Paying it Forward

That first baby throws you for a loop, man. It is abrupt and hard. H-A-R-D. At least it was for me. I went to bed one night with no thought of childbirth in my head, and then at 5am my water broke. I spent one evening wandering the aisles of IKEA shopping for baby furniture, and the next evening in the NICU holding my premature daughter. Looking back, it’s like I blinked and my life changed forever.

In the early days and weeks of parenting I feared that life as I knew it was over. In some ways it was, in fact. I am not the same person today that I was on that February afternoon in 2005 when I gave birth for the first time. It’s not all bad, though, far from it. I am a little tougher, a little more focused, and I can function on far less sleep than I used to. I view the world differently, because my stake in it is greater thanks to my children.

Back then, in the bleary-eyed early morning hours as I sat nursing my daughter yet again, I worried a lot. I didn’t know if, or when, things would get better. I didn’t know if following my instincts was right or wrong. I feared the rest of my life would be that semi-existence in which I could barely make myself a peanut butter sandwich to wolf down for lunch or grab a shower. On those nights what I most needed to hear was it will be OK.

Family of three
Then – a slightly stunned new family

Luckily I met other moms, more experienced moms who told me just that. They promised me that it would get better and things would get easier. They assured me that I could trust my instincts. They said it will be OK. I clung to their words for dear life. It had to be OK. It had to be.

Those moms were right. Everything was OK in the end. Or OK enough that I decided to do it all again and have another child, anyway. The second time around I had some more perspective, and it made things easier. I knew that the early days would be rough but they would not last forever. Things would get better. It would be OK.

Our family on Jacob's new bed
Now – we are OK

These days I am the ‘experienced’ mom at playground. I have a 5-year-old and a 21-month-old and we’ve all survived this far. I am able to have a daily shower and keep everyone fed. It is not always easy, but it is OK.

I see new moms with the fear in their bleary eyes. The fear that they will never be the same again, never get a full night’s sleep, never pee with both hands. I know that fear. I do not tell them, “Enjoy it, it goes so quickly!” even though I believe that. I remember the bad times too much to be trite. But I do say, “It won’t be like this forever. It will get easier. You can trust yourself and your baby. It will be OK.” Sometimes I hear them exhale with relief.

Those mamas who gave me words to cling to when I couldn’t see straight did not do it for themselves. They did it because they knew that fear I was living with. They genuinely wanted to help me. It seems only fair to pay the kindness forward. It seems only fair to pass along the words of wisdom that saw me through. It will be OK. You can trust yourself and your baby. Things will get better. I hope that one day the mamas that clung to my words will pay them forward, too.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaI was inspired to write his post by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama and their Carnival of Natural Parenting. Read on for more inspiration!

  • Woman Seeking Inspiration — Seeking Mother’s struggles and joys to find her own path in motherhood have inspired others — to her surprise! (@seekingmother )
  • Paving the Way — Jessica at This is Worthwhile makes a conscious effort every day to be a role model. (@tisworthwhile )
  • No Rules Without Reason — The Recovering Procrastinator wants to inspire her husband to discipline their children gently. (@jenwestpfahl)
  • Creating a Culture of Positive Parenting Role Models — Michelle at The Parent Vortex shows parents at the playground how to do a front wrap cross carry and tells nurses about her successful home births, as a way of modeling natural parenting in public. (@TheParentVortex)
  • Making A Difference for Mamas — Shana at Tales of Minor Interest took an embarrassing pumping incident at work and turned it into an opportunity for all the employees who breastfeed.
  • Inspiring Snowflakes — Joni Rae at Tales of Kitchen Witch Momma is a role model for the most important people: her children. (@kitchenwitch)
  • A SAHD’s View on Parenting Role Models — Chris at Stay At Home Dad in Lansing doesn’t have many role models as a SAHD — but hopes to be one to his daughter.
  • Am I a Role Model? A Review — Deb at Science@home brings attachment parenting out of the baby age and shows how it applies (with science fun!) to parenting through all of childhood. (@ScienceMum)
  • Say Something Good — Arwyn at Raising My Boychick reminds women that it is within our right to be proud of ourselves without apology. (@RaisingBoychick)
  • Try, Try Again — Thomasin at Propson Palingenesis wants to inspire like the Little Engine that Could.
  • I’m a Parenting Inspiration, Who Knew? — Sarah at OneStarryNight has received several beautiful comments about just what an inspiration she has been, if not in real life then definitely online. (@starrymom)
  • That Little Thing — NavelgazingBajan at Navelgazing demonstrates the ripple effect, one status update at a time. (@BlkWmnDoBF)
  • How Has Your Day Been? — mrs green @ littlegreenblog inspired her friend to be an active listener for her children. (@myzerowaste)
  • No, Thank You! — If you are reading Maman A Droit’s post, you’ve probably inspired her. (@MamanADroit)
  • My Top 3 Natural Parenting Principles — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now describes how her family’s natural and Montessori principles inspired others. (@DebChitwood)
  • My Hope for a Better Life — Mandy at Living Peacefully With Children hopes her choices inspire her children toward a better life.
  • Natural Parenting Felt Natural — Sheryl at Little Snowflakes didn’t plan on natural parenting — but her son led her there. (@sheryljesin)
  • Rest. Is it even possible? — Janet at where birth and feminism intersect has found that even role models need rest — and that there are ways to fit it into everyday parenting life. (@feministbirther)
  • May Carnival of Natural Parenting: Role model — Lauren at Hobo Mama was the fortunate recipient of a seed of inspiration, and has been privileged to plant some of those seeds herself, though she didn’t know it at the time. (@Hobo_Mama)
  • crunchspiration — the grumbles at grumbles and grunts wants to inspire others to parent from their heart. (@thegrumbles)
  • No Extra Inspiration Required — Zoey at Good Goog doesn’t think she inspires anyone and wasn’t inspired by anyone in return — except by her daughter. (@goodgoogs)
  • Upstream Parenting — Luschka at Diary of a First Child blogs for that one mother in one hundred who will find her words helpful. (@diaryfirstchild)
  • Parenting Advice for the Girl from Outer Space — If Mommy Soup at Cream of Mommy Soup could give one piece of inspirational advice to new parents, it would be to parent with kindness. (@MommySoup)
  • Natural Parenting Carnival — Role Model — Sarah at Consider Eden feels the pressure at trying — and failing — to live up to her role models. (@ConsiderEden)
  • May Carnival of Natural Parenting: Role Model — Dionna at Code Name: Mama encourages natural parenting mamas to take joy in the fact that they are touching lives and making a difference to children every day. (@CodeNameMama)
  • Inspiration Goes Both Ways — Melodie at Breastfeeding Moms Unite! is flustered that people consider her a breastfeeding role model — but the lovely comments she’s received prove it’s so. (@bfmom)
  • My Seven — Danielle at has identified seven role models in her life who brought her to natural parenting. Who are your seven? (@borninjp)
  • A Quiet Example — Alison at BluebirdMama was one of the first parents in her group of friends — and has come to see almost all those friends follow in her natural birthing footsteps, whether intentionally or not.
  • Gentle Discipline Warrior — Paige at Baby Dust Diaries has inspired a gentle discipline movement — join her! (@babydust)
  • Change The World… One Parent At A Time — Mamapoekie is more comfortable inspiring parents online than she is in real life. (@mamapoekie)
  • Inspirational Parenting — pchanner at A Mom’s Fresh Start has intentionally tried to be a role model but was unprepared for how soon someone would take notice. (@pchanner)
  • My Inspiration — Erin at A Beatnik’s Beat on Life has written thank-you letters to everyone who’s inspired her to become the lactivist and natural parenting advocate she is today. (@babybeatnik)
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  1. I remember those days! Add in that new mamas are so often experiencing a little (or a lot) PPD, and reassurances that “it will be ok” can really make a huge difference. I know that similar advice from experienced mamas helped me get by in those early days.
    .-= Dionna @ Code Name: Mama´s last post ..The Joys of Breastfeeding a Toddler #5 =-.

  2. You are so right. I can clearly remember being told my first daughter would learn to attach and feed all on her own, even in the dark at night. And even though I knew intellectually it was true, at 3 or 6 or even 8 weeks I couldn’t quite believe it. But it was true and she did, and all the other things I was told would be ok were. It’s special every time I can say that to another new mother, it takes me back to those days and reminds me how wonderful and scary they were. I hope I always remember, and always reassure other Mums.
    .-= Deb´s last post ..Am I a Role Model? A Review =-.

  3. So true! It is crazy that I’m looking forward to the day when I have a second child so that I can finally be a more easy-going parent?
    Great post, Amber. I look forward to digging through all those thoughtfully curated links. You are definitely a parenting inspiration to me!
    .-= Sarah´s last post ..A table of his very own… =-.

  4. Oh yes, don’t we all need to hear that? Loudly and often. No matter where we are in our parenting journey.

    At least as a mom of older children, we only need the reminder because as you say we have some perspective. Those new green moms are the ones that need to hear it so they can begin believing it.
    .-= BluebirdMama aka @childbearing´s last post ..A Quiet Example =-.

  5. Sarah’s so not crazy — it was like two kids were suddenly half the work one had been for me. Granted, Eve was pretty close to an angel baby and Angus was the quintessential awesome big brother, but a lot of it had to do with me realizing that it would be okay. And in that picture it looks to me like Jacob suddenly grew half a foot and dropped ten pounds. Freaky.
    .-= allison´s last post ..*****************(Won’t You Take Me to) Crazy Town =-.

  6. I remember hearing those words after having my son. I thought people were ridiculous. I wouldn’t believe them because I couldn’t even remember what it felt like to sleep.

    But it’s SO true. It does get better…. 🙂
    .-= Sara´s last post ..Missing the passion =-.

  7. It’s so nice to hear that reassurance from more exsperienced moms. I think for me a lot of the uncertainty and insecurity comes just from not ever having done it before. And unfortunately, a lot of people in our society act like babies are mainly a burden and maybe not really worth it (instead of mainly a blessing, and worth the extra work and sacrifice, which is what I think they are!) So it’s nice to hear from moms who have and made it out with their sanity intact and are none the worse for the occasional missed shower 🙂

  8. It is definitely easier the second time around. I wish I had known more mom’s during my first foray into the world of parenting but at least I know them now 🙂

    Almost makes me think having a third would be a walk in the park 😉
    .-= Carrie´s last post ..Losing my Blog Conference Virginity: Northern Voice 2010 =-.

  9. That first switch from being just me to being a mom was a pretty bumpy one. It really is a lot easier the second time around.
    .-= Marilyn´s last post ..How to Be an Effective Parent =-.

  10. You mean I’ll be able to take a shower every day again! I’d be ecsatic with every other day at this point!

    And you totally had me at the parts about the pb sandwich and peeing with two hands!
    .-= abbie´s last post ..My First Mother’s Day =-.

  11. That is, like, the most important message ever. It’s the one thing getting me through the idea of having a second child, actually — that knowledge that we’ve been through this before, and it was terrible before it got better, but it did get better. And now, as you say, it is OK.

    P.S. I’m not pregnant; this is merely philosophical. 😉
    .-= Lauren @ Hobo Mama´s last post ..May Carnival of Natural Parenting: Role model =-.

  12. It is kind of a strange feeling to realize that you’re now considered an “experienced mom.” It has all gone by so quickly.
    .-= NavelgazingBajan´s last post ..That Little Thing =-.

  13. So much easier the second time around. i can still feel the shock that was #1.

  14. That is exactly my go-to thing to say to new moms, too, “It will be ok.” It was the one thing that I held on to during those first few months. I also add, “Trust your gut. Trust your baby. He knows EXACTLY what to do even when you don’t,” for good measure.
    .-= Jessica – This is Worthwhile´s last post ..Paving the way =-.

  15. Good Heavens, I remember those first few months were so hard. So. Hard. I didn’t think it would ever be ok. I wish I hear more of that those first few months, and for all the new mamas I encounter I think I will adopt “It will be ok” as my new mantra for them.
    .-= Shana´s last post ..Making a Difference For Mamas =-.

  16. Dear Lord/Amber – You are so right! I remember hearing those words and wanting to crumple into a ball and cry in relief. Even the days I wanted to scream “what are you talking about?!?!” it always helped.
    .-= Melodie´s last post ..Inspiration Goes Both Ways =-.

  17. You are so right. And what lovely things to say to new mommas! <3 <3 <3

  18. I remember being a mom to a seven week old baby and meeting a mom of a five month old at the bus stop one day. She said, oh, they grow so fast! Enjoy your tiny baby! Her five month old seemed impossibly huge and different. I don’t know where logic and the ability to see into the future goes when you have a newborn, but I didn’t have the capability to truly see myself with a baby who could sit up alone, let alone a toddler or preschooler. Parenting a newborn for the first time is like stepping into another dimension in many ways. Thanks for the reminder, and a handy mantra for reassuring new moms. It will indeed be OK.
    .-= michelle´s last post ..Creating a Culture of Positive Parenting Role Models =-.

  19. I think that the most important thing you can pass on to a new mother is that she can trust herself and her child. Trust those instincts, they will guide you. Hopefully. And if not, there’s always playgroup, Twitter and Facebook.

    Even as a second time mom, even though like you, I have more perspective, I still have to reach out for that reassurance and I am so glad that you, among others, have been there to catch me before I fall. Thank you so much for paying that forward. If only you knew how much you are appreciated.
    .-= Erin W. / Beatnik Momma´s last post ..My Inspiration =-.

  20. Oh gosh I remember the early days with DS1. I felt SO ALONE. I had zero support from his bio-father, lived states away from my family who were horrified I was breastfeeding, and didn’t have twitter back then LOL!

    A community is priceless I swear, when it comes to supporting mothers!
    .-= Sarah @ OneStarryNight´s last post ..I’m a Parenting Inspiration, Who Knew! =-.

  21. What a moving post! I love the concept of paying it forward in parenting!
    .-= Deb Chitwood´s last post ..My Top 3 Natural Parenting Principles =-.

  22. With a 14-month-old of my own, I’m often a bit shocked at how fast the time has gone. And, as much as I hate it, I find myself telling people the same. “Enjoy it. They’ll be this big before you know it.” But, you’re right. That really is the least helpful thing in the world, sometimes.

    Enjoy what?! The all night wakings? The biting during nursing? The screaming when being set down while I use the toilet? Really, this gig is so demanding that it sometimes is difficult to enjoy, when your in the midst of it.

    It will be ok is so much better. It’s true. We will all get through this. We’ll get through the tough days.

    But while we’re working through those tough days, while we’re working hard just to be ok, we have to remember that there is joy. We (mostly) chose this path. And we have to work hard to find the peace, serenity, and ability to let go that will help us enjoy it all.
    .-= Danielle´s last post ..My Seven =-.

  23. Absolutely! I think paying this stuff forward is even more important nowadays when we see so many things that make us doubt our parenting abilities.

  24. You’re so right! It’s our duty, honor and privilege as more experienced to tell new moms and moms-to-be that everything will be all right. Some days we just wonder why our kids test us so much and we can’t wait until they go to bed! Others, we can’t get enough of them and don’t want the day to be over. In the end, we just look at them while they’re playing and can’t stop thinking, wow, we created those little people, out of our own flesh and blood. Mother nature is just amazing!
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