I was exhausted, overwhelmed and insecure when Josiah was born. I read every book and watched other moms, but it's true that nothing can prepare you for your first child -- and nothing could have prepared me for Josiah. He was born three weeks early --- bored in my tummy and ready to see the world and thats pretty much the same spirit that's followed him ever since.
I was insecure to stay in the house with him, insecure to take him out, insecure to breastfeed, and insecure to give him formula, insecure to start solid food, just insecure about everything. I had a healthy baby boy, a great support system, and STILL I was overwhelmed and deeply unsure of myself.
I was also insecure taking him to mothers-day-out. Starting at six months, Josiah went two days a week and....well.... he was kind of THAT baby. He screamed every time I dropped him off, and for the first few weeks, he screamed the entire five hours. He wouldn't eat, wouldn't sleep, he would just cry. Some days he would cry himself to sleep from exhaustion. Since then, people have told me that they never passed his classroom and saw him not crying. He was a mama's boy from the get-go (the bond between moms and sons is real, people). At 2pm when I picked him up, he would collapse in my arms, happy to be with his mama again.
When Josiah cried himself to sleep the first week of CLC
God knew my insecurities and he happened to provide me with the two best baby teachers in the entire universe: Laura and Megan -- two veteran moms, each with three children at the time. They were seriously never rattled by my screaming son. They never seemed frustrated or tired of him. They wouldn't even joke about him being difficult.
One random day I picked Josiah up from school and I stayed to chat awhile. I forget exactly what transpired but somewhere in the conversation I remember asking them:
"Do you have any advice for me?"
I honestly cant remember if I was asking about separation anxiety, solid foods or just asking for advice in general, but their response impacted me and I carry it with me to this day.
I was tired and insecure. And I was worn out trying to look like I was not those things.
I stood before these moms, and I asked if they had any advice to give me. And their response?
Each of them just looked at me and basically said "We have no advice for you because you're doing it right. You're a great mom." And I specifically remember the phrase "Don't change anything."
I was a bit taken back.
Seriously? Did they not see what a mess I was? How my own son was so unsettled when he was away from me? How I packed the same two jars of baby food every lunch? How I didn't have the faintest idea what I was doing or why God gave this boy to me because I was not strong enough to be his mom. Couldn't they see that?
I was a brand new, insecure mom standing before these two veteran moms who not only had a total of six kids between them, they chose to WORK with other peoples kids all day. If anyone was qualified to give advice, it was them. But they didn't.
They didn't give me advice.
They didn't tell me their own experiences.
They didn't recommend a new technique.
They didn't hand me a book.
At the end of a long day, I think God gave these ladies the wisdom to see beyond what I was asking. In a culture where everyone has an opinion, a technique, a book to read, it was amazing to me that these two moms could see that I didn't need advice.
What I needed was confidence. I needed to know that the way I was doing things was absolutely fine, even if it was different from how they did things. I needed two experienced moms to look at me and not mock the new mom who doesn't know what she's doing, but empower me.
I remember walking to the parking lot that afternoon thinking "They actually think I'm doing okay as a mom. Me with the baby who cries all the time. Me who sends baby jars for lunch instead of homemade food. And they said I shouldn't change anything." It was like my burden of insecurity was lifted a little bit.
Im not saying we shouldn't give advice to new moms who need it. I'm saying theres no shortage of it. There is no shortage of opinions. No shortage of books, blogs, and other moms to give us advice whether we ask for it or not (right?). Every mom has her own ideas about breastfeeding, solid food, tummy time, vaccinations, day care, car seats, pacifiers, sleep training, CIO, and everything else.
What we do have a shortage of is shutting our mouths. Maybe we have the exact solution to her problem, but that's not what she really needs in the moment.
Fast forward a couple years and I'm no longer a brand new mom. In fact more and more I find myself as the "experienced" mom in the room (yikes). I'm a second time mom and I have my own stories to tell and my own advice to give. I have friends who are having their first babies and who look to me for answers, and sure I give advice. But when I think of that day at mothers-day-out I have to remind myself that deep-down, advice is sometimes not what new moms need most, even if that's what they're asking for. Sometimes they just need to hear, "you're doing it the right way. You're a great mom. The way you're doing things is just fine" even if it's not the way I did things. They need to be encouraged, empowered, and reminded that God is pleased with them in Christ.
If you're a godly, veteran mom, please share your wisdom and experience because Lord knows we need to hear it. But please also have the wisdom to see that sometimes when that new mom stands in front of you, exhausted, insecure, and overwhelmed-- she really doesn't really need to hear that her carseat should still be rear-facing or her four month old is too young to start solids, or her cry it out strategy will scar her kid for life...
Maybe what she needs is a hug and to hear "God perfectly matched you with your little one. You are the best mom your baby could have and in Christ you have all you need right at this moment."
Trends come and go. Strategies will change. What's recommended today could be disproven tomorrow. Experts debate, "friends" comment, and most moms rattle off an opinion like its the gospel truth.
In the middle of these shouting voices, your quiet answer of "nothing" might just be the refreshing word a new mom longs for-- the best advice she'll never hear.