Courtney Gibson, the author of this post, is married to Adam Gibson, one of our pastors, and is mother to their daughter, Selah Grace.
Dear New Mom
How many ounces of milk does your baby take in one sitting? How many wet diapers does she have in one day? Are you using organic sheets? Do you let your baby cry it out? How many minutes of tummy time can he withstand?
How quickly has your worth started to feel measured by your answers to these types of questions?
And just when you feel like you’ve got all the answers, someone throws a new one at you: “Are you using orthodontic pacifiers? Because if you’re not using the orthodontic kind, your baby will develop a horrendous overbite that even braces can’t cure.” And instead of responding with a simple: “My baby doesn’t even have teeth yet,” if you’re like me, you send your husband out to Target so you can add, “orthodontic pacis” to your list of answers.
Answers that feel really, really important.
Answers that ultimately aren’t nearly as important as they seem. But it’s easy to forget.
Lessons from an Explosive Poop
For me, it took a dear friend and an explosive poop up the back incident to remember.
By the time my daughter, Selah, was two-weeks old, I could give the mommy answers on auto-pilot: “4 ounces, seven, no, yes, .2 seconds, and of course we’re using orthodontic pacifiers… who doesn’t?”
But one dear friend who came to visit didn’t care about these questions. She and I were chatting about life when Selah had an explosive diaper—the kind that defies gravity and travels up the back. My friend followed me upstairs to the changing table as I stripped Selah down and began applying an entire case of baby wipes. During this process, my friend didn’t ask about the type of diaper ointment I used or if I’d considered cloth diapers. Instead, as she helped me wipe the poop off my daughter’s back, she asked: “So, what have you learned about God through being a mom?”
Her question switched me out of Mommy auto-pilot. And my honest answer was: “I haven’t really thought about it.”
But as I changed my daughter’s soiled outfit for the third time that day, I remember telling this friend that being a mom for only two weeks had helped me understand how it really was possible for God to love me regardless of that fact that I could do nothing for him.
In the middle of feeling like I had to prove my worth as a mom, God was repeatedly giving me a picture of his unconditional love for me—a love that wasn’t based on what I could do for him or how well I could clean up on my own.
That night, with my friend’s question in mind, I asked God to reveal more of himself to me. I asked that I wouldn’t miss the little (or big) things he wanted to teach me through motherhood. That I’d let this be the question that mattered.
The Wrong Question and the Right Question
Selah is now a year-and-a-half, and while a lot has changed, I still have two main options when it comes to the question that I can choose to focus on: 1. How am I performing as a mom? 2. How is God revealing himself to me through motherhood?
One of the biggest ways the Lord revealed himself to me this past week was in the midst of my frustration with getting Selah dressed. I’ll let you in on a little secret: I have a strong-willed toddler. This is one of my favorite things about her and I’m praying that the Lord will use this characteristic for good in her life. But currently, it causes what should be a thirty-second outfit change to turn into an elaborate game of cat and mouse. I tell Selah it’s time to get dressed. She runs away. Lately, she heads to the corner of the room and covers her eyes because she believes that if she can’t see me, I can’t see her—that with her eyes closed, she’s in control.
Last week during one particularly epic battle, I took a deep breath, and asked the Lord to meet me in my frustration. I asked Him to continue to help me have wisdom to know how to love Selah well and be the mom that she needed. And then, I asked Him to reveal himself to me. And as I sat on the floor, watching Selah in plain sight, with her hands over her eyes, believing she was the one in control, I began to see a whole lot of myself in Selah. Like her, I too tend to cling to my illusion of control. More often that I’d like to admit, I’m running around, unwilling to surrender to the Lord’s goodness and trustworthiness.
Jesus is using a strong-willed toddler to convict me of sin and direct me back to Him. Every clothing battle becomes an opportunity for me to surrender my own desire for control—to lay it at the feet of the one good parent.
Asking the Important Things First
So dear new mom, this is my prayer for you: that your eyes would be firmly set on our heavenly Father and that you would find your value in what He has already done for you in Jesus. That you would not be defined by the types of baby products you purchase or the parenting philosophies you adhere to. In fact, I’d love if we could work together to create a culture where these types of questions are only asked after we’ve first asked each other the more important questions: How is the Lord revealing himself to you? How is being a mom making you more reliant on Jesus and less reliant on yourself? How today, in the daily routines of parenthood, have you experienced the grace and love of your savior?