Some Counter-Cultural Advice for New Moms

I have a very special treat for you all today.  My very first Guest Post!  This post was written by my friend Tricia from Little House in the Hills.

I’m going to warn you right up front, this is quite the counter-cultural message.  Women nowadays like to think of pregnancy or postpartum as the ultimate Excuse Card for being emotional, unkind to their spouses, or having the right to be catered to.

The truth is, although it’s good to have help and understanding family, true joy for you is not found in dwelling on your needs and how others are or are not fulfilling themSure, you may be achy and worn out, but you’ve brought new life into the world.  This is a reason to rejoice, not wallow in self-pity.  Also, your husband is your teammate, not your enemy.  These aches and pains are not ‘his fault’ and he did not ‘do this to you’.  You chose to do this together.  You brought new life into the world and that is a marvelous thing.

There are plenty of new challenges ahead after bringing a new life into the world, but the key to overcoming them with grace is to do so together, always thinking of others above yourself.  This is where true joy is found, ladies.  But now, I’ll stop and let Tricia do the talking.

 

 

Yesterday afternoon, a couple moms and I were sitting around my parents’ living room, discussing baby showers and gifts, and what are the “baby essentials” that each mom-to-be should have. As we sat there, I began to wonder… besides all the things a mom would need to own, what are the sorts of things she might need to hear, before giving birth… and having her life completely change forever?

So I made a list–because that’s just what I do. I make lists.  But before I start talking through this advice for a mom-to-be, I thought I should mention a few things.

First of all, different moms are going to need to hear different advice, based on their backgrounds, past experiences, and personalities. Let me give you an example. My mom gave birth, at home, to my younger sister (her fifth child), and a few hours later, was attending a piano performance that my older brothers were playing in. I’m pretty sure my mom has some pioneer woman blood in her or something! But basically, if you’re a mom with that sort of personality/drive/motivation (whatever you want to call it), you’re not going to be needing to hear some of the same advice as the completely healthy mom who is still staying in bed all day long, when her “baby” is 5 years old. Different moms struggle with different things, and thus will need different pieces of advice. I’m going to try to keep some of this advice balanced, to “reach” both extremes. We’ll see how it goes.

Okay. On to number two… I might say some controversial things. There’s your warning.  I hear a lot of “mommy advice” from strangers, on the internet, etc., and some of it I agree with, and some of it, I strongly disagree with. Most of what I’m going to say below came from my mom (yes, that amazing woman mentioned above), and so this is largely how I was raised (along with my five siblings). But anyway, there are different cultures, different experiences, different methods… this is what I do. Take it or leave it.

Whew. Moving on. You ready?

1. Rest–at least for the first few days, but don’t start acting as if the world and your husband revolve around you. You just had a baby–your body needs to rest. You’ll also be extremely tired, which is another very good reason to rest and catch up on sleep! Sit down, put your feet up, and enjoy having your dinner brought to you–but only for a little while. Once you feel like you can get up and make your own plate, do so. Your husband is tired, too. Don’t be selfish.

newbornjemima

2. Don’t forget your husband. This ties in with point number one. He still needs your love and attention, just like he did before you had the baby. Your tendency might be to focus on the baby, and forget about the baby’s daddy. Ask him about his day, serve him in every way you can (even if they’re little ways), and… Start having sex again as soon as possible. Some people say three weeks, some people say six weeks… I think you’ll just know. As long as your body is sufficiently healed, don’t think of excuses, and don’t be selfish (yes, there’s that selfishness word again). Sex is a really important part of marriage, and when done correctly, and in the right spirit, I think it brings the couple together again in a really bonding way after a baby’s born.

3. It’s okay to cry (and cry a lot!), but also realize that you CAN have some control over your emotions. Your hormones will probably be going crazy, and you’ll be living on less sleep that you thought was possible, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to be a crying mess. Many of my tears that I shed after my son’s birth were tears of self-pity, and because I was struggling to have the right attitude about different situations in my life. Pray about what’s happening, and ask God to give you the strength to be thankful and cheerful. Your husband will probably appreciate it.

4. Love your baby, cuddle your baby, kiss your baby’s sweet-smelling head, read to your baby… but also clean your house. Seriously. One of the best ways to get me motivated to clean–whether I’m pregnancy-sick, or dealing with a newborn, etc., is to set the kitchen timer for 10 minutes, and clean the bathroom for 10 minutes. Load the dishwasher, and wipe the kitchen counter. Make your bed. Fold some laundry. Just work steadily for 10 minutes, or 15 minutes, or whatever you’re able to do. These little time-spots of cleaning help your house not become a total disaster, keep you from feeling overwhelmed, or having to dig through the mountains of laundry to find an undershirt.

5. Here’s some advice just for you: set a time that you’re going to wake up in the morning, get out of bed, and take a shower. Now here’s one of those areas where different moms might be different. Some moms might prefer taking a shower at night. I’m not arguing for when’s the best shower time.  I’m just saying… it is possible to still take a shower regularly, even when you’re a new mom. If you’re typically a make-up wearer, continue to wear make-up. Make looking nice a priority. You might be a sleep-deprived new mama, but everyone doesn’t need to figure that out, as soon as they take their first glance at you! Make up and a shower will make you feel better too!

6. Ask for help, meals, just some company for the afternoon, but once the first month or two are over, your motto should become, “Just do it.” Looking back to when I was a new mom to Rachel, there were times that I’d call my mom or sister and say, “I want to go shopping, and I can’t go alooone!!” My mom’s responses were very kind and understanding. She would figure out a way to drive to my house, or meet me somewhere (or have my sister meet me there), but often she would gently say, “You could do this by yourself, Tricia.” And I’d respond, “Whaat?” Well, maybe not like that. knew I could do it by myself; I just didn’t want to. But if your family isn’t around, or your husband works long hours, there may be times that you’ll have to pack up that little baby, and go somewhere by yourself. Believe me… it isn’t easy at first (especially when your baby is screaming the entire time you’re in that tiny Dollar General, and everyone’s staring at you), but the more you do it, the easier this will become.

withnewbornmatthias

7. Yes. Shopping trips will get easier (I’m not saying they’ll be EASY; I’m saying they’ll be EASIER), diaper changes won’t make you gag, a new season of life will begin, and you just might forget about that difficult time in your life–at least some of it. When Rachel was 4 1/2 months old, I got pregnant with Jemima. It was one of those pregnancies where I decided to count how many times I threw up, and once I reached the 70s, I stopped counting.  So, yes, I’m sure it was very difficult, but honestly, the only thing I remember from those months is one time when I was leaning over the toilet, and Rachel was sitting next to me, just staring at me. That’s all I remember: that one picture. And now Jemima’s two, and can sing part of the Doxology, and occasionally remember the months of the year in order. Time passes, and your baby grows up. Take hope!

 

NOTE FROM KELSEY:  It’s always a scary thing sharing something you’ve written to a brand new audience.  If you liked this post, leave a comment for Tricia!

27 thoughts on “Some Counter-Cultural Advice for New Moms

  1. Monica says:

    Very good advice!

  2. Kaylee says:

    Good wisdom in here! I appreciated what you said, Tricia. In so many ways, it gets so much easier after that first baby. The first one rocks your world in every way. After having four, the transitions have continued becoming smoother. Healing takes less time, you REMEMBER that your emotions are going to be crazy (and you try to adjust accordingly), and you start having little helpers that can work with you on those power clean-ups and to keep the littlest one happier.

    • Tricia Regar says:

      Kaylee, I TOTALLY agree!! Even though having three children 3 and under isn’t exactly easy all the time, it is SO MUCH easier than when I just had Rachel (my first). Congratulations on having four! I’d love to have a fourth one of these days. 😉

  3. Angelika says:

    Nice and challenging thoughts there…and you did a nice introduction there with “different moms need to hear different things” but can I be honest? Germans are, in general, ahem, gets us in trouble sometimes…but here goes: that’s an awful lot of do’s and don’ts in that piece of text right there. I am not really sure rules help a new mom who is struggling, whether with laziness and self-centredness or over-doing it and trying to be all things to all people. I know direct advice is something we like to give cause it is easy, and sire, people can take it or leave it, but maybe all moms really need a heart-check, not a list of rules as to how often to shower or wear make-up. We all know how to set an alarm..you know? I think that a lot of these matters can make moms feel condemned and crushed under the weight of guilt who really have a particularly difficult newborn. (Some of this kind of advice has certainly done this for me in the past. Yeeeah, here comes my story, feel free to skip it!) My daughter was my first baby and was amazingly difficult compared to every other baby I have so far met around here. I am sure there are harder babies out there, but I was completely overwhelmed and in shock. We were in a children’s crisis centre here in Germany with her it was that bad. Screaming about everything..not sleeping much at all..waking me every 20 minutes all night long crying..wanting to nurse hourly round the clock and for looong times.Screamingly refused pacifier, stroller, car seat, baby carriers, wraps…screamed so much I did not sit in a church service at all for 5 months after she was born…need I go on?..I think I am not lazy. I like taking care of my house and my looks. I liked to think that I was disciplined and organized.I was sure I could handle one tiny baby. And God came and took my pride pretty suddenly when life changed forever, indeed. I had to give up everything and break all my own rules and yes, life revolved around this screaming blessing from God. It no longer does. But it did for a good while. It was a season. It passed.
    Sometimes God gives you something special, and it is okay to have not showered. My husband was much more concerned with me getting a tiny bit of sleep somewhere during the 24 hour day rather than me wearing make-up. I think without wanting to make excuses for lazy moms out there, rules don’t really help. I had all this stuff in your list figured out when I was 9 months pregnant. Didn’t work. What I would advise young moms is to continually check their heart attitude. (Am I being lazy? Am I being sinfully fearful and overcome by challenges because I am not trusting in the Lord? Am I relying on people instead of God? Am I being insensitive to my husband? Am I idolizing comfort and ease? What does being faithful and diligent and self-controlled need to look like in my current situation? As Luther said…daily repentance is the life of a Christian!)
    And be in communication with their husband about HIS priorities during a particular season.
    And ask God for backbone to get a hard job done without complaining.
    And accept that God’s grace will cover breaking all the man-made rules.
    Sorry if all that was blunt, I hope it doesn’t sound rude when you read it. I hope your advice is a wake-up call to some moms out there who are wallowing in self-pity. We are all guilty of it, and it requires a humble heart to turn and repent! But some of us may be trying hard and failing to live up to the expectations of other people. And in the end, I will give an account of that season to God, not to people. I would have needed to hear that as a new mom.
    I hope this is not discouraging to you on your first post, but I just think we make too many rules, that as you say, change from culture to culture and circumstances etc..I say what matters is your heart before the Lord. There, nuff said!

    • I'm Kelsey! says:

      I hear what you’re saying, Angelika! Obviously, there are some situations where you CANNOT keep up with everything, no matter how diligent you are. The heart is more important than the state of your house and you’re right to point that out. Your baby does sound like an exceptionally hard scenario.

      The important thing is to do the best with WHAT WE’VE BEEN GIVEN. Sometimes that best is to just hang on and survive a challenging life stage. I think Tricia offers some great guidelines and goals for a normal, complication-free post partum period, but everyone is different. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Angelika! It’s a good reminder to encourage the overwhelmed (and motherhood can definitely be overwhelming!) just as much as we urge Moms to strive to ‘do better’. ~Kelsey

    • Tricia Regar says:

      Hi, Angelika! Thank you for sharing–I really appreciated hearing your thoughts. What you described with your newborn sounds extremely difficult, and I admit I’ve never gone through something like that (even though I’d definitely had some rough patches here and there).

      I appreciated what you said here: “I liked to think that I was disciplined and organized.I was sure I could handle one tiny baby. And God came and took my pride pretty suddenly when life changed forever, indeed. I had to give up everything and break all my own rules and yes, life revolved around this screaming blessing from God. It no longer does. But it did for a good while. It was a season. It passed.”

      When I wrote that article above, I was addressing moms in general, as opposed to moms in these sorts of tough situations. I agree–they don’t need a list of do’s and don’ts. They need something different–like tons of encouragement, hands-on help, hugs, prayer… I hope that helps. 🙂

  4. Hailey Poole says:

    GREAT advice for new mommas! I’m especially glad to hear someone bring up sex! … and the part about showers. It takes awhile to realize that after you have kids you only have time for the things you make priorities and schedule time for …often at the expense of sleep but if we’re all striving to be “proverbs women” she doesn’t sound like she slept much either 🙂

  5. Bethany says:

    Such good advice! And it’s always a positive to think, “I can do this for 10 minutes” instead of all the “can’ts”.

    • Tricia Regar says:

      Bethany, I know! I’m not sure where I first heard that “10 minutes” idea from, but I wish I would’ve known it when I was first pregnant. It’s so easy to just stare at the dishes, and think, “That will take forever, and I can’t do it!!” instead of just working on it for a really short amount of time. 🙂

  6. sonia birdsong says:

    What a challenging post! I’m a new mother of a month old baby and I often find myself asking, “how did my mother do this?” But that’s just the thing, she did! And she survived! I don’t want to just survive raising children; i want to flourish. Thanks for saying what you did. I needed to hear it.

    • Tricia Regar says:

      That’s funny that you should say that, Sonia, because I was recently out shopping with the kids, and a woman asked me, “How do you do it?” Her husband replied for me, “She just *does* it.” I thought that was cool, and very true! 😀

  7. Catherine says:

    Great advice, very counter-cultural but refreshing!

  8. Jessica says:

    Tricia- I admire your bravery and obvious tenacity as a mother. However I think your delivery is clouded by the fact that you have had multiple children and easily recognize the simple truths about motherhood that are only truly known through experience. For the most part, I agree with your advice but as I sit here and try to imagine myself reading it as a ‘brand-new mom’ I feel that I would have been more offended than inspired. Assuming that your goal was to inspire, I offer my humble opinion: try to be less judgmental. To clarify- I’m not stating that you are a judgmental person, I am in no position to do that. I did however detect a hint of judgmental tone while reading your post that overshadowed your otherwise helpful advice. The problem I believe lies in your delivery (ha ha, no pun intended). You can’t explain to a new mom that it will ‘get better’ because it ‘just does’…. she needs to hear the WHY! The best advice ever, to nearly all problems/questions is: This too shall pass. During difficult times it reminds us to hang in there it will soon be over and during joyous times it reminds us to cherish every second because alas, they will be over soon too. When I’m on my deathbed, I can’t imagine that I will regret that I didn’t wear make-up enough or that my house wasn’t clean enough. I might however feel as if I could have spent more quality time with loved ones. If we are able to remain aware of the truth rather than become slave to expectations, it is easy to flourish in Motherhood. Focus on the baby, and/or the children and every blessed moment for they too, shall pass. If love is in your heart and on your lips, you will never fail as a mother (or person for that matter.)

    I have to ask though.. why exactly do you label your opinions as counter-cultural?
    Good luck and God Bless.

    • I'm Kelsey! says:

      Hello, Jessica! I’m going to let Tricia respond to her comments here, but I wanted to chime in and let you know that it was me who titled the article as counter-cultural. I believe women nowadays seem encouraged to ‘blame’ their husbands for birthing aches and pains and think that others OWE them help and special catering. Help is always nice, of course, especially during those difficult first months, but we shouldn’t cross the line of being grateful for them and thinking they are owed to us. Love and consideration, not JUST toward the baby, but also toward your husband and family should also be encouraged and I just don’t see that being encouraged anywhere else. I hope that makes sense!

    • Tricia Regar says:

      Hey, Jessica, I think you have a good point… When I was a new mom, there are times that I am *thankful* that people didn’t criticize the little “new mom” things I did, but gave me some grace while I was learning. I’m sure that I just assume certain things now about being a mom, that wouldn’t have been easy to hear or understand back when I had a newborn.

      That being said, I know that for myself, and for other new moms that I’ve known, there is a tendency to have a baby, and then instantly picture yourself in this little bubble that honestly, focuses mostly on one’s self. Even though it may have offended me (or made me cry :)), it would have been helpful for someone to come alongside me, and say, “Hey, you can do it!!” or, “How about you try this method to keep the laundry folded?” The habits that we form as new moms really affect us later on!

      I strongly believe that we should focus on our children, and love our children, but one of the ways we CAN love our children, is to love our husbands, keep up our homes, work diligently, on and on.

  9. Valerie says:

    I enjoyed reading this. 🙂 Of course there are special situations where a woman might need to pass on some of these things, but the main idea I felt you were trying to convey in this post is encouragment for women to work hard and be the strong, loving wives we should be. That is GREAT advice!
    I think it could be a guilt trip to many new moms but all EXPECTING women should read things like this. We’ve gotten to be very self-centered (society, not women alone 😉 ) and you challenge that…I love it! Well done!

    We might not all do things the same way but we should definitely

    • Tricia Regar says:

      Thanks, Valerie. I have been reminded recently of the example of the Proverbs 31 woman… she was definitely a diligent worker, who was always seeking to serve others! What a great picture for us moms.

  10. Valerie says:

    Oops, I meant to delete the last line. 🙄

  11. Renee says:

    I read Tricia’s blog on a regular basis – and I’ll admit that sometimes I am rubbed the wrong way by what she writes 😛 This one, strangely, didn’t offend me as some of the others have. This post is practical advice that, quite frankly, we all do every day and would do without someone telling us to do it. The biggest difference though, and what is hard for some people to look past when seeing lists like this, I think, is knowing that our writer Tricia is the, *ahem* anti-feminist.

    For example, I went to public school, had parents who worked (sometimes we had tv dinners! I hated when the corn juice spilled into the brownie, dang it!), I myself had a summer job starting when I was in the 8th grade. I was taught that, to work is a good thing. We went to church every Wednesday and Sunday – my dad was my Sunday school teacher. A majority of the women in my church worked – nurses and teachers, for the most part; our pastor’s wife was a cook in the grade school! I think this is where the term “counter-culteral” is appropriate. The idea of staying home all day, every day and not working is something that just the idea of, makes me want to climb the walls. 🙂 Some people are just raised differently, and neither way is right or wrong.

    Hearing someone of the “differently raised” variety tell us the “right” way to do something – not just this matter specifically, but in general – is offensive. That’s just how it is.

    Take away the “new mom” part of the equation and this is what you have left: Clean your house, take a bath, don’t be selfish. These are all creeds I live by anway. 🙂

    My best friend and co-worker is a new mother. She took her six week initial maternity leave, and has gradually transitioned herself back to working fulltime – she still stays home one day a week. She is one of those mom’s who just, well, she just got it. She had every instinct and knew what to do without being told. Of course, she and her husband have been married for several years – they waited to have the baby until they had an established home, jobs. And I think this is what made it easier for her.

    Each person has different experiences and different situations, and it is easy to look at this list and say “No, these things didn’t work for me BECAUSE ______.” But let’s just look at this list for what it is, and not be offended: clean your house, take a bath, don’t be selfish. Regardless of whether you are a new mom, a gal with seven children, or someone with no kids. 🙂

  12. Tricia Regar says:

    Hi, Renee… first of all, thanks for reading my blog! I have no idea who you are, and I am honored that a complete stranger should find my blog interesting enough to read on a regular basis. 🙂

    Number two… to be quite honest, I’ve read what you’ve written several times, and I’m still not sure what to respond. I really appreciated a lot of what you said–seriously, even the parts that may have confused me. :O

    I completely understand why some of the things I might say on my blog would be offensive… first off, because I WOULD consider myself to be an anti-feminist, even though I’ve never officially been called that! 🙂

    With everything I say or do, my goal is to follow what God has laid forth in Scripture. I obviously have many faults, and do not always live my life as a Christian should, but this is my aim–even if it means that I may offend some people.

    I hope that makes sense.

  13. janicepettis says:

    This is a great discussion! I’m starting a preconception group for women that want to take extra steps to prepare their bodies, minds and spirits for pregnancy and motherhood and I’ll definitely be sharing this post and the subsequent comments with our group. Bottom line, as women we should all be kind and loving to each other. Being a wife and mother is hard enough. I think the overall message of suck it up is a good one for us all to keep in mind. I’m old school and agree that women nowadays can at times be a little weak sauce. But again, I’m in the preconception group right now. My opinion may change once baby comes!

  14. Sharon says:

    I just read your article. I’m expecting my fifth baby and am homeschooling for the second year! I appreciate your thoughts about getting yourself moving and “keeping up” with life, whether it is dishes and laundry or just showering and make-up. I have found that something that helps me the most when you have those “emotional” days is to put on some good praise and worship music in my kitchen and dig in to whatever needs done. I don’t just listen: I sing, I dance, I clap, and praise Jesus with all I’ve got. Before you know it, your “feeling” better and things are getting done. I feel better, because I’ve stopped focusing on how I feel, and started thanking and praising My God!

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