I’ve often felt motherhood was a test I was failing.

Less so lately.

But at the sleep-deprived beginning I would read all those books that tell you when the baby should be sleeping and when the baby should be eating and when the baby should be this, that, and the other thing-ing and all I would see was a big, fat, red “F”

Jackson did nothing according to anybody’s schedule but his own.

And he threw up a lot. As much as I could finally get him to eat, he would look at me, cough and puke it all back out again. Forget crying over spilled milk, I wept over what felt like oceans of of baby puke.

Wept.

Parenting is not for the faint of heart. And it’s especially not for those type A personalities accustomed to having all their ducks in a row, all their check boxes checked and all their life, their sofa cushions and their cereal boxes neatly arranged.

After two weeks had passed . . .  it became very clear very quickly that our life would look nothing like the organized, orderly, controlled lives of the model parents in the book. ~ Spirit-Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby’s First Year

I had a nursing chart. I’d harnessed my elementary school poster board and marker skills and set up a time table. After each feeding I would dutifully put check marks in the boxes – which side I’d nursed and how long – before I stumbled deliriously back to bed. Jackson cried, I nursed, I made check marks, and he never ever once slept or ate as much or as long as the books promised me and my chart that he would.

F, F, F, F minus in parenting.

I pretended it made sense to me. I pretended I had a handle on his “routine.”  I pretended I hadn’t started to resent all those parenting books lining the shelves of our teeny little one room cottage.

And still he ate at a snail’s pace and woke up regularly to eat slowly at 1opm, 1am, 3am, 5am and 7am.

I kept waiting to fall in love with him and instead I just felt like we’d both failed our midterms.

Disillusionment and despair quickly replaced the euphoria of new parenthood. Every nighttime wake-up, every too-short nap, every time I rocked her to sleep, I was confronted with my failure. ~ Spirit-Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby’s First Year

The moment I found out I was pregnant with Micah I threw out every parenting book I’d ever owned.

We did it our way.

And by the time I had Zoe I was ready to revel in my parenthood.

I would have given a lot at the beginning for someone to have told me that there is no one “right” way.

Oh my but that would have saved me a lot of anguish.

The truth for many mothers is that when the mainstream advice does not work or feel right for our families, we experience tremendous anxiety over how our parenting choices will be viewed by those around us. ~ Spirit-Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby’s First Year

Ain’t that the truth.

It’s taken me years to trust any kind of baby book again. With Zoe I hardly had any clue what stage she was “supposed” to be on because checking in with any of “those” books simply didn’t interest me.

I wanted to be her mother, not her hall monitor.

I wanted to get up with her any time she needed me. Even when I didn’t want to. I wanted to sniff her hair and rock her in the exhausted dark, knowing she was my last. And my first girl.

I wanted to just feed her. I didn’t want to have to keep score of how much she ate.

She wasn’t sick, she was gaining weight deliciously, and I knew that this last first baby year would slip through my fingers if I was too busy trying to plan for it. So we just lived it. Zoe and I. We lived every amazing, sleep deprived moment together.

We may have danced.

And if you’re tired and confused like I was three kids ago – oh how I’d like to come over with chocolate cake and the promise that no one gets it right the first time. No one gets it all right the sixth time either I’m told.

There are no perfect parents and no formulas that can produce perfect kids.

In fact, I’m convinced more than ever that parenthood, by design, is created to reveal all our many imperfections. Our short-tempers, our selfishness, our laziness, our flat out short fuses.

Nothing will light that up quite like a baby blowout requiring a full outfit change at 2am after an hour’s worth of nursing.

It’s meant to be glorious and utterly mundane at the same time.

the first year should be less about training our babies and more about God developing us as parents and human beings. ~ Spirit-Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby’s First Year

This is the book I wish I’d had in my hands on at 5am on a cold South African morning when I was tired and sore and desperate for a formula that would give me back my old life.

I needed someone to tell me over tea and cake that my old life was gone for good; not what to do so that I could still live with one foot in my stay up late, sleep in late, come and go as you please world and one foot in my I want to be a mother if the baby will just leave me alone world.

I needed a safe place to grieve the loss of a stage of life I’d loved and wise words to bring me gently into a new life. A life where everything was unfamiliar and often scary. A life that couldn’t be reduced to a poster board check list.

And in their beautiful, gracious, kind, patient, profoundly encouraging book Spirit-Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby’s First Year, Megan Tietz and Laura Oyer do just that.

They tell us we’re not crazy or alone or crazy alone.

They prescribe prayer and DVR’d shows.

They get how we might have felt like failures.

Oh precious panic-stricken new moms, this book is a gift to us all. It reminds us that parenting is so much more than pass fail.

Can I wrap it up along with some Downton Abbey re-runs and a basket of chocolate covered pretzels and send it over? Well, everything except the pretzels and DVDs.

GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. Winners announced over here.

But I do have three copies of the book to giveaway. Yup, Three!

Just leave a comment by Friday sharing one thing you wish you’d known when you were a new mom and you’ll be entered to win a copy.

Gosh, you’re lovely. And brave. And I’m so cheering you on every step of the sleep-deprived way!

Just click here to leave a comment and be entered.

{Spirit-Led Parenting is currently sold out on Amazon but you can also order it at the Civitas Press Store}

Pst, other blogs spreading the word about this awesome book and more opportunities to win it over here. And nope, no one paid me to share any of this. I’m just so excited to have discovered a parenting book I can trust again:

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I think motherhood should come with a super hero cape and a cheerleader.
My {free} ebook The Cheerleader for Tired Moms might be the next best thing.
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