You guys...How can it be that I am already writing Maddie's 9 month update!?! It seems like yesterday I was writing her 6 month update, and celebrating her first Thanksgiving and Christmas! One of my first thoughts as I realized she was approaching the 9 month mark was that she has officially been out in the world as long as she was in my belly! When I think back to my pregnancy I feel like it was a marathon, but also a sprint; Which oddly enough is almost exactly how I'd describe the first year of your child's life! Sure, there are moments, seasons, weeks, and days that seem long, yet when you look back you think, where did the time go!?! It is so very true what "they" say, which is that the days may seem long, but the years are short.
The past nine months have been filled with some of the greatest CHALLENGES, JOYS, and SURPRISES I have have ever known in my life. For those of you who are momma's out there, (or if you are hoping to be a mom one day, or you have followed along our journey with Maddie), I wanted to share some of my greatest challenges, joys, and surprises of being a new mom; As I'm sure many of you can relate, and also because it may just help encourage some of you who are in this season, or will be one day!
Some of the greatest CHALLENGES in the first 9 months of being a mom has been:
- Sleep. Let's be real. When you are a new mom, you literally don't even know how you are able to function on such a small amount of sleep. The first five months were always unknown as far as what sleep would look like each night...But the hardest were by far the first three months. When you have a newborn, you have to wake up to feed them, and there is no way around that. However, once they begin to get past the newborn stage and they can go longer periods of time between feedings, things start to get easier with sleep as well. For us, Maddie started sleeping almost through the night (about 6 hours straight), somewhere between 4-5 months, but her daytime naps were still really hard to predict. This was pretty stressful, as Sean and I both work from home, so we couldn't predict or plan when we could actually get work done. We did a lot of tag-teaming in those early months with work and caring for Maddie, (which can I just stop and say- all you work from home mommies who don't have help during the day- major applause to you!) Around month five I knew that Maddie was able to be on a more structured sleep schedule, but I honestly just didn't know how to make that happen. Sean and I would go back and forth trying different things we had read (online or in a book), or different things recommended by family and friends, yet we found ourselves more confused than ever. Admittedly, we knew we weren't helping things when we would go back and forth, never committing to anything after a few attempts. As you can imagine, this quickly led to a lot of stress, and we knew that it was time to get help from an outside source. That was when we called Amy from Simply Sleep Solutions. We started by exchanging a few emails and I purchased the book she recommends, (a very quick and easy read), and from there we did the single phone consultation which took about 1.5 hours. She addressed some of the things we were feeling confused about, as well as made recommendations of things we could be doing to help us and Maddie feel confident that she can in fact be on a schedule! The best part!? It didn't require us to do anything that didn't make us feel comfortable as parents. Instead, Amy gave us her advice on making the best choices for our family and child! We left the phone call feeling confident and within about 2 weeks Maddie was sleeping wonderfully, (three naps a day, and 12 hours at night), and has been ever since then she has been a great little sleeper, even with teething! The thing I have learned is that babies thrive when they are on a schedule, and it makes them happier and healthier babies overall when they sleep well, (just like us). So for all you momma's out there, if you are having trouble with getting your baby to sleep, I highly recommend seeking the help of a professional; And after working with Amy there is no one I'd recommend more!
- Breastfeeding. In the first 4 months of Maddie's life I cried way too many tears about breastfeeding. I am convinced that the difficulties were much worse than they had to be due to the fact that I didn't reach out for professional help sooner than I did. I am certain that my "I can figure this out if it kills me" personality didn't help this situation at all! My breastfeeding issues began when I was noticed I was having a problem with imbalanced milk production. (I think I was naturally drawn to giving her the same breast every time because it seemed easier for her to eat from my right side when she really little). I tried to correct this imbalance on my own, which led to an overcorrection, and almost dried up my milk supply completely when she was just 2 months old. I wanted so badly to breastfeed her, so I was determined to make it work, (and when I become determined about something, I am pretty hard to convince otherwise!) After many, many, many nursing sessions that led to a screaming crying baby, (which ultimately led to me crying my eyes out), I finally decided to reach out for help. I did a phone consultation with a lactation specialist who told me what I would need to do to correct my imbalance, and also (hopefully) restore my supply. It took about 1-2 months, a lot of work, and countless pumping sessions (some even in the middle of the night while Maddie was sleeping), but in the end, I got my milk back and finally had a happy and satisfied baby. It was a trying time to say the least, but I know one thing, it taught me to rely on the Lord's grace like never before! Breastfeeding has been (mostly) smooth sailing from the time Maddie was about 4-5 months old, although it still does take a lot of planning and time to exclusively breastfeed, especially when you have to leave your baby. (I just have to stop right here and say every working momma who is breastfeeding- you are amazing!) The only hard part with breastfeeding nowadays is that she seems to get more distracted as the days go on, but I see this as a cake walk in comparison to what we have been through! After this experience I would strongly suggest to any new mom having breastfeeding issues to get help! There are so many amazing resources that are local, or even just a phone call away!
- Releasing Control. I am a person of structure, and over the years I have learned that my personality thrives best when I am in a routine, which is good and can be healthy; However if I'm not careful, these traits can quickly lead to a desire to control my environment, which isn't so healthy. Having a baby quickly taught me that if I am ever going to enjoy life, and take in the moments that truly matter, then I must give up any unhealthy desire to control my surroundings. I have quickly learned that my days as a mom can be anything but predictable, but when I choose to be ok with things not going exactly as planned, I can still find joy in each and every day. I have also come to a place where I know that no matter what I have accomplished (or lack there of), in any given day, as long as I put my family and Jesus first- then that day was a success!
- Growing in God's Grace. I'm sure every mom can relate when I say that motherhood is one of the greatest gifts on earth. There is an endless amount of joy that fills each day, yet I’d be lying if I didn’t also admit that being a mom is also incredibly refining! We all have those moments when our children seem to push just the right “buttons”, and it always seems to be when we are on our last drop of patience. I don't know about you, but these moments cause me to take a step back, breathe, and say, "Jesus, I NEED you!" The beauty is, He has never failed to show up and give me the grace and strength I need when I call on Him; And so it teaches me to rely on Him again and again. Being a mom has taught me so much about Gods grace, and how it strengthens us to do whatever it is He has called us to do. And on the days that we feel like we need an extra dose of his strength, He is just as close as the mention of His name! Isaiah 40:11 is one of the greatest promises that has carried me through this season of being a mom to a little one. It says, "He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young." I have this promise written out and posted in Maddie's nursery, as it assures me daily that God is not only holding my hand, but He is actually carrying me and my young in His arms.
- Introducing Solids. This may seem a bit dramatic, but the fact that feeding Maddie hasn't always been easy (both in breastfeeding and transitioning to solids) has been pretty hard on my heart at times. It may have something to do with the fact that my love language centers around feeding people; And I must admit that I had dreams of making baby food from the moment that I found out I was pregnant. So, when she turned six months old and was sitting up unassisted, we got the green light to start solids, and I was so excited that I think I must of bought five different organic veggies on our way home from her 6 month wellness visit! We started with a homemade sweet potato puree, and the moment she got a taste of it she out right shuddered in disgust! We had quite the laugh, and realized it could take some time for her to get used to the new flavors and textures of food. As the days, weeks, and months went on, (and all of my baby food purees went down the drain), I started to feel incredibly discouraged. Maddie would not only spit out the food, but she would literally shudder and gag at the taste of anything in her mouth other than breastmilk. I tried just about everything I could think of, including letting her feed herself, mixing purees with breastmilk, and even different variations of baby led weaning that I felt comfortable with. Nothing was seeming to work, and I feared that I would forever have a picky eater, (which I know isn't easy, considering my husband has quite the picky palette!) I kept praying and asking the Lord for wisdom and patience. One day when she was about 7-8 months old I was baking with some organic applesauce. Maddie was watching me bake, (as she often does), and I decided to try putting a bit of the applesauce into a plastic measuring spoon. The deeper well in the spoon allowed her to take the spoon for herself and get a taste for the applesauce. Within moments she was reaching for more, and I kept giving her more on the spoon. It wasn't long before I realized I had found something she actually enjoyed! I had tried homemade applesauce before, but it was a lot more chunky than the store bought kind, and I realized that it might have been the texture that she wasn't liking considering that she had only had liquids up until that point. So, I decided to buy some organic jarred baby foods, and at first she only liked pears and apples, but those seemed to be working, which gave me hope! Within a few weeks she was eating jarred broccoli, carrots and peas when I mixed them with the apples and pears! Now that Maddie is 9 months old, I am starting to try to make my own baby food for her again, mixing it with the jarred foods she is used to, and slowly working our way up to soft solids. This whole thing has taught me yet again to rely on the Lord for wisdom and patience, and to not be discouraged, knowing that some things just take time. It has also confirmed to me that every baby is so different, and it is best to be patient and realize they will make the transitions they need to make when they are ready!
Some of the greatest JOYS in the first 9 months of being a mom has been:
- Experiencing Life as a Family of Three. I am convinced that one of the highest callings on this earth is to be a wife, and to be able to raise children with your spouse is such an incredible gift. Is it always easy raising a family together? Of course not! I'd be lying if I didn't say that it didn't have it's challenges. Yet, at the same time, it has also caused us to grow in our relationship in a whole new way. Before we had Maddie, Sean and I worked almost daily on Dashing Dish, but raising a child is a whole different level of teamwork. Sure, having a family lends itself to a longer to-do list, a messier house, and more laundry than you can ever seem to tackle; Yet Sean and I both agree that raising a child together brings more purpose, joy, and meaning to each and every day!
- Watching Sean Grow in His Role as a Daddy. When I was pregnant with Maddie women would tell me all the time how I would fall in love with him all over again when I saw him with our little girl, and oh how very true this is! From the first moment that Sean held Madeline in his arms, I watched him embrace his role as a daddy with such ease. It seemed so natural in fact, it was almost as if he had been a dad his whole life, which I believe had a lot to do with the fact that we prayed so long to have a baby; All of that time he spent praying for Maddie was preparing his heart to take on this extraordinary role! Sean is by far one of the most tender hearted and sweet daddies to our little girl. He loves to dance with her and sing to her, and he even gets her dressed on a daily basis, accessories and all! There is nothing that melts my heart quite like seeing him love on our Maddie girl!
- The Honor of Being Called "Mom". I still have moments where I can't believe that I get to have the title of "mom". What an absolute privilege and gift! I think one of the reasons this title means so much to me is because of all of the years I stood on the promise that God would make me the joyful mother of children. I would take walks, praying and believing that I would be pushing a stroller in my neighborhood one day; And guess what, I can attest that God is faithful to His word! If you are reading this and have a longing in your heart to be a mom, i would encourage you to stand on God's promises, knowing what He did for me, He can and absolutely will do for all of His children!
- Watching Her Personality Unfold. Watching your child grow is so incredibly bittersweet. You don't want them to get bigger for so many reasons, and you want to take in the "littleness" as much as you possibly can, knowing you will never get it back. Yet, at the same time it is so sweet to see them grow, develop, and learn new things! It is also equally as sweet to watch the personality God gave them start to unfold. So far, Maddie is such a sweet and content baby. She rarely gets fussy or upset, unless she is truly hungry or tired, and she is perfectly content just playing on a blanket with some toys. Much like most babies her age, she loves to "talk", explore new things, and she recently started to dance and clap when we put on music. As much as I want her to stay little forever, I also look forward to watching more of her personality unfold each day!
And last but not least, some of the greatest SURPRISES in the first 9 months of being a mom has been:
- How Often I Laugh. Since having Maddie I feel like I laugh more than I ever though possible! I'm sure most of you who are moms know what I'm talking about when I say that your kids can be doing the smallest thing that no one else would find funny, but to you it is just plain entertaining! Speaking of dancing, one of the things that has us cracking up the most is watching Maddie bust a move! She already seems to love music, and can't resist bobbing her head, moving her hands, and dancing to the beat. Sean started playing two songs for her when she was a newborn, ("Baby Baby" by Amy Grant and Tori Kelly, and "How Far I'll Go" from the Disney Movie, Moana). The moment she hears the first few beats of these songs she instantly goes into dance mode and Sean and I can't help but laugh! She also has us cracking up with all of the new vowels and words she is practicing, as she has become quite the "Chatty Cathy" these days!
- How Often I Cry. Something else that surprised me about being a new mom is how often I cry. I don't mean sad tears, (although there have been a fair share of tears that have fell because of a hormonal swing, or just plain exhaustion, especially in the beginning), but what I am referring to here is crying because I am so beyond thankful that God entrusted Maddie to us! It seems like Sean and I both cry at least every other week as we look at her and just have moments of gratefulness, thinking about the faithfulness of our Great God!
- Learning a New Dimension of Selfless Love. I remember people talking about how deep your love is for your child, but I could never fully grasp the dimension of this love until Maddie came into my life. There is something so pure, so genuine about the love you feel for your child, that you would do anything for them. There is no doubt this love is from the heart of God; And it teaches us how to be more like Him, and also how deep His love is for us!
- How Much I Have Learned to Trust My Body. Before I got pregnant I thought I had learned what it meant to listen to my body, and to some degree I did; But there was still a small part of me that thought I knew what was best, and so I would often let my "head knowledge" trump what my body was saying. Once I got pregnant, I knew all of that had to go out the window, and if I wanted to have the healthiest pregnancy possible, I would need to learn to FULLY trust what my body was saying, and lay all conceived ideas and thoughts aside. When it came to working out, I would assess how my body felt and if I was incredibly sore or exhausted, I would either do something gentle to move my body, (such as taking a walk, or read a book on the elliptical), or take a rest day. Overall, the biggest thing I have learned is that my main goal with workouts should be to feel stronger and more energetic overall. I'm not saying that I never workout when I am sore, because sometimes it is good to work through a mild soreness, but if my workouts are draining me and leaving me feel more tired than strong, then I know it is time to draw back. The same goes with listening to my body when it comes to food and nutrition. Instead of counting calories or sticking to a perfectly planned out meal plan, I have learned assess what my body truly needs and honor what it is saying. The one thing that I know for sure is that our bodies will always ask for something that is good for them if we are TRULY listening to what they need. For example, when I was pregnant, people would ask me what my cravings were all of the time- and do you know what they were?!? Strawberries! My body must have needed that extra dose of Vitamin C! Now, if we are being honest, we all know that our bodies don't NEED ice cream, pizza, or fries, and if we are desiring them then it is most likely a craving coming from the mind rather than our body! It could also be that we are craving a carbohydrate source, or we are actually just thirsty, and we need to choose a healthy carb, or have some water! It is so incredible to honor your body by being attentive to it, and to nourish it with exactly what it needs in each season of life. With breastfeeding I know my body needs more calories than it typically would, so I don't count calories, but I trust my body and listen to when it feels satisfied and has had enough. I also find that my body needs a few more snacks in between meals in this season, so I choose snacks that nourish and provide energy for what my body is doing, ( which is feeding another life). My go-to snacks are carrots and hummus, apples and nut butter, and Greek yogurt with fruit and peanut flour mixed in! I know that I am caring for my body in the best way possible when I feel my best, and my body is "working" as it should. I have found that caring for our bodies by listening to the God-given cues He has placed on the inside of us is so freeing, and it leads us to the place of health (mentally and physically) that God intended from the beginning! It also allows us to reach our healthiest and happiest weight at a healthy pace (which means it will last long term without drastic measures or diets!). I could go on and on about the topic of intuitive eating and listening to our natural hunger cues, etc., which is why I wrote about it in detail (while I was pregnant in fact), in my book Nourish, so if you'd like to learn more, I recommend picking up a copy! :) (P.S. I also plan to do a Postpartum Fitness Update soon, so stay tuned for that).
- How My Heart Feels. This one is going to be short and straight to the point. Why didn't anyone warn me that when you have a child it feels like your heart is walking around on the outside!?! Every day since becoming a mom, I am surprised at just how much I could love a little person, and how she has stolen such a big piece of my heart!
- How My Priorities Have Shifted. About 3 years into my marriage, (and shortly after starting Dashing Dish), I remember God giving me a profound revelation of how important it is to put boundaries on our time, being careful to put a priority on God and family above all else, (which I also wrote about in detail in Nourish). I am so thankful that I learned that lesson early on, and have continued to learn it even more so with a child. Ultimately, I know that if I don't guard my time and put God and my family in the highest place on my priority list, then things will quickly fall out of the order God intended. I can say from experience that His way brings blessings, protection, and peace, so I make it my goal to keep my priorities in check, put boundaries on my time, and keep things in balance.
- A Change in Perspective. Not only has the way I spend my time and the things I put priority on shifted, I also see things a bit different than I did before becoming a mom. Now, every action and decision I make is done with the perspective of leaving a legacy for future generations!
I have only been a mom for 9 months, yet I am already convinced that having a baby refines you in the best possible way. It is one of the highest callings on earth, and although it comes with challenges, the joy and surprises that fill each day make it all worth it!
Becoming a parent teaches you to rely on God's wisdom, grace, and patience like never before; And it fills you with a love that is so deep it brings you to the end of self.
Thank you Father for letting me experience this gift of motherhood, and thank you friends for following along and for your support every step of the way! xo Katie