he was noisy. he would fidget, even swaddled. he woke himself up. he woke up every hour. he woke up even more often than every hour. i’d change him on one side and he’d sleep on the other. i’d pick him up and feed him, feeling terrible any time we both fell asleep (eating or burping or just cuddling). and yet, every time i fell asleep with him in bed (and even Justin can attest to this), there was peace. there was quiet. and, my goodness, there was sleep.

it was and is amazingly good.

did i ever think i would share a bed with our baby? no. no no no. i carefully sewed a beautiful crib set before elisha was born. i still intend for him to enjoy it, though if it takes a few more months to get him sleeping in its crafty goodness, i can’t begrudge the boy. not at all. every moment with him is precious. he’s only going to be a small baby for such a short amount of time. what we have right now together is hardly spoiling him, in my opinion. it’s hard to find anything to regret about waking up to baby smiles, especially when everyone gets to wake up actually refreshed.

this is strange, new territory for me.

for us.

it changes our relationship, Justin and i. it changes how we spend time together, but bringing a new life into the world was going to do that anyway.

i recognize that every baby is different. as a coworker once explained to me when discussing the sleep habits of his three sons in their infancy, no two babies are alike and each one indeed has different needs. yes, they need structure and guidance from their parents—that’s how it’s supposed to be for sure—but part of our responsibility as parents is to help our children grow in the directions they were made to go by the hands of Him who made them.

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

i want to finish this rambling bit on parenthood by saying i believe everyone has to find what’s right for their family. just as every baby is different, so is every parent. we must all find the rhythm that works for us, that keeps us sane and functional. we’re new at this and for us, we’re just discovering what our family is going to look like with children in it.

so far, this is the path we’re on. we’ll see where it leads.

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One Comment
  1. Tuesday, May 18, 2010 9:24 pm

    Dear Mrs. Smith,

    First of all, thank you for linking up and sharing what I wrote from my blog. I feel..honored. Thank you.

    Secondly, welcome to this wonderful crazy world of parenting! I still consider myself a rookie, still making my way around, so from a fellow newbie to another, welcome!

    Thirdly, Thank you for sharing your story. I loved it! And I totally agree with you, that everyone has to find the right path for themselves! “THis is new strange territory for us.” I still feel the same way.

    And finally, I’m so glad you, Justin and your little babe is getting the needed sleep. And peace. Oh the peace. What a gift, yes?

    All the best,
    Vina

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