A Guest Post: “Normal” is Abnormal

I am incredibly happy to introduce you to my Australian friend, Laura Hall. I met Laura the summer of 2012 in Kona, Hawaii, and she became my dear friend when my son was born in May of 2013. Because we are separated by a 12 hour time difference, Laura would be up during my middle of the night feedings and visa versa. She talked and encouraged me through those first hard two months of motherhood and baby blues.

I can honestly say if it wasn't for Laura I would have been a literal mess. This blog post is exactly what she communicated to me when I was in tears because I thought I was a horrible momma. When breastfeeding hurt, when I thought my son wasn't gaining weight, etc. She told me not to worry, that everything I was going through was normal... We just never heard about it.

Laura will post every second Monday of the month for a whole year. Be checking back for her words of wisdom. We welcome you Laura!

 As of the 14th of November, I have been a mom now for 1 year (and we aren’t including the 9 months of pregnancy). It has been the most challenging and amazing year of my life so far. I have cried a lot, I have slept little and I have made mistakes.

I am a big believer that it takes a village to raise a child, but I’ll write about that another time. I say this because I am very blessed to come from a family that communicates as much as possible. My darling sisters and my mother are my closest friends (apart from my hubby) and since my husband and I are in missions overseas, being away from them all during this season has been awful.

From his entrance into the world, Teddy has been pushing the ‘normal’ limits. After an extremely fast labour, Teddy went into distress and I had to get him out fast - in 10 minutes to be exact. I had to have an episiotomy (not fun) and they said to me, “if you don’t get him out in this next push, we’re going to have to get him out.” I was determined to do it myself, so with one huge push he came out! Up, onto my chest. No noise, no movement. They apologised to my husband, cut the chord and took Teddy away to the crash cart outside the room. My little boy was like a rag doll and they needed to quickly help him breathe as he only had a very slow heart rate. They rushed him off to ICU and my husband went with him. I didn’t see my son again for four hours.

It was not the birth I expected.

Since then, my gorgeous ball of life has continued to surprise me. I read babies should be sleeping through the night by 8-12 weeks, right? Well, at 10 months my little boy was still only sleeping 1 hour at a time.... at night! We faced colic, reflux, systemic candida, and so on and so on.

What was I doing wrong? Where was I missing the mark? Was something wrong with Teddy? Should I see a doctor or have him tested? Why is he still crying? Why won't he suck on a binky or drink from a bottle? Where did I go wrong?

The questions haunted me.

But slowly, I started to realise not only was I not alone in my challenges... I was the majority! I started reading different articles, books, blogs about babies and expectations and it seemed that the range of ‘normal’ was HUGE.

Luckily, like I said, I also have a family who talks a lot. My sister had challenging babies too. Especially her fourth. I opened up to a social media group which is full of mothers from all over the world with a huge array of experiences, opinions and lifestyles. I spoke to some moms in the area I was living.

I started to notice that the ‘normal’ that the blessed baby books describe to us is actually the minority. Of course their intentions are good, and some of the techniques they discuss are super helpful and have worked for a lot of mothers. But really.....really, they seem to create a box regarding the normal habits, milestones and achievements of babies and if you’re baby doesn’t fit that you can get very sad/overwhelmed/confused.

So my encouragement to you in this short blog entry is:
Before you read the books...
Talk to other mothers, ask questions.
Try different things and see what works for you and your baby.
Take it one day at a time.
Don’t be overwhelmed by tomorrow or a week from now or the months to come. Just do what you can in the day in front of you, be the best parent you can be today. Deal with tomorrow when it comes.
Choose joy in the difficult moments.

I prayed a lot before the birth of my son that God would fill me constantly with a sense of awe. I really think this helped. In the middle of the night when I was so completely exhausted or when Teddy spent an entire day screaming at me, for some reason, I would still be able to look at him and be completely in awe of who he is, what he is. He was created in my belly! He’s this perfect mix of me and my husband, he has a personality... he’s a new LIFE. Amazing! This got me through some tough nights and days.

Try to avoid phrases like “my kid is just really difficult” “he’s so stubborn” “he’s so challenging” etc. etc. Determined! Passionate! Interested! All traits can be nurtured into strengths. Rather than seeing your baby’s difficult moments as weaknesses in their personality, see them as moments to nurture the strongest parts of their personality and channel them for good. See their prominent traits become strengths.

The description above is my son. Determined people change the world because they stick it out! Passionate people Love with all they have! Interested people don’t take their God-given brain and intellect for granted! I can’t wait to see the man my son becomes.

So what are your kid’s strengths?

Laura Hall graduated with a Bachelors in Nursing from an Australian university in 2009. Since then she has served and volunteered in the nursing capacity in Sydney, Germany, Ethiopia, Thailand, Bangladesh and Hawaii.

She met her husband, Derek, when she was 14 and the two married 5 years later. Three years ago, they packed up all they had into two suitcases and have been on the move in missions ever since. Their heart is founded in the root significance of family. They are passionate about marriages that thrive! Laura has a heart for the grassroots movement, for women and children's ministry's and is working toward preaching internationally, facilitating the battle against slavery and networking the global church to be Jesus' hands and feet on this Earth!

They have a 1-year-old son, Theodore, and hope to expand their family in the years to come. The Hall's are all about having honest conversations about real challenges and struggles, but striving for a life where they are thriving in all areas: health, marriage, parenting and serving the Lord.

You can follow her writings at the Live to Thrive blog.