Wednesday, October 24, 2012

5 things i've learned since becoming a mom: trust your instinct

part three in a five part series of things i've learned since becoming a mom 5 years ago.
you can read part one here and part two here.

the panic and anxiety inside me was building up. i felt sweaty and a bit frantic. i ripped into the last few remaining presents with gusto while pasting an attempt at a calm smile on my face.

it's okay. he's fine. i'll go get him in just a second. i don't want to keep you all here any longer.

i could hear noah's cries start to get more and more frenzied and my heart beat just a little bit faster. my palms were sweaty. finally at their urging i got up from my present-opening and went and got my baby from the upstairs and after a quick feed and an attempt at calming both of us down, i came back out to the baby shower. my baby shower.
this was supposed to be happy and joyous and exciting. all these women were here to celebrate the birth of my first child. so then why did i feel like curling up in a ball and crying for hours?
after the last of the women left i did go back upstairs into my parents' bedroom and cry and cry.

so i had post partum depression after noah was born. the mad torrent of emotions and hormones swirling around inside of me combined with unrealistic expectations and a head full of knowledge of how things should be {plus the sleep deprivation of having a newborn} led to me feeling confused, desperate and unhappy.

i am a knowledge specialist by nature. that is to say, when i'm interested in something i will google the heck out of it, borrow books from friends, the library and ask anyone and everyone who will answer me on that subject. i did this when i was pregnant with noah. i read about pregnancy, breastfeeding and parenting philosophies. i think there is a value to gaining insight and looking into things you're not sure about, but in this case i forgot one major part of parenting;

trust your instinct.

i forgot to trust my natural gut feeling as a new mother. i just read the books and thought everything would fall into place accordingly. so when things didn't turn out and i had a screaming baby and my hormones were screaming just as loudly i fell apart. 
after about 3 months of feeling antisocial and unhappy and constantly on edge and worrying about if the baby would start crying again, the clouds lifted and my hormones leveled out somewhat. i decided to implement a routine and things started to become more manageable.

but when noah turned 6 months, we were on a plane to tanzania, africa for two months. this was a huge step of faith for me, but it turned out to be one of the most valuable parenting experiences for me. internet wasn't readily available. i didn't have my friends with me to ask my questions. all i had was me. so i learned to trust my instinct. i learned not to be so rigid in my expectations. i learned the value in having a routine, but not being a schedule-nazi and that diverting from our usual routine every now and then wasn't the end of the world. 
i learned to trust that i was a good mother for noah and that i could trust my instinct to hold him or to let him cry, to keep him up or breastfeed him to sleep. 

noah on safari in tanzania

me on the carrick-a-rede rope bridge in northern ireland with noah. this thing freaked me out. 

as noah has grown and i've had two other babies since then, i've been a lot more easy-going {like i thought i would be from the very beginning!} and i've really learned to just go with the flow. i've listened to my gut on things like whether or not we needed to take noah to the hospital for a dislocated elbow {before we knew what it was, of course}. i've trusted my instinct on delaying potty training, giving up on cloth diapering and moving our family to uganda. 
there are countless stories from other moms who have regretted not trusting their instinct about different things concerning their child's development. there are also countless stories about moms who have trusted their instinct and pushed for answers and were right despite others telling them nothing was wrong. 

my approach now to things is to use a combination of books and resources {including friends and other people} but to think about how their advice/recommendation fits with my child, my children and/or my family. if it's not working for our family as a whole, it's likely not going to work or last for very long.

so if you're a new mom, don't forget to put that book down every now and then and trust what feels right for you and your family. you are the best mom for your child and whether you choose breast or bottle, CIO or co-sleeping, to wait it out with baby tylenol or a trip to the hospital, don't forget to trust your instinct. it's God-given and it's unique to you and your child. 

i think if i could go back and tell PPD vanessa anything, it would be this, from 2 timothy 1:7,

"for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control."

as someone who loves Jesus, i know that i have his spirit within me and i can trust that He is guiding me and will give me wisdom in all situations - including parenting!

*as a side note, if you are struggling with PPD, please talk to someone and get some help. it doesn't always clear on its own and feeling unhappy and depressed and desperate isn't normal. here are a few resources to get you started. Post-Partum Support International, PPD/PPA resources


  1. I've been loving this "series" on motherhood Vaness! Very insightful. I'm so thankful to have an older sister who is so willing to share fears, failures, successes, lessons learned and blessings for all us hopeful-moms-to-be-someday :)

    1. Thanks, Sis. :)
      I look forward to walking this Motherhood journey with you some day! :D

  2. awesome. what a great post. i think you give very smart advice in this, and it's great to read this instead of how perfect everything should be or expected to be. i'm enjoying your miniseries.

    1. Thanks, Michelle! Yeah, it's definitely not perfect around here. No sir. :)

  3. Hey V. I reckon this is one of the most important things I've learned pre-baby. I've had a number of people say that I'm a lot more calm and relaxed about motherhood than they thought I would be - with my tendencies towards stress and perfectionism. But, as much as I've read and thought about it, I've realised that until this little guy arrives and we start figuring out who he is and how we are and what does and doesn't work for US and HIM, there is no point in stressing. Now the delivery....oh man. I can't even go there. And in terms of how it will affect my marriage? Again...terrified. But being a mom...I reckon one day at a time, with a lot of prayer and just using my noggin'. Its nice to have that affirmed in this blog of yours. cheers m'dear!


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