Practicing Joy as an Expectant Mama

So I’m expecting. I’m expecting! This is an exciting season of anticipation that is filled with newness, joy, and wonder. However, when I sit down and really think about the future, it can sometimes feel like the calm before a storm, the peace before the chaos, the fun before all that hard work!

I am a natural worrier. I don’t need encouragement to think about the future and all the hard things that may come with it. What if we get overwhelmed and can’t properly take care of our kids? What if I have a physical problem and can’t even cook dinner, let alone take care of my family? How does a mom with an infant and toddlers in tow use a public restroom???

There are lots of questions, and plenty of puzzles, if I allow myself to think on all the potential complications or frustrations or difficulties or sacrifice involved in raising a family. I mean, I grew up in a family of nine. I know raising kids isn’t a piece of cake (though as a middle child, of course I was the exception…). We’re told it’s hard work, it takes a lot of sacrifice, it involves basically no sleep for the first year and you won’t have time to use the bathroom alone for 3 minutes.

But wait, isn’t this supposed to be a time of joy? We’re told children are a blessing. We believe that, and we’re so excited to meet and love on our little Truffle. But there are times when I think it’s easy to have my joy as an expectant first-time mother be overshadowed (overwhelmed?) by all the available advice of others who have gone before.

I know they mean well. I know my brothers and sisters would not seek to discourage when they share their insight into parenthood. But if there’s one line I’ve heard most frequently during my pregnancy, it’s “enjoy this time while you have it”, or “savor these moments- you’ll never have this time again!”. I can’t speak for other new moms, but to me, those phrases simply encourage a dread of the future, a feeling that something is about to be lost that can never be regained… that the clock is ticking and we better hurry up and enjoy where we’re at before it’s behind us. And I hate that feeling.

As a first-time expectant mom I don’t fully understand it yet, but I watch-and admire- you mothers as you make sacrifices for your family. I see you struggle through your difficult trimester, I observe you coming to church with little ones in tow, looking tired and worn from the past week. I hear your prayer requests for strength, your plea for help when you don’t think you can make it through the day without an extra pair of hands. I don’t need words said to know that there will be difficulties ahead.

But, I’m expecting. I’m expecting! This little baby is just the size of a lemon but so, so precious, and I’ve never been through labor or stayed up all night with Truffle or figured out the whole child-training thing… but we can’t wait! We’re young and in love and blessed and want to welcome our sweet child with open arms, holding nothing back, without regrets and without fear. We want to greet the month of April without counting how many times pre-baby we were able to sleep in, or just leave the house when we want to, or have time just the two of us. Our time as newlyweds has been wonderful, sanctifying, and precious… and we want to believe and anticipate that our time as parents will be even more so. We want to greet the future with joy.

I really do think there are times when it’s better to hang on to some of that innocence, that sweet naivete. To hold hands while stepping into the unknown, as husband and wife, to discover the easy and the hard, the “better” and the “worse” without anxieties of “what may be” tugging at our hearts. And right now the best gift I could ask for from other parents is that of wisdom, yes… but even more importantly, encouragement to choose joy, because it is a choice. To choose it now, to practice thanksgiving, to highlight the blessings in life even while working through the difficulties. To know that as hard as it may be, and look, and seem, that it’s so amazingly worth it, and that the blessings far outweigh the hardship.

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If you are a parent who knows other new moms and dads, consider how you share advice, insight and wisdom. Certainly we need to know what to expect, how to prepare; and there’s no better way to learn than from those who have years of experience. Advice is greatly needed and appreciated, so long as it’s balanced between the joyful and the difficult, and not focused on the negatives. It may just be that the young parent needs to hear encouragement and celebration more than anything… to see the genuine love and joy, as weary as it may come, on your face as you raise your own children.

Ashton and I are so excited about our little one, and any other blessings that may come. And today, I’m going to touch my growing belly and praise God for the season we’re in, and the season we look forward to with great joy, knowing that we serve a faithful Father who plans good things for his children.

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“1st Anniversary” Photo credit: Kathryn Grace Photography

7 Responses

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  1. Whitney
    Whitney October 8, 2014 at 11:46 am |

    May your cup continue to overflow. When hard time do come, may your fond memories of this wonderful season, be easily remembered, and remind you of joy. May helping hands be ever near, and may God face shine upon all three of you!

  2. Anna Wolfe
    Anna Wolfe October 9, 2014 at 1:23 am |

    Excellent thoughts, Jen! I think it’s easier as parents to give the “funny” “you don’t know what you’re getting into” response or other quips about the hard ship. Something to laugh at, etc. But I remember feeling like you do as I went through pregnancy too. Yes, we know it will be hard – but we can’t wait!

    And yet I know I’ve been the one to laugh and say “get sleep now!!” too. And I think the advice to “cherish these times now” isn’t meant to inspire dread, but instead does put a value on marriage and times together. Having had our first date alone in a long time yesterday, we were so refreshed. Just being together is a treat. I do somewhat wish we had taken more advantage of that time before we had a baby, and done more, built more memories of just us two. But we have had a lot. And the times now that we do are ones to cherish. And being together as three is amazing! Babies let you see so much wonder and joy through their eyes. And cause you to laugh and smile, and exchange looks of wonder that such a little one came from you two.

    So, thank you for the reminder to focus more on positives for those pregnant. Because there are SO many. The feel of a little hand stroking my arm as she nurses, how she snuggles into my shoulder when she’s shy, the light in her eyes when she sees me come through the door after being away, all the amazing, adorably cute sounds and babbling, the amazement as she learns and grows so quickly, the look of her first pony tails… you’re going to have SO much fun. So many sweet things are in your future!!

  3. Anna Wolfe
    Anna Wolfe October 9, 2014 at 1:29 am |

    And, praise the Lord, He does give grace. I used to wonder how on earth I would take care of a baby when I was sick with a fever and just wanted to lay down. Now I know: he gives strength and grace to just do the next thing, and your mommy-ness gives you adrenaline to do what needs to be done. And, you realize how much doesn’t need to be done in those times. And those public restrooms? You can actually use a restroom wearing an ERGO, though it’s a little less comfortable. And I’ve been known to let her sit on the floor (albeit in a fairly clean hotel restroom – public none-the-less!) though she’s crawled out of the stall a time or two… And you learn to be fast and try to get through before she unrolls the toilet paper again! 😉 Then you find one that has a child seat in it, and you rejoice in that glorious invention! 🙂 Life is wonderful and so creative with a child. 🙂

  4. Keri
    Keri October 11, 2014 at 2:40 am |

    I had an opposite experience when I was pregnant with our first. We had been married for almost ten years before we were able to have her. We had so much couple time and career time and were just very settled into our routine and life. We were so excited to finally be expecting. I had been waiting and waiting for 10 years not understanding why my body was so infertile and yet thinking that since I had waited so long and desperately that I would appreciate motherhood so much. I remember driving in my car one day and putting my hand on my stomach and saying aloud, “I’m going to take such good care of you and I promise to be a good mother.” Everyone and I do mean everyone told us it was going to be so , so wonderful. I don’t think we heard a single negative or warning. I think maybe they didn’t want to give a negative when we had waited for so long. I also honestly think that because I was already in my 30’s and had been teaching elementary age children, people viewed me as more mature and that since I was older and more experienced I could handle it all well. When she came, I was completely blindsided at the difficulty and how life changing it was. I had these beautiful visions of my precious sleepy newborn girl in my arms nursing quietly as I rocked her. But when she came, she screamed for 8 weeks straight and nursing was a disaster. I felt betrayed, depressed, like a failure at something I had longed for desperately for a decade. I wished that someone had been more honest with me. What saved me (and her), aside from my relationship with Christ and a lot of prayer, was that I joined a breast feeding support group where I met other mothers who were experiencing all kinds of difficulties as well. Not just breastfeeding difficulties, but also fussy newborns, and just plain adjusting to our new lives. Most of us were in our 30’s. I do still dislike the impractical, “oh just wait, you’ll see” or the “enjoy life now” comments. Those are not helpful to an expectant or new mother. New mamas and papas need extremely practical advice. They need people who will say, “now this may happen, and if it does, let’s already know where to turn to for help with that.” I really think that you two are enjoying your couple time! Having 1st year anniversary photos is not something that a lot of people even think of. That tells me that you two sure are cherishing your couple time and that you will continue to all the days of your life. Children are a blessing. My experience as a first time mom did not stop me from having 4 more! And just so that you aren’t scared out of your wits by my post, I never experienced weeks of crying with the other 4. In fact, when we had the 2nd, she slept through the night from the first night we brought her home from the hospital!

  5. Keri
    Keri October 11, 2014 at 2:47 am |

    PS I love the way you are enjoying your pregnancy and documenting this season in your life. I was way too busy with work and now I wish I had done more of that!

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