Our church has so many young families in it, and there are babies popping up all over the place, it seems. So it presents me with many opportunities to take someone a meal, share cute stories, and offer words of encouragement for all of these young and new moms. Now, in reaching out to one couple a few weeks before and after the arrival of their son, I came face to face with my own memories of being pregnant and having our daughter.
Pregnancy alone can be challenging, and I know that a lot of mothers can agree to that, but I think that dealing with the aftermath can be equally as challenging. Dealing with sleeplessness, feedings every few hours, your hormones fluctuating like crazy, and so much more, you will feel like you are losing your mind. Personally, I only got two weeks off before I went back to work, but I was battling with depression, exhaustion, and just leaving everything behind me. I felt crazy, and I never really seemed to get the right kind of encouragement that I needed.
Sure, I had plenty of moms telling me that “ohhhh, you’ll be fine” everywhere I went. Some moms would get a good chuckle at my expense when I was trying to catch vomit or bowel movements with a burb cloth. And then there was all of the extra pressure that you get just by virtue of having a child. I received looks from people for not being environmentally friendly and using cloth diapers (forget the fact that we couldn’t afford that at all). When we put our daughter on formula because I couldn’t work out a steady pumping schedule, there were many more looks plus the unasked for commentary on why breastfeeding was so much better for a child (though I’m pretty sure we all know that). Finding out that I had a C-section, people gave me plenty of looks of pity along with comments (i.e. You poor thing! Oh, I know that had to be awful!) because the more natural your birth is, the better it is. And there’s other random things that people do without realizing that they do it.
But when you combine those pressures with your own fragile emotional state and other people’s circumstances, you’re not sure if you can really express how you feel to anyone at all. For me, how could I complain knowing that there were people who greatly desired to have children but couldn’t? Or how can you feel comfortable expressing how difficult things are when someone has lost their own child? Or when you feel like your child is being difficult to handle, how do you say something when someone else has a child with special needs? Basically, everywhere you turn you receive these reminders that you should be happy and grateful for what you have and never ever complain because other people were not that fortunate. And don’t get me wrong, I see the wisdom in that. We exhorted to not be given to complaining and grumbling about things (Philippians 2:14), and I don’t have a problem with that. But, when we fail to actually encourage and support our sisters who are in a moment of weakness (sometimes brothers too), I think that we have a much bigger problem on our hands.
In the conversations with our friends who had their son, I was able to be blunt and honest about the challenges my husband and I went through. I told her about how I dealt with post-partum depression and the things that I didn’t do a good job with as a new mother. I told her how much I cried during the C-section, what I was scared about, how uncomfortable and exposed I felt, how painful and weird breastfeeding was, and the disappointment with the whole process. I was just open and honest. And my husband reached out to her husband and shared about how weird watching breastfeeding was, how differently you view your wife, and how to offer support when you’re exhausted. It was a really blessed opportunity for us, and over the past few weeks, they have let us know how appreciative they are for knowing other people who had a hard time.
So, all of that, plus reading one of my friend’s blogs (A Ranch Mom) she wrote recently (found here), reminded me that I wanted to write this blog to encourage you as you see new mommies and daddies, to really be a comfort and encouragement to them as they are going through the transitions of parenthood. Proverbs 15:23 says:
To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!
And I know we all have experienced receiving a “word in season” and how comforting and uplifting those words were when we received them. Just be mindful of doing that in your day-to-day interactions no matter where you are, but for the purposes of this blog, especially to new parents.
Be comfortable with opening up about your own challenges and internal struggles. Talk about the stuff you wish you knew. Talk about the stuff you wish you had heard. Talk about all of those pressures you naturally felt, and how you learned to deal with them. I firmly believe that as much as our trials and circumstances are given to sanctify us personally, they are also given to help us to be great encouragements and witnesses to others of the grace and love of God to carry us through those difficult times.
So don’t just chuckle when something funny happens (and I am the first to admit that funny stuff does happen, but it doesn’t always seem funny to the parent involved) and don’t make those sweeping statements that “we all go through that” and dismiss a new mom’s feelings, but give a little more of yourself. In a day and age where women can easily abort their children and “move on with their lives” when things get difficult, how much more should we be encouraging and supportive when we see a woman honoring God by raising her child. If the message of “you should really consider your options and choose what is best for you” can be heard before you even finish high school (and I heard this message within a week of finding out I was pregnant), then the messages of love, grace, comfort, and the insight of personal experience should be even louder in the ears of new mothers.
My prayer is that we would all be more conscientious of our words and attitudes (especially when people do things we don’t agree with) and that we would be able to genuinely offer “a word in season” and be spurred on to share our wisdom and exhibit kindness as the opportunity presents itself.
She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. – Proverbs 31:26