Dealing with The Unpredictability of Motherhood
I'm a planner. I love to plan my day, my week, and really my entire life. I can't help myself. The planner gene is embedded into my DNA. But I have noticed many of the plans and expectations I've set for me and my baby have not been met. My expectations often look starkly different from reality.
This came up in a conversation with my sister-in-law the other day. She mentioned how her baby has been completely different than what she expected and what she was like as a baby. In some ways, her baby is easier than she expected. In other ways, her baby is a bit more difficult. But either way, she said it stresses her, because she doesn't feel prepared for what her baby is going to do or be like as she grows.
She told me this and I didn't know how to respond, because I've found myself in the same boat. I'm stressed about it too! I want to be the mom who knows exactly what to expect and how to prepare for what's to come. But the reality stresses me out. I can't know exactly how my baby is going to respond to different scenarios. I can't predict when he'll hit different milestones. I can't fully prepare myself for what he'll do next.
But I can teach myself to accept the unexpected. I can teach myself to take each day in stride and take measures to decompress when I feel stressed. We all can. Is it easy? No. Is it doable? Absolutely.
Your baby isn't a cookie cutter baby.
No matter what the doctors, pediatricians, nurses, therapists, grandmas, other mothers, or baby book authors tell you, your baby is his own unique person. He will develop at his own pace in his own time. No baby comes into this world exactly the same as another. Even identical twins carry themselves with different temperaments and personalities. This means your baby will discover, learn, and grow in his own unique timetable. Your doctor or pediatrician will let you know if there's anything to worry about. They keep careful track of your little one's progress and search for red flags at each appointment. Don't let the Instagram story of your friend's baby rolling over at 10 weeks make you feel like your baby is behind.
I know, I know. It's hard not to. Especially because we're excited for them to learn new tricks and to grow big and strong. But your baby doesn't care what the other babies are doing, and you shouldn't either.
Getting the mentality of your baby needing to hit specific milestones at a specific age out of your mindset will help you take the unexpected in stride. We are all created uniquely with our own strengths and weaknesses. So are our babies. That's what makes them so lovable and fun.
Your baby is not you
Our babies are not cookie cutter babies which also means they are not you. Yes, your baby will have similar features as you and similar behaviors. But you weren't the only person involved in the making of your baby. (Even though it feels like it since we did the heavy lifting for nine months!)
You and your husband came together to create a beautiful human being. So, your little bundle received a little of you and a little of your man. And those bits of you both meshed together to create a whole other individual. Think of flour, butter, salt, and sugar. These ingredients are pantry staples. We use these same ingredients over and over again. But with just a couple adjustments here and there with how much we use or how we combine them, and we can create entirely different foods. From breads to desserts, there are almost no limits to what you can create!
Well, the same goes with baby! How cool is that?
Understanding this will help you get over what you think your baby should be like. Just because you were a good sleeper, doesn't mean your baby will be. Just because your were colicky as a baby, doesn't mean your baby is going to struggle in the same way. Sometimes, we hear stories from our mothers and our brains immediately say, "Okay, that's what it's going to be like for my baby. Better start getting ready for this." But this isn't necessarily true. Tuck their stories away for reference should your baby encounter the same thing, but don't get caught up in the idea that your baby will be exactly how you were.
You and your baby are not given more than you can handle
Let this sink in for moment.
Whatever life throws at you and your baby, you were given the strength to overcome it. If life is turning out to be easier than you expected right now, great! Be thankful for the ease because inevitably you will go through tough times down the road. If the tough times are here now, take heart! You and your baby were given this situation because God knew you are strong enough to handle it and to be able to encourage others in similar scenarios with your journey.
From temperament, to health, to abilities - your baby is strong enough to work through all of it. And you are strong enough to help them in the process. Don't be discouraged. Dig deep and harness the strength to carry your little one through. If you can find your strength, you can then help your baby find his strength.
Your baby needs your support
We can't predict when and how our babies will grow and learn. But we can choose to be there for them every step of the way. By setting aside the stereotypes and streamlined timetables, we can better accept the unexpected twists and turns of our babies' journeys.
Whether it's easier or harder than you expected, the only thing that matters is to be present for your baby and to let them know how much you love them and believe in them. If this means taking some time away from social media or the internet, do it. Don't let Google dictate your babies' progress. Don't let other people's journeys make you feel insecure about yours.
I had to do this recently with tummy time. I talked about how my baby hates tummy time in the past, but it still gets to me. Other babies are fine with it and are reaching the milestones like rolling over and scooting with ease. Not Levi. He learned to roll from his tummy to his back a while ago. But now it's like he forgot how, because during one tummy time session, something upset him and now we're back to square one. It really isn't a big deal, but some days - man, I feel so stressed and discouraged. But honestly, in time he'll make the progress he needs to. And I have to remind myself to breathe. Let him figure it out. And just be patient and supportive.
My expectations don't always align with his growth and abilities. Instead of wishing he aligned with me, I need to accept his God-given timetable and align myself with him. And you need to do the same for your baby, too. You'll both feel so much better when you do!