When I announced the birth of my daughter, I mentioned that being a mother is a lot harder than I'd anticipated. I knew it would involve less sleep and lots of diaper changes. Those were the practical things that I knew came with the territory. But what I didn't expect was to feel so unprepared and lost at how to mother this daughter of mine. I'd read so many books and listened to so many other moms share their stories and tips and tricks, that I felt really confident going into this motherhood thing.
Then, my daughter was born and all those tips and tricks and instructions proved useless. Obviously, my daughter hadn't heard about them and how they're supposed to get her sleeping and eating like clockwork, settled down in seconds, and contentedly cooing in her crib.
For the first couple of weeks, I fought to follow all those rules. I fought to try to get her to fall asleep on her own, to stay asleep without a "prop," to nurse full meals, and to have "awake" time. I fought because that's what every professional said to do if you want your baby to develop healthy sleep habits and fit into a nice routine.
It sounds so lovely, to have a baby sleeping through the night and who can fall asleep on her own. Wouldn't that be so nice, so convenient? Absolutely, which is why I fought for it.
But with the fighting came frustrations and feeling like a failure. Because it wasn't working for my baby. They made it sound so easy, but for us, it wasn't. Already I can tell she is a sensitive soul with a tender heart. She craves being held and kissed and fawned over. She craves to know she is loved; don't we all? And so as I fought to get her to follow the rules, she fought back against them with buckets and buckets of tears.
At some point, when too many tears were shed on both our accounts, my husband reminded me that all those professionals might have good ideas but their ideas are not gospel. The Bible does not tell us to put our babies down drowsy and shush them to sleep or else. It does not instruct us about when to wake the babes up and when to make them eat. It doesn't tell us that we should make them sleep here or there or let them cry for a certain amount of time.
No, the Bible's instruction on raising children is sweet in its simplicity. It tells us to love our children, to sacrifice for them, to teach them about the Lord, to model the ways of Jesus to them, to discipline them as they grow, to instruct them in the way they should go. Those are the priorities we ought to strive for in our parenting.
And then one night, as I stayed up with my baby, lulling her to sleep the only way I knew how—by nursing—I felt the Lord whisper to me: Surrender. Surrender these rules and instructions to Him, to her. Look at her and who she is. She is a real person with real emotions and real needs. She isn't simply a piece of wood to be whittled into submission.
She has a heart to care for and tend to. A heart that God has entrusted to me and my husband to love and guide and protect. I cannot afford to neglect that, because that heart can someday change the world and surely will bring glory to God. In the end, isn't that all that really, truly matters?
With that—with a single word and a single reminder to surrender—I felt a new sense of peace take hold in my parenting. I free to mother her as I like: To listen to her rather than to a stranger. To listen to God rather than to a man.
We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. Romans 15:1
Carmen writes the blog, Life Blessons, which provides an intimate look into her life as a twentysomething woman as she details her experiences learning how to live out her faith, enjoy the simple things in life and be the woman God created to her to be. Along the way, she shares the blessings and lessons that are a part of this journey, the things she likes to call her "blessons."
Feel free to learn more at her blog, Life Blessons.
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