Congratulations on your new little one! You have just been part of one of the greatest miracles there is... bringing a brand new life into this world; a life that is completely unique and never seen before. What an exciting time is in front of you... getting to know this new little person, being amazed at how perfectly she has been formed, smelling that 'new baby smell', and being overwhelmed with feelings which you never knew existed. Caring for a newborn is truly a wondrous time.
But, it is also a time of immense change. We who are already mothers tend to focus on the pleasant parts of the journey. Having survived, perhaps multiple times, caring for a newborn (or two), there is a happy amnesia that seems to occur so that our memories are mostly pleasant when we think about those early days. We remember how wonderful it was to nurse our babies, watch them sleep, hear the fascinating sounds they made, and watch their funny and adorable expressions. This is what we could not get enough of and what we remember. While we do remember the sleepless nights and the inconsolable crying, even that takes on a slightly rosier hue than when we were in the midst of it. We forget to tell new mothers that yes, taking care of a newborn is hard work. Hard, sleepless, and sometimes lonely and frustrating work.
In our present modern society, families tend to be smaller and extended families tend to live apart. It is entirely possible for new parents to have never had to change a diaper much less seen first hand how much care a baby needs. There seems to be a modern expectation that life can go back to normal once the pregnancy is over and labor done with. Sure, there is one more person in the family group, but that shouldn't change things too much, other than requiring a little bit of shopping to gather the needed equipment and supplies. No wonder so many new parents are thrown for a loop when this new little person arrives on the scene.
Perhaps we older, more experienced parents should be more truthful. We have fallen into the Martha Stewart trap of thinking that things should appear effortless or it doesn't count. ("What? The table arrangement? Oh it was nothing; I just threw it together" Though the hostess knows full well that she slaved for hours and hours, sometimes with a mini-drill in hand to achieve the desired results.) We do it with parenting as well. We sometimes behave as if our well-behaved, well-adjusted children arrived this way; that the reason we have happy, secure children isn't because we have invested significant love, time, and training into their lives. Why don't we want to admit to the world that raising children, especially newborns, takes a lot of time? And yes, time that we could have used to do other things.
Entering into motherhood ushers in a new stage of life. It is a life that by necessity is one of serving others. This is God's boot camp, in a way. If we as believers are to be slowly allowing ourselves to be transformed into Christ's likeness, I can think of no better way to learn this than to become a parent. A baby cannot do anything for himself, his survival is entirely dependent upon the adults in his life. As a result, a baby requires nearly constant care. And if a mother is nursing, the new mother may spend what feels like every waking minute nursing. Why don't we tell new mothers that this is normal? Why don't we tell new mothers that this is what they should expect? Why don't we tell new mothers that it is OK to spend all one's time taking care of one small infant?
Of course, this new-motherhood-thing would be a little easier for the new mother if our society weren't so fragmented. No longer are new mothers naturally surrounded by those a little farther along in their parenting journey. There is a lot we can share and support we can give. There is nothing so comforting to a parent than to hear something is perfectly normal. I am grateful for those more experienced mothers who spoke into my life... taught me how to use a sling, supported me when nursing was difficult, chatted and visited when I needed the company of more than a newborn, and provided wonderful role models by how they lived their lives.
New mothers, you have a steep hill ahead of you as get the hang of being a mother. Your world has been turned upside-down, and it will never be the same. But this is not a bad thing. See this season of your life as one of learning selflessness; as a chance to serve one of the least of God's children; as a chance to pour yourself out as you take care of this blessing God has given you. Allow God to change you into the mother He wants you to be. Yes, you will be letting go of other things for the time being. Some you will resume as your child grows, others you will wonder why they were important to you. 1 Timothy 4:4 says, "For everything created by God is good, and nothing to be rejected if is received with thanksgiving." God created motherhood and knew the intense demands a newborn would place on her mother. If God created it this way, it is good. Embrace it and allow God to work through you and transform you as you practice motherhood. It is a divine calling.
Oh, and smell that new baby head for me, OK?