My oldest daughter turns four today! Writing about her is the hardest because she is such a unique, mysterious, and indescribably precious person that it's impossible to capture her with my words. So this post will include a lot of quotes by her, because I really don't know how else to write this. I love her with all my heart and I can't believe I get to be her mom.
So here are some things I really love about my Pi-Pi:
I love how she has such an immersive imagination. I estimate that she lives in reality about 15% of the time; for the rest, she's in her own world. That said, she is a realist; she doesn't speak often about princesses and faraway lands, but blends reality into make-believe so seamlessly that I sometimes wonder if maybe she actually is speaking to someone on her walkie-talkie. Here is a conversation I overheard when she was pretending to talk to my mom: "Can I come to your house today? Okay, how about tomorrow? Aw man. Well I can come early. Hold on, let me put you on speakerphone. Okay, what were you saying? No, I'm not spinning around anymore. No, I don't need any help. Hey, I have to go pee-pee. Okay. Yeah. I could take care of that, but they're so expensive I can't buy them." See what I mean with the realistic make-believe? I love it so much.
I love how she expresses affection and appreciation. She doesn't hesitate to tell Stephen "You're such a good brudder" or give him a big hug and say "I missed you!" upon his return from a biking trip. Concerning Evey, she'll say things like "She's a great sister. I want to keep her for my whole life." Sometimes, in the evening, she'll say "That was a nice little day."
I love how she comes up with the best names for people. Her list of suggestions for Baby #4 includes Coconut, Lollipop, Sweet Darling, and Little Baby That I Can Carry, among many other things. Once she gave my friend Christina the nickname "Rainbow Paper" and called herself "Crown Heart Jewel." The name she chose for me? "Bread."
I kind of love how she hates cleaning. She will literally do anything but clean. This might be the way my DNA is most evident in her, unfortunately, but it's almost funny to see how much she is willing to miss out on at the cost of her aversion to hard work. I'm excited to see her grow in diligence and appreciation for hard work...I'm learning and growing right alongside her!
I love how serious she is. Once I asked her what she was painting and she said "This is a Maze of Darkness. It's the only design I know how to do." She seems to embody Edgar Allen Poe in much of her storytelling, and most of her character descriptions usually include a very sad twist. While I obviously want to encourage her to be happy, innocent, and bright, I think she could grow up to have an insightful understanding of the frailty of life and the depths of the world's brokenness that drives her to hope more deeply and truly than the rest of us.
I love how she is a reader and writer before she is even able to read and write. She can (and has) spent long chunks of time "reading" adult books (upside-down) or squiggling lines profusely in her "journal." She will pretend to read the Bible to me and, in the most convincing tone ever, say things like "Behold our God. He is mighty in mercy. He is good to all." Or she'll read from a history book and make up facts, stories, and timelines that sound quite possible. Yet again she makes me wonder, "Wait, is that actually in there? Is she really reading?"
I love how she has an incredibly crude sense of humor. She thinks toots and bummies are the funniest things in the world, and her belches are nothing less than terrifying in their volume and tone. One night I told her, "Good night, Piper. I hope I dream about you!" and she replied, "I hope I dream about armpits." I really love her weirdness in this way. I'd much prefer crude to prissy!
I love how motherly she is. The way she parents her babies shows me that maybe some of the things we're trying to tell her are actually getting through, that she understands the value of what we're saying and doing, and that she knows that we love her so dearly. She's actually more strict---and patient---with her baby dolls than I am with my children! It's very humbling and encouraging...and, well, it's a little odd that she refers to me as "Grandma" more often than "Mommy."
I love how Piper exudes self-confidence. She's a girly-girl by nature, but she doesn't feel the need to look pretty for the sake of pleasing others. She has a beautiful smile, but she prefers to make ridiculous faces for pictures, as you'll see below.
I love how she loves to receive affection. She's always been my snuggly baby, and aside from difficult moments she's still always up for being held. Sometimes I teasingly tell her, "We didn't snuggle enough today. Tomorrow that's all we will do. No eating, playing, or going to the bathroom. Just snuggles. All day." And she thinks that's a perfectly wonderful idea.
I love how fearless she is. We like to call her Piper the Brave; whether it's getting on stage or riding a rollercoaster, she is always surprising me with her "it's-not-a-big-deal" approach to things that her siblings and I would certainly consider a big deal.
I love how she loves the outdoors. If you could see my daughter spinning around in a forest or a canyon, arms splayed and eyes closed, you would know why I love visiting Georgia and other states so much. Nature awakens something beautiful in her.
I'm still obsessed with her hair. It's so gloriously long---detangling it is quite a process---and, though it's lost its redness, it's gold. When I discovered that her hair was no longer orange but gold, she was delighted and agreed.
One of my favorite things about this past year was seeing little specks of progress in Piper's life. She's learning self-control and the sweet freedom that comes with it. She's learning to push herself beyond what she thought she could do and challenge herself. She's learning to speak kindly and avoid drama. I'm so excited to watch her continue growing next year.
As always, I must mention that parenting is very difficult and I do it so imperfectly. I have shed tears over my sense of helplessness as I try to navigate the hearts of my children...or just because I'm tired and I want to go to bed! But I can't look at my kids and not see them as tremendous gifts that deserve great care and focus. I so dearly love my Piper for who she is, and I hope that my love---and ultimately God's love---will break through to her more and more every day. Ugh, why do I always write these when the kids are sleeping? Now I want to wake her up and snuggle her tight! :)
Read Year 3 here.
Mary-Kay, Beachbody, doTerra, Plexxus, Pampered Chef, Younique, Jamberry, Avon, Lularoe, Tupperware, Shaklee. These are all companies whose sales model could be described as “direct-sales”, “multi-level marketing”, or as the critics would call it, “pyramid scheme.” I’m hesitant to use that last phrase because there are some legitimately illegitimate Ponzi schemes that don’t actually have a tangible product or help anyone, and in contrast many of today’s direct-sales companies really are helping people work from home and they’re providing customers with good products.
(I’m especially impressed with, and indirectly affected by, Beachbody, because as we all watch our friends get in shape and grow in self-discipline, it’s inspiring, and true change is happening, even for those of us who don't sign up but see what nutrition and exercise can do.)
However, if you’re thinking about signing up for one of these companies as a rep, I do beg that you pause and reconsider. Here are some questions to ask before “taking the leap”:
1) Does the company really have your best interests in mind? Don’t trust the motives of the founders of the company or the people at the top of the pyramid. Here’s a dead giveaway: If they sell their products on their website without using a consultant portal, or even worse, if they sell their items directly through Amazon, you can be quite assured that the company cares more about their income than yours.
Also, ask yourself, “What’s at risk for the company if I fail?” If “absolutely nothing” is the answer, that should give you some pause.
2) Does your sponsor really have your best interests in mind?
There’s a good chance that you know and love the person who is trying to get you to sign up for this. She really is probably an awesome person. But none of us can ignore the fact that she is motivated by money to get you to sign up. Whether reps realize it or not, they are painting their lives with the company as being ever-so-rosy because they want other people to sign up so they can make money. Deception—or even just exaggeration or wishful thinking—is an unfortunately pervasive element when it comes to these things.
3) Are you willing to burn bridges with acquaintances and make them feel used by you?
Unfortunately, I’ve found myself in this situation multiple times: Someone I haven’t seen in a long time or possibly haven’t even met adds me on Facebook, acts interested in what I post, messages me privately to ask me how I’m doing, and at some point pops a question centered around “Would you be interested in trying out this new…”
Immediately, I feel used by this person. I wonder if any of what this person said was genuine or if she was just trying to meet a quota.
I try not to be offended easily, so I get over it. But this can really hurt or offend some people. No matter how awesome your product is, please know that once you start posting about your “business”, people will unfollow your account and maybe avoid talking to you in face-to-face interactions as well. Just a heads-up. You should especially ponder this carefully if you’re a Christian who is trying to genuinely hold out good news of Jesus, which does not have a buy-in price.
4) Are you willing to put your friends in potentially uncomfortable situations for your own gain?
Of course your true friends can discuss things openly with you and will most likely want to help you reach your goals. But if your income now rests partially on your friends’ shoulders and their connections, they might feel a little obligated, as if your financial success depends on their social connectivity. That’s not really fair.
5) Is signing up as a rep really making you “a business owner”; did you really “fire your boss” and become self-employed?
I’ve spent the last 16 years living with business owners (my dad and my husband) so I get kind of twitchy when someone uses that phrase lightly. Did you have to take a huge risk, come up with a product, design a logo, create a website, figure out all the legal stuff, hire an accountant, create a pay scale and marketing campaign, hire, fire, and train employees, have every single family dinner interrupted with phone calls, deal with customers who are threatening to sue you or willfully neglecting to pay you, and sometimes work 80-90 hour weeks? Do you know what it’s like to not have one true day of vacation all year long because other people are depending on you for their family to eat and you have to make sure you’re on top of things?
Though direct-sales reps work hard (possibly as hard as I just described) and business ownership looks different for everyone, I really hope you’re realizing this is usually not the same thing as entrepreneurship and the blood-sweat-and-tears American dream. (I'm serious about the blood part. My husband's arms have been torn by monkeys. But that's a story for another time.)
6) Is this product truly unique and valuable?
Many of these companies truly provide good products. I’m not sold that certain pricey protein shakes are any better than a plant-based meal replacement protein powder you can get from Amazon for a fraction of the price. And I’m not convinced that some products are worth any money at all. But Usborne books, Jamberry nail wraps, Beachbody DVDs? I’ve tried really hard to find cheaper products of their caliber and came up with nothing. I will gladly go through a MLM rep to purchase excellent products I can’t get anywhere else that are actually going to last a long time. But some of those supplement and weight loss brands? I’m not convinced those products are actually good for anyone.
And even if a product is good, is it worth joining the company? Will you be buying so much of this product that you need a rep discount and downline to support your own spending? In that case, is it possible you’re spending too much?
7) Did you find out about this product soon enough that you can really find "financial freedom"?
If you’re hearing about this product from a friend, that means that all your mutual friends have most likely already heard about it. And the later you are to the game, the less likely you are to acquire clients.
Remember that the people who are trying to sell you on becoming a rep also need you for their own success, so they might not be completely transparent about how much money they’re actually making. If someone just became a rep and still relies on her day job for income, can you really trust that she’s making good money and that you—who will most likely make less money than her—can make good money?
8) Do you know multiple people who have become successful after working hard with this company?
Out of all the friends and family members and acquaintances I know who have ever been involved in a multi-level marketing company, only three of them have made good money doing it. I’m happy for them, but really. Three. Two of them have been with their company for upwards of 15 years; the other joined her company before anyone had ever heard of it. I know many, many more people who signed up as a rep and worked extremely hard, but have been hurt and lost money in the end…after already damaging connections with people who didn't want to see or hear a sales pitch every single day.
Am I just a grumpy keyboard warrior? I hope not. I’m a friend, and I aim to be a cheerleader for women, so I want them to succeed. I write this post because I have seen way too many friends fail, and it wasn’t for lack of effort on their part. It’s because this is a slippery business.
This weekend I went to a yard sale and found that a lady was selling the rest of her Lularoe leggings (probably 40 pairs or more) for $5 each. Her facial expression was pained yet relieved when she said the business didn’t work out for her, and she seemed very happy to take my $40 for eight pairs, even though I’m sure she was still losing money on the deal. (One pair normally costs $25.)
I was sad for her all day, and also sad for all the remaining Lularoe consultants (a close friend being one of them) who have to try to compete with closeout prices like that. I love my leggings, and I’m not trying to diss the company---let me know if you need a consultant because my friend rocks!
But direct-sales company have a disturbingly high failure rate. My heart is broken because they target moms who want to be able to quit their jobs and stay home with their kids. Oh how I admire women who desire to do that! Unfortunately, the pyramid model is designed to rip off those at the bottom. Some women are cut out for it and get in early enough to succeed, but too many lose money and burn bridges. I just beg that you ask yourself these questions and really think before jumping in!
Stores and toy-making companies do not have your best interests in mind. You can't assume that just because it's got great reviews that it's a great thing for you; the company marketing it to you wants your money, and they're willing to sell you garbage to get it. Sadly, even mommy-bloggers often promote or review toys because they're being paid by the company or an affiliate program to do so. Why not recommend "15 Must-Have Toys for Toddlers" if you make money from each referral?
I'm very sad that Christmas is a financially stressful season for so many because they feel like they actually need to buy stuff to make their kids happy, especially when the hottest toys are pricey and annoying trash. There's got to be a better way. Let's ask ourselves some questions before buying.
1) Is this going to encourage independent play in a healthy way, or is it creating emotional distance between my child and me?
There is so much value in letting kids play on their own so they can develop independence and creativity (and so you can have some time to yourself!), but if you're not careful, buying toys for your kids can almost push them away so they don't have to be involved in your life, and you don't need to be involved in theirs. Even from babyhood, constantly busying your child with a toy instead of inviting them to watch whatever the adults are doing can communicate "you are separate from us" instead of "you are a valuable member of this family and community." (Again, I'm not saying all toys or bad or that children should never play by themselves. I'm just asking that we think.)
2) Am I buying this because it's best for my child or because he/she demands it? (Who is really in charge here?)
Giving good gifts to your children is a wonderful thing; delighting in their delight, reveling in their wonder, it's all great. However, whether we're buying our kids gifts as a Christmas surprise or on-the-spot at Target, we need to be aware of whether we're giving to them as a gift or a bribe. Are we lavishing our child with a good thing, or are we appeasing their demands? If you're afraid that your child will be upset if he/she doesn't get a particular toy, or if you feel like you need to buy this toy just so you can get out of the store without a meltdown, the authority roles in your household might've swapped in an unhealthy, even dangerous, way. (I speak from guilty experience!) Your child should feel utterly loved and enjoyed, but he or she should not feel entitled to anything beyond necessities.
3) Will I hate this toy?
If you give your child something that annoys you---such as a toy that makes noise or a playset with characters you don't care about---you will most likely not want to play with your child using that toy. If the toy is creating distance, it is not needed! As previously said, independent play is great, but if the toy is insulting to your intelligence and sensibility, why subject your child to such mind-numbingness? But if you give your kids toys that you'll enjoy too, you can jump right in and play together.
4) Will I hate cleaning up this toy?
I have a conspiracy theory about this. I think many toy-makers create toys with so many tiny pieces because they know the pieces will get lost and parents will need to keep buying more toys. (Building toys such as LEGOs and Lincoln logs are an exception to this suspicion.) When you see the toy online or on the shelf, I want you to visualize it (and all its pieces) on your floor as you're trying to clean up before guests come over. Will this be strewn throughout the house? Will your child actually clean up the toy whenever you ask, or will you spend your valuable time cleaning up after your kids when you could have spent those moments with your kids?
5) Will buying this toy feed my child's materialism?
My children don't even have that many toys, but the same insatiable desire for stuff that exists in me exists in them too. When they browse the toy catalogs, they circle multiple items on every page. When they visit grandparents, they come back asking me for everything they've seen on the TV commercials. Though the kids know they are not allowed to ask for anything in stores or start a sentence with "I want", they figure out ways around it, like "Could you keep this in mind for my birthday?" My children are by no means little greed-monsters, but if I constantly feed their desires of dissatisfaction, what am I doing for their hearts? Am I strengthening or weakening their relationships with each other by giving them just one more thing they won't want to share? Is buying them all these toys going to help them become joyful, others-centered, and generous people as teenagers, adults, and future parents?
6) Is this an item that I can buy used?
You can spend $60 on a singular Lego set, or you can buy thirty pounds of Legos from a teenager who grew out of them for half that price. (That’s what we did; homeschool graduates are a gold mine.) Same goes with Thomas the Train, Lincoln Logs, etc. You can usually tell a toy is a good one if it can be resold even after a kid's childhood! Buy the high-quality brands, yes, buy them used. Check Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp, and Craigslist, and you might be able to buy your child a much nicer toy than you were expecting and still come out under budget.
7) What is this toy going to do for my children?
The top toys this year (costing upwards of $50) are literally centered around opening the toy: watching the toy "hatch" from an egg (which, according to reviews, takes about twenty minutes) or opening up 50 little "surprises" inside a plastic dome that are all, 100%, complete garbage. Aside from the few moments of anticipatory glee (and maybe a little while of "caring" for the animal afterwards), is this doing anything for the child's well-being? Is it helping them grow as a person? Is it making mental connections, promoting compassion, or developing individuality? If the toy isn't giving the child delight of any kind of depth, is it really worth it?
Sure, call me the Grinch if you want, but I think it's good to ask ourselves questions about why we do things, especially when we're dealing with something as important as the hearts of the children entrusted to us. I have bought so many things for my children that I regret, I have had so many lazy-mom motives for treating them to things, and I have wasted so many hours cleaning up toys that accomplished so little good for our family. I'm learning from painful experience that materialism makes me miss out on the good stuff in life.
In January, after being inspired by the likes of minimalist Joshua Becker and others, I did a major purge and hid or got rid of nearly all the kids' toys. I have absolutely no regrets. (The kids did, of course, accumulate and find more toys. My house is still messy. It's a journey.) I'm also finally learning that when grandparents buy them toys, I can say "Thank you! They'll have so much fun with that at your house!"; they're happy that I'm not throwing the toy away, and I'm happy that I don't have to deal with the toy here. We've been so much happier this year since we've felt freed up to do so much without the burdens of toys.
Sans toys, the kids and I can spend the entire morning doing crafts together and reading a book aloud on the beanbag. We now have time to cook and bake together; my 5-year-old recently discovered that he can make a mean cranberry sauce with his own special recipe; I just wash the berries and give him free reign over the seasonings, and he does the rest! We are free to go on field trips weekly, to play outside for hours...toys were holding us back. I am now learning that motherhood is so much more enjoyable when I'm actually doing life with my kids rather than just trying to get stuff done while they're busy. I have some things up my sleeve for Christmas, but I expect each item to become a valuable addition to our family's life, not a mere appeasement to the child-gods.
I want to enjoy the best things in life, and a surplus of toys cannot offer that to me. I ask that you consider the same!
I'm about to have my fourth baby in five years, and when I had my first, I was nineteen and particularly irresponsible for my age, so this has all been an enormous learning curve for me. But now that I have some experience, looking at the baby registries of my first-time mama friends makes me quite sad, because BuyBuyBaby, Amazon, Target, and all those niche businesses that bombard you with ads on Facebook don't necessarily have a mama's best interests in mind. They are businesses who want to make money; they are not mental health counselors or baby experts. They will sell you things you don't need, and chances are hefty that all the baby junk will only make motherhood a more overwhelming and difficult transition!
Before I get to the actual list of needs, here are some other things you need to keep in mind (besides what I've already written here, Babies Aren't As Expensive As You Think They Are):
-Babies are born all over the world---and they always have been---and they have thrived with virtually no "baby gear." There really isn't that much you need to parent a newborn, and you might find that you love motherhood a lot more when you cast all that stuff away.
-Every baby is different, so you really won't know what will work best for you and your baby until you have him or her. But chances are, you won't need too much. You will, however, need diapers (unless you go the Elimination Communication route, ha!) Since you're going to spend money on those anyway---either by making a cloth-diaper investment or buying disposables---that's the best thing to ask for at your baby shower, and it frees up your finances a little to buy the things you do need after the baby is born. It's a little boring, but you'll be sick of those cute outfits everyone wants to give you. Trust me, as a recipient of hand-me-downs and yard sale finds, it's unbelievable how many baby clothes I've accumulated for free or cheap that still had the tags on them. This means money was wasted on items that were not truly needed.
-If you care about environmental impact: a lot of companies boast about how eco-friendly their items are because they're organic cotton/responsibly sourced/recycled/etc. But you know the best way to save the earth when you need an item? Buying something that has already been made and bought. That's one of the many reasons for buying used items; so what if a baby carrier was made with synthetic fibers? If it's getting use from you, you're keeping it out of the landfills!
So now to the [very short] list of things you might want to have on hand before baby is born! Here's a free PDF checklist I made if you want it.
Actual needs for your baby:
-Comfortable clothes. Footed pajamas---preferably with zippers, not buttons---are so much more convenient than shirt/shorts combinations and socks. And your baby's supposed to have a hat for the first few days, but your hospital/midwife will probably provide that.
My babies live in footed pajamas for the first few months, especially if the weather is cold.
-Diapers (obviously.) Cloth diapers are a great option, but if they make you hate your life, buy disposables in bulk. A Costco membership might be worth it for you solely for the diaper discounts. And not all diapers are created equal! Walmart-brand diapers are garbage and need to be changed like three times as often.
I dress my babies in diapers one size too big because then we're able to go longer in between diaper changes! Bwahaha!
-A Pack n Play. You can buy these used. Pack n Plays are extremely helpful because a) they can sleep there, b) you can travel, c) it serves as a safe place for your baby to play unsupervised, d) it's also a safe place for you to place your baby when you just need a minute to calm down. After I had my first baby (a fussy one), I realized that it's better to let my kid cry for a couple minutes so I can breathe, pray, and eat a marshmallow (lol) than to hold my baby every moment until it drives me mad. Your baby needs you to not lose your mind more than he needs you to be with him every second.
We forgo the crib and put our baby in a pack n play until he or she turns two. Walk-in closets make great baby nurseries; they're dark and quiet and can most likely fit a Pack n Play! Just make sure the ventilation is okay.
-A car seat. As long as it's safe and not outdated (yes, car seats have expiration dates) this is a great item to buy used. If I'm not mistaken the car seat we've used for the past two years cost $7 from a yard sale.
-A couple receiving blankets. These serve as burp cloths, diaper changing pads, and, of course, blankets for warmth. If you use a big swaddle blanket like Aden + Anais (or a knockoff), you can swaddle your baby in those too, if that's your style.
-Note: I don't like living in Florida, but it's probably the easiest place in America to raise babies. I'm sure if you live in a cold climate, there are other things you need to make sure your baby is safely warm, but do a lot of research before buying car seat accessories because there is definitely a safe and unsafe way to keep your baby warm in the car.
Helpful to have for your baby:
-A forehead thermometer. You don't need to obsess over checking your baby's temperature, but especially for those first few days, your doctor or midwife will probably want you to casually monitor it. No-touch thermometers make it a piece of cake.
-A bouncy seat (like this one, about $20 new) could be extremely helpful for you so you can pacify your baby hands-free while you sit and eat.
A lot of moms complain about not being able to eat their food while it's still hot, but I just bounce the baby on the bouncer with my foot while I sit at the table and enjoy the noms.
-A simple baby monitor.
Unless you live in a mansion or you're an extremely heavy sleeper, you'll probably hear your baby when he or she cries, but monitors are good to have on hand. We keep our baby in our room until he or she is a good sleeper, so most of the time I don't need a monitor, but if I need to do something on the opposite end of the house or if we're visiting friends, the monitor is helpful.
I will say that one time our baby monitor accidentally picked up on a neighbor's frequency and I heard her screaming at her kids. I don't completely trust the safety or privacy of monitors. (But no one should scream at their kids anyway.)
-Diaper rash cream, or at least some coconut oil. (This is assuming you don't feel comfortable with squeezing some breastmilk on your baby's bum whenever a rash occurs.)
I love Burt's Bees diaper rash cream. Quick tip: squirt some on your baby's bum, then rub it in with the diaper so your hands don't get messy. Diaper rash cream is a pain to clean off your fingers!
-A Wubbanub or Dr. Brown's Lovey pacifier that has a stuffed animal attached. It's not recommended to use a pacifier until your baby is two weeks old (or more) so as to avoid nipple confusion, and you don't even know if your baby will take a pacifier or not, but they can certainly make your job easier.
What you don't need:
-A crib! A pack n play does everything you need, and co-sleeping for at least the first couple months can make your life a lot easier (and more enjoyable!) I was appalled when I first found out that some people in modern times still co-sleep, but the more research I did---and when I actually tried it---I realized it's super-safe as long as you follow the guidelines...and it's super enjoyable too.
-A stroller. Strollers that accomodate newborns are big and clunky, and for safety reasons your baby really shouldn't be in a carseat when you're not driving. Babywearing is sufficient for those first few months, and you can make your husband do it so you can have a break! I start putting my baby in a stroller when they're big enough to sit in an umbrella stroller, at about four months. (Decent umbrella strollers cost $20 max, by the way.) With a couple regrettable exceptions, I exclusively use either a single or double umbrella stroller and it makes life so easy!
-A baby bath. Look into all the research about giving your baby baths; bathing babies is completely overdone in our culture. They shouldn't be bathed right after birth and they really don't need to be bathed later either. If you enjoy it and it helps your baby sleep, sure, go for it, but you really don't need to give your baby a lot of baths. I promise that your baby is too little to get BO at this point; a bath isn't really going to accomplish much other than drying out his or her skin!
Since I don't bathe my babies regularly until they're old enough to sit up in the big tub (gasp!) I don't use a baby tub.
-Toys. It's okay for your baby to be bored. This will teach him or her to find interest in the real world from a very young age. The last thing they need is another plastic piece of garbage that you're going to hate cleaning up. If my babies were fussy, I would hand them a wash cloth, a measuring cup, etc. and they seemed more pleased with that than anything made specifically for babies.
-New clothes. You'll be a lot less frustrated with your baby's blowouts and spit-ups if you know the now-stained clothes didn't actually cost you anything. Hand-me-downs in younger sizes are so plentiful that I didn't buy my kids new clothes until they were at least two.
-Virtually everything else. I'm racking my brain and reading checklists, and I can't think of anything else that a normal, healthy baby would absolutely need upon birth.
Actual needs for you:
-A babywearing item that works for you. Again, this is something you probably won't figure out until you have the baby. Research plenteously, try out your friends' items (using baby dolls!) and seek advice, but you might want to buy your wrap or carrier used because you never know what will fit you and your baby best.
I've tried something different with each baby and I'm still learning in this area! But I know that I will not carry my baby around in his or her carseat. That's a rule for me, both because it's easier to just carry my baby and because it's better for their bodies!
-Lanolin and ibuprofen for the first couple of weeks! Your breasts will probably get chapped as they adjust to nursing, and as your uterus shrinks back to normal size, the contractions are going to hurt, especially if it's not your first baby. I try to avoid painkillers, but in those first few days, a little bit of pain relief can be a game-changer for my attitude and happiness!
-A calming music playlist. This is probably the most important thing! Even if you have an easygoing or sleep-trained baby (which you certainly shouldn't assume will happen) there will be nights when you have to rock your baby to sleep and you might feel a little frustrated. 2/3 of my babies were of the needy variety where I had to do this, oftentimes waking every single hour to console him or her. The thing that got me through Baby #1? Shawn McDonald's Roots album. I survived those nights with Baby #3 thanks to Psalms by Sandra McCracken and I Dream of You by JJ Heller. Even now, whenever I hear music from those albums I feel so much warmth from memories of exhausting and frustrating yet sweetly intimate times with my baby. Make sure that none of the songs on your playlist have an abrupt/loud start or anything that will wake you or your baby. Some other gentle-music, rich-lyrics artists I recommend are Young Oceans, Jill Phillips, Rain for Roots, and select acoustic songs from Jon Foreman, Shane and Shane, and Andrew Peterson. I use Amazon Music on my phone to listen to music.
-All the fun post-partum goodies such as adult diapers or heavy-duty pads, witch hazel wipes (such as Tuck's pads or an off-brand), a peri bottle (make sure your hospital or birth center will provide that), prune juice, etc. Yep, prepare yourself for an embarrassing trip to Target. The reality of post-birth is that your baby isn't going to be the only one wearing diapers, you'll most likely struggle with constipation and probably even hemorrhoids, and you're going to be a tad sore. It's amazing how quickly you can recover from a vaginal birth given what your body just did, but the first weeks---the first days especially---will be a big adjustment on your body since it's no longer hosting a human. At least you're not pregnant anymore though! And those first days aren't impossible; I remember going to Publix, the chiropractor, and Green Boutique only seventeen hours after my first baby was born, ha! (But remember, I was 19. By the time I had baby #2, I enjoyed lounging on the couch, ha! Also, keep in mind that you can't drive a car for the first two weeks after your baby is born. I cheated once and it was not healthy for my recovery.)
-ESV Bible app and a journaling Bible (like this one.) If you're used to whipping out your study Bible, journal, devotional books, etc. every time you sit down for time with the Lord, you might have a difficult time transitioning to motherhood. Alone time is going to be much more limited now, so a Bible app where you can take notes for those middle-of-the-night nursing sessions and a Bible with margins for writing what you learned might be the most helpful, all-inclusive tool right now. I plan on writing an entire post about this later. You might also enjoy the Bible.is app, which is a free audio Bible that's easy to navigate by chapter.
-A nursing cover or scarf. I believe in modesty and you'll never see me in a bikini (even if I had a super-hot bod, lol), but I'm persuaded that you can be a virtuous woman and not cover up when you nurse. You are simply feeding your baby, and covering up makes it more difficult for your baby to eat. That said, I choose to cover up if I'm around men that I know would feel uncomfortable, but I have no problem letting my baby eat unhindered if I'm out and about. The only reason people feel uncomfortable about it is because our culture has trained us to do so. I'm working on a little rant about this topic that I hope to post later :)
What you don't need:
-A diaper bag! After my first baby I learned that I do not need to carry around a big ugly bag! Babies need so little that a regular purse or bag big enough to fit diapers, wipes, a nursing cover, a blanket, and an extra onesie is fine. Plus, using an everyday bag makes you feel a little more normal; having a baby does not need to strip you completely of your former self-expression.
-A specific nursing bra/nursing clothes. If you'll observe mothers who have mastered breastfeeding, they usually aren't wearing fancy tops with flaps and openings, but they just lift up their shirt for the baby. This approach doesn't feel quite so baring and works wonderfully, and there's no need to find those frustrating nursing bra snaps. Any bra without underwire should work! Also, nursing can really change your body, so I wouldn't buy any bras until after you've had the baby and you have an idea of what size you are! Also, some moms need breast pads to catch leaks (lol), but you can't really know whether you'll be the "leaky" sort until you start nursing, so I would wait until you see that nursing works out and that you have a bountiful supply before buying things like that.
-A fancy breast pump, bottles, and supplies (assuming you're a stay-at-home mom who doesn't need to bottle-feed.) Some moms are almost bovine-like in their pumping efficiency, but some moms only pump half an ounce after twenty minutes of work. Some babies refuse to drink from a bottle. You don't yet know what your body or baby will do, so you don't need to spend money on a hypothetical need. But you can get a decent manual pump for less than $20 (or free from a government-sponsored lactation consultant), so go with that if you need to. Also, if nursing doesn't work out, you can buy the bottles you need after the fact. I used the cheapest bottles I could find and they worked splendidly.
Anyway, I hope this helps you. Preparing for a newborn doesn't have to be overwhelming. Simplifying your perceived needs is going to take away so much stress. I'm still an extremely lazy and irresponsible person, but I've learned that baby care is not impossible or even miserable. Enjoy your little one!
Leave a comment if I'm missing something major! I checked some "must-have" lists, however, and I don't think I'm forgetting any true essentials.
The tears in my eyes immediately grasped the attention of my children, and frankly I was surprised by this sudden rush of emotions too. I had just noticed that Amazon Prime was now streaming the latest Torchlighters biographical animated video, and as I sat the kids on the couch and briefly introduced Ann and Adoniram Judson, I told them a story about an encounter we had this April on a visit to Atlanta that was most likely linked to these missionaries from the early 19th century. I wanted to share that story, and a little bit of the Judsons' story, in hopes of encouraging you like it encouraged me.
This spring, we visited Stone Mountain, a geological wonder: it's a 1,686 ft. mountain in a relatively flat area, and it's comprised completely of rock. Stone Mountain is extremely fun to hike, but we also enjoy ascending or descending it by riding the park's Summit Skyride cable car. Stone Mountain is a very multi-cultural tourist attraction, so we enjoyed sharing our descending ride in the cable car on this particular day with a very large family consisting of multiple generations. They were quite caught up in taking selfie after selfie, recording video of every moment, and laughing together in a language I didn't recognize. I asked one of the English-speaking family members where they were from.
"Myanmar," he replied kindly. With his accent I initially didn't understand, so he clarified by the name by which his nation is better known: "Burma." Oh, Burma! I knew a little bit about Burma! As we continued talking, I learned that this man lived here in the Atlanta area, and his family had come to visit from Burma to celebrate their uncle's birthday. (The uncle was the happy old man in their group who was featured in the most selfies.) I asked what brought him to the States, and he said he's a pastor of a Burmese church here.
A pastor? From Burma?? I couldn't believe my ears. In the early 1800's when the Judsons arrived, Christianity was virtually non-existent there. Anyone who believed in Christ would be killed. Even now, persecution remains high for all minority religions.
Ann and Adoniram arrived in Burma in 1813 and it was six years before anyone converted to Christianity. Ann and Adoniram studied Burmese fiercely, and Adoniram wrote a grammar book called Grammatical Notices of the Burman Language; he also compiled the first Burmese-English dictionary. Though these were great gifts to the people of Burma, Adoniram and Ann's top priority, of course, was translating the Bible into Burmese. Before this, there was no Bible. There were no Christians. In this violent and war-torn nation, there was no eternal hope.
After they had been there about a decade, Adoniram was imprisoned under brutal conditions for twenty months. Nearly all the prisoners with him died during this time because the conditions were so harsh. Ann, a translator herself who was pregnant and eventually nursing their newborn baby, visited the prison often to bribe the jailers and soften the conditions as much as she could. She reportedly even smuggled in some of the translation work through a pillow so Adoniram could keep working. Ann repeatedly pleaded with the officials for the freedom of her husband and the other prisoners, but it was to no avail until Adoniram was released so he could serve as an interpreter for the government. Shortly after, Ann succombed to smallpox and died; her baby, Maria, passed away six months later.
By the time of Adoniram's death, Christianity had grown immensely. There were now thousands of believers. Even today, Christianity comprises 6% of the population; half are Baptists like the Judsons. Of course we can't help but wonder what would have happened if Adoniram and Ann wouldn't have gone, if they wouldn't have endured for the sake of the good news of Jesus reaching ears that had never heard. Their translation of the Bible is still in use today! Their legacy almost certainly touched the life of the man I met on the skyride, and it touches mine---and now my children's lives---as well.
Bottom line? It's worth it to have a hard life. So much of Ann and Adoniram's story is so sad---Ann died at only 35 years of age, and none of their three children survived past infancy. I absolutely cannot imagine living there for six years before seeing any real change in anyone. Six. Years. They didn't endure all this perfectly or with a cheery attitude; when Ann and Maria died, Adoniram became depressed, wrestled deeply with God, and even dug his own grave as he contemplated death and the shortness of life.
But God helped him persevere. And now, all the way over here in the United States, I met a man who heard about Jesus from someone who heard about Jesus from someone who heard about Jesus from someone who probably heard about Jesus from Adoniram and Ann Judson. He most likely uses a Bible that was translated by this couple.
As I sit here in my 21st-century, middle-class American comfort, the story of Ann and Adoniram makes my fears, complaints, and difficulties feel so small, and I'm able to see the great sovereignty of their God---and mine---as more like it really is. He helps His people. He uses His people. I can only see one day at a time, but He sees all eternity. And He who invited Adoniram and Ann Judson to take the painful path of love that Jesus walked invites you and I to joyfully do the same. Difficulty is not the worst thing that can happen to me.
A horrifying reality of living in 2017 is that it's easier than ever to act upon breaking marriage vows. Thanks to Hugh Hefner and the advent of instantly-accessible pornography, a man can cheat on his wife (or vice versa) secretly and seemingly without consequence for years. However, there are consequences, and the spouse who feels jilted and insufficient might blame herself. I've got some strong words about that. If you find yourself on the receiving end of Not-Enoughness (whether your spouse looked at porn or acted on his impulses even more brazenly), I hope this is encouraging.
(I wrote this specifically to women but obviously it can also apply to husbands who have found themselves "not enough" for their wives. I also wrote this many months ago, so please don't try to read between the lines and think I'm trying to bitterly communicate anything to anyone in particular. )
1) God hates what happened more than even you do.
He designed something so good and brilliant as marriage. He joined you and your husband into one flesh. Your marriage is supposed to reflect His love for His church. When this is all so twisted and perverted almost beyond recognition, our righteous-Judge God who feels indignation every day (Psalm 7) is not mildly disappointed. He does not passively shrug. He hates it. Your husband can try to justify his actions and say lust and adultery are different, but Jesus disagrees. He said looking at a woman with lust is committing adultery. Even if your spouse “only” looked at porn, vows were broken and you’ve been cheated on. That’s not a subjective, self-pitying statement. That’s the Word of God.
2) This confirms that you're not just being hyper-sensitive, but there is truly something wrong.
Your husband might have led you to believe that you're just being dramatic or ungrateful or self-conscious...or crazy. But what just happened is proof that your union has been compromised and sin has gained far too much leverage, and you both need counsel and oversight as quickly as possible. Your husband might say he's "totally fine" but his soul needs close care immediately (and so does yours.) You are not "disrespecting" your husband by running to your pastors for help. By being attentive to his soul and using the means God has designed to care for him, you are loving your husband.
3) Even women with "the perfect body" have been cheated on.
No matter what your husband might say, his sin is not your fault. Women with the body type that you think might be "enough" for your husband has proven not to be "enough" for theirs; many women who are considered the hottest celebrities have been betrayed by their man for another woman. Lust is insatiable, and it's impossible to possess every single physical attribute your husband is looking for in others. It's shocking how many images a porn addict can consume even in a short period of time; it doesn't matter if the images are fake or unrealistic...they're easily accessible, and they feed animalistic cravings. What your real body looks like has nothing to do with that.
4) The pain might be a living pain, but God's Word is living too.
If your husband is not turning away from these awful habits, you might have to deal with his unfaithfulness over and over again. Even the reality of that possibility is deeply painful. But as the wound keeps reopening, so does the healing balm. For every wave of hurt you experience, there can come an even greater wave of comfort. God's Word is ready to meet you where you are. Every. Single. Time.
5) You have gained a most beautiful family in Christ.
Let Luke 18:29-30 prove itself to be true. Even if the person who is supposed to be your closest friend has abused your trust, you are not alone because you have gained a very large family in Christ. While you obviously can't go telling all your friends the details of what happened, send out some S.O.S. texts that you're struggling and ask your sisters for prayer, scripture, and song recommendations. You will make it through this, but you're not meant to endure alone, so God has gifted you with community so you can be carried by others. If you don't have such community, find and pursue it!
6) Your heart is more receptive now than ever.
The temptation is to quickly enter escapism and indulge in ice cream or Netflix or worse to forget about what just happened and how you feel about it...you want to drown out your own despairing thoughts. There's wisdom in refusing to listen to the lies your mind is telling you. But drown them out with the numerous scriptures and songs that speak of God's love for you. You can feel pursued by God right now; run to Him while your heart is so broken and teachable. You will relate with the agony of the psalms more than ever. The faithfulness of Christ and the truth of the husband He is for you can sweep you off your feet.
You can sing to him even in your pain. The Lord even hears the sound of your weeping (Psalm 6.) Because of Christ, you are a fragrant aroma to God (2 Corinthians 2.) He has designed your body with the ability to sing, and He has intended singing with the great power to lift your spirits. So, in your weeping---which is totally appropriate for such a time as this---sing to Him.
7) This is a chance to show your husband true, gospel love.
Right now it's probably difficult to determine what's going on in his heart and mind. His anger at himself might be twisted into anger towards you, which makes no sense, but sin can harden and deceive us. He might feel so crippled by shame that he distances himself from you. He might seem mournful and broken, desperate to make amends. He might seem indifferent about it.
However, he responds, the path of love is the right path. How you love him will look different depending on the situation---1 Thessalonians 5:14 gives various instructions for how to deal with different kinds of people---but do know that the path of love is always the correct path. You and your husband desperately need the same Jesus, and the Jesus who came down and sought you and loved you while were dead in your sins calls you to do the same. If your husband feels like he's your enemy, you're still supposed to love your enemies.
See this as your "glory moment," an opportunity to show mercy. As I've stated earlier, it's okay and it's right to feel hurt and angry and broken, but if your heart is turning to bitterness or hatred, be humbled by Matthew 18:21-35 and James 1:20. You have a tremendous opportunity here.
8) God loves to redeem terrible things.
Even Adam and Eve's sin is overshadowed by God's promise to send a savior. Their forced departure from the garden was not without God Himself providing a covering for them. He loves to restore what has been broken (Isaiah 58.) He even makes promises that the New Heaven and New Earth will not be made from scratch, but it will be a redeemed version of what we see and experience now (Romans 8); creation is groaning for it and we join with it. So wait and watch His story of making terrible things beautiful; if you don't see it during this short life, you will one day, and you will rejoice.
I truly hope that if you're reading this and you find yourself in a "not enough" situation, that God will comfort you and restore your marriage. You are not alone in your struggle; women have been struggling with not being "enough" for their husband since Genesis 16 at the very least. But as early as Genesis 16, God has made rejected women know that He sees them and He cares for them. Take heart, dear friend!
Some scriptures to remember:
Some songs to listen to (links are to YouTube videos):
Satisfied in You (Psalm 42) by The Sing Team
He Walks with Me by Sandra McCracken
Band of Gold by The Gray Havens
Photo by Jason Pier on Flickr
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a former skater dude, and raising little people ages 5, 3, 1, and not-yet-born. I like lime green and sarsaparilla, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
Quick links to some of my posts:
Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today