Do’s and Don’ts of How to Spend Your Maternity Leave

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I’m coming up on the end of my 6 weeks of maternity leave, and though I am semi-dreading this next stage of our lives that will include leaving my little girl with someone else, I’m choosing to trust that God will continue to care for and love Eden.  I have to remind myself that he is HER God too, not just mine.

I had some ideas of what maternity leave was going to be like that are comical to look back at now, so for your enjoyment here are some do’s and don’ts of being at home with a new baby.

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DO remember to eat.  Once everyone went back to work and people stopped bringing meals, I stopped eating breakfast and lunch.  Such a bad idea.  Some people say they were hungry all the time postpartum, but I was not at all.  Do yourself a favor and eat!

DON’T let yourself be lonely.  I found it easy to feel sorry for myself when everybody was doing their own thing and I was left alone to care for this creature that was either demanding food or excreting it.  First of all, though it can be difficult, it was HUGE for me to learn to talk to Eden even though she wasn’t responding.  Secondly, all of those people who said to let them know if they could do anything for me loved to know that what I needed the most was company.

DO make yourself some goals.  My sister helped me make a list of 10 goals that I have been loosely following.  Don’t turn it into a pass/fail thing, just think of some things that you want to try to do.  Some of my list were finishing my wedding scrapbook (not done), starting a photo album for Eden (done), sending my baby shower thank you notes (not done), and trying cloth diapers (done).

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DON’T give up when it gets hard.  Specifically for cloth diapering and breastfeeding, which are two things that many people try and end up quitting.  (Just as a disclaimer, many people want to breastfeed and are unable to for various reasons.  When I say don’t give up I am talking about general surmountable issues.)  The best breastfeeding advice I got was this: the first two weeks will suck.  It just hurts, and there isn’t much you can do to make it not hurt.  Keep yourself moisturized and cry if you need to.  With cloth diapering the best thing for me was to get cute diapers.  Is that vanity?  I’m 100% more likely to enjoy saving money if I can diaper my baby in cute patterns.

DON’T get carried away with baby junk.  Just because you decide to cloth diaper does not mean you should buy a ton of them.  Just because your baby is in newborn clothes longer than you anticipated doesn’t mean that the 6-10 outfits you have are not enough.  Just because the adorable baby accessory is on sale does not mean that you need it.  YOUR BABY IS GOOD ENOUGH AS IS.  I have made many early morning nursing session impulse buys on my cell phone that were absolutely unneccessary.

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DO take this opportunity to nap.  One thing I have LOVED about maternity leave is the ability to laze around in bed until 10am if we were up a lot during the night.  When I can put Eden down for a nap and go down with her are some of the best times.  I am totally not looking forward to having to be an adult and function in public after a hectic night.

DO pay attention to your baby.  It is really easy to rock, nurse and burp the baby while looking at your cell phone or the TV.  I’ve had to train myself to spend that time looking at Eden, touching her ears and nose, holding her little hands, talking to her and telling her how much I love her.  Facebook will still be there once she falls asleep.

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DON’T worry so much about the current baby care trends.  “They” change their minds every few decades about how babies should be put down to sleep, right now it is on their backs with no blankets or anything close enough to suffocate on.  When I was a baby it was prop them on their sides, before that they wanted you to put them on their tummies.  Just figure out how your baby sleeps best and be intelligent about what is in the sleeping area.  My friend’s mom who has raised 20+ babies says that the best way to put them to sleep is on top of a hot water bottle on their stomach.  Go figure.

DO remember that you are more than just a mom.  Being a good wife is still important, even when you are tired and smell like spoiled milk.  Being a good friend, sister and daughter are all things that need to be on your radar.  Remember that you have other hobbies, even though they may not stir your interest as much as doing another internet search for articles on the best baby carriers.

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DO let other people experience your baby.  Nothing melts my heart like watching Jason and Eden together, or seeing my parents eager to fill their new roles as Grandma and Granddaddy.  It can be tempting to give too much advice because you are the one who knows her idiosyncrasies or you just read this article about a topic, but I’ve found that I am the most satisfied when I let them experience it themselves.  So I may want to jump in when I think someone is patting her back too hard or puts her diaper on too loose, but I learned those things by trial and error, and they need to build their own personal relationship with Eden that doesn’t include me.  Sometimes the best thing is to sit back and let them learn about her in their own way.

Okay, advice column is over.  I’m breaking the “sleep while the baby sleeps rule” very badly right now, so I’m going to get on that.

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Prayer of the Clueless Newbie Mom.

As I sit here typing this, I have laid my daughter down in her crib for the first time and I’m listening to her half-cry/hiccup and trying not to give into the urge to pick her up and soothe her to sleep.  She was born on Friday, August 29th exactly one week before my birthday, and she waited until her Aunt Sarah was here to help Jason and I through the whole labor & delivery process.  We named her Eden Jane.

She sleeps next to our bed at night and as I lay there listening to her breathe, I pray this prayer:

Father, bless her little heart and keep it beating.
Bless her tiny lungs; keep them breathing.
Bless her little eyes, Lord, keep them closed for 3-4 hours, please.
Bless her little bum, please keep the rashes away.

My mother named me Bethany, which is a Biblical town that Jesus would visit because of the friends he had there.  She always told me that she named me after a place that Jesus loved to be.  Eden is also named after a Biblical place; a garden where God walked with his people.  I like the symmetry of our names both being places where God walked on Earth with us.

Her middle name is after a close friend of ours who recently passed away, we wanted to honor her and also give Eden the name of a strong role model.

Lord, bless her little body, please keep it warm because she won’t let me swaddle her arms.
Bless her tiny mind, soothe her thoughts and let her sleep.
Please bless her little vocal chords, let her make it known if something is actually wrong.
Bless her little life, Lord, keep her close to you as you always have with me.

There are parts about motherhood that are ridiculously hard.  They told me for the first few weeks I would cry a lot, but I didn’t know that I would cry about irrational and weird things, like the fact that she is so little, or that we might not be able to afford diapers, or that so many things could potentially kill her.  It is exhausting, and poor Jason has no idea what to do.

They told me breastfeeding would be hard, but I didn’t realize that when they said feed your baby every 2-3 hours during the day and 3-4 hours at night that what they really meant was that your baby will wake up and want to eat but then fall into an unwakeable zombie-like sleep before she has had enough, or that you will barely finish one feeding and finally drift off before she is acting hungry again.  And you will be SO SORE but will have to feed her over and over again anyway.  

There are also parts about motherhood that make it all worthwhile.  Like when she snuggles close to me and sleeps for hours or when Jason puts his arms around me in the middle of the night and whispers, “you’re a good mom.”

So she is finally quiet in her crib, at least for the moment.  I’ll probably sneak in there to make sure she is okay, then try to take a much needed nap.  It is our first day home without Jason because he had to go back to work, and I’ve been terrified of this day, (read: lots of random crying) but it really hasn’t been so bad.  I have friends coming this afternoon and evening to visit and my Mom will be here tomorrow for a few days.  When I really look at it, God is providing people for me all over the place.  There is no reason to doubt his goodness and care for my little family.

Such has been the first week of motherhood.  :-)

An update,

1.  We have gotten to the point where I don’t care anymore that it will hurt.

2.  Both my co-workers and members are betting on how much longer it will be.

3.  The midwife set my appointments for next week saying that she doubts that I will make it to them.

4.  Lots of gross stuff has been happening to my body recently.  You don’t want to know.

5.  My mom is trying to track my progress from Gettysburg.  I’ve stopped answering when she asks me how many contractions I’ve had and how far apart they are.

6.  Sarah keeps asking me to wait till Friday when she will be here, and I helplessly shrug.

7.  I am awakened most nights with contractions that I’ve been told are helping to get stuff ready but they don’t feel like they are doing jack squat.

8.  Another day at work seems like more than I am capable of.

9.  Our old friend nausea has returned.

10.  I secretly pray multiple times daily that my water will break.

living in today.

i am very not good at waiting.

in fact, i’m pretty sure that i’ve spent the majority of my life being impatient for whatever the next big thing is.  whether that was going to the ranch, graduating, getting a job, dating, going to guam, coming home from guam, getting engaged, married, and now waiting for this baby to come.  it is one of the traits that i wish i didn’t have.

when jesus says in matthew, “do not worry about tomorrow because tomorrow has enough troubles of its own”, sometimes i need to translate that into my head, “do not want tomorrow, because tomorrow will come and you will just want the next day.”  it is so easy to wish life away day by day, i need to learn to just live the day that i’m in.

so it has been 8 months and 3 weeks that we have been waiting for little e.

i alternate between wanting her to come early and wanting her to wait till her due date.  i don’t really want her to be late at all, but i don’t get much say in that.  i thought that i was uncomfortable and sore and ready to be done.. and then i started getting the false contractions and my feet started swelling up like balloons.  i realized that i had known nothing about uncomfortableness.

i think we are prepared, we have everything set up and ready to bring her home, we know what to expect of the hospital and delivery even in emergency situations, so waiting seems like prolonging the agony.  but.. i think i’ve said in a post before, what could god be teaching me right now that i wouldn’t be able to learn otherwise?  how can i honor him in my huge swollen contractiony state?  what would draw me closer and give others a better view of christ that i won’t be able to do when i’m focused on a brand new baby?  how can i be a witness in the waiting?

there are only a few days left with my co-workers, i can show them the love and peace of god.

there is only a short time left that jason and i are the only members of our little nyhart family, i can give my husband the thanks, attention and love that he needs from me.

there are only a couple of precious moments that i can sit in the quiet and give jesus my undivided attention, i can praise him for his goodness and faithfulness to us.

so baby e is coming and the welcome wagon is eagerly awaiting her arrival.  but i can be content in the few days that i have left to cherish her being quiet and contained before i get to kiss her little cheeks and change her dirty diapers.

if you want me to.

I sang for special music at a friend’s church today, and at first it wasn’t something that I had really thought about.  I don’t have access to a piano to practice, so I grabbed a song that I knew would come together for me without any preparation and ran out the door.  It wasn’t until I was sitting at the keys in front of a sanctuary full of people singing these words that they struck me:

The pathway is broken and the signs are unclear
and I don’t know the reason why you brought me here,
but just because you love me the way that you do
I’m gonna walk through the valley if you want me to.

As I sang this I thought of how unpredictable the world is, all the things that are out of our control and can suddenly just happen and change our lives forever.  I don’t know why God let’s us walk through the dark times, but I don’t have to know.  I fully believe that his love for me so far surpasses anything that he may ask me to go through that when he asks something of me I want my first response to be “of course.”  Of course I will accept this pain that you’ve placed into my life.  Of course I will do that huge scary thing; of course I will submit again; of course I will die to myself again.

Because I’m not who I was when I took my first step,
and I’m clinging to the promise that you’re not through with me yet.
So if all of these trials bring me closer to you,
then I will go through the fire if you want me to.

It may not be the way I would have chosen
when you lead me through a world that’s not my home.
But you never said it would be easy,
you only said I’d never go alone.

But it is easy to talk, easy to feel passionate about the concept and hard to carry it out in regular life where there is no cheering section.  The real test is in the secret moment when I feel the prompting and no one else would know if I don’t answer it.  The age of Facebook makes it so tempting to broadcast life to the point that you have to specifically decide to keep some things in between you and God.  I have had to learn to keep some things sacred.  In our little family I’ve had to learn to keep some things just between Jason and I; not bad things, but even jokes or sweet gestures.  Some things can be shared, but our relationship is between the two of us and documenting everything makes other people’s reaction way too much of a factor.  In the same way, my relationship with God is in between he and I.  Sharing things is not bad, but there is a point when you can make it more like a TV show than a life.

So when the whole world turns against me and I’m all by myself,
and I can’t hear you answer my cries for help,
I’ll remember the suffering that your love put you through
and I will go through the valley if you want me to.

I think that in the three minutes it took me to sing this song, my heart learned these two concepts: I want to trust wholeheartedly in God to bring me through whatever it is that he brings me to, and I want my relationship with him to be personal and selfless.  I want to give my friends a healthy view of my life and share what I’m learning, but I want to be able to select what I share from a wealth of experiences that I keep between myself and the people I experience them with.  I want there to be a depth to my soul, I want to be rooted deeply in the love of Christ, I want to give of myself out of the overabundance of what God has given me.

And in those hard times, when Facebook isn’t watching and it is just me and Jesus, when I am facing a dark journey that I don’t have any desire to take and I don’t see the purpose of.. I want to look in my Savior’s face and trust that he will walk with me.  I want to take his hand and say that I will go through the valley willingly and joyfully if that is what he wants me to do.