Welcome back to Motherhood Monday on the blog!! It has been about a month since I’ve welcomed someone to the blog to talk about their motherhood experience. I’m really excited to welcome Jessica V. to the blog today!! We actually got to visit them last week, and it was so much fun hanging out with them and seeing their son, Nathan, for only the second time. He is the sweetest baby!
Jessica and I have husband best friends. Our husbands lived together in college, so we got to become friends too! Edgar, her husband, was in our wedding, and Sam was in theirs. We actually have similar timing when it comes to our stories with our husbands too. They started dating around the same time we started dating, got engaged around the same time we got engaged, and our weddings were two weeks apart. It has been so special to live life alongside each other, even from far away. Jessica is a very sweet, thoughtful, and wise friend. She is very loyal to those around her, has an incredible heart for the Lord, and seems to juggle being a mom and wife very well. I can’t wait for y’all to read her words of wisdom.
1. Explain your “motherhood journey.” Including your kid(s) and their age(s)
When I think back over my motherhood journey, I feel such a mix of emotions, from sadness and grief, to absolute joy, to fear and confusion, and also a large measure of gratitude towards God for all that He has taught me through this process. My journey started almost exactly a year ago. One Sunday in mid-March 2016, I found myself in my bathroom holding a positive pregnancy test. My husband and I were definitely in shock, but elated to be expanding our family. On Monday, I miscarried. It was very early in my pregnancy, and my doctor told me it was fairly common and probably would have no bearing on my ability to get pregnant in the future. Even so, I was heartbroken. One moment there had been a little life growing inside of me, and the next it was gone.
I also felt a lot of shame and fear of condemnation. I felt like the world would have me believe that it wasn’t a big deal; that it wasn’t even a baby that I had lost, because it was no bigger than a poppy seed. I was in counseling at the time, and my counselor was so helpful in giving me a framework for thinking about my pain. She reassured me that I was absolutely entitled to grieve my loss (and to me it was a very real loss), no matter what the world wanted me to believe. I think the Lord really used that experience to teach me about allowing myself to feel my emotions, to grieve loss and acknowledge pain rather than just pretending that “I’m fine.”
That was also a season of learning to trust in God’s character, even when I don’t understand His plan. A verse that was really comforting to me during that time was Psalm 139:16, which starts, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance.” I clung to the truth that God could see that little unformed baby just as clearly as He can see you or me. Even if no one else could mourn that tiny life in the same way as me, God could.
Another lesson in trusting God’s character came when I found out I was pregnant the second time. In the interest of being honest, I’ll say we ended up getting pregnant right after my miscarriage because we didn’t realize that a woman could be ovulating immediately after a miscarriage and before her period returned. It turns out she can! That was such an emotional roller coaster. I had just accepted that we were not going to be having a baby and had turned my mind towards what our next year of ministry with the Navigators would look like…and then I found out I was pregnant again. I had been feeling so hopeful and excited about really investing in freshmen women at Vanderbilt, only to then realize that I would not get the amount of time with them that I had expected. I was so excited about this new baby, but at the same time I was sad to be “giving up” my expectations for what the next year of my life would look like. I really had to wrestle with accepting that God’s plan for my life was good and right.
As my pregnancy went on, I did come to feel greater peace about this new season that God was leading us into. I also think that God began to really increase my joy, especially through sweet moments like seeing my little man on the ultrasound and feeling him kick. At times I still felt sad for how my life would be changing and fear for how unknown the whole parenthood thing felt, but it was really helpful for me to be honest about naming those emotions when they came. I am so thankful that I had the Lord, my dear husband, and sweet friends to walk with me through whatever I was feeling and help me to face the coming season with hope and courage.
My healthy baby boy, Nathan Judah Voltz, was born December 13, 2016 (5 days earlier than his due date). He is three months old now, and I absolutely love being his mommy. My life right now looks so different than I had expected, but I am so thankful for it and for the truth that God’s plan is so much better than my own.
2. What is the biggest lesson (or 2 or 3) that you’ve learned from being a mom?
The biggest lesson that I’ve learned is one that I feel like I learn over and over again through different seasons of my life. I think I could sum it up in two parts: 1) my life is not about me (nor has it ever been) and 2) I’m selfish and often want it to be.
Being a mom means I can no longer choose to do what I want whenever and however I want anymore, because there’s a tiny human who needs me to meet all of his needs and provide stability for his little world. It’s funny, I’ve always thought of moms as just being these inherently selfless superheroes, but I’m learning that selflessness isn’t inherent at all (in fact, I think the Bible tells us that we are instead inherently self-centered).
I think God is building selflessness into me through the daily trial of choosing another over myself. There have been plenty of moments when I am finally about to fall asleep, cozy in my warm bed, when my baby wakes up crying. In those moments, a part of me is really tempted to roll over and hope my son figures it out on his own, but because I love my son, I get up and go to him…time and time again. There was a period of time (after the initial adrenaline rush of parenthood had worn off) when this process of choosing another over myself was really hard for me. Even if I was physically caring for my son, I was constantly thinking about my “needs” and the things I felt like I was missing out on. However, as time has gone on and I’ve adjusted to my new role, it has slowly become easier to put his needs before my own.
I’m slowing becoming a more selfless person, and honestly, I really like the person that motherhood is making me become. I want to look more like Jesus. I was recently reading Philippians 2:3-4, which says, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” When I read those verses, I thought, “Wow, that kind of humility is what I want my life to be marked by.” I really believe that motherhood is a huge part of God’s training plan for me to grow to look more like Christ.
3. Share one (or 2 or 3) funny or sweet stories that make it all worth it.
Nathan is still so little, so I’m not sure that I can think of any specific story to share. However, I love just spending time with him and seeing his little personality come out more and more. He’s just a sweet, happy, laidback, inquisitive, and thoughtful boy. I am getting so much joy right now from the times we spend together while I’m putting him down to sleep. I typically sit with him in my arms, rock him, and sing worship, Disney, or Needtobreathe songs. Often times, while he’s still fairly awake, he will “sing” along with me by making these elongated cooing sounds (I can’t think of a better way to describe them!). It just makes my heart soar. I love thinking about all of the singing our family will do together in the future, whether in times of worship or just playing around in the car. I also love that I get to sing the Gospel over my son and myself every day; it really ministers to my heart!
4. What do you think the biggest challenge of being a mom is?
I think that women today, mothers or not, feel a lot of pressure to “have it all together”. We can feel like we have to excel at everything we do, and if we’re not excellent in everything then we must be failing at everything. I think the heat just gets turned up on all that when you become a mother. We can put so much pressure on ourselves to have perfectly-behaved model babies, a successful career, a tiny waistline, a Pinterest-perfect house that is always clean, healthy home-cooked meals on the table every night, deep relationships with friends that we keep up with regularly, and an ever-grateful husband who just gushes about how good we are at loving them. I get exhausted just thinking about it, and yet I often get caught up in trying to figure out how to meet these impossible standards!
Now that I’m a mom, I feel like I’m even less able to meet these standards. Nothing can thwart the best-laid plans quite like a baby, am I right? So, I’ve been trying to challenge myself to really devote the majority of my effort towards nurturing my son and loving my husband. If I have additional capacity in a given week, it usually goes towards my ministry with college students, but I’m trying to practice discipline by putting my family as my first priority. I want to be a woman who is faithful to work where the Lord has called me, not a woman who is chasing after an unrealistic standard of perfection that I will never meet. Granted, I am so far from having this figured out. If I’m being honest, I still spend way too much time comparing myself to the perfect mommies of Instagram. Thankfully, I am often reminded by my sweet husband and good friends that I do not have to have it all together to try to meet some imaginary standard of perfection – and that is so freeing!
5. If you could write a “job description” of being a mom, what would it say?
I think it would go something like this:
“This position requires long hours; must be willing to work weekends, holidays, etc. Actually, there really is no off time included with this position. No experience required; plenty of on-the-job training. This position will quickly help one to develop skills such as problem-solving, advanced negotiation tactics, and flexibility. Daily tasks may include but are not limited to: spending large amounts of time making sure your child is eating enough, handling various bodily functions (which can often be found in places they should not be, like on your clothes), practicing the art of stealthily placing a sleeping baby into his crib, experiencing the small wonders of discovering a big world while you watch your child play, and relishing in lots of baby snuggles. This job can be extremely difficult, but more rewarding than words can describe.”
6. What’s something from your family growing up that you think affects your parenting or the way you raise your child(ren)?
I know that my parenting will certainly be influenced by the way my parents raised me, but because Nathan is still so young, I’m not sure I’ve seen much of my parenting style or tendencies come out yet. I’m also realizing it is a lot easier to think about all of the things I would do differently from my parents, but that’s not to say that my parents didn’t do a lot of good things to love and support me and my sister either.
One thing I’ve been thinking about lately is just how much I value traditions. My family was never much for creating traditions that we held onto for years and years. We were generally very flexible in most things that we did. That flexibility had its benefits, but sometimes my heart really longs to have traditions that I can carry on with my own children. Now that I’m planning my own family’s future, I LOVE that I get to be in control of creating sweet moments that my children can look forward to and expect each year. Most of the traditions that I want to start revolve around Christmas, but I also love the idea of birthday traditions and summer vacation traditions. I want my children to feel a special sense of closeness and security from our family structure, and I think traditions are one way to build into that.
7. If you knew someone who just found out they were pregnant with their first baby, what would be your two pieces of advice for them? A practical tip and a piece of wisdom.
I don’t know if I have much sage advice to offer because I’m still such a newbie at this myself, but one thing that comes to mind is just to give yourself so much grace! Adjusting to parenthood is hard all by itself, and when you add on top of that the fact that you are recovering from a major procedure (no matter which way your baby is born) and trying to adjust to chronic sleeplessness, things are just going to be difficult at first! It is totally okay to eat take-out every night, have dirty dishes in the sink, laundry piled up, etc. You will eventually learn to adjust to a new routine for your family, but it doesn’t have to be a week after your baby is born…or even seven weeks for that matter! As an aside to that, when Nathan was first born I made it a practice to never turn down help when it was offered. If people wanted to bless our family by washing our dirty dishes, I totally let them. It made such a difference to have people who were willing to help us!
As far as practical goes, I would say don’t let your guard down when it comes to your baby’s bodily functions. I swear, every time I think that I don’t need to throw a burp cloth over my shoulder because surely my child won’t spit up on me, I end up with the biggest trail of spit up running down my shirt. The same goes for little boys with peeing. The moments when I think I’m safe, that surely my son won’t pee when I open his diaper, are the times that I end up using my hands to block a huge stream of pee from covering the walls of the nursery! But then again, maybe my child is just a prankster!
Jessica’s answers were all so real and so wise, but one of my favorite things that she talked about was how hard it is to always put someone else’s needs over your own. This is something that I know I really struggled with when Henry was first born, and it is still a struggle now, as I’m sure it will probably always be. We are inherently self-centered, so I know the Lord uses motherhood to teach us selflessness along with about a million other things.
Thanks for answering my questions, Jessica! Your honesty and wisdom is so appreciated, and I loved reading your motherhood journey.
What was your favorite thing that Jessica said? Do you have a question you want the Motherhood Monday moms to answer? Comment on this post or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Know a mom that needs some encouragement or that would like the Motherhood Monday posts? Send them a link to this post! The goal of these posts is to reach out, encourage, and empathize with moms all around.