1. No stage lasts forever
In the moment when your baby wakes up for the 5th hour in a row, or you're toddler won't eat anything besides plain noodles, hearing that "no stage lasts forever" isn't the most encouraging thing ever. Over the last several months, however, it has proven to be true enough times to give me light at the end of the tunnel. It truly felt like Joslynne would drink a bottle for the rest of her life and pair it with plain spaghetti until her hair turns gray. Don't even get me started on her refusing to sit down in the tub or Elaina still waking up for a bottle 4 times a night. In the middle of these challenges, when you've tried everything you can think of or google, it feels hopeless. They say "you never see a 14 year old with a pacifier" so surely every kid grows out of it, right? Meanwhile, I'd cynically think to myself that I surely am raising the exception to that rule.
Over the past year, my children have continually amazed me as they grow and develop and indeed "grow out" of stages that seemed to be here for good. I know my astonishment exposes my inexperience, but it never ceases to amaze me how one day, things just click and we move past a stage and on to the next one. Yes, there will be a new hurdle to replace it, but we'll all move past that one too, eventually. ;)
Night feedings, teething, blowouts, refusals to eat, pacifiers, foot stomping, and potty accidents will all go away in time. But, so will the cuddles, baby giggles, hand and foot chub, squeaky voices, and "mom, I wub you's". Sometimes, just remembering helps.
2. Listen to your mama sense
My personality struggles with overanalyzing. I tend to research, compare, and brainstorm things to death before making a move or a decision. Ideas and advice of others are so helpful. Information and research available is so helpful, but at the end of the day, I'm learning to go by my own sense. God made us their mama for a reason. We are equipped to make decisions for our children with confidence. Of course, we won't be perfect, but mommy-ing someone else's way is not what is best for our babies. My children need me. Yes, sometimes that means I might be more protective than the majority in one area, and less worried in another. Being a good mother doesn't mean running with the pack. Being a good mom is doing what you know your child needs.
3. Each child is different
Well no duh. We all know that. But, I was surprised at how much I truly expected my experiences with both babies to be similar! They have been so so different in almost every aspect. Joslynne nursed like a champ, but was not a good sleeper. Elaina never nursed a whole session in her life, but she sleeps great. Joslynne never napped, but she was easy to keep an eye on. Elaina naps well, but is a daredevil when she's awake. Thankfully, new bumps in the road also come with smooth sailing in other areas. That's not to say having another child is like starting over again as a brand new mom. Even though the experiences with each pregnancy and baby might be very different, we still have the skills we learned and intuition we developed as a first time parent to bring into the second time around! A new baby came with a new set of hurdles, so God is gracious to not have us go through all the things at once. ;)
4. Children are stronger, smarter, and more capable than we give them credit for.
I was so worried when Joslynne struggled with us being in the hospital to have Elaina, and then seemed like she would be traumatized forever. She was terrified if we even left the room the weeks after we came home. She is fine now! Her communication has improved by leaps and bounds every month, and she understanding more and more what it means to have a baby sister. She loves it, and we love watching her learn how to love, protect, and be a friend to another little person.
She loves being a helper. I realized how well she responded to anything that makes her "a great big sister" or "a good helper to mom and dad". ;) She loves to feel like she is contributing. Also, anything that makes her feel like a big girl compared to her little baby sister. :) So, giving her responsibilities has been a game changer. Explaining things to her, even if we think she doesn't understand has been huge for her growth and adjusting to a new baby. I've been amazed at how quickly she picks up on Elaina's needs, and impressed by how many often she will jump up and try to meet those needs for her little sister!
5. Alone time makes me a better mama
One of the most helpful things Wes has done in the last several months is insist on me having alone time. He is amazing at picking up on my needs, and I am so thankful he knows me so well. It feels selfish to ever be away from my children while they are awake. But, I have come to realize that stepping away and doing something unrelated to my identity as a mother is the key to recharging and equipping me to be a better mama.
For me, this is even more important than sleep. At first I thought sleeping in sometimes on the weekend was what I needed. I quickly realized that alone time is my fuel and makes me a better mom. Sometimes you just need uninterrupted thinking time, prayer time, grown up thoughts, and time to focus on personal goals to equip you to come back to those kiddos. I don't know if I'd go as far as saying time away from the poop makes you appreciate the poop, but it definitely helps you tackle the poop and remember that being a mama is so much more than poop. ;)
6. Wake up before your children
Like I said before, alone time is more sacred to me than sleep. So, I discovered that having time to start my day before my children wake up and have all sorts of needs, is everything. When I was sleeping as long as possible, I noticed that waking up at the same time as them puts me in defensive mode for the whole day. So, instead of being in offensive and preventing "fires" I feel like I'm putting out "fires" all day. I also noticed that I wasn't eating, drinking, peeing, or getting dressed until like 3 pm...which does not set me up for success. Waking up a little earlier helps me be in a functioning state to take care of my little people and have a fun day with them!
7. My heart needs to be fed
More than ever before, the last few months I have begun to feel the weight of responsibility that comes with raising children. It is so much more than keeping them healthy and happy. Their hearts are growing under my teaching and by my example. The fact that my girls will develop their worldview under our roof is kind of terrifying. I know that I can't expect to teach them what to believe about themselves, what to believe about the world, and what to believe about Jesus if I'm not growing. The best way show them how to have a joyful heart is to be constantly learning myself. That means no matter how busy life gets, I need to be spending time with Jesus. I need to know Him, talk to Him, and learn His word. That is where I will get the answers and truth to speak into my girls' precious lives.
8. You can make changes as you go
Since having my second baby, I have realized I don't have to decide right now what life will look like for my family forever. I don't have to decide I'm going to be a certain kind of mom and stick with that stereotype or identity. I can decide that something is working for us right now, and down the road we may have to make changes. That doesn't mean my initial idea was bad or a failure. It means we are growing. The longer you are a mom, the more experience will you have, the more knowledge you will have, but it will also mean more on your plate with new stages of life as the years go on.
I'd love to hear from you what you are learning on this crazy journey of raising little ones! I'm so thankful it is a growing process!