Ten years ago this week, I was heavily pregnant in Cape Town and due to give birth to my firstborn.
My mom flew in from the States for the occasion — she couldn’t wait to meet her first grandchild.
We were as ready as we were going to be.
This week, my girl turns ten.
I might be a little bit sentimental about the whole thing. A whole decade is kind of a big deal.
In my moments of retrospection in recent days, I’ve had to smile and even laugh at some of the things that stressed me out and just plain surprised me in those early days of motherhood.
Here are ten things I wish someone had told me ten years ago before I became a mom.
1. You know all those sections you skipped when you were reading the book, What to Expect When You’re Expecting? Those paragraphs about Caesarean sections? Those chapters you didn’t think applied to you, because you weren’t planning to have a C-section? Read them. Or don’t. It might not matter. Either way, recovery is going to hurt. A lot. You won’t be able to turn your body in hospital enough to reach the phone that is ringing on the table next to you. But you’ll survive. In fact — you’ll even do it again for the next kid in 22 months.
2. Speaking of C-sections, if the doctor tells you not to do any strenuous activity for six weeks, he actually means that you shouldn’t do any strenuous activity for six weeks. That includes vacuuming. Even when you think you feel great at the time — you won’t feel great the next morning. Rather just leave the crumbs on the carpet.
3. Remember how you were shocked by the magnitude of your own selfishness after you got married? That was only the beginning. Wait until the kids come. Shocked is about to become an understatement.
4. The waves of selfishness that swell up behind you will be closely followed and swallowed by greater, stronger waves of service. You will serve in ways and degrees you never imagined you could or would — because you’re a mom. They’re your kids. And you love them more than words can describe.
5. Remember how you cried a week before you gave birth, “What if it’s a girl? What will I do with her hair?” Those were legitimate tears. It will be a girl, and it will take you nine years to figure out what to do with her hair. You’re not the only one who will shed tears over her gorgeous Afro. In fact, a time will come when your daughter will scream so hard while you’re combing her hair, the neighbor will knock on the window and ask if everything’s okay. You’ll say yes. You might change your mind when, on an entirely different occasion, she cries so hysterically that she vomits in the bath water — the same bath water that her brothers are sitting in. Your boys will jump out of the tub and run to you, naked and dripping, just as you open the door to a visitor. Just laugh. Just keep laughing, or else you might cry. Then blog about it in ten years. In the meantime, give her a lollipop and a box of tissues, pop in a Curious George DVD, and keep combing.
6. There will be countless moments when you think to yourself, “Oh, I should write that down!” Do it. Don’t just say you should. Don’t think you’ll remember. You probably won’t. Then you’ll kick yourself and wish you’d written it down. First words, funny antics, moving moments. Keep a notebook in the kitchen, in the car, in your room. It doesn’t have to be a fancy, Creative Memories scrapbook. A lined, spiral notebook from the Dollar Store will suffice. In ten years, your kids won’t stop asking you to read and re-read all the stories you record.
7. Sing. That’s all. Just sing. Sing in the morning and in the afternoon and before bed. And when you know the tune to Brahm’s Lullaby but don’t know the lyrics past the first line, just make up your own. But remember what you make up, because she’ll ask for it again. And again and again, nearly every night for the next ten years. And you’ll keep on singing and praying that she never stops asking for one more song.
8. Practice saying, “I’m sorry.” Just because you’re about to become the parent, you’re not above repentance. You’re not immune to the need to ask for forgiveness. Start practicing now, and model it so your kids can follow in your example.
9. Listen with your eyes. You’ll be tempted to multi-task and say “mm-hmm” with your hands in the sink and your back to her face. You’ll be tempted to tune out the incessant flow of words that come from her mouth day in and day out. Look at her. Get in the habit of paying attention to her. If you get this right, you’ll reap the benefits in years to come.
10. Give her Jesus. She’s never too young for the gospel. Tell her now. Tell her tomorrow. Give her theology. Concepts you think are way over her head — explain them anyway. Teach her about grace and repentance and obedience and salvation. Teach her about the cross and sin and punishment and eternity. Teach her to pray. Lean on Jesus and give her Jesus, and everything else will pale into insignificance in the light of His glory and grace.
What has surprised you about motherhood?
What would you tell a new mom, if given the chance?