Jan 11, 2024

The Messy Wonderful Infant Phase

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by Katie Rapp

I hope we can meet here like two friends, over coffee, encouraging one another in the phase we are in because I am right there with you in the thick of it myself.

Writing in a messy bun, with spit up on my shirt while my one-month-old naps and my two year old (who should be sleeping) is playing in her crib. I want to meet you here with truth and encouragement because so often we can be met with advice.

Blogs about infants reem with the top five ways to get your baby to sleep, the one miracle thing you can do to get your baby to sleep, the phenomenal $1500 dollar product that will–wait for it–get your baby to sleep. I’m not saying that advice doesn’t have its place, but ironically, I have some advice about advice.

Hold on, my baby just woke up. I’ll be back in a few.

Right, okay, so my advice.

Advice, as defined in the dictionary, is a recommendation. So try it if you want to, and move on from it if you don’t.

One thing that one parent swears by for their infant may not work for yours, or it may not work for you and your parenting style. There is also a chance it is the nugget of gold that you were looking for all along. Because guidance from others who’ve gone before us is crucial to parenting. We need one another, and we learn from one another’s experiences. For the advice you ask for, ask the people who really know you and who you have seen and connect to their parenting style. For the advice that you do not ask for, don’t begrudge it.

The person likely does not offer their advice because they think you don’t know what you are doing. It could hold something great. But also feel free to take it with a grain of salt, because it is, after all, just a recommendation.

It’s an interesting phenomenon to me that we’ve created almost a culture of motherhood. Within that culture is the subculture of new mothers. And in that subculture, the message can seem to say that motherhood is about becoming this new person. This new force doing new work. And while parenthood does bring new rhythms, new priorities, new smells and a new level of exhaustion, the tendency to feel like your whole self is shifting can cultivate unnecessary instability, fears, or insecurities. However, motherhood does not re-make me.

Only the gospel does that.

Who I’ve been made to be does not change, it’s just playing itself out in a new role. What I have found is that the same strengths I’ve discovered and developed in life are my strengths in motherhood and the same is true of my weaknesses.

I would say that I operate with structured adaptability. I like structure and predictability, but I don’t get ruffled by interruptions or changes to that structure. That has been my biggest ally in the infant stage. Babies are unpredictable, little, beautiful things so you really sometimes have to go with the flow. They also need the structure and security of responsiveness.

One of my weaknesses in life has been that I can be fueled by and seek out approval and praise based on my performance and accomplishments. If you’re into the enneagram, I’m a three, so there you have it. In the infant stage, my weakness is trying to always look like I’ve got it all together. I’m not too tired, and I don’t need help. Somehow, I can start to think that how much my baby is sleeping or how often he is eating is then a benchmark for success in this season. I really have to be on guard for that, because it is an exhausting mentality that does nothing to help me.

And this truth I speak to you and to me. You do need help, and that is okay. So say yes to every meal offered and every drop of coffee your community will provide.

And the state of your infant’s eating and sleeping does not equate to failure or success. If your baby eats and sleeps like a champ (because that can and does happen), I am truly happy for you.

If your baby is still waking up every two hours and you’re having to pump all the time or supplement with bottles, that doesn’t mean you are doing anything wrong.

If your baby sleeps in a crib, bassinet, co-sleeper, rock on. If you hate breastfeeding, love it to pieces, or it doesn’t work for you, I’m glad for whatever the Lord is teaching you in your journey.

Because no matter what our journeys look like, they are a blessing, meant to sanctify and mold us.

While this phase is really dictated by eating, sleeping, pooping and peeing, I think if we take the time to look deeper we can see that this phase is an opportunity to lay the foundation of the gospel for our children. We show them that they don’t have to do a thing but need us, and we will be there. When they cry, we comfort them. When they smile, we smile. When they are hungry, we feed them. When they are cold, we wrap them up. We respond. And we recognize that the gospel was God’s response to his love for us and His provision for our deepest need.

So with every diaper changed, every cry soothed, every bath, every smile, every bottle, every load of laundry, every bad hair day, every day spent in joggers and a nursing bra may we recognize the beauty of this messy wonderful phase. Because it truly is a beautiful picture of reliance, grace, and unconditional love.