I thought I was well prepared for becoming a mother. I had checked list after list of items that I needed for the baby, the nursery was in order, and my suitcase was packed. I had been around babies for almost 18 years since the time my oldest nephew was born. Furthermore, I am a children and youth minister—working with children is my LIFE! The teenagers at church tease me by calling me “Mom” from time-to-time—and I do take on many of the responsibilities of a parent while they are under my supervision and in my care. I’ve changed diapers, cleaned up throw-up, doctored nosebleeds, scraped knees, and bee stings. Some of the adult volunteers at church have told me for several years that I would make a great mom because I already could just give kids “the look” and they would straighten up!
But I don’t think anything could have really prepared me for the change that took place in my life on February 4, 2014, when I gave birth to my first child, Kelsie Olivia Smart. At the time of this writing, she is two months old. The past eight weeks have seemingly flown by in some aspects, but been the longest eight weeks of my life in other aspects. My life has gone from basically revolving around my responsibilities at church to revolving around Kelsie. She taught us very quickly who was going to be in charge from now on! I went into labor nine days early. Despite everyone telling me that your first child never comes early, I had been frantically preparing for an early arrival. I knew the “due date” was just a guestimate, and I like to be prepared for the unexpected. I had just told a friend the night before, however, that as miserable feeling as I was, I really hoped Kelsie would wait to be born the next week. I had three meetings that week and just had some other things I really wanted to get accomplished at church and at home before Kelsie arrived. But a few hours later at 12:30 a.m., my water broke.
The first night home we didn’t get any sleep at all. At that first doctor’s appointment, they were concerned that she was jaundice, so they sent us back to the hospital to get another bilirubin test done. I wasn’t prepared for what was about to take place. The first one had been done without me being present. I knew they would draw blood from Kelsie’s heel, but I didn’t know how much. I thought it would be like getting my finger pricked when I go to the doctor. For what felt like hours (really was less than 30 minutes I guess), Kelley (my husband) and I stood and watched as the phlebotomist drew vail after vail of blood from Kelsie’s heel. Kelsie screamed at the top of her lungs the entire time. The phlebotomist assured me that Kelsie was only screaming because she was holding her leg still and not because she was in pain. But I cried nonetheless. I could not bear to see my child so upset.
I had to feed Kelsie every two to three hours the first few weeks. At night, Kelley would get up and change her diaper. I would then feed her, which took at least 45 minutes. Then I would try to get her back to sleep, but sometimes she would just cry and cry. I would rock and sing every children’s Bible song or hymn I could think of. Sometimes I ended up just crying myself. There were many nights when I only got two or three hours of sleep.
I was in a lot of pain in the early weeks and it was a struggle to take care of myself while at the same time taking care of Kelsie. I felt like all I did was feed Kelsie and then rush to the bathroom before I had an accident. By the time I doctored myself, I at best had an hour to spare before it was time to start all over again. I heard people say, “Sleep when she sleeps” so many times that I wanted to scream! How could I sleep when she slept when that was the only time I had to do things like pump milk, pay bills, respond to emails, and stay on hold with the insurance company trying to get her added to my policy?! (I literally spent hours on the phone trying to just add her to my insurance—who knew it would be such a difficult process?)
Returning to work hasn’t been easy, but I am trying to take it one day at a time. Even during my pregnancy I was anxious about how a baby was going to fit into our hectic schedules. My husband is the senior pastor of Free Union Church in Greene County and I’m the Children & Youth Minister at Little Rock Church in Wilson County. There are many weeks when we are only home one or two nights. There are times when we both have meetings or events going on at our churches. And there’s things that you just can’t “plan” for—like the five funerals Kelley has had to do since she has been born, the first being the day after she was born! We now have a calendar on our refrigerator so that we can mark on it what each parent has going on each day or night as well as which grandparent will be keeping Kelsie each day. It is challenging adding a baby to our crazy work schedules—but thankfully we have grandparents who can help out! We have already had to resort to “Plan B” a time or two when something has happened to prevent the original babysitter from being available. Sometimes Kelsie has more than one babysitter in one day. She will have to learn to “go with the flow” very early in life!
Having our parents available and willing to help us so much has been one of the greatest blessings these past two months. I’m not sure what we would have done without them! They brought us food, cleaned our house, and helped us as we adjusted to lack of sleep and a new routine. I’m pretty certain my house has never been so clean since we first moved in! I am so glad Kelsie has such fine, Christian people for her grandparents. Kelsie not only has all four of her grandparents still alive, but three great-grandparents, too! This is not a blessing I take for granted since I grew up only knowing two of my grandparents. I hope Kelsie is surrounded by all these wonderful grandparents and great-grandparents for many, many years to come!
While serving in two different churches certainly presents its challenges at times—and will continue to do so as we continue on this journey of parenthood—it has also been a blessing. Kelsie already has been spoiled by both church families! We were given showers by each church and in addition to the ones given by our family and friends—we had everything we could possibly need or want for Kelsie. Some of the people at Free Union had hoped we would have twins—so we could take one baby to each church every week. When we assured them we were only having one baby, then they started joking that they wanted joint-custody with Little Rock! We are planning baby dedications at both churches since both church families will have a role in Kelsie’s spiritual development. She will have lots of fine examples of what it means to be a Christian at both churches.
Aside from all the pain, fears, frustrations, and anxiety I have experienced, having become a mother has been the greatest blessing in my life! Nothing compares to cuddling her in my arms as I feed her or rock her. Nothing compares to the joy I feel when she smiles or coos at me. My heart feels as if it could explode with the love I feel for her. I know I’m a bit prejudiced, but she’s the most beautiful baby I’ve ever seen! I thank God every day for our beautiful, healthy baby girl!
While we have been given a wonderful blessing, we have also been given a huge responsibility. I have plans and dreams for Kelsie’s life, but I know God has even greater plans for her. I pray that God will lead us and guide us as we seek to teach her right from wrong and help her grow into the person God wants her to be.