The girl who never wanted to be a mom was going to have a baby.
It took a while for the adrenaline to stop pumping; about three months, I would guess, about the same time it took to get over the all-day sickness that always plagues my pregnancies. But once I got used to the mommy idea, trying it on for size and examining my new future in the mental three-way mirror, I was happy. You might even say I was excited.
And it goes without saying, I was completely clueless.
Corey and I were the last of our friends to get pregnant, the last to hop on the baby bandwagon. Thanks to their endorsements, I was already familiar with the popular parenting classes offered at our church, something about cultivating kids in the way of the Lord. But the class wasn't being offered again until after our baby would be born, and because I am a planner control freak, I went to a book store as soon as I was up to it and bought the book that summed up the curriculum.
It was the only book I bought. Surely, I wouldn't need anything besides this one, I thought.
But as I settled in to read that night, my stomach began to churn. I didn't have the experience to know if the authors' strict feeding schedules, cry-it-out sleeping methods or emphasis on parental authority would work. But I was appalled that they continually tied their formula back to God, as if Jesus himself had endorsed their ideas. "Do this, and your child will be a breeze, a child who will never rebel and who will love Jesus all their life," the book seemed to promise. "But if you dare to choose another path, God will punish you. Your home will dissolve into chaos, your marriage will disintegrate, your children will grow up unruly and hardhearted and you will only have yourself to blame."
I know rotten theology when I see it. I started to do some research. And I got angry. Over Sunday dinner, I shared my newfound knowledge with my Dad, the senior pastor of the church we attended at the time. He was also gravely concerned. The church dropped the class and stopped endorsing the curriculum.
I threw the book in the trash, confident that its foundation was so flawed, it had little to offer me.
But that left me without a plan.
What I wouldn't give to go back in time and hand myself a copy of Spirit-Led Parenting.
Written by my dear friend Megan Tietz and her dear friend Laura Oyer, it is heaped with the kind of wisdom that would have soothed my soul and reassured me that the best thing I can do to parent my new baby is seek Jesus.
As it so happened, Natalie was born in late July, and I feel so deeply in love, the very axis of my soul shifted. I jokingly say I experience postpartum euphoria, instead of postpartum depression, and it was never more true than it was that first time. Suddenly, things I never considered before became realities in my life. Breastfeeding on demand? Check. Co-sleeping? Check. Scheduling my life around this tiny infant instead of the other way around? Check.
Maybe most amazingly, I didn't care if the experts said I was ruining my daughter. I could feel in my soul that what I was doing was the right thing for me, for us.
And that is the message of Spirit-Led Parenting.
What we are so passionate about sharing with new parents and parents-to-be is a message that we desperately wish would have been shared with us when we were new to motherhood: There is another way. There is an approach to parenting that looks fear in the face and boldly speaks an answer: Freedom. Freedom from required formulas, unrealistic expectations of our children and ourselves, and the belief that we must force our babies to fit into a mold that may not have been designed for them. Spirit-Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby's First YearIt's true. Babies are individuals, unique in design and breathtaking in potential. Why do we expect them to operate like little machines? I have found so much wisdom in just getting to know my children and then reacting according to who God made them to be.
This idea of beginning without a clear plan can be unnerving. We want consistent guidelines and cold hard facts. We want outlines and directions that are easy to read and follow. But Spirit-led parenting doesn’t work like that. And the reason for this is yet another radical idea: the first year should be less about training our babies and more about God developing us as parents and human beings. If we let Him, God can use that first intense year of baby’s life to train us how to live a life that is fully surrendered to Him. To cultivate in us a trust that follows His lead, seeks Him first, and understands His grace. Spirit-Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby's First YearYes, this means my life the last 10 years has surprised me. I co-slept with all my children when they were infants; I still co-sleep with Kieran half the night. Our kids all breastfed well past one year. I never fed them traditional baby food. (Natalie wouldn't eat it, and so I went down the route of baby-led weaning before they had a word for it.) I rocked them, nursed them, sang them to sleep. I still sit in Teyla and Kieran's room while they nod off, because they don't like being alone.
Does that mean I have discovered The Right Way to Parent? Hardly. What works for you may be completely different than what works for me. And that's OK. That's the point.
But I do know my life today is radically marked by experientially knowledge of God's grace. It's been the best surprise. Parenting has humbled me, emboldened me, taught me selfless love.
Spirit-led parenting is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It has no “rules” and doesn’t rely on the wisdom of others. It requires only that you listen to your child, to your intuition, and most importantly, to the Lord’s leading to determine the best way to respond to each unique situation. While some families may find that the approach they are led to may appear quite similar to the ones found in the popular school of thought, others will discover that God leads them to methods which split off the mainstream path. Spirit-Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby's First YearSo much wisdom. I cannot recommend this book enough. It's not a parenting manual; it's a journal of humor and comfort, an encouragement that you can parent your children just as they are meant to be parented because you have the Holy Spirit.
And in the end, that is enough.
Every baby is His unique creation, every mother is His treasured child, and every family has a calling. When my heart led me to care for my daughter another way, it wasn’t rebellion or failure or the beginning of ruin; it was Him. Spirit-Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby's First Year
To read more about Spirt Led Parenting and for more chances to win a copy of the book, check out these other stops on the blog tour.
4/10 Gypsy Mama, Mama Monk, Little Hearts Books
4/11 Sarah Bessey
4/12 I Take Joy
4/13 Love Well
4/14 Joy in this Journey
4/15 The Stanley Clan
4/16 Simple Mom, Life Your Way
4/18 Fried Okra, Live Renewed
4/19 The Pilot's Wife
4/20 Nish Happens
4/21 To Think is To Create
4/22 It's Almost Naptime
4/23 Keeper of the Home