We discovered I was unexpectedly pregnant the same week my husband was admitted to medical school. As a graduate student in clinical psychology, I was both thrilled with the prospect of having a child…and sobered by my personal conviction that the Lord wanted me to be a full-time mom as a new career path. However, nothing is unexpected or ultimately disappointing to God. He intends all things for our good, and this was confirmed when his good and perfect gift to us— a brand new baby boy—arrived on my twenty-fifth birthday!
And so, I threw all my passion into loving my new son, and all my academic and creative interest into studying child development, hoping to become “the best ever” mother. Because I was a last-born whose professor father preferred having me grade his students’ English papers to babysitting neighborhood children, I knew next to nothing about babies! So, I read everything I could get my hands on. The book that had most profoundly affected my life was the Bible, and I prayed fervently: “Lord, please help me to bring up my child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (although I wasn’t dead sure what that meant). I also read Dr. Spock, Dr. Dobson, developmental psychology texts, and Christian and pop psychology books. One book that influenced me greatly promised that those who practiced the principles therein could raise their child’s I.Q. as much as one standard deviation. That book particularly sparked my interest in becoming intentional in helping my child grow mentally, but as a believer I also had the firm conviction that I wanted to help my baby grow in every area: mentally, spiritually, physically, and emotionally.
From my research and experimentation over the next thirty-five years, I developed a storehouse of information and insights into child-rearing that I’m now eager to share with my own children and the next generation of courageous parental aficionados. My prayer is that this book will bless you, giving you insight into the developmental stages and challenges of rearing infants, creative ideas for how to bless your baby and promote growth, and some comfort during the hard times. Each entry is based on the daily journals I kept for my own seven children, where I recorded their progress and many of the pleasurable activities we shared together during their infancies.
Although it was my intention to be a blessing to my kids and shower them with the love of God forty years ago, today my husband and I stand in awe of what a blessing our children and grandchildren are to us! May you be blessed by this book, may you be a blessing to your babies, and may your children grow up to bless God and be a blessing to you!
- Surviving Delivery
“When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.”
John 16:21, ESV
PRAYER: Dear God, I adore you as the Prince of Life. Thank you for preserving my life and granting Baby new life. I’m flooded with relief and joy! Thank you that pain doesn’t last forever. Thanks for the reassurance that every trial you allow is for our good…somehow resulting in “an eternal weight of glory” as we respond in faith to suffering. I dedicate this child to you. May you love him, keep him, grant him eternal life, and bless him always!
THOUGHT: Were you overwhelmed by the difficulty of the birth experience? Motherhood is a very stretching experience, and first babies cause the lion’s share of stretching (in many ways), so don’t be surprised if you both got beaten up in the process. Be assured, this won’t be the last time, nor will it last a lifetime. The journey from inception to resurrection is mysterious and miraculous, intermingled with pain and joy, but always lovingly overseen by the Prince of Life. Rejoice!
ACTIVITY: Gently touch Baby’s face, head, arms, hands, legs, and feet while he’s awake, allowing your finger to glide softly across his skin so that he is consciously experiencing your touch. Gently uncurl his fingers and let him grasp your finger with his hand.
- First Impressions
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
PRAYER: Dear Father of Lights, and the giver of all good things, thank you for the precious gift of new life. Thank you first of all for Jesus, who is your good and perfect gift to everyone. Thank you also for Baby! Help me to remember during the hard times as well as the happy times that Baby is exactly this: your good and perfect gift to me. Help me to become like you: unchanging in my love for her and full of light and wisdom.
THOUGHT: The rumor is that every mother thinks her newborn is beautiful, and a few picture-perfect poster babies are, so I was quite shocked by my firstborn’s appearance when he arrived. His ears were pressed absolutely flat against his cone-shaped head, and his face was covered with bruises (which I thought were permanent birth marks). Fortunately, a protective mother’s love rose up in me with the ferocity of a bear, and I thought, “If people are ever mean to him when he gets bigger, I’ll flatten them!” I was amazed and pleased to discover that my darling quickly shaped up, cleared up, and became quite normal looking. No matter what, remember this: God is giving you a good and perfect gift that is exactly what you need to become more like Him.
ACTIVITY: Give baby a gentle “kiss bath.” Smile as you kiss his face, hands, feet, each finger, and each toe. Tell him that you love him, together thanking God for His precious gifts of life and love.
- Settling In
“The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”
PRAYER: Oh dear, eternal God, thank you that you are always, always there. May our family rest safely in the shelter of your everlasting arms.
THOUGHT: Whether you had Baby at a hospital, birthing center, or home, you will immediately want to get both of you settled into comfortable, secure sleeping quarters. If you have the leisure, nap as often as Baby does until you get your strength back. Rest will help your body heal faster and produce milk more quickly. If Baby is going to be sharing your bed, make sure you have ample room for your spouse to be comfortable too, and consider placing a bassinette next to the bed where Baby can sleep during times when you and your husband need more freedom.
ACTIVITY: Once Baby is home, try using a corkboard decorated with wallpaper or other materials showcasing large, bold designs for visual stimulation. Crib sheets or blankets with large, simple patterns are also very good. Put Baby somewhere so you can speak to him from several different directions. Start by putting your face about one foot away from his face and tell him that you love him. Then, go to the other side (where he is not looking) and tell him the same thing. You can also try talking to Baby from the direction of his feet or from his head. Make sure your voice is always gentle and reassuring.
- Nurture While You Nurse
“As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.”
1 Peter 2:2
PRAYER: Dear El Shaddai, whose name means “the breasted one,” thank you that you are truly the sustainer and nourisher of all living things. Thank you for providing the Bible as the “milk of the Word” to nourish our spirits. Please help me to feed on your Word daily despite the tremendous pressures of motherhood, so that I continue to grow in grace as I seek to nurture Baby both physically and spiritually.
THOUGHT: Praise God for milk! If you are nursing, by now your milk may be starting to come in, but whether you breast- or bottle-feed, be sure to smile tenderly at baby and make happy sounds while feeding her! Say, “Ah!” with a sense of delight and wonder, as if you’re honored to be in the presence of royalty! Keep your face about 12 inches from the bridge of Baby’s nose because she can’t focus clearly on objects much closer, and smile from the inside out! Smiles are contagious in the most wonderfully positive, emotionally nurturing way.
ACTIVITY: Babies are incredibly responsive and will quickly learn to imitate behaviors, both smiling and sticking out their tongues. I was astounded to discover that this is almost instinctive in infants. If you keep trying, within days you and Baby will soon delight in sharing facial expressions. Remember: even infants love playing games, so have fun, and let the bonding blossom!
- The Process of Changing
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
2 Corinthians 3:18
PRAYER: Dear heavenly Father, I know that Jesus is the “express image of your person” and that Baby and I were created in the image of God. I want so much for us to become like you by beholding your glory! Help Baby to see Christ in me and desire to become like Jesus. Help us to grow and change, not only physically, but also spiritually, until we are filled with your glory by your Spirit.
THOUGHT: There is always something new and exciting happening to an infant: a new look, a new sound, a new ability. Yesterday they looked like Daddy; today they look like Mama! As you watch Baby grow, consider keeping a record of each new development. By consciously looking for change, you can be more intentional about encouraging and reinforcing growth and more directed in your prayers for her. As she learns to smile, may she know the love of God; as she learns to coordinate her eyes, may she learn to keep her spiritual eyes focused on God, etc.!
ACTIVITY: To foster growth and encourage mobility, very gently rotate each of Baby’s legs, arms, hands, and feet: up and down, back and forth, in and out, and in circular motions. Let baby experience the full range of motions without putting any pressure on her. This is not physical therapy! This is teaching her the sensation of various movements.
6. Bed Rest
“For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.”
PRAYER: Dear Lord GOD, who is the magnificent Holy One of Israel yet has condescended to become my comforter and guide, please give me wisdom to know how much to do and when to rest. Help me to be a comforting mother, and may my baby rest content and secure in my care.
THOUGHT: Only the Lord can give us true wisdom to discern what our child needs and what we personally need on any given occasion. I turned to these verses in prayer constantly: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him [her] ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5), and “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Infants need constant reassurances of the parents’ presence and love. As much as you are physically and emotionally able without being overwhelmed by exhaustion or depression, practice sacrificial love.
ACTIVITY: Play in bed with baby. Let her snuggle under your arm for a while; let her rest with her stomach on yours for awhile; let her lie on her back on your tummy for a while; and, rock her gently back and forth cradled in your arms.
“Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled.
Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.”
PRAYER: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for tenderheartedly sharing our griefs! Help me to always be empathetic with Baby, sharing in his griefs and joys. Together may we come to you for relief from our hungers and tears.
THOUGHT: Ask God for the wisdom to distinguish Baby’s true needs from selfish demands. As parents, we need great grace to unselfishly care for our infants’ needs…but also great wisdom to train children out of their own selfishness. Don’t forget that every child requires gentle guidance to develop such virtues as patience and contentment too!
ACTIVITY: Laugh with Baby! Tell him a joke in a most animated way, and then laugh. See if you can get him to smile or respond by looking at you or showing signs of excitement. Consider taking at least one picture of your infant each week. If you choose a relaxed day (for example, Sunday), you can make a pleasant tradition out of it. If you are even semi-regular, over the course of a year you will have an infinitely precious treasury of photos recording his growth. If you have a video camera, why not dedicate a one-hour tape to recording about one minute of Baby each week. In a year, you’ll have an amazing one-hour memento that will mean more to you and your child than your tired brain can imagine right now!