On the kitchen table before me rest: a crock pot, a computer (obviously), a baby monitor and a Madela pump. Needless to say, I have crossed over into the realm of parenthood. I still have much to discover, because It was only three months ago when I entered this new land.
These are nine lessons I have learned from my 90-day-old daughter:
1. Parenting is not a competitive sport, it’s a relationship. Our high amounts of parenting books and blogs (ranging from all sorts of philosophies), have occasionally left me out-of-breath in my attempts to raise the smartest, best-fed, well-rested child. This is not healthy for my personality type. The pre-existing pressure I put on myself far surpasses that of the world’s. A healthier route I have found is to view this life-changing endeavor as a beautiful relationship. From this angle, there are: preferences, personalities, and inside jokes. There are: compromises, boundaries and mistakes. Here, there is a fluid flow to each day and a forever amount of grace. From this perspective of parenting, the mutual love of all parties involved quiets down the annoying voice within that whispers, “You are not doing it right.”
2. Be aware of the “black & white” rules, but trust your intuition in the "grey" areas. My husband and I have nervously Googled all of the black& white rules of having a newborn. How many ounces she should drink in a 24-hour period? 24. Prescribed room temperature to decrease the chance of SIDS? 68-72. Are two examples enough? Yes. Subjective rules such as these are best when whole-heartedly followed. However, some grey areas have arisen. Here, my personal readings of Henley have led to a different/better solution than that of my parenting books. I am learning to trust myself in my love-filled knowledge of my daughter.
3. Domestic tasks can become sacred. This lesson I am borrowing from the wise ole’ French monk, Brother Lawrence. In the book, “Practicing the Presence of God”, he writes of disciplining himself to experience simple chores around the monastery as worship. I was surprised at how quickly my sometimes emotionally unavailable, task-oriented self found nursing as a form of worship. I would play my favorite Bebo Norman tracks and rock away to the highest heavens. Not only nursing, but also hand-washing onsies and lugging around the heaviest of carriers -all have become very holy to me. I realize this euphoric state is possibly fleeting, but for now I relish in the joy of the mundane.
4. Celebrate the different seasons of Life. As a mother who works outside of the home, I quickly noticed that I have yet to feel completely back at work. I am there physically, but the innovative mindset I usually work out of has yet to return. I am rolling by in maintenance mode. My wonderful supervisor informed me that the majority of the ecclesial year is set in what is known as “ordinary time”. High and holy days (holidays) exist, but not always. My creative passion will return to work at some point, but in this season of life it is totally permissible to be utterly obsessed with my newborn daughter-as long as I don’t drop the ball too much at work.
5. Life Callings can coexist. I have been so very blessed. I have flexible work hours and my new office-mate is my three-month-old. Thanks to a magnificent team, my husband’s work schedule, and an experimental mindset this set up has far surpassed my expectations. During the first portion of my maternity leave, I was over-dramatically hesitant to return to work. I was then saved by the modest revelation (once I was back for three weeks) that every child in our programs was either A) someone else’s Henley or B) Needed someone to love him/her the way I love Henley. In the United Methodist Church, we talk about ‘callings’. One can be called by the Holy Spirit into a relationship or into a certain vocation. I feel God has called me into the ministries of: marriage, motherhood, and serving the children of our community through the local church.
6. Happiness is not always the aim. We Christians, especially those of us who serve in the local church, are often guilty of what I call ‘Ned-Flanders-Syndrome’. As you may know, he is an overly positive, Holy Roller on The Simpsons. He would aim to deny all feelings that were opposite of happiness. He acted in a way that anger and sadness would make him less faithful. This is clearly not true or healthy. My three month old has confirmed an alternative option. Our Parents as First Teachers coach informed us that an infant’s only way to release emotionally after a long day of mental stimulation is to cry. She advised that we allow this to occur (In fact, she encouraged it!). She guided us to swaddle tightly and invite her to "let-it-go" within the tension of the Halo. This would be very cathartic for her. Angrily grunting, sadly crying, and joyfully laughing are all recommended for one’s development.
7. Trust your spouse’s gifts and honor his/her limits. While our parenting philosophies are 99% the same, we are good at different parts of parenting. I’d say we are both equally skilled at reading her, consoling her and purely enjoying the heck out of being with her. My husband takes home the gold in any and all of the logistical details of parenting. Being able to jump into action at the drop of a hat and manage many parental tasks at once- now that’s my forte. It would not benefit our family in any way if I were to alter my wiring and live out of his areas of giftedness and vice versa. Furthermore, it is helpful to no one for me to hover while Garrett is with her and passively correct him.
9. Remain in the miracle mentality. As stated in my very first blog, I am a carrier of trisomy 13. With this said, Henley June is a reality that I was uncertain would ever exist. My situation is not unique really; for all babies are miracles. During my pregnancy, it was so easy for me to daily be in awe of the miracle that my husband and I were co-creating with God. This was probably the rush of hormones, but none-the-less, each day I lived out of a miracle mentality. These past three months I momentarily take one step further down the mountain, and I become a little less in awe of the entire experience of birthing and raising a miracle. My goal is to look at Henley the same when she is eighteen as I did when I first saw her waving to me on that ultra-sound monitor. I want to eternally see her as a miracle-a miracle that I am so honored to raise.