Remembering my first days as a new mom, I recall being a sleep-deprived mess of emotions. I was thrilled by the miraculous gift of life in the face of my precious daughter, but I was also beyond exhausted and overwhelmed. After a complicated birth, I was dealing with physical aches and pains as well as the disappointment that things did not go according to my labor and delivery plans. I felt like I had failed my expectations for that chapter and the next chapter looked overwhelming too. I was out of my league trying to guide my baby to nurse or understand what this little one was trying to communicate to me. It was too much to process without any rest, and the parade of visitors to see the baby offered no reprieve. My prayers go out to all the new parents facing similar challenges.
It took me a bit to set limits around visits and prioritize rest for me and my baby. I learned the hard way the wisdom of "Sleep when the baby sleeps." We all function better when we have had adequate sleep. Prioritize and seize the opportunities to get the rest you need. Everything else can wait. Take turns with your spouse and enlist the help of others to help you get the rest and respite you need so you can care for your family. Self-care is essential if we are to have anything in the fuel tank to offer our families.
Your previous routines and expectations are quickly upended by an infant. Teething or colic will redirect your best-laid plans. Flexibility becomes an essential quality for navigating your life. May you choose to be content with loose planning as your baby introduces unpredictable chaos into your laundry as well as your schedule. Adjust your standards so you can be content with a less than perfect house and schedule. Perfectionism robs us of the joy of today and instills guilt for failing to measure up. Learn to go with the flow and find contentment in your circumstances. Live into the imperfect moments and discover their blessings.
Marvel at God’s amazing gift of new life. Newborn babies guide us to see God’s marvelous workmanship. We look with wonder at the sweetness of a tiny human being fashioned in the womb and thrust into this world carrying the image of our Creator. Sweet pouting lips and tiny fingerprints invite us to marvel at God’s amazing handiwork. "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10). A baby commands the gaze of every family member inviting us all to see God’s hand at work.
Life gives us more than we can handle at times, but God blesses us with the community of church family to care for us. May God grant us the grace and humility to ask for and accept help. We need to give up the idolatrous focus on being independent and discover the blessing of being interdependent on one another. Some days, you will just need to take a break. Even doing someone else's dishes while they mind the baby can be a blessing. Accepting help and allowing others to care for us acknowledges our human limitations and builds community in the body of Christ.
Babies arrive with the map of their life still awaiting discovery. We gaze with wonder into that innocent little face dreaming about what the future will hold for this little child. What adventures will they face, and where will the path of their life meander? The lyrics of the song "Because He Lives" talk about the sweetness of holding a precious baby and recognizing that this baby can face the uncertain days ahead because of the truth that Jesus lives. Because of God’s amazing love we don’t ever need to carry fear. We may mess things up but God is still in control. We live in the hope of knowing God’s presence walks with us through every challenge.
As you watch your precious baby sleep under your loving gaze, may you glimpse a picture of God's unfailing love for you. As you care for your beloved child, you echo God’s great love for you. May you experience God grace anew as you walk through the joys and challenges of parenthood. May parenthood guide you to see God's passionate unfailing love for you as his beloved child.
The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing (Zephaniah 3:17).
Our hopes and fears for our children can leave us overwhelmed, but turning those anxieties over to God frees us to live into each day without guilt from the past or worry about the future. As anxiety arises, change the fear into a prayer. Turn the phrase "I worry about..." to a “God I know that you have this all figured out and I trust you to walk us through it.” God has chosen you for this important parenting role; he will equip you for the task before you. This big job of parenting may feel overwhelming at times, but God will carry you through each step of the way.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra