In honor of my precious baby turning 2 on Sunday, this week’s essay is a little different. I decided to write a letter to myself exactly two years ago, the week before my girl arrived and made me a mama, changing my life forever. It’s been quite a journey, and I wouldn’t change a bit of it.
In just a few days, you will become a mama. You’ll trade that swelling belly with its silvery stretch marks and protruding belly button for a perfect, complete human being. I know you’re nervous about the birth, but just know that God will perform an incredible miracle through your body to bring that beautiful girl into the world.
Yes, it’s a girl! Surprise! I know you feel like it’s a boy, but get ready for bows and dresses! Don’t be scared.
She’s precious from the beginning. Every mom feels this way, but Julia is truly special. I know you envision your child being incredibly outgoing, but she doesn’t have an attention-seeking bone in her little body. You’ll have to slow down your own big, performative personality and quietly observe her to get to know all of her gentle little nuances. Don't feel like you need to talk at her so much—just embrace the silent moments.
Julia is detail-oriented, nurturing, content, silly and joyful. Even as a baby, she loves to be around people and connects easily with them, but she doesn’t need them to focus on her. She’s a bold explorer and isn’t the least bit clingy or afraid of new experiences.
As she grows, she’ll become more and more nurturing. She’ll rub your back, hold your hand, lay her head on your tummy and give huge hugs. Every time you pick her up from church or school, she’ll scream “MOMMY!” and run to you, arms outstretched. It feels like someone is handing you one million dollars every single time. She develops a love for baby dolls and eventually for real-life babies, excitedly pointing them out everywhere she goes.
The more you get to know this person, the more you’ll realize babies come to us fully loaded with their own personalities. Our job as parents isn’t so much to shape those personalities as it is to avoid hindering or limiting them with our own fears and expectations. Babies and toddlers deserve just as much respect as adults, and you’ll figure out that they are able to communicate their needs and preferences early on—if we can learn to listen to them. It’s your job to be a good listener and trustworthy guide, not an authoritarian who serves to break their will. Boundaries are a must, but you don’t have to be harsh, critical, mean, physically imposing or sarcastic to establish and maintain them.
Mommy culture is an interesting thing, new mama. You’ll see opposing narratives that make motherhood out to be one of two extremes: Pinterest-perfect outfits, birthday parties and colorful dinner plates vs. living in a constant state of misery, survival and chicken nuggets. The truth lies somewhere in the middle.
You won’t enjoy every moment or even every day. You’ll feel like you’re losing yourself sometimes. You’ll have to find the right balance between pursuing passions and projects outside of motherhood and prioritizing your relationship with your child. Some ages and stages won’t be your favorite. You’ve never been into cutesy things, and you won’t start suddenly being all about that stuff just because you’re a “girl mom” now.
Sometime during those first two years, you’ll learn that perfection isn’t the goal. Strive instead for enjoyment. When you can learn to let go of comparison and superfluous expectations and simply relish a day with your child without distractions or worries, you’ll discover the joy of motherhood and embrace it wholeheartedly. You’ll stop looking at the clock, wishing away moments so you can watch TV or scroll through social media uninterrupted. You’ll put down your phone and see her milestones happening through your eyeballs instead of a screen, relinquishing the need to share every moment with an audience.
Instead, you’ll fill your days with adventures, snuggles and laughter. You’ll go on treasure hunts, discovering acorns and pinecones in the backyard. You’ll grin as you watch your baby smile and dance and jump with other kids at the public library’s story time. You’ll marvel at her fearlessness as she slides down the biggest slide at the park. You’ll giggle as she yells “AH AH AH AHHHHH” along with The Count on Sesame Street. You’ll sneak into her room at night and gaze at her perfect features as she sleeps.
On days you feel insecure about letting go of your career or your “calling” to serve people outside your home, I want you to remember that raising your child is THE most important work because it’s only been assigned to you.
After some trial and error, you’ll eventually realize it’s OK to relinquish the ways you thought you had to perform to reflect God’s love or to live a meaningful life. It’s OK that you went to college and ended up never developing much of a career. It’s OK to step away from nitty-gritty volunteering and demanding vocational ministry to care for your child the way you want to in this incredibly short season of her life. It’s OK to slow down and, as Thomas Merton wrote, “come alive to the splendor that is all around us and see the beauty in ordinary things.”
Is this helpless baby not, after all, one of “the least of these?” And are you not uniquely created to be a picture of Christ for her, daily laying your life down so she can feel fully known and intimately loved? Motherhood is a high calling, and it’s one that lasts a lifetime.
These moments may feel boring and monotonous at times, but children don’t need much excitement. They learn best through the simple routines of daily life. The seeds you’re planting and tending now will produce incredible fruit. This time is not wasted, mama. You’re investing well. Enjoy it with eyes wide open—every stage will last approximately three seconds.
Love, two-years-ahead Jill
P.S. One piece of practical advice. You will not scar your baby for life by sleep training her. Just go ahead and follow Taking Cara Babies on Insta right now and begin learning her ways. This will save you nearly two years of waking up multiple times every single night. Humans were not made to function with no sleep. Please do this for the sanity of everyone in your home.