Cookie Monster and Elmo are VERY big in my world right now. Well, I should say that they are very big in my son Trip’s world, which makes them big in mine. He turns 2 today (which is absolutely impossible to wrap my mind around), but we celebrated his birthday with a sugar-laden Sesame Street party last weekend! It was so fun to celebrate Trip with our family and close friends, and bonus – he blew out his candle without spitting on the cake! 🙌🏻 Miracles can happen!
The last two years have been a whirlwind. You know the line in Fresh Prince’s opening song? “Welllll, this is a story all about how my life got flip-turned upside down!” (It’s ok to admit that you sang that in your head. We all did!) That basically sums it up in one line. Trip is nothing like what I expected he would be while I was pregnant. My pregnancy was a breeze – no nausea, no food aversions, very little pain/body aches. (Again, it’s ok to roll your eyes if that wasn’t your pregnancy experience. I understand how obnoxious that is. I’m not counting on that being my experience next time.) Trip rarely dug into my ribs or did major flips. For the most part, he and I just went through our days together in relative peace. He would occasionally ball up on one side of my stomach, but that was about it. I thought, “Oh, ok! This kid is going to be laid back. Chill. An introvert like me!” 🤦🏻♀️ Wrong. All the way wrong!
Trip is strong-willed. He has opinions about everything, and has had them since the day he was born (this isn’t a new “toddler” phase). He is intense. He is VOCAL (seriously, this kid has a crazy big vocabulary and never stops talking), including screaming. He is aggressive. He is the extrovert of all extroverts. He is all of the things that I didn’t expect and that most days I feel absolutely unequipped to handle. But let me tell you something else…
Trip is strong-willed – he believes in his convictions and doesn’t back down. He has opinions about everything – he is self-assured and confident. He is intense – he plays hard, he laughs hard, he loves hard. He is VOCAL – he can communicate thoughts, feelings, and needs already, and he has a safe space in which to do it. He is aggressively affectionate – he gives me hugs and kisses and cuddles all the time (he will often stop what he’s doing just to run over and give me a hug). He is the extrovert of all extrovert and helps me get out of my introvert comfort zone. He is all of the things that I didn’t expect and that most days I feel absolutely undeserving to receive.
Isn’t that the way it goes? Our biggest blessings bear our biggest burdens. Everything changed two years ago today, and it has been the hardest season of my life for the last two years. But it has also brought me more immense joy and strength than I ever thought possible, and I wouldn’t change a second of it.
I am by no means a parenting expert. Most days I’m just winging it, hoping that I’m making the right choices. But I have learned things in the past two years that I wish someone had told me, so here a few of them for you:
- It is ok to say you have a hard baby. I think a lot of times people are afraid to admit that because they’re afraid they’ll sound ungrateful for the gift of their child. I want to say loudly for the people in the back – hard circumstances are not mutually exclusive with gratitude and joy! You can feel like you are drowning with the season of life you are in (whether that is parenting, school, newlyweds, empty-nesters, loss – you name it!) and still be overcome with gratitude for what you’ve been given. Most days I felt like it took everything in me to get through it, but I never once would’ve traded any of it for something else. In a multitude of “easy” babies, I would pick Trip every time.
- It is ok to ask for help. Ok, so this one isn’t really new – I heard it while I was pregnant. But I didn’t put it into practice. This could be hiring a postpartum doula, asking family to come do laundry, or asking your small group to set up a meal train. Or it could be talking to your doctor about what you’re experiencing as a new mom (even if this is your second, third, fourth, etc. baby). I realized well after Trip’s first birthday that I had spent most of his first year suffering from postpartum anxiety – something I had previously not even known existed. That is an experience I plan on sharing more about later, but I wish I had shared what I was thinking and feeling, instead of brushing it off as “normal new mom” paranoia.
- It is ok to say no. Oh girl, is it ok to say no. Say no to family coming over when you’re exhausted and just want to sleep. Say no when people ask if they can hold your baby. Say no to making plans and commitments when your body is still healing and needs rest. Say no when you’re past the baby or even toddler stage, but you know it’s just not the right season for [fill-in-the-blank]. There is no guilt in no!
- It is ok to parent the way YOU choose, even if others disagree. This one is hard. Really hard. There are articles and research supporting your views no matter where you stand on parenting, discipline, sleep-training, bottle-feeding vs. breastfeeding, purees vs baby led weaning, cloth diapers vs disposable – the list goes on and on. It can feel like everyone around you has *THE* *RIGHT* *WAY* to parent. Let me tell you something, sister – YOU are that baby’s mama. YOU are the one God has entrusted to shape and mold that baby into who they are supposed to be. Please, please, please seek wisdom and guidance from women and mothers that you know and respect (and whose children you see and think – I want my kids to be like that!). But also please, please, please trust yourself when you don’t feel that their opinion is a perfect fit for your child. I am so thankful for my circle of mom friends – there is an incredible mixture of all types of parenting choices, and we all ask each other for advice. We all also recognize we’re each on our own journey and ultimately have to make the choices for our children for ourselves. Trust yourself. Trust your instincts. You’ve got this!
All the best,
P.S. – You might notice a Nemo and Dori sticker on Trip’s chest in the pictures of him by himself at the bottom. His dad grabbed that off the nurse’s desk after our first OB appointment when we saw Trip on the monitor for the first time. It has stayed in my wallet for over 2 years, but it was just what Trip needed the day I took his pictures. “Sick-ers” are a cure-all in our house!