Wednesday, July 22, 2009

On Motherhood

I must admit that the last two months have been a challenging journey towards motherhood. You have a baby, and yes, that automatically makes you a mother. But being a good mother, that takes time. Mothering is an art; you learn, you practice, you make mistakes, you get better.

The first month it was just keeping our baby alive by feeding her and keeping her clean. Yes, she would cry and scream a lot, and so, the other priority for the first month was to keep myself alive by sleeping whenever she slept, trying to recover from childbirth.

The second month became a somewhat more organized attempt to establish a rhythm of living. I interviewed veteran moms, asking them about their routines, their ways of mothering, their tips for child-rearing. I read, and am still reading, a lot of books on babycare and parenting. Kevin and I have started reading Shepherding a Child's Heart, by Tedd Tripp, in anticipation for the moment our daughter enters a new stage of consciousness and begins suddenly to make choices. Parenting suddenly becomes a much more spiritual act than changing diapers and swaddling a squirming baby! But that is a topic for another post.

What I wanted to write about was that, at the start of this third month, my eyes have been opened to the diverse world of parenting styles. There is truly no single
right way to do anything when it comes to the way you choose to feed your baby (whether on-demand or by way of parent-directed-feeding), the way you choose to put your baby to sleep (letting her cry-it-out or letting her fall asleep in your arms), the way you choose to interact with your baby (carrying her in a sling all day or putting her to play by herself in her bouncy chair).

Being a new mom can be downright intimidating. You really have no idea what you are doing. Right from the start, the hospital tells you to feed your baby on-demand. Then the pediatrician comes in and says to feed her every two hours. Already you are paralyzed in confusion, and it's only the first day of being a mom! This very type of scenario - where I am paralyzed in confusion - happens all the time to me!

Thankfully God has given us the grace to hobble through these first couple months. We are still learning what works for us and what doesn't. I am especially learning that when it comes to caring for a baby, most of it boils down to simple matters of personal preference. It is very liberating to know that if there is no true biblical basis for any suggested parenting practice or style, then I really do not need to heed the advice.

To conclude, I wanted to give a verse from Isaiah that I like. God actually uses the analogy of a mother to describe the way He will be towards Jerusalem. God has made mothers with a natural and beautiful impulse to comfort and nurse their child. This relationship between mother and child is so full of beauty that He uses it to express the kind of relationship He will have toward Jerusalem.

Isaiah 66:10-13

10"Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her,
all you who love her;
rejoice with her in joy,
all you who mourn over her;
11that you may nurse and be satisfied
from her consoling breast;
that you may drink deeply with delight
from her glorious abundance."

12For thus says the LORD: "Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river,
and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream;
and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip,
and bounced upon her knees.
13As one whom his mother comforts,
so I will comfort you;
you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

My Constant Companion

This is who I see on a daily basis. She's either sleeping, eating, crying, peeing or pooping. Lately, at 6 1/2 weeks, she has started smiling in her sleep.

She's beginning to love taking her baths. She likes being wrapped up in her towel while in the buff.

She absolutely LOVES to sleep on her belly despite how the pediatrician lectured her about it. She just can't seem to catch any zzz's for very long on her back.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Mommy School

Now that I'm a mom, there's been a ton of new things to learn! Last month I started with reading a bunch of books on postpartum recovery for my own body (honestly, it was a shock finding out what a woman's body goes through after she gives birth!). Then I moved on to books regarding childcare (from the basics of caring for a baby to information on childhood vaccinations).

Isn't it funny that we go through four years of college education, staying up late and pulling those all-nighters studying for an exam on something like, say, Latin verb conjugations and noun declensions, but then years later realize it was a partial waste of effort and time since it has nothing to do with what I really wanted to be all along: A WIFE AND A MOMMY.

Here is a "Reading List" for Jean as she goes through "Mommy School":
(they also happen to be my favorite, or, the ones that I felt helped me the most)

A Natural Guide to Pregnancy and Postpartum Health, by Dean Raffelock
(This book is highly recommended, especially if you're really into nutrition like I am. I was spoiled by my mom and mom-in-law because in Chinese tradition, the first month after a woman gives birth is a critical time of recovery during which time relatives - i.e. mom and mom-in-law - make nourishing foods for her to boost lactation and facilitate in healing. On top of having special meals from my mom and mom-in-law, I also followed nutritional guidelines in this book, which I thought really helped me avoid common postpartum health issues like fatigue, postpartum depression, dwindling milk production, etc.)

The Post-Pregnancy Handbook, by Sylvia Brown
(Emphasizes recovery from a more natural perspective. Recommended exercises done while I was bed-ridden really did help me!)

A Parent's Concise Guide to Childhood Vaccinations, by Lauren Feder, M.D.
(An overview of childhood vaccines. This book also happens to be written by Noelle's pediatrician, but I specifically chose a doctor who is OK with parents who choose to vaccinate on an alternate schedule rather than the CDC's recommended vaccine schedule. It's a controversial topic, but after reading books/lectures, I've decided for now only to go forward with four vaccines for Noelle: Dtap, Hib, IPV, and PCV.)

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, by Marc Weissbluth, M.D.
(Solidly and scientifically researched info on childhood sleep needs. This book is helping me sleep train my baby. She's learning how to fall asleep on her own right now, and yes, basically it means I have to let her cry herself to sleep. But it works! I'm also learning all about infant sleep and the importance enforcing and preserving a nap schedule.)