Monday, June 30, 2014

Having a Baby Changes Everything... Except When it Doesn't

Let's clear something up first. I am a mommy, and I am a blogger, but I am not a "mommy blogger." My house is usually messy, I don't own a jogging stroller, and I believe Pinterest is more for snarky e-cards than crafts or recipes. Case in point? As of 11:00 this morning, the only thing my daughter had eaten was a brownie and a few Doritos.

However, I'm pregnant with my second child, and I have a lot of friends who are either pregnant or have recently given birth, and it's had me thinking a lot about what having a child means.

I think movies and commercials have painted a more realistic picture of this recently. They show the crazy side of child-rearing: the diapers, the cost, the mess, the lack of sleep. They've even given us cute catchphrases like, "Having a baby changes everything."

Well, yes and no.

It sure changes sleep patterns and time management and how often we get to shower, but it doesn't change everything. I think a lot of new moms expect their world to become this magical, albeit crazier, land of hugs and snuggles and love. Those things definitely can and do happen, but it's a much different type of scenario. Many things aren't changed by having a baby, no matter how much we wish they would.

1. Having a baby doesn't repair a faulty marriage.
Too often, struggling couples attempt to get pregnant in the hopes that this little person will unite them in a way that they couldn't grasp before. This is so, so wrong. First off, that's a heck of a lot of pressure on a child, pressure he or she will someday understand and own. Second, having a baby often causes more stress. If a couple can't unite on marriage decisions, why would they suddenly be able to unite over baby decisions? And trust me, these decisions get weightier as the child grows older.

2. Having a baby doesn't increase your self-worth.
Moms are not more important than other women. They are not more important than men. Moms have a unique responsibility in this world, but that responsibility is not worth more than the responsibility given to other demographics. What defines your worth should be solely based in the promises of who Jesus says you are. When we look to anyone else to define our worth, especially a baby, we will always find ourselves lacking.

3. Having a baby doesn't fulfill every longing.
This one is tricky. I know people who have waited years for the opportunity to have a child. Some couples walk through a decade or more of infertility. Other women don't find their spouse until later in life. Having a child, whether biologically or through adoption, may fulfill the longing of having a child. But that baby will not complete other unfulfilled longings that may have been covered or overshadowed. Babies are not a magic fix.

4. Having a baby doesn't make you closer to others who have babies.
I'll admit that part of why I originally wanted to have my firstborn was because I felt like I couldn't relate to anyone at my job. They seemed to all be seasoned mothers, and I was a young newlywed who couldn't contribute to the conversation. However, after having my first baby, I found that my closest friends were mostly single women. Friendships aren't based around life stages. If that is our basis for friendship, we are overlooking many meaningful relationships with women older or younger, childless or single. While there might be a convenience to playdates, friendships should be staked more in common beliefs, similar passions, and a willingness to be transparent.

5. Having a baby doesn't ease loneliness.
Loneliness is a human condition, and it doesn't matter how surrounded we are by people, we all experience loneliness from time to time. A baby will not cure this. Actually, often babies will make us feel more lonely. It's isolating to be at home with a newborn or to plan events around bedtimes and feedings. Having someone depend on you fully can be so draining, it can most certainly increase those feelings of loneliness. And unfortunately, we are expected to be happy, radiant new mothers, so when sadness hits, we feel like we can't share those feelings, which can only exacerbate loneliness.

6. Having a baby doesn't make women naturally good at being a mother.
This one is less talked about in our society. We are told of instant attachments and overwhelming feelings of love and adapting easily to motherhood, but it seems to me that those are rare at the beginning. I didn't feel an instant bond with my daughter. It may have been the traumatic labor and delivery; I'm not sure. But it took awhile for that bond to form. While I have loved her since the beginning, I wasn't overwhelmed with those happy warm fuzzies. And I sure as heck didn't adapt that easily. My husband and I brought her home and looked around the house like there should be an owner's manual somewhere on how to care for this thing. I cried every evening for weeks. And each stage of motherhood brings its own challenges. Sending a kid to school? I figured this was the easy part, but then I learned that that comes with packing lunches, signing folders, helping with homework, and disciplining for notes sent home.

Don't misunderstand me. I love my daughter, I'll love my newborn, and I love being a mommy. But this time, I'm more prepared for the realities of what having a baby means. I know I'm entering a whole new world of having two children, but by the grace of God, my expectations are more realistic as I take this journey.

What are some things that didn't change the way you had hoped, mamas?

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