2015 was a year of many developments for our family, the biggest of which was falling pregnant. As I looked ahead to this year – the year our third child will join the family – some distinct phrases came to mind. Phrases like “survival mode” and “complete write-off” and “barely coping”. There are many wonderful things about newborn babies, but I know from experience that the first several months are a hard slog.
I didn’t want to build myself up with false hopes and unrealistic goals for the year, so I set my standards low. Really low. I expected, for at least the first six months, to be exhausted, overwhelmed and struggling.
Then I heard a talk at the NSW MOPS Leaders conference last year that challenged my thinking. The talk was about our theme for this year – A Fierce Flourishing – and how flourishing can look different for different people. I can’t remember the whole talk, but the part that has stayed with me was when the speaker put up two images. The first pictured sweeping, luscious hills coated in vibrant flowers of purple, yellow and pink.
The second image was one delicate Royal Bluebell, surrounded by hard, barren dirt. Both, we were told, represented “fiercely flourishing”.
I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about the stories these pictures tell.
But when I heard this talk and looked at the images, for the first time I wondered, “What if I don’t have to be content with ‘survival mode’ for the year ahead? What would it look like to actually flourish in the midst of the newborn chaos?”
As I slowly pieced together my thoughts, the conclusion I came to was that flourishing in the newborn season will be less about what I do or achieve and more about who I am (and am becoming). To me, flourishing means I will continue to grow as the woman, wife and mother God wants me to be, in the midst of a hard and challenging time.
With this renewed mindset, here are some of the practical things I’ve been thinking and planning as I look forward to our baby’s imminent arrival:
- What my children and my husband need most from me is a heart that is calm and joyful. And even if I am not cooking healthy meals, or getting through all the washing or planning fun activities, I can still have a calm and joyful attitude.
- Keep spending one on one time with the other kids. Ideally, this would happen every day but that doesn’t even happen now. So I am planning to try for at least one slot of dedicated, undivided time with each child per week. This can be as special as going out for babycinos or as simple as doing a puzzle together, but the purpose is to let my other kids know they are still valuable and important to me, even if their physical demands are not as intense as those of a newborn baby.
- Keep the lines of communication and intimacy open with my husband. I know well the tendency for everything to be reduced to its bare, practical minimum in the newborn days. But our marriage is the foundation under our family, so it’s important not to neglect each other in favour of more immediate needs. I choose to believe that a marriage can flourish even in a stage where there is very little time and energy to spare.
- Eat good quality, healthy food. This is a hard one since, well, someone has to prepare the food! But I know from experience that when I’m breastfeeding I just want to eat constantly. Mostly junk food, at that. I need to plan ahead to make sure that the food available to me will give me energy and help my body do what it needs to do, rather than make me feel sluggish and weigh my body down. My focus will be on lots of vegetables, through salads and smoothies, and lots of good fats.
- Accept help when it is offered. I can think back to times when people have offered to help out somehow, and I have turned them down because I couldn’t think of anything I could ask them to do at the time. This time, I am planning things I can ask for if people want to help out practically. For example, asking them to take the kids to the park or wash some dishes.
- Because I am a Christian my relationship with Jesus is important to me, so I will endeavour to stay connected to Him. I will find time to keep reading my Bible and talking to Him in prayer.
Perhaps the time between babies has dimmed my memory. And perhaps these plans will all fall apart when the baby arrives.
But I have the hope of knowing that God has been bringing beauty out of trials and hardships since the beginning of time (it’s kind of His thing). So, with that in mind, no matter what the newborn days look like when they arrive, I look forward to flourishing this year!